One of NeXT’s first ten employees was an interior designer for the company’s first headquarters, in Palo Alto. Even though Jobs had leased a building that was new and nicely designed, he had it completely gutted and rebuilt. Walls
were replaced by glass, the carpets were replaced by light hardwood flooring. The process was repeated when NeXT moved to a bigger space in Redwood City in 1989. Even though the building was brand-new, Jobs insisted that the
elevators be moved so that the entrance lobby would be more dramatic. As a centerpiece, Jobs commissioned I. M. Pei to design a grand staircase that
seemed to float in the air. The contractor said it couldn’t be built. Jobs said it could, and it was. Years later Jobs would make such staircases a feature at Apple’s signature stores.
Joe Nocera, then writing for Esquire, captured Jobs’s intensity at a NeXT staff meeting:
It’s not quite right to say that he is sitting through this staff meeting, because Jobs doesn’t sit through much of anything; one of the ways he dominates is through sheer movement. One moment he’s kneeling in his chair; the next
minute he’s slouching in it; the next he has leaped out of his chair entirely and is scribbling on the blackboard directly behind him. He is full of mannerisms. He bites his nails. He stares with unnerving earnestness at whoever is
speaking. His hands, which are slightly and inexplicably yellow, are in constant motion.
What particularly struck Nocera was Jobs’s “almost willful lack of tact.” It was more than just an inability to hide his opinions when others said something he thought dumb; it was a conscious readiness, even a perverse eagerness, to put
people down, humiliate them, show he was smarter. When Dan’l Lewin handed out an organization chart, for example, Jobs rolled his eyes. “These charts are bullshit,” he interjected. Yet his moods still swung wildly, as at Apple. A finance person came into the meeting and Jobs lavished praise on him for a
“really, really great job on this”;
the previous day
Jobs had told him,
“This deal is crap.”