Steve Jobs :: The Asshole Factor

I, like most people these days, am fascinated by Steve Jobs. He has been the lead on countless products/projects that have changed the world for the good. I am far from a fanboy.  I do own an iPhone and an older generation iPod Nano.  I have never owned a Mac computer, but I appreciate what they represent. I still remember sitting in a friend’s house back in the 80s gawking over the Apple IIe and similarly gawking over the original Macintosh when it came out.

But I am a PC.  Well, I was.  Now I believe that the world is condensing and I see the concept of a PC disappearing into the cloud. I love what is happening in the Tablet space and I can’t wait to see how it plays out between Android and Apple (the new Microsoft vs. Apple).

But this post is about Steve Jobs and how he’s a colossal asshole.

Last night I was watching the PBS documentary on Jobs, called Steve Jobs: One Last Thing. And the thing that strikes me every time you hear someone speak of Jobs, you get the standard sound bites: “Genius”, “Visionary”, “Master Marketeer”. The second thing that strikes me is that I have yet to come across anyone who doesn’t follow the standard sound bite with a “but”. And the “but” is always some variation on the theme that Steve Jobs is an asshole. I struggle with this. A lot.

I, like virtually every other person on the planet, have had to deal with assholes in the workplace. Each time I witness a tirade by someone pitching a fit like a 3 year old, why people tolerate it. We don’t tolerate it from 3 year olds, why do we tolerate it from 43 year olds? I know I am not alone in this. I can even go as far as saying that I’ve witnessed first hand collegues of mine getting stripped down in such a way, that there is no way that it didn’t affect them on a very deep, personal, and emotional level.

In the PBS show, there are first hand accounts of face to face shouting matches that were classified as being “like a playground bully”. There was an interview of Richard Branson where he wore kid gloves with everything he said, but you could read between the lines that there was no love lost between the two. He used words to describe Jobs that came across as backhanded compliments.

In order to ensure I am clear in this, I don’t have a problem with being “tough to deal with”. The idea of being perfectionistic in your approach to business is not something I shun. In fact, with my ADD tendencies, I respect it because it is a very difficult thing for me to achieve. It is the sociopathic approach to business that is far more common than anyone seems to admit that I have a problem with.  It is almost as though the higher you climb on a corporate ladder, the more people think you need to act like an asshole.

So, the point of this little diatribe is that while I appreciate all of the great feats Jobs has accomplished during the course of his life.  I don’t think I can respect him as a person. In a way that catches me off guard, that leaves me feeling a bit empty inside.