In today's world, it is simple to decide on an opinion and find someone who agrees with you. It is also not unusual to find out that you can be wrong even if lots of people agree with you. There are also plenty of people who are completely wrong and do not know enough to know they are wrong.
People get emotionally invested in their opinions and often bend what they see to match their opinions. Sometimes they base their opinions on their limited experience or whatever justifies their own behavior. It can be frustrating dealing with people who continually bend the facts to make their own actions look rational in spite of the cost to people trying to work with them.
Then there is the even more common situation that two people can experience the same thing differently. A couple of recently published articles brought this to mind. One, Apple Employees Confess All The Worst Things About Working At Apple, and the other, What it’s REALLY Like to Work For Apple.
The author of the second article, John Martellaro, worked on one of my teams at Apple and mentioned in passing a very key fact that has a lot to do with how two people can view an organization differently.
I worked at Apple for nearly twenty years so I would go farther and say that your experience at any company mostly has to do with your boss. As a former director at Apple, I can add that at least in the sales division of the company there was nearly complete distrust at the executive level of employees. Often individual contributors were shielded by their managers from some of this. I wrote a book, The Pomme Company, documenting Apple's sales culture if you want to suffer with those of us who were there. The Apple style of sales management is not one that you should seek to emulate in your company. Apple has been successful not because of but in spite of its sales culture.
While at Apple, I had some very good bosses and some toxic bosses. My career spanned Apple's good, bad, and great days, but more than anything the pressure I felt was either tempered or enhanced by my boss. More pressure often meant my boss had an agenda that had little to do with helping me or my team be successful. Less pressure meant that my boss was trying to help me accomplish my goals by standing between me and tasks coming from corporate which had little to do with helping us sell more Apple products.
When the pressure screws were turned up by my boss, it was often because he had no idea what my job really entailed. Apple had a preference for hiring high level executives from outside the company in the years after Steve came back. They often did not understand the Apple landscape and tried to imprint their pet ideas on a company that in truth had little flexibility or interest in change.
I have always subscribed to the Boy Scout school of leadership. I explain leadership by the simple example that patrol members are a whole lot more likely to follow me and respect me if I have demonstrated not only the ability but also the willingness to do the jobs that I am asking them to do. In the Boy Scout world that includes picking up trash and cleaning latrines. In the Apple world that encompassed helping set up for shows along with understanding and explaining complex technology in the course of making difficult sales calls and presentations.
The leaders that I had at Apple who had come up through the ranks and demonstrated that they understood my job, respected what I did, and trusted me to do the job were all exceptional. I mention a few of those in my book.
Those other managers (and there is a difference between managers and leaders) who thought they knew what they were doing but who had never really done my job or that of the people working for me were almost always terrible bosses. Even some who came from the ranks quickly forgot their past and spent their careers telling upper management what they wanted to hear instead of the truth.
Anyone who says Apple has a great sales management culture has never been an Apple sales manager. A couple of years before my exit from Apple I was part of special set of classes that were designed to start repairing Apple's disfunctional management world and that includes product development. It was acknowledged at the executive level that the executive team at Apple was isolated even from the small number of directors in the company.
The hope for the series of classes was that building bridges between the directors and executive vice presidents would allow ideas and ways to improve the company to flow upwards. It did not work and my experience and the experience of the people on my team of directors was that the inner circle of Apple's management team was very resistant to any ideas outside of their own circle of close friends. It really did not matter how good the idea happened to be, it was hard to swallow if it had not already been thought of by the executive management team.
Organizationally that remains the biggest challenge for Apple. Apple remains a company which was built around ideas flowing from the top to the bottom. Now that Steve Jobs is gone and there are few innovative ideas at the top, it is hard to turn Apple's culture upside down and build a world where trying something that doesn't work perfectly is viewed as a good thing which seems a normal part of finding the next great thing instead of a reason to consider firing you.
It is hard to change a company where fear of being associated with someone no longer in the company trumps being proud of your own success as a member of a team.
I had eighteen great years at Apple and a couple which I would rather forget. As a leader, the one thing that I do know is that none of my people saw Apple as bad as it could get because it was my job to make sure the were shielded as much as possible. I left Apple knowing that I did my job even under very difficult circumstances.