One Bad Apple (Inc.) Can Spoil The Whole Damn Bunch

Dawn Burke Bad HR, Career Paths, Dawn Hrdlica, Retention

A pal of mine, Greg Lee, Sr. Marketing & Membership Director for the Chapel Hill YMCA forwarded me an interesting article about former Apple Store “Genius”, Chad Ramey.  Since my past life includes a retail background, I find any info on Apple Stores interesting.

Chad Ramey, a 4-year Apple employee, allegedly bullied by store managers into resigning, wrote an email to Apple CEO, Tim Cook.  The email explained that Apple’s stores had changed “from something truly spectacular and wonderful, to big-box retail that is no better than a Best Buy or a Walmart”.  Burn. His email also explained he was forced to “abandon his passion”.  Needless to say, Chad dug his job. A lot.

To be fair, Apple, known for creating and adhering to strict operational rules, is obviously doing something right in their retail division.  According to Business Insider, “Retail represented $3.19 billion of Apple’s revenue last quarter, or 13% of the company’s overall sales.”  That’s a 90% year-over-year increase.  90 PERCENT.  And herein lies the problem.  Other employees in other emails describe feeling the strains that mega growth leads to:  less customer interaction, exhaustion, and being forced to do more with less resources (ie people), etc.

Now, maybe Chad was lying, maybe he was rightfully terminated and unrightfully angry, or maybe he was a brilliant jerk whose behavior was tolerated because he could deliver.  But the email does reiterate plausible scenarios that are familiar to corporate HR pros.  What to learn:

  • One bad manager can affect the whole bunch:  A whole bunch of employees, a whole bunch of departments, a whole company’s reputation.  Create a culture that does not tolerate awful managers, especially any that bully.  Also teach your managers that every study, statistic, survey, and report shows the number one reason people quit is because their manager stinks.  This is nothing new but for some reason always needs repeating.
  • Managers, C-Suite, and leaders of every type absolutely do affect the well-being of employees.  Your actions are always watched and your behaviors have an impact on people’s lives. Pull it together.
  • Co’s, please don’t get caught with your pants down in the fortunate event you experience mega-growth.  The employee experience must always be front and center, despite obstacles. If your company experiences mega- growth, and employees have no choice but to work under hard conditions, put some programs in place to thank or reward them.  In the very least, acknowledge you know it’s tough.

Advice to Apple, while you have a captive customer-base (I mean you do have the awesome-nest products in the world),  I would love to not make an appointment to get simple help or wait in line for an hour every time there is an upgrade.  And an adjacent store dedicated to the genius bar would be the bomb. Maybe you could learn a thing or two from Chad.

Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke, founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.