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Human Resource Ethics Violations by Steve Jobs

Updated on June 22, 2017

Did you know the other side of Steve Jobs?

Steve Jobs is one of the world’s re-known business entrepreneurs and leader who has not only propelled their enterprises to a marvelous level but also shaped the computer industry tremendously. He as well the founder and CEO of Apple Computers Inco and has been credited with several revolutionary technologies such as the development of the iPhone, iPad among others. It is often said that no individual is perfect. Despite his immense achievements and successes, jobs has also significant weaknesses in his personality and has been attributed to a number of business violations especially in issues related to Human Resource in a number of regions where his business has a presence. This paper essentially focuses on some of the ethical violations in human resource that have been violated by the global icon, Steve Jobs in his capacity as the leader of Apple Inco.

Human resource ethics concerns human issues particularly those about development, compensation, industrial relations, and health and safety issues. Steve jobs in his company violated several of these ethics both in its headquarters and around its outlets. To begin with, in this age where transparency is paramount in leadership as a part of healthy democratic system, Steve Jobs instilled a culture of surveillance and secrecy in all Apple workplaces, with video cameras that monitored employees on a constant basis. He also imparted a “need to know only” type of system for internal company communication (Benson, 2006).

Steve used a leadership style which can only be characterized as the carrot and stick old school approach. He used flattery and praise, but typically the stick of criticism, fear and intimidation towards his employee. Most of the decisions pertaining to company operations, and employee management and other issues were made by him alone. In other words, he did not engage his employees or team when making decisions. He was chiefly the controller of all aspects pertaining to decision making. He had the final say on what each particular end product could look like. This greatly demoralized employees who were to wait for the “final order” and confirmation from Steve Jobs for most of the steps they were making in their operations (Seth 2012).

Fortune magazine stated in its release of the profiled toughest bosses that his inhumane drive for perfection was enough to burn out the most committed and motivated workers. His verbal assaults on his staff, filled with foul language and anger terrified his staff, subsequently causing emotional anguish. This is completely against human resource ethics which require leaders to treat employees with respect and dignity.

The labor conditions in Foxconn manufacturing plants, one of apples plants in China reflects his disregard of human resource and business ethics. This is where a number of Chinese Universities compiled a report which described these factories as labor camps, in reaction to a sequence of employee suicides where 14 workers died in 2010 in the same factory. Interestingly, as a response to these, Steve Jobs installed nets that prevent suicide on the said facilities, and promised to increase the wages of workers at Shenzhen base. Furthermore, workers were forced to sign documents that legally bonded them and guaranteed that they would not sue the company in case of self-injury, suicide or unexpected death. Additionally, about 150 workers at Wuhan were threatening to commit suicide due to the deteriorating conditions at work in January 2012. These employees requested for a raise in their earnings but were told they could keep their jobs without any raise or quit and be compensated. Those who quit were never compensated. These instances only prove how Jobs violated ethics of human resource and even made up excuses to cover up his violations (Perlin, 2013).

Interns became a substantial element of Foxconn’s labor force, particularly after the 2010 suicide incident which left the factory short of labor. This led Steve Jobs to strike a deal with the province which forced about 100,000 vocational students to be interns at Steve Jobs Company. The interns constituted about 15 percent of the workforce in the company totals to about 180, 000 interns for the whole company. This made Apple Inc. one the leading internship program center globally. Teachers were sanctioned in factories to monitor the attendance of students, and some of the interns were as young as 15 years old, a serious violation of not only the Chinese but international labor laws (Perlin, 2013).

Steve Jobs was by no means an abuser of business ethics, corporate social responsibility and human resource ethics. There is evidence to suggest that he backdated stock options in Pixar and Apple, showed no interest in humanity, lied about his health to shareholders, and deliberately ignored questions concerning labor rights in China or questions about the environmental implications of Apple’s products or its supply chain. His fellow computer manufactures, publicized about product design that suited the environment, but Steve Jobs was only interested in designing products for the user and had no concern for the environment (Benson, 2006).

Jobs also violated ethics in HR is through consideration of workers in differing standards. In other words, Jobs has consistently sidelined and discriminated workers not because of ability, but due to either race or cultural background. Seth (2012) reveals that despite Steve Jobs and his main company Apple being an innovator of unique products, Jobs has been known to disrespect and abuse workers. There are complains that Jobs is insensitive about the plight of employees in China, the safety of working environment, issues regarding pay and respect regarding cultural aspects. In China for instance, most workers were paid low wages, thus subjecting these workers to economic hardships despite the company reaping good revenue. Interestingly, the practices by Jobs and his company directly violates both the local and national laws regarding employee remuneration, safety of work place and creating diversity in the workplace. Moreover, these actions are also against the Company’s code of conduct which dictates fair treatment and ensuring safety of the work environment. However, in defense of these actions, Jobs claims that these actions are in line with the prevalent industry practices in the country. As a business leader, Steve Jobs has what it takes and the mandate to set the conduct standard to ensure that the management pays workers fairly and in line to their performance and that of the company.

Based on this analysis, there is no doubt that the success of Apple Inco has been propelled by Steve Jobs manipulative nature, dictatorship style of management, and aggressiveness. However, some of the activities and actions he has been undertaking especially in regard to employee management have been detrimental to the general wellbeing of his employees and a gross violation of human resource ethics. This therefore raises a concern for Apples board of management and the authorities concerned on employment issues to take actions meant to tame such behaviors not only from Steve Jobs but also in other leaders with similar ones.


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