In an effort to retain staff amid rising fears that Meta will hire away top developers, Apple offered bonuses to some of its brightest engineers to round out the 4th quarter of 2021. The incentive to stay came in the form of stock bonuses reportedly ranging from $50,000 to $180,000. But a month later, the same six-figure incentive has had the opposite effect for the company that has now made more money than any other company ever: People are leaving, and not for the reason Apple feared. 

It's not that the monetary incentive wasn't high enough or that Meta is making Apple staff offers they simply can't refuse. Instead, people are refusing to stay at Apple following such a glaring illustration of the company's inequities, as well as the general insensitivity within its environment. 

While the workplace does not need to be a space for participation trophies, you can't put widely varying price tags on people and expect those on the low end -- or those without the offer of a bonus at all -- to want to stay. Even some of those who received the top-tier stock offer, while flattered, will not be blind to the discrepancies or division within the workplace. It's something that won't sit well with everyone -- especially not within a corporate culture built on equality and inclusion. 

Apple may have proven that, while it might be too big to fail, it's not too smart to fall into the trap of a bad decision. Beyond the failed attempt to keep staff at Apple and away from Meta, the misguided strategy has little to do with monetary incentives and bruised egos. While people undoubtedly go to work for the money, they stay for years for different reasons. Many of those have nothing to do with financial compensation, but with camaraderie, security, and the feeling of being valued -- none of which are bolstered by putting a price on how much each team member's continued employment status is worth.

While the flat-rate stock bonus could prove to be worth a fortune in the future, it comes at the expense of feeling oddly cheap. It undermines Apple's staff, divides its team, and leaves many to feel undervalued -- or worse, unvalued. It caused staff to become distrusting towards the company, deflated, and disengaged -- something that will cost Apple a lot more than its stock bonuses.  

As Apple becomes the first company worth $3 trillion, it undoubtedly could do more than offer a stock bonus or additional financial compensation. What it should be doing to induce loyalty is working to offer creative and innovative strategies to create a happier workplace to help improve the lives of those who are spending much of theirs at Apple. 

In 2022, the most evident answer isn't synonymous with the most effective. And just like how the most effective "Great Resignation" strategy is also the strangest, businesses need to be more holistic when developing strategies. 

It's not enough to zoom in to find the path to reach your goal. Now, it's equally important to zoom out to get the full optics, which can reveal a very different picture. Because whether you're looking at ways to retain staff or improve products, a straightforward plan can quickly have a backward outcome. That is, if you haven't considered the message your plan might send to those you didn't realize you were sending it to.