Your Status Anxiety Is Killing Your Business: Lessons from Tim Cook

About 2 years ago, I had an issue with my iMac. It stopped working during a presentation. I had been using Macs since 1997 and I never had any issues.

I took it to a local Apple service store and the response wasn’t one I was used to from an Apple rep. I got irritated and decided to write an email to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

I really have a special connection with Apple. When I was working in Singapore, I got a job offer from California. They were looking for a Marketing Manager who could manage the nation’s largest Mac Summit Conference. It was a dream come true…

I was the perfect fit for that environment, because California was full of people who were highly curious, creative, entrepreneurial and had a zest for learning, inventing and surfing.

In my email, I told Tim Cook that Mac Summit was the conference that hooked me to the wonderful world of Apple and since that I had been a big fan. And now, I was unable to get even a response from Apple.

Do You Deserve My Attention?

In Turkey, when you send an email to a company or an association, its highly likely for you to not get a response. There are 3 reasons why this is the case:

1- It’s about Power Distance: As a culture, Turkish people like to keep a distance to feel powerful. The more approachable you are, the less powerful they feel. So, responding to an email is a psychological issue. “Who are you that you deserve my time and attention?” It sounds funny, but it tells a lot about why people do what they do.

According to Hofstede Insights, the country of Turkey scores 66 on the “power distance” cultural dimension – that’s 26 points higher than the United States and 31 points higher than the United Kingdom. Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

2- It’s about Status Anxiety: Many people are promoted to a position not because they have the skills or the talent to do the job, but because they are good friends with someone high in the ranks or they are highly manageable individuals by others. That means they tend to comply.  The same people complain about the government when it promotes a person to a position that is not a right fit. But they find it ok to do the behave similarly. Some call it hypocrisy.

Mid-upper management and leadership teams suffer from a high level of status anxiety. Keeping their jobs, which give them status, is critical to their survival and ego. You can’t bring about change when keeping your position safe is more important than your passion.

As Alain de Botton states: “we worry about having no status because we’re not good at remaining confident about ourselves if other people don’t seem to like or respect us very much. Our ‘ego’ or self-conception could be pictured as a leaking balloon, forever requiring external love to remain inflated and vulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect: we rely on signs of respect from the world to feel acceptable to ourselves.”

There are very few number of executives who will go beyond what is expected to bring about change and innovation. And you probably know of them when you meet or work with them.

3- It’s about lack of Interest:  Most executives claim that it is hard for them to find talented people. While it is true that there is a shortage of skilled work force, it is not true that it is hard to find talented people. Talented people tend to have a vision and they have dreams. The corporate world seems to have no idea what to do with the talented who have dreams.

Hiring executives who are successful in what they do is different from hiring people with a vision.  That is one of the major reasons why talented people start companies such as Space X, Apple, Patagonia, ZipCar, and Lemonade.

If you do care about hiring people with a vision, ask them about it. But then, be prepared to have systems and cultures in place to help them achieve their dreams. Their dream is not to work in a well decorated building. It is a nice to have, of course. They are the ones with an interest to grow your business. They are the ones with a passion and courage to go after their dreams. So, don’t be shy–match your goals with their dreams.

When you have management and leadership teams who have more interest in keeping the status quo than anything else, all you get is what you currently experience.

Why does Tim Cook Care?

Tim Cook and his team had a system in place to handle issues that are raised directly to Tim Cook. And of course, I got an email back from them the same day. I received several calls in the coming days to ensure I was fully satisfied with the service. It feels so good when the care is reciprocated. It is that simple.

Many executives in Turkey don’t really give a damn about you or your email, but Tim Cook does. His status comes from the responsibility and genuine care he feels toward people not just toward his customers. Because of that, he instills cultures and systems that favor human touch, kindness and care. He might have status anxiety as well, but to settle it, he is clearly taking responsibility to make things better. He doesn’t rely on a friend or have to be complacent to keep his position. Because of that, when your own people in Turkey don’t care about you, he will call the management in your local country and ensure that they provide the care that goes hand in hand with Apple’s character.

He doesn’t come up with excuses and reasons. He has systems in place to clear the issues ASAP.

I love Apple. I love its history and story. I love that everything about the company inspires me. For that I will continue to buy their products and be a big advocate of the company. And when things are bad, as a customer, and as a big advocate of Apple, I am happy to help, in whatever way I can.


Fatmanur Erdogan, Chief Communications Officer, Counseling Psychologist, May 9, 2018.


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