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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger




Steve Jobs Is A Big Bad Meanie, So What?
October 19th, 1999

Since Steve Jobs came back to Apple, everybody had a little comment about him. His charisma charmed us, his vision astonished the masses, his determination looked rock solid, his behavior shocked quite a few, and we all speculated about his beard. We all have an opinion on the improved Jobs, right?

Still, some of us will always complain about him. Why? He is a control freak. He is often rude. His words are harsh and frank. According to Time Magazine, he can reduce someone to tears.

I remember reading the Desktop Critic David Pogue in Macworld, July 1998 edition. Pogue wrote:

But then we hear about another terrific engineer leaving Apple, driven out by its tyrannical leader. Or we hear about somebody who never even made it past Steve's snap judgments, like the woman whose job interview is described at Upside.com. "I've never met one of you [Human Resources people] who didn't s-ck," Jobs told her.

Brains and talent are Apple's lifeblood, and not even incisive management can replace them. Dear Dr. Steve: We love the way your magic scalpel is sculpting Apple into a beautiful company again–but watch out for the arteries.

Speaking of employees leaving Apple because of Jobs, Time adds that Jobs replaced 75% of the management team after taking over. I tell you, no need for Mr. Clean when you have this guy around.

In 1997, MacInTouch's Ric Ford found out about Mr. Jobs when he e-mailed him about the cloning issue and asked him about his secret plan to put Apple back on the track. Here is what he got:

"I must say that you are so irresponsible about what you publish - correct information commingled with partially true and totally false information - that I do not care to participate. I suggest that you do more due diligence before publishing so many of these strange rumors. Or, maybe the folks who read your web site have something in common with those who buy the National Enquirer, in that they are not really seeking facts or insight but simply entertainment. If this is the case, I respectfully withdraw my criticism."

Ouch. Jobs has a sharp jab. I bet he would not be kinder with me :-)

This looks so... negative. Forget it. Look at the results. Apple Computer's comeback exceeds all the possible expectations now. There are four product lines. It is easy for anyone to determine what Mac suits his/her needs. Apple had a near-death experience until this messiah stormed in. You should be thankful instead of complaining about his rudeness.

His attitude is what you have to tolerate for success. His profile is no different from the most successful people. Leaders (company executives, politicians, etc.) are usually authoritarian. Their personality drives them past the obstacles where others only break their noses. They can stand up and take pressure when the weaker will give in.

A Mr. Nice Guy can succeed to a certain point. Say... you started a small business. You can recruit your staff personally, know them all and be nice while they respect you enough to perform. However, when it comes to driving an empire or a big company such as Apple, there is no room to try pleasing everybody. You have to get things done and most of the time, you have to ruffle feathers to have your way.

The direct consequence is that rats will leave the ship. Unproductive parasites certainly left the company because Jobs pushed them to the limit and they refused to cooperate. The point is not just about productivity, but creativity. Many employees left in disgust, saying that he wanted too much, set impossible deadlines (a G4 done shipping January 2000) or that the work environment was just plain bad with him.

Again, the ones who complain are most probably the ones who could not provide Apple the edge it needs to survive and prosper in the computer industry.

The battle that Apple is in is not some recreational outing. Apple has to perform twice as well as everybody else to sell its products. If an employee cannot adjust to Steve Jobs' regime and leaves with his toys, good riddance. If his subordinates or my fellow columnists cannot stand his attitude, too bad. Look elsewhere for Mr. Nice Guy. What counts, in the end, is the result. Remember that some of you owe their daily bread to Apple's successful existence... thanks to Mean Steve.

You often need to shake people off their feet to get the best out of them. They hate you for it, but they do a better job.

Imagine Jobs conceiving the iBook. "Where's the handle? Eliminate the latch! Yes, Tangerine, don't argue. I need this to ship in September."

I realize that this behavior upset a few souls on the Apple campus. But this is the way you drive a big company. You push people to their limits and they will accomplish more. They will find that out with effort and team work, they can move mountains.

Steve Jobs is the kind of human being who wants success. He is ready to make the sacrifices for it and he expects the same from his collaborators. If you do not cooperate, he will let you know. He can aggravate you or make you feel like crap, but he is not the only successful person to do this. Mostly, he knows what he is doing.

Sometimes, hatred or rudeness can get things done while asking nicely fails. Oh, I know from experience...

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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