human resources

Ex-Apple employee rants about “iCult” in blog: What to do when former staff trash talk your business

Kirsten Robb /

A former Apple employee in Sydney has posted a scathing attack on the tech giant in a blog post, claiming Apple has a “toxic” company culture and makes extreme demands on its staff.

The blog is part of an increasing trend of employees speaking out against their employers, raising the issue of how a company should respond to a disgruntled staff member’s public attacks.

In his blog post I Quit: What Really Goes On At Appleposted on the weekend, former Apple program manager Ben Farrell said he has “just escaped the Apple institution.”

“I am no longer part of the collective iCult machine whose dirty, worn-out, greasy and naive internal mechanisms of bullying, harassment and mind-games push out shiny and polished iPhones every year,” said Farrell.

Farrell goes on to say Apple expects its employees to work 16-hour days “filled with meetings after meetings followed by more meetings”.

He also claims Apple management are inconsistent, moody and erratic, team spirit is non-existent and the company is not flexible around personal circumstances.

“Sickness, family emergencies, and even weddings are given no respect at Apple,” said Farrell.

“Even on the very morning of my wedding I was still being harassed by phone and email to send a report someone had lost.”

Farrell admitted he was performance managed by the tech giant, but said Apple was “clutching at straws” for examples of poor performance.

“Unfortuntely [sic] I’ve seen behind their glossy and polished stainless steel exterior, I’ve walked through their frosted glass doors and seen a toxic culture of manipulation, intimidation, threats and politics that are so incongruent to the values they preach,” he said.

Sue-Ellen Watts, managing director of wattsnext HR, told SmartCompany while she does not think the blog will harm Apple’s reputation as an employer, small business employers should be aware of the potential impact of disgruntled employees.

“I think you need to consider when someone does this, what role you’ve played and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” says Watts.

“Something like this is a good time to reflect on that and consider perhaps how to deal with exiting employees.”

Watts firstly recommends setting clear and honest expectations with employees from the outset of the recruitment process.

“One thing I see is where employers spend the whole time in recruitment talking about how great the company is to work for and they don’t talk about the realities or the things that may not be right for the employee,” she says.

Watts says Farrell’s post suggests there was an issue with the way he was treated before he left Apple and says employers should have good policies and practices for how to deal with staff who are leaving.

“You need to look at your employees as though they are joining an alumni, not like they are just leaving and you’ll never hear from them again… They can leave and be your biggest advocates,” she says.

Watts says it is often as important to consider what your employees say about you as it is your clients or customers.

“They can be out there selling your services or, like this guy, they can be going public and saying these really negative things,” she adds.

SmartCompany contacted Apple but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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