Will departure of Steve Jobs shake loyalty of Apple employees?

Loss of charismatic leader may cause some Apple employees to look elsewhere

A stunning 97% of Apple employees approved of former chief executive Steve Jobs, according to community website Glassdoor.com, which offers employees a place to anonymously rate their bosses and companies.

Stunning not because Jobs, who resigned this week due to health problems, wasn't worthy of such praise, but because that kind of near-unanimity is almost unheard of in and out of the workplace.

(Also see: No one really knows how departure of Steve Jobs will impact Apple)

But, as this interesting Wired article discusses, many of Apple's 49,000 employees now may be wondering whether they are loyal to the company itself, or the man some consider to be the greatest technology CEO in history.

From Wired:

"Employees are asking themselves, 'Was I working for Apple or for Steve?' If the answer is Steve, they will wonder if Apple will be the same place without him," said Gary Ballinger of the University of Virginia, who studies how departing bosses affect employees and other components of a company. ...

No matter how good new CEO Tim Cook may be, or how prepared employees thought they were, “there’s still a sense of shock, that they’re starting over. And that will rattle employees who liked their boss,” said Ballinger.

Especially since Jobs and Cook have vastly differing skill-sets. While Jobs is a creative leader who constantly seeks the next great idea, Cook is an operational guy. Both types are indispensable to the success of a technology company like Apple, but operational leaders tend not to cultivate strong loyalty or excitement.

Nonetheless, for Cook to succeed he must stick to what he does well and not try to portray himself as Steve Jobs, The Sequel. That kind of inauthenticity can have a corrosive effect on employee morale.

Cook's promise that "Apple is not going to change" probably will be reassuring to many employees who fear the fallout from Jobs's departure, so it's not likely that Apple will experience any immediate exodus of talent. After all, employees rate not only Jobs highly, but the company itself.

On the Glassdoor site, here's what some Apple employees said:

"Apple takes care of its employees. Full time workers receive health benefits, all employees are offered stock options and very good prices on previous-generation Apple products."

"I am proud to say that I work for Apple. The products speak for themselves and it is great to be able to use them."

"The company practices the ideals and values it preaches. It's a company you can believe in. It's kind of a corporation revolution, a movement to change the way corporations conduct business and treat individual customers and employees."

And if those kinds of values and benefits aren't enough to keep Apple employees around for awhile, there's always the prospect of working in a spaceship.

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