Working At Apple Is Brutally Insane And Awful

You might have a stressful job — everyone's is, sometimes. But does your job involve an office with windows that inexplicably frost, plainclothes agents that spy on you at bars, and instant firing? Welcome to Apple, says Fortune's Adam Lashinsky.

Lashinsky's upcoming book, "Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired — and Secretive — Company Really Works", details the lengths Apple goes to maintain its iron wall of secrecy. And it's terrifying.

Just some of the fascist lunacy: Employees are regularly hired without knowing what their jobs are — or what their coworkers are doing. Special teams are surrounded by extra locks and added doors, sealed off from the rest of the workplace without any explanation; there are some rooms at Apple that nobody claims to have ever been in.

Corporate rumours also say Apple posts up spies at a nearby watering holes to catch employees blabbing while off the clock. This might sound outlandish, but this is the same Apple that does have its own draconian secret police.

And of course, talking about any of this? Instant termination, even if it's to your wife or kids. No exceptions. Ever.

Put this all together and you have what sounds like an entirely petrifying, miserable career. So why do people put up with it? The knowledge, explains Lashinsky, that you're working on the world's most desired products: "Sitting in a bar and seeing that 90 per cent of the people there are using devices that your company made — there is something cool about that, and you can't put a dollar value on it," explains one former employee.

Sure, there's something cool about it, but is it worth enormously stringent career demands that span your entire life? Your family is affected, your friends are affected — you can't discuss how you spend most of your conscious life with most of the people you'll ever know. Working at Apple right now is a historical experience, but Lashinsky's work — excerpted here in Fortune and in book form here — makes anyone seriously question how much history is worth your sanity and happiness. [Fortune]

Original photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty


Comments

    What a sad world we are becoming.

    There is no way working there under these rules would ever be worth it.
    I mean come on, that's ridiculous.

    It's good to know that 90% of the people use a product your company made.
    However, wouldn't it be better though if those 90% knew that you actually had a hand on that product?

    Sadly all these policies and secret police went useless when the iPhone 4 got leaked.

      I especially love this statement:

      “Sitting in a bar and seeing that 90 per cent of the people there are using devices that your company made — there is something cool about that, and you can’t put a dollar value on it”

      Because a drunk, boastful Apple employee flashing his phone off in a bar was precisely what got the iPhone 4 leaked in the first place.

    Sorry there's nothing to be proud of thinking that your making a bunch of phones for a company thats selling them at a premium price while manufacturing them at a really cheap price because they refuse to page you the wage deserved by a human in such inhumane conditions. Apple product owners, you should be ashamed of yourselves for supporting such horrid conditions in Asia leading to miserable lives and suicide while you lap it up with your new fancy iDevice. For shame. For shame.

      Won't SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN?!?!

        Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Intel, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, MSI, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba also use Foxconn and I'll bet you've bought a product from one of these companies.

      So who runs an international electronics company better with better working conditions Ash?

      Whilst i will probebly never own an idevice, this would be happening in most tech companies of apples status

      spot the android fanboy

    Not allowed to talk about your work. Gosh. "entirely petrifying, miserable career". "fascist lunacy". "...iron wall of secrecy". "...terrifying". "Brutally Insane And Awful". What scary words.

    Yes, it's just like Stalin's gulags or North Korea...

    Apple's rules might be a somewhat unusual and strict, but is it anything like the overblown guff in this hysterical article? Disgruntled employees suffering from hypersensitivity on the issue of their right to blab can always work elsewhere. Give us a break!

      Rationalisation doesn't change things to make them better, it only serves to hide and prolong them.

        Sorry, it's a bit too subtle for me, what do you mean?

    Article gathering technique: Find biased ex-employee, who most likely came from upper management, write biased article, ???, profit?

    Pretty sure my 8 year old could have come up with a better constructed sentence than this..."there are some rooms at Apple that nobody claims to have ever been in"

      That sentence is truly awful.

      Note to future article writers / whistle blowers at Gizmodo: Please make sure your grammar and spelling is correct in these sorts of articles. It really bugs me when you see some people ignore the point of the discussion and just tear the author a new one for spelling a couple of words wrong or constructing a sentence or two poorly. Hell I may have a spelling or grammar error or two in this comment...

      Yeah, I'm glad Nobody come along and claimed they've never been in the room... Without Nobody there we would never have known if ever a person had, or had not been in the room before!!!

        (you also missed knowing about the existence of the room)

      THAT sentence is constructed perfectly....

      I'm glad at least one person has seen :My name is Nobody..."

      Obviously the commenters have a Comprehension problem....
      I liked the phrase, and the comment...."The rooms nobody claims even exist"....

      Ah, the beauty of a blog, we get to read, random stuff that would never get to print...

    Pretty sure this type of in-confidence policy is common place with most big companies and many government departments. But that wouldn't make for an interesting beat up.

    Makes for an interesting book, no doubt, but I am wondering how much of this has been blown out of proportion and sensationalised and how much is just a corporation being a corporation. There are many things I am not able to discuss about my job.. there are security locks to get into the building or even on to the floor, I have about 5 or 6 passwords just to use my computer and so on and so forth.

    Yes, there is an issue with the Foxxcon factories over in China right now and perhaps there are some companies who go a little too far with security and confidentiality but if one company like Apple is doing it, I'm sure there are plenty of other equally sized companies with equally sensitive information doing the same thing.

    I work at the Department of Defence in Australia and we have the EXACT same set of working condition and requirements.. they are HARDLY insane, unfair or cruel..

    Policies like these prevent espionage and treason.

    Grow up GIZMODO you're supposed to be better than this.. but then maybe not...

      Don't suppose you're down in Canberra are you? If so, I better let me room mate to look out for spooks

        lol comparing defence work to consumer electronics.
        sure..

      You are rather foolish here, you've missed something very, very obvious: national security is different from petty commercial secrecy.

      Well, DOD have a National security reason, AND they can enforce their rules.... (Prison time) all APPLE can do is fire you.....

      BTW, the iPhone 4 leak was a staged Apple leak, like most 'leaks', it was a publicity stunt that Jason Chan just happened to play the game for Apple....

    When you have Korean and Chinese companies ready to reverse engineer and then imitate almost anything that Apple does I can understand the need for the secrecy.

      What? Chiphones hardly make a dent in the Apple behemoth and Samsung phones (which I assume you're sniping at) behave almost nothing like an iPhone and no reasonable person could possibly confuse the things.

      They don't reverse engineer them.. they make completely new phones that look-a-like.. sometimes they end up better than the originals but most of the time they are inferior but with some features that are just more relevant to the market they are making them for.. like Dual-SIM stuff for example is a big thing in China where many people, at least the ones I know, have multiple phones and prefer to have a dual-sim, so they don't have to carry around two phones.

      That's an awful and potentially offensive assumption. (Specifically Chinese and Korean? Why couldn't mere 'competitors' suffice in your statement?). This cultural white tower that you seem to think Apple sits on is hogwash. Where do you think the R&D for hardware (eg screen technologies, battery, processors etc) are done? These very components that wind up in your iPhone that those Asian companies supposedly covet?

      no one reverse engineers apple "tech", they are actually chinese and korean tech to start with, apples own developed IP's are software based.

    It could be worse, Apple's employees could be actually manufacturing their products in China. I'm sure those people would happily accept all these rules if it meant they could swap jobs.

    Same thing happens in many industries. I had the opportunity to train some people from Holden's design studio at Fishermans Bend a few years ago and, if you work there you cannot own a phone with a camera in it. As you walk down an aisle between cubicles, people hunch over their screens so that you cannot get a peek at what they are doing, even if they know you. Other areas have workstations with drop-cloths over them when their owners are not at their desks and all kinds of crazy stuff. I've also visited places like Weta Digital and Animal Logic and they make you sign an NDA every time you go there and are very reluctant to discuss current or future work. They will show the the specific issue they need you to look at but won't give you any context or anything else to work with. Even in broadcast TV, where I work now, I've learned not to ask anything deeper than "how's work?" to any of my friends who work for other networks. Go any deeper and you are just putting them on the spot. It's just the nature of the beast and yo ucan blame an increasingly intrusive media for all of it.

    I reckon its really a subtle "divide and conquer" approach to prevent the chance of workers uniting.

    Worst job I've ever had was working for Applecare CPU support, and I've worked in factories.
    No pen or paper at your desk, no storage devices or mobile phones. If you need the bathroom you go in your break. No paid sick leave, no paid annual leave, however you were required to take at least 10 days off a year, all unpaid of course. Any unplanned time off required a doctors cert.
    When I started they had incentives for selling Applecare protection plans, all that was taken away.
    The only incentive to work hard was on the rare occasion a few people may be promoted to their tier2 team and get an extra 2k a year on top of the already insulting wage.

    What about other companies that develop products in top secret?

    It only seems bad because hating on apple seems to be in fashion now.

    What's the point? Think of this..

    “Sitting in a bar and seeing that 90 per cent of the people there are using devices that your company made — there is something cool about that, and you can’t put a dollar value on it,”

    but, if you have had one too many at this very bar and blurt out the so called "secret project" you are fired. Which means, you have to go through the pain of having committed this mistake all your life... probably stop visitingthat "one of a kind" bar or worse give up drinking.

    Not worth it :)

    I'm pretty sure if you're working at Apple you make a pretty clear choice if you're willing to put up with the conditions for what miust be a pretty sweet paypacket. It's not as though you're at the bottom of the employment scrapheap.

    That said, if it's all too much, I reckon working at Apple looks pretty good on your CV.

    That's not tough security. I've worked at a place with steel bars on the ground floor windows, no mobile phones of any kind, computers didn't have internet access, blinds on every level had to be closed at night and no writeable personal storage of any kind. They eventually allowed iPod's but only non wifi/camera versions and you had to sign waivers saying none of the music was obtained illegally. I can go on but I think I've made my point

      They do this too, it's been noted in previous articles. What you describe are only basic precautions.

    Being fired without any notice or recourse and commercial spies or "secret police" who spy on their own employees push this over the top. It's just a normal consumer company, they're not working for a government, they're not working on sensitive defence projects.
    People need to get some perspective and stop defending or rationalising away irrational behaviour. It doesn't matter if you love their products or not, this is still not a good situation.

    I have to question why anyone in their right minds would work at places like this in the first place.
    If you're living in a poor country that has no social security system in place, well, ok I guess if you're really REALLY desperate for a job of any kind.
    Otherwise if you're in one of the more developed countries then there are plenty of other options available.
    Simple. Don't like what you're being paid, don't like the conditions etc, change jobs. If you're working in IT, jobs are simply not hard to find if you have any brains.

    Not really surprised, I used to be an Apple Store Specialist and even at that level, they were all about their Non-Disclosure agreements and other Draconian policies. Seems the red-tape and stifling only gets worse the higher up you get.

    To what end? Other companies release the same product a year later anyway. The only difference between their flashy products and the competitors now is the software created outside of apple.

    I guess they never got over that day that Bill walked in

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