Did You Know: Apple Fired a Guy for Standing on His Head
Brent Barlow thought a bit too far "outside the box"
By Filip Truta, Apple News Editor
30th of December 2008, 18:01 GMT
In Apple's history of employments and layoffs, one may be reluctant to believe that the company bearing the motto "Think different" would fire one of its staffers for doing just that.
Meet Brent Barlow, a former software analyst and beta-tester at Apple. In 1999, Apple felt it was necessary to let him go because he "consistently failed to adhere to the normal standards of conduct and daily routines expected of employees of Apple Computer," according to a company spokesperson.
Listening to Bob Dylan on his headphones while testing software, and taking barefoot walks around the Apple campus to" feel more connected to the creative energy of others" were among his strange activities around the office. For one reason or another, Dylan also used to hang his mountain bike above his workstation.
"It's okay to think outside the box," Avie Tevanian, Apple senior vice-president of software engineering, said. "In fact, we very much encourage that sort of thing, here at Apple. But in Mr. Barlow's case, he went just a bit too far."
First written up in September 1996, Barlow was cited for "unprofessional and inappropriate personal modifications to his workspace." Those included taped-up pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and R. Buckminster Fuller, a painted red question mark on the side of his monitor, a non-approved wallpaper (on his Mac) of Jim Henson, and more. Reportedly, Barlow went as far as replacing his computer's trademarked startup sound with a snippet of the John Lennon song "Imagine."
"I like to explore problems from unusual angles," Barlow explained, as he was cleaning out the desk he had been working at for four years. "And being in a free-form environment of my own creation really helps me get in the right frame of mind." The last straw was when his team supervisor caught him doing a headstand, reports revealed. The write-up for this incident was Barlow's last blow.
"I was stuck on this bug I discovered in the new Mac OS X system software that Apple's developing. No matter what I tried, nothing worked," Barlow revealed. "So I thought to myself, what I need to do is turn my whole approach to this problem upside-down. And what better way to do that than by standing on your head?"
Apple director of corporate communications, Michael Landau, further emphasized that the company had no choice but to let him go. "Of course, we want our employees to be individuals and 'do their own thing,' so to speak," Landau stated at the time. "But Mr. Barlow's behavior consistently crossed the line. If he wants to think that different, he can do it on his own time."
Throughout the years, Apple has developed a manual outlining the company's rules and regulations regarding individualism, in an effort to prevent "excessive iconoclasm." In accordance with those rules, staffers were allowed activities such as:
- removing shoes when seated or within four feet of a desk;
- whistling when given prior written permission from a direct supervisor;
- kicking puddles, provided the kicking is conducted during one's lunch hour and the puddle is one of the 35 on the Apple campus specifically designated for such a purpose.
Staffers were moreover prohibited to sing out loud, fly kites, and catch butterflies.