Apple Company Ethics

Seth Godin is writing about Apple’s grand move of firing 800 retail employees for double-dipping into their iPhone benefits. Seth thinks it is marketing and he is probably right. Apple sent a clear message of high ethics to other employees and to the market.

The bothersome question is the fact that Apple actually had to fire 800! employees to make this point. I could only think of two reasons for this massive misbehavior: The rules were not clear for Apple employees or that there is a low ethics atmosphere in Apple stores.

While Apple demonstrated leadership and sent a clear message to the market, this massive layoff should not be the end of the process but rather the beginning. Restoring ethics will require Apple to do much more than printing 800 pink slips.

Think about your company: do you provide easy ways for employees to cheat? Do you ignore minor corner cuttings? It is tempting to cheat on small things. Make sure you don’t leave cracks in the door and don’t be surprised if people actually go through those cracks.

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Apple Company Ethics

3 thoughts on “Apple Company Ethics

  1. You ask a good question – Was it clear?
    Do stores newed to put up signs that say stealing is illegal?
    The rebate was for phone purchased before a certain date. Since the employees did not purchase the phones it seems obvious that they did not qualify. Do they need a warning to not try to abuse a free gift?

    I know that lack supervision can be misunderstood, but in the end, most of us want people who are ethical and trustworthy. Even drug dealers punish people who steal from them, and they have no honor at all.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Roger. Your basic approach is correct- stealing should be prohibited and no signs are needed for such a basic rule. Nevertheless, I have seen senior executives cheating on their travel expenses because the atmosphere was loose- they also cheated on small amounts because they thought that “everyone is doing it”. I am not sure if this was the atmosphere at Apple, but I do think they have to check deep and hard, how come 800 people (not 8 or even 80) did not understand the code of conduct.

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