Steve Jobs was a jerk, and other lessons in business administration


Partner’s work friend Rose recently turned me on to a very interesting blog about work.



(Yes, I know, this is a dull topic. But if you work in an office environment for a living, keep reading.  You may benefit from this.)



The blogger’s name is Bob Sutton.  He writes about work: office life, office dynamics, good bosses, bad bosses, communications issues.  He writes about them with great immediacy, and he uses vividly concrete examples that any office worker can understand.



One recent entry concerns the whole Steve-Jobs-Was-God phenomenon, and how it has muddied the waters re effective management and general good business behavior.



Jobs, by all accounts, was a genius.  He ramrodded Apple, once a small company, into a big company, a huge company, one of the most innovative companies in the world.  His products are everywhere.  They are light and simple and elegant. 



Also, Steve Jobs was an asshole.  Reportedly, during his final illness, he went through dozens of nurses before finding a few he liked.  He was a screamer.  He was no fun to be around.



Here’s a question: if you want to be a visionary business magnate like Steve Jobs, how do you do it?



Answer: by acting like him.  And if that means acting badly, well, go for it.



Sutton describes a conference at which he mentioned Steve Jobs, and a huge argument broke out among the attendees: was it necessary to act like a jerk to be successful? Steve Jobs did it, and it worked.  Maybe being a jerk is the secret to success!



Sutton theorizes that people are projecting their own preferences onto Jobs and his legacy.  If they’re jerks, they feel validated when they discover that Jobs was a jerk.  If they’re not jerks, they’re worried that they might be more successful if they were less pleasant.  And so forth.



And this is the world of “management theory.”



Here’s the thing: in my world view, jerk bosses get poked with pitchforks in the world to come.  Life is short, and we are all mild sweet tender creatures, and we need to be kind to each other. 



If there’s a heaven, I doubt that Steve Jobs is being rewarded there right now for his business success. 



So: try not to be a jerk. Please.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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