Any notion that an employer can gaslight their disgruntled workers or keep them quiet behind seemingly never-ending corporate grievance procedures and non-disclosure agreements have surely been dispelled by the recent revelations at Apple.
Like BrewDog’s before them, hundreds of current and former employees of the Silicon Valley giant have banded together to share accounts of alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, as well concerns over privacy, pay, and workplace protections.
That the world’s most valuable company is now being investigated by the US National Labor Relations Board for coercion and retaliation may not be as worrying to CEO Tim Cook as the potential impact his workers’ public disclosures may have on Apple’s stock price – especially as this negative publicity comes just weeks ahead of the company’s next big product launch this September.
As this week’s long-read demonstrates, shareholders are increasingly worried about how poor workplace culture can damage their long-term investments. Throw in some activist investors determined to improve working conditions simply because it is the right thing to do, and any publicly listed employer is in for a real headache.
Activision Blizzard is a case in point. The embattled video game publisher is currently facing two shareholder claims due to its toxic “bro culture”, brought about following a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing investigation and an open letter signed by thousands of employees calling for change. Sound familiar?
Apple is already facing one shareholder resolution aimed at forcing the company to amend its non-disclosure policy on working conditions, but more could be on the way if it fails to heed the lessons from Activision and BrewDog on how not to deal with a reputational crisis. If Apple doesn’t respond appropriately, however, then the company’s Cupertino-headquartered leadership can probably expect to face more pressure from investors in the months ahead.
For other large employers, now is the time to really start listening to your employees. Lest you wake up with your own #AppleToo website airing your company’s dirty laundry for all to see.