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16 Times Steve Jobs Was a Huge Jerk

The Apple founder wasn't known for always being polite. Here are some of the rudest things he ever did.
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When it comes to Steve Jobs, there's the "Good Steve," and then, there's the "Bad Steve," says biographer Walter Isaacson.

His mammoth personality could inspire those around him just as easily as it could tear them down.

Here are 16 examples of when it did the latter.

1. A different kind of FDA.

Isaacson describes how Jobs handled himself when one of Apple's partners wasn't performing adequately:

VLSI Technology, a chip company, was having trouble delivering enough chips on time. Jobs stormed into a meeting and started shouting that they were "f*cking d*ckless assholes." The company ended up getting the chips to Apple on time, and its executives made jackets that boasted on the back, "Team FDA."

2. "You guys don't know what you're doing!"

When Apple was about to reveal the "Bondi Blue" iMac, he berated his good friend and ad partner, Lee Clow, over the phone. Jobs said Clow's team was getting the color wrong for the print ads. He shouted, "You guys don't know what you're doing. I'm going to get someone else to do the ads because this is f*cked up."

Eventually, Clow sat Jobs down and made him look at the original photos versus print ads. Clow was right--there had been no mistake. Jobs backed down.

3. His five-star hotel room wasn't up to his standards so he immediately left.

Jony Ive went to the trouble of finding a boutique, five-star hotel room for Jobs to stay at in London. As soon as Jobs got to his room he called up Ive and said, "I hate my room. It's a piece of sh*t, let's go." Jobs grabbed his things to leave, stopping at the desk to tell the clerk what he thought of the hotel.

4. He chewed out a Whole Foods employee for no apparent reason.

Jony Ive tells this story: "Once we went to Whole Foods market to get a smoothie ... And this older woman was making it and he really got on her about how she was doing it."

Jobs later felt bad realizing she's an older woman doing a job that she's not happy with.

5. "Everything you've ever done in your life is sh*t!"

The Xerox Star was supposed to be the hot new computer that came out in 1981 (though it was ultimately a flop). Jobs and his team went to go check it out and were absolutely unimpressed. A few weeks later he called Bob Belleville, one of the hardware designers on the Xerox Star team. "Everything you've ever done in your life is shit," Jobs said, "so why don't you come work for me?"

Belleville joined the team.

6. He wanted nothing to do with his daughter for a long time.

Jobs denied paternity of his daughter Lisa for years. She and her mother ended up living on welfare. To Jobs' credit, however, he ultimately made the situation right, paying child support and reimbursing the state of California for years of back child support. He ended up connecting with Lisa and she became a member of his family.

7. When his parents dropped him off at college, he never said goodbye.

From Isaacson's biography:

[When his parents dropped him off] he refrained from even saying good-bye or thanks. He recounted the moment later with uncharacteristic regret: "It’s one of the things in life I really feel ashamed about. I was not very sensitive, and I hurt their feelings. I shouldn’t have. They had done so much to make sure I could go there, but I just didn’t want them around. I didn’t want anyone to know I had parents. I wanted to be like an orphan who had bummed around the country on trains and just arrived out of nowhere, with no roots, no connections, no background."

8. He fired people without notice.

When Steve had to make cutbacks at Pixar, he fired people and didn't give any severance pay. Pamela Kerwin, an early Pixar employee, pleaded that employees at least be given two weeks notice.

"OK," he said, "but the notice is retroactive from two weeks ago."

9. He short-changed his best friend on a bonus. 

While working at Atari, Jobs recruited Steve Wozniak's help to build a scaled-down version of "Pong." There was a big bonus involved in getting it done quickly. Jobs lied about how much money was involved, pocketing the majority of the money for himself.

10. He never gave one of the earliest Apple employees stock options.

Daniel Kottke was one of Apple's first employees and was even a personal friend of Jobs -; the two traveled around India together in 1974. But for some reason, Jobs never set him up with stock options.

Rod Holt, Apple's vice president of engineering, confronted Jobs with this, saying, "Whatever you give him, I will match it."

Steve said, "OK. I will give him zero."

11. He would harass people interviewing for work.

A surprising story about Jobs interviewing a job candidate from Isaacson's book:

"How old were you when you lost your virginity?" he asked. The candidate looked baffled. "What did you say?" "Are you a virgin?" Jobs asked. The candidate sat there flustered, so Jobs changed the subject. "How many times have you taken LSD?" Hertzfeld recalled, "The poor guy was turning varying shades of red, so I tried to change the subject and asked a straightforward technical question." But when the candidate droned on in his response, Jobs broke in. "Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble," he said, cracking up Smith and Hertzfeld. "I guess I’m not the right guy," the poor man said as he got up to leave.

12. Steve Jobs fired the guy in charge of MobileMe in front of a crowd of Apple employees.

When MobileMe launched in the summer of 2008, it was plagued with problems. People had trouble getting their data to sync to the cloud and across their devices.

The press, including the WSJ's Apple enthusiast Walt Mossberg, slammed MobileMe as an unfinished product.

To address the problem, Jobs gathered the MobileMe team in Apple's auditorium and asked: "Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?" When the team gave their answers, Jobs replied, "Then why the f*ck doesn't it do that?"

Jobs then fired the MobileMe boss on the spot and replaced him with Eddie Cue.

13. He called Joe Nocera of The New York Times and chewed him out for writing about his health.

In 2008, Joe Nocera was working on a column about Steve Jobs' health, criticizing Jobs and Apple for keeping it a secret from investors.

Before the column was published, Jobs called Nocera and said:

"You think I'm an arrogant asshole who thinks he's above the law, and I think you're a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong." 

14. Jobs got in a huge fight with his ad team over what the iPad commercials should look like.

Steve Jobs wanted to make a big splash with the iPad's ad campaign. He didn't like the first round of promo videos, so he called up James Vincent, the man in charge of the ads and told him: "Your commercials suck ... The iPad is revolutionizing the world, and we need something big. You’ve given me small shit."

That triggered an argument between the two men. Jobs couldn't decide what he wanted, he just wanted Vincent to come up with something new and exciting. After a lot of back and forth, the "Revolution" ad campaign began.

15. Steve Jobs unleashed on Ryan Tate for criticizing Apple's "closed" App Store.

When Gawker's Ryan Tate wrote an email to Steve Jobs asking why he denied developers the "freedom" to create what they wanted on the iPad, it kicked off a heated exchange of emails.

Jobs got the final word:

"By the way, what have you done that's so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others' work and belittle their motivations?" he wrote.

16. "He knows exactly how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. And he does do that."

Isaacson asked Jobs' best friend Jony Ive what he thought. Here's his response:

I once asked him why he gets so mad about stuff. He said, "But I don't stay mad." He has this very childish ability to get really worked up about something, and it doesn't stay with him at all. But, there are other times, I think honestly, when he's very frustrated, and his way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody. And I think he feels he has a liberty and license to do that. The normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don't apply to him. Because of how very sensitive he is, he knows exactly how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. And he does do that.

--This story first appeared on Business Insider.

Last updated: Jul 23, 2014




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