Apple Company’s Organizational Behavior Management During the COVID-19 Crisis

Subject: Company Analysis
Pages: 12
Words: 3405
Reading time:
14 min
Study level: Master


Apple is an example of a business venture that has been successful from the day of its establishment, which points to the leadership’s exceptional approach to decision-making and organizational behavior management. Organizational behavior management is especially important during a crisis such as COVID-19, and this paper will examine how Apple addresses this and other challenges.

Background Information

Apple is a multinational technology giant that was established as a manufacturer of personal computers and proceeded to successfully introduce the iPhone smartphone to the market, revolutionizing the telecommunications industry. Currently, this organization employs 80,000 people across the United States directly and is responsible for over 2 million jobs across the state through its suppliers (Two million US jobs and counting, no date).

This is a public company, and its shares are traded on NASDAQ since 1980 (Investor, no date). The main field of operations is manufacturing and selling computer technology and smartphones, although Apple also owns its iTunes and AppStore, which provide access to music and smartphone applications. As part of its selling strategy, Apple owns a number of Apple Stores across the globe, where consumers can purchase iPhones and MacBooks.

Ever since its establishment, Apple has been successful in introducing new types of technology and improving its previous models, and the consumers were ready to pay for the brand’s products. The current situation remains favorable for Apple since even during the pandemic, its shares increased by 60% (Apple faces 3 challenges as it hits $2-trillion market value, 2020). However, as Apple reached its $2 trillion market evaluation, the question of growing too fast arises, as is the case with most tech giants (Apple faces 3 challenges as it hits $2-trillion market value, 2020). Additionally, the company faces regulatory challenges in its key markets, the US and Europe, which will require the leadership to reevaluate its strategies.

Apple runs a hierarchical structure since its divisions are clearly distinguished, and each deals with a separate part of Apple’s production. According to Champoux (2020), this is a traditional structure of a company, and its core characteristic is that decision is based on a set of characteristics. In Apple’s case, it is the division by product. For instance, this company has a separate division in a change of its iPhones, MacBooks, stores, iTunes, and other offers (Meyer, 2019; Okusolubo, 2020; Tasnim, 2018).

Apple’s Organizational Behavior

It is crucial for managers to understand organizational behavior because it is a successful transnational company that has managed to grow exponentially since its establishment in the 1970s, and currently, it employs thousands of individuals across the globe, providing consistent quality of products and services to the customers. Organizational behavior is defined by Wagner and Hollenbeck (2020) as an analysis of how people behave and interact within a group or a company in order to find ways of making the operations more effective. To improve organizational behavior, the leadership must have a thorough understanding of what motivates their employees to work, apart from the financial rewards (Collinson, 2017; Olafsen, Deci, and Halvari, 2018).

In general, the motivation theories focus on two factors that prompt a person to do something: either external or intrinsic (Sale, 2017; Shkoler and Kimura; 2020; Rockmann and Ballinger, 2017). The latter is more valuable because intrinsic motivation is what prompts employees to be committed to their organization, show loyalty, and perform extra tasks. However, intrinsically motivated employees are rare. External motivation can be either financial or non-financial, and it implies that an employee receives some benefits in exchange for their good work. Additionally, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that a person has to satisfy their physiological needs before proceeding to others, including self-actualization (Hom, Allen, and Griffeth, 2019). According to Amin and Munsi (2020, p. 59), Apple has higher workforce productivity and levels of employee motivation because of their successful motivation programs, more specifically by ‘ensuring employee fringe benefits, providing a bonus to boost their effort, sharing power and authority, establishing a promotion facility, providing decision-making authority, ensuring equality at the workplace.’

Moreover, the authors found that Apple rarely uses financial motivation, such as extra cash bonuses, as a motivation tool, and instead, the company focuses on creating a proper organizational environment. Clearly, the managerial decisions regarding the work motivation systems are among the most crucial ones for a company since they are the ones that determine the productivity of work, and Apple appears to have a successful system in place.

Notably, Apple’s CEO has recognized the challenges that the company is facing due to COVID-19, and he issued a statement where he notified the stakeholders that the company would donate $15 million to the communities that require support (Apple’s COVID-19 response, 2020). Moreover, the company is set to implement new technology to address the challenge, since “we are people first, and we do what we do with the belief that technology can change lives and the hope that it can be a valuable tool in a moment like this” (Apple’s COVID-19 response, 2020, para. 10). Moreover, in this letter, the CEO voiced his support for Apple’s employees in China and ensured them that the organization would take the appropriate measures to facilitate their work in a safe and effective manner. Hence, to motivate the employees during the pandemic, the leader of Apple issued a statement voicing support for the employees in the regions that were hit the hardest and showing that Apple is committed to helping communities who suffer from COVID-19 consequences. This precedent also shows Apple’s preference for non-financial incentives and motivation strategies for its employees since the company is focused primarily on showing its commitment to helping communities in need and ensuring the safety of the employees.

Notably, employee motivation management during the pandemic differs from the traditional one for two reasons and firstly, the employees may feel unsafe due to the high levels of uncertainty as they do not know if their job is secure. This hinders the basic level of needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy, as safety is among the basic necessities that a human has to have after their physiological needs are satisfied (Gelfand, 2017; Kanfer, Frese, and Johnson, 2017). Secondly, addressing remote work and motivating employees who work from home is a challenge for the management since previously, very few companies allowed large quantities of employees to work outside the office. Johnson (2019) and Murphy (2019) state that the new work environment requires the understanding of the employees’ privacy when they work at home, which relates to the data that companies can collect to analyze the efficiency of work.

Additionally, although some organizations try to enforce more control and monitor their staff’s work as closely as possible, Bader (2019 notes that this, in fact, is not an effective method. In Apple’s case, some of the employees had to stop working, for example, the personnel of the Apple stores that were closed in most states. Office employees were allowed to work from home, with meetings being held online (Apple’s COVID-19 response, 2020). Thus, similar to other companies, Apple has faced a challenge with COVID-19 as it had to adapt to remote work where the main issue is motivating the employees and ensuring work efficiency without infringement of people’s privacy.

Understanding Organizational Behavior

An understanding of organizational behavior contributes to a manager’s ability to effectively operate in their role. One way in which it does so is by helping them motivate workers. A manager that understands organizational behavior can promote desirable behaviors and let employees be more open about their issues, motivating them and creating a climate of trust and productivity (Baykal, 2019). These traits may be particularly desirable for Apple due to its unusual organizational culture, which is considerably more closed and secretive than those of most Silicon Valley companies. As a result, employees felt insecure in sharing their grievances, eventually choosing to leak them to the public rather than go to the management in a recent incident (Schiffer, 2021). They were unmotivated enough to decide to damage the company as a result of the restrictive and secretive policy.

Another way in which the understanding of organizational behavior can help a manager is in the implementation of organizational change. To successfully institute an initiative, it is necessary to change how employees behave so that their new actions are within the current framework. Per MacIntosh and Burton (2018), many changes can actively go against the organizational ideology and culture. Hence, they will be met with resistance from staff and ultimately fail to achieve their stated objectives. Apple is heavily reliant on its culture for innovation, which is essential for its continued success (Hodges, 2016). As such, managers need to avoid disrupting it as much as possible while still moving the company forward. With an understanding of Apple’s organizational behavior, they can exercise the necessary finesse to ensure that the transition is smooth.


Leadership Dynamics

As Apple continues to grow, the issue of supporting operations and ensuring that the quality of services and products remains the same is the main problem that the management has to address. Arguably, it is difficult to manage large quantities of employees effectively, especially considering Apple’s unprecedented growth, and the first challenge is the leadership dynamics management (Apple faces 3 challenges as it hits $2-trillion market value, 2020). Notably, there are several distinct theories of leadership, such as the charismatic theory, where the personal characteristics of a leader play a vital role in the organization’s development (Meyer and Meijers, 2019; Riggio, 2018). For Apple, the former CEO Jobs and the current leader Cook are examples of charismatic leaders who engage both the customers and the personnel into liking and brand. However, in a teamwork environment, there are several issues that charismatic leaders cannot address.

The most obvious issue is that in a large company, not all leaders can be charismatic and possess the traits needed to inspire others. Moreover, this approach to leadership can be overly self-centered and undermine the goals of the organization, such as the development of the employees, their training, and others (Guo et al., 2020). Modern leadership theory offers other strategies, such as servant leadership or transformational leadership, to address the challenges that companies such as Apple face. The former implies the focus of the leader on the needs of the followers, which allows them to have everything they need for effective work (Seijts and MacMillan, 2017). Another approach is transformational, which is especially suitable for companies working in the technology industry where change and innovation are vital.

With Apple, the leadership dynamics play an important role in examining organizational behavior because the history of the organization is linked to the image of Steve Jobs, one of the founding partners, and the CEO of Apple continues to be a public figure which shows the direction of the company. However, the dynamics between the leaders in such a large organization may be a challenge since Apple employs thousands of people across the globe, and the communication and cooperation between the management may be impaired. In this regard, the hierarchical structure of the business is a plus because each department has a leader and a clear system of subordination.

To ensure that the issue of leadership dynamics across different teams is effectively addressed by Apple’s management, the company should focus on adopting the transformational leadership style and providing that at different levels and in different divisions, the managers use this approach. Next, communication between teams and leaders is essential for ensuring adequate information flow across the company and excellent cooperation (Dong, 2017). Although information sharing is hindered during the pandemic as face-to-face meetings are no longer the best option for discussing an issue, technology offers an opportunity to chat, email, or have a videoconference instead. Here, it is important to ensure that Apple promotes communication between leaders and encourages them to address any issues, concerns, or areas of uncertainty if necessary to facilitate adequate leadership dynamics.

In terms of more specific leadership issues at Apple, the first would be its organizational culture and the unethical behavior it promotes. Apple has been implicated in the abuse of workers who produced its components in China by its large partner, Foxconn (McManus, Ward and Perry, 2018). While the company’s leadership did not directly order this mistreatment, it had grounds for a reasonable suspicion that such practices were taking place and willfully chose to ignore the matter. This issue is not unique to Apple and extends to many companies that outsource their production to less economically developed regions. Businesses such as Microsoft and Google outsource production or labor to contractors that are not necessarily required to adhere to the moral frameworks that the central business follows. However, this ubiquity does not excuse Apple’s leadership choices and suggests the existence of a culture where profits were prioritized above ethics. The issue can only be solved by instituting and putting into practice higher ethics requirements and supplier standards, which can likely only come into place as a result of public backlash.

The second leadership-related issue is the transition in the company’s leadership and the long-term effects it can generate. Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and long-term chairman and CEO, was a unique and unconventional individual whose ideas contributed strongly to the company’s innovative reputation (Lamberg, 2018). Under his leadership, Apple disrupted and effectively created several different markets, becoming a leader viewed as superior to any competition. Jobs’ replacement, Tim Cook, is more similar to the founders and CEOs of Google or Microsoft, lacking the same potential for innovation as his predecessor. The other companies were based on one idea, unlike Apple, which created a whole range of innovative products over the years, and did not need creativity such as that present at Apple as a result. As a result, the concern emerged that he may be unable to continue Apple’s key innovative streak and would instead simply maintain its position. Moreover, Mr. Cook is surrounded by executives who are similar to him in age, wealth, and outlook, which makes it unlikely for an unconventional successor to arise (Gurman, 2020). A potential solution would be for Apple to rely on its employees more for innovation, with leadership focusing more on the company as an entity.

Relation Between new Technologies and People Behaviours

In terms of the relationship between new technologies and people’s behaviors,’ Apple may be benefiting from COVID-19 because it prompted many businesses to explore technology solutions that would allow the employees to continue being in a safe environment, for example, from their homes. Moreover, Apple’s CEO issued a letter stating that it is vital to revert to the use of technology during times such as this pandemic, which shows that the company’s focus is on the use of technology (Apple’s COVID-19 response, 2020). However, remote work has its challenges as the motivation system and the organizational environment that typically supports the productivity of work in an office space are not present at home (Wiik, 2020). Hence, although technology resolved one challenge of the modern era, it posed another one before the management, and currently, there is a need to adjust the theory and practice of organizational behavior management to the requirements of new technologies and new work environments.

According to Dryselius and Pettersson (2020, p. 10), “levels of motivation relate to both productivity and well-being of individuals, it is critical that organizations know how motivation can be facilitated in a remote working.” Hence, a challenge before organizations is ensuring that the employees’ environment at home is suitable and supports their motivation to work effectively, which can be done by leveraging technology solutions. Some recommendations for improving the motivation of remotely working employees include focusing on information transparency, addressing the lack of social interactions, digital meetings, learning opportunities, the maintenance of the work-life balance, and the confusion of responsibilities of the employees and their management (Dryselius and Pettersson, 2020). Virtanen (2020) reports that in her survey, the main downside of remote work was the inability to interact with colleagues. Thus, the technology that enables remote work during the pandemic also challenges the usual workplace practices and hinders the ability to motivate employees using traditional methods.

Kati (2020) found that only half of the employees were eager to work remotely, and only the ones that did this in moderation by combining remote and office work expressed high levels of motivation. This creates a challenge for leaders because evidently, the employees who do not want to work remotely will have motivation problems when having to revert to technology instead of face-to-face interactions. Understanding the self-determination theory and the intrinsic motivation factors can help leaders create a suitable remote work environment where the organizational behavior management practices can help enhance the motivation of staff; however, it is a challenge.

While COVID-19 restrictions will eventually end and employees will return to their workplaces and offices, a proportion may choose to select the fully remote or partially remote option, and companies including Apple may revert to this practice due to the financial benefits they will gain as well. Hence, there is a need to discuss how technology can be used to monitor performance and enhance motivation, although little research has been done to address this gap in the literature. Moreover, Bana, Benzell, and Solares (2020) state that some companies and employees insist on keeping the remote work model, which means that technology will become an integral part of organizational management in the future, and the leadership will have to recognize the new ways of monitoring the efficiency of work and promoting motivation.

Considering Apple’s focus on its employees and their development, some of the approaches to using technology to monitor the work do not align with the organization’s values. For example, some businesses use data tracking and record all information from their employees’ personal computers and then analyze it to determine if their work has been efficient (Tang, Yam, and Koopman, 2020). Apart from data privacy concerns, this approach raises questions about trust and fair treatment of employees, and according to Pan et al. (2018), individuals who feel that they work in an unjust environment are less motivated when compared those who perceive their management’s treatment as fair. As a result, the use of technology to restrict and control workers will not lead to productivity and better outcomes and, on the contrary, will result in mistrust.

When examining the work of remote teams, Orsini and Rodrigues (2020) found that organizations overlook the importance of basic psychological needs, as outlined in Maslow’s theory. The authors’ research proves that the majority of the focus was on how to adjust the technology to facilitate the work process, while little attention has been dedicated to how management can use it to address the needs of their employees. Hence, technology, although creating a challenge for Apple and a need to adjust the organizational management practices, also creates opportunities for the development of effective remote workspaces.


Overall, this paper focuses on Apple’s organizational management practices and addresses some of the most important methods that this company uses to be successful. First and foremost, Apple’s leadership recognizes the role of employees in achieving success. However, unlike most businesses, Apple rarely uses cash bonuses as a motivation method. Instead, this business focuses on enhancing the employees’ intrinsic motivation through reward programs and support. Hence, this company focuses on creating a supportive and productive work environment and on helping the employees leverage their inherent motivation. Therefore, this company effectively leverages the intrinsic motivation of its employees and applies the motivation theories to create a suitable work environment. However, the recent restrictions with COVID-19 make it a challenge to manage organizational behavior in remote settings.

Notably, with COVID-19, Apple faces a challenge of managing technology and people as most employees transitioned to remote work, and some will want to continue working from home after the pandemic. Another challenge is the leadership dynamics, which is especially evident for such a large organization with thousands of employees and managers. The recommendation for addressing the first challenge is utilizing technology to address the downsides of remote work, such as a lack of socializing by encouraging employees to network through online meetings. The second issue can be addressed by focusing on information management within the organization and communication strategies. Notably, Apple is not the only organization that is currently facing these two problems, but this company’s unique focus on its employees and the effective management of organizational behavior should help overcome the crisis.

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