Apple founder Steve Jobs could be a real jerk when criticising employees.
He said exactly what he meant, often using profanity to get his point across. He once fired the head of the team who created MobileMe, Apple’s first attempt at a cloud service, in a public meeting in front of his team. There are many examples of him almost bringing employees to tears.
Today in a profile in the New Yorker, Apple chief designer Jony Ive — a close friend of Jobs — explains how he once asked Jobs to tone it down after seeing his colleagues feel crushed.
“Why would you be vague?” Jobs asked Ive. “You don’t care about how they feel! You’re being vain, you want them to like you.”
His argument, which Ive came to agree with, is that managers should always give clear, unambiguous feedback. They should not care whether their employees like them — and to even consider that is a form of vanity.
Instead, the best thing for the company is for managers to put their own ego aside and state exactly what they want, and explain every time an employee comes up short.
That said, Ive is much calmer when he criticises his designers, although the lab is certainly full of brutally honest feedback. Also, Ive was not a big fan of Isaacson’s biography, which contained many examples of Jobs’ meanness.
“My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he told The New Yorker.