Hey Tim Cook, it's not just about 'customer sat'

A new survey suggests that Apple's CEO still isn't doing enough about employee satisfaction.

In the Glassdoor Employee Choice Top 100 CEO report that came out Wednesday, Cook plummeted from No. 53 to No. 96—nearly falling off the list and scoring the biggest drop of any tech CEO.

From Yahoo Finance:

Results were compiled from employee reviews on Glassdoor. Employees were asked to rate several factors tied to their employment experiences, including sentiment around the CEO’s leadership and workplace attributes regarding senior management...

"When we read reviews on Glassdoor, employees criticize the culture of secrecy, high stress and necessity to keep to a chain of command,” said Scott Dobroski, a community expert at Glassdoor...

Employees surveyed were also dissatisfied with the pace of change. “Employees also speak to how the leadership team is slow to take action once employee feedback is shared and how teams are often strapped for resources and time,” said Dobroski.

Cook most recently gave 12,000 of its employees at its Apple Park headquarters standing desks because “sitting is the new cancer.”

My take: Attracting, retaining and motivating the most talented engineers is the name of the game in Silicon Valley. Standing desks, stock options and stock buybacks only go so far. My particular hobby horse—Apple Park's glaring lack of onsite daycare—is the least of it. This open letter to Tim Cook from 2015, dredged up by MacDailyNews, suggests  problems that are endemic and longstanding:

Dear Mr. Cook,

We occasionally hear things about the company from Apple employees.

Some of those things lead us to wonder if perhaps you should rethink some aspects of the culture at Apple? Specifically, what really should constitute a badge of honor at Apple? Working all day, all weekend and all night in order to squat out iOS 8.0.1 and then have to turn around and do it all over again, in a panic, to get iOS 8.0.2 out the door in order to clean up the mess? Or taking the time necessary to do the job correctly the first time?

People with proper sleep and lower stress levels do better work. Many major medical studies prove these facts. Shouldn’t quality, not quantity, of hours worked be the utmost badge of honor at Apple?

Working long hours simply for the sake of working long hours is counterproductive. It really doesn’t prove anything except that you have no life and that, despite all of their work on Apple Watch, Apple executives still do not understand basic human health requirements and are incapable of properly staffing their departments so that they can function without requiring sleep-deprived, mistake-prone employees who feel that it’s a job requirement to be able to reply to emails from managers at 2:00 am. That’s idiocy...

Regardless of the size of your department or company, people are people. You can push people to a point that’s very productive, but when you exceed that point, it’s all downhill for everyone involved. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s not an “I love this company!” statement. It’s simply mismanagement. It’s verifiably unhealthy and it leads directly to diminished quality, increased turnover, and productivity declines. And customer satisfaction ultimately suffers. Hence this letter.


  1. Fred Stein said:
    This is a big deal. Thanks for high-lighting, especially day care. With rising housing costs, most male and female employees entering family formation years cannot afford to live near Apple Park. Adding a long commute to a long day, makes day care a must-have for such workers. Apple needs more workers in that demographic.

    Anecdotally, I heard a complaint that Apple is super tight on the perks that other silicon valley companies offer. And they are like the government on meals and entertainment, either getting or giving, with outsiders, to avoid any possibility of abuse. Its better to relax the rules and get rid of employees who abuse privileges.

    June 21, 2018
    • Richard Wanderman said:
      The tightness may be a holdover for the Jobs era when the company almost went under and belts needed to be tightened. Obviously things have changed dramatically but maybe some aspects of life at Apple maybe haven’t.

      My theory is that there is turmoil in the executive ranks at Apple and its trickling down to lots of folks.

      June 21, 2018
  2. Ken Cheng said:
    I would just point out that without actually looking at the demographics of the commenters/reviewers, one should be careful in drawing too broad a conclusion. Did Tim’s rating drop because of engineers being dissatisfied? I mean, the engineer lifestyle has been non-stop for decades now. What changed in the past year or 2 years?

    Are engineers saying one thing, and Store employees saying another?

    With such a big drop in the past year, I’d look for something that may have happened in the past year that may have contributed to higher dissatisfaction with the job. Recall, this past year, has been a tough one for customer service, with the iOS battery issue. If I had the time, I’d look at the distribution of stars, and see where the increase in low stars occurred, ie more 1 stars, or fewer 5 stars, that sort of thing, and read some of the comments from this and last, to get a sense of the change.

    Just looking at the nominal trend graphic from last year, it looks like a tenth more than this year, hardly seems like much.

    Just noticed there is a Reviews by Job Title, and most are sales, ie Specialists are 997, Mac Specialists are 357, Family Room Specialists are 296, Geniuses are 233 and 184 and 178, and Advisors are 173; then we get to Software Engineer at 168, then more Specialists at 146, 145, Managers at 130, Sales Specialists at 129, Creatives at 118, Biz Specialists 110, Experts 108. Looks to me that of 3472 reviews, only 168 were engineers and 130 managers, the rest are specialists.

    June 21, 2018
    • Ken Cheng said:
      So, of the reviews by job title, about 5% were engineers, about 90% were in customer service/sales, ie specialists and geniuses, etc. Is that a referendum on the job Angela Ahrendts is doing, or Tim, or neither or both, or someone or something else?

      June 21, 2018
      • David Emery said:
        Anyone know the proportion of jobs in stores vs engineering vs tech support vs administration, etc?

        June 22, 2018

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