Everyone expected a clash and no one disappointed: Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter exposed a rift between San Francisco’s corporate culture and the ways of Tesla’s multi-billionaire boss.
“I have the impression that Musk is very fond of humanity but not so much of people,” commented Emmanuel Cornet, a computer engineer who was among the first to be removed from the social network after the takeover on October 27.
Previously, he was one of the many employees who sincerely wanted to see the successful entrepreneur at work, despite his penchant for provocations that delighted his many fans.
“I think we had blinders on. Most of the employees tried to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as possible, also because finding another job is not necessarily easy,” he sums up.
But Elon Musk, beyond the big smiles and enthusiastic declarations, lived up to his reputation.
He fired half of the group’s 7,500 employees with a rare cold, even for the United States, thanked executives and engineers who disagreed with him, and finally imposed an ultimatum: work “absolutely, unconditionally ” or walk out.
Hundreds of people chose the second option.
“He acts like a schoolyard bully. Any criticism of his wildly inaccurate claims about technology warrants immediate dismissal,” said Sarah Roberts, a social media professor at UCLA University.
“show no mercy”
Emmanuel Cornet was particularly surprised by the lack of “respect” of the richest man in the world: “For a long time, on purpose, he seems to be trying to help the planet, with electric cars, in particular. (.. .) But the people around him seem disposable.”
Elon Musk “has this swaggering, bravado side. He’s the brash, no-holds-barred entrepreneur who builds rockets and cars that wow people. media professor at Northeastern University.
The libertarian entrepreneur has long had close ties to Silicon Valley, where he founded Tesla.
But he has since disowned the California Democrat, railed against health restrictions during the pandemic and accusations of “racial segregation” against his factory.
At the end of 2021, he moved his flagship headquarters to Texas, a majority Republican state with conservative policies.
Twitter was founded by the emblematic Jack Dorsey, “who has everything a Zen guru in search of spirituality”, recalls John Wihbey.
Employees of the tweet network are “proud to work there”, he added. “They believed in what they were doing.”
Emmanuel Cornet worked for 14 years at Google before going to Twitter, two groups that, at the time he chose, did not seem “obsessed with profits”.
“The sense of community on Twitter was strong enough to carry on after” the layoffs, he marvels.
Former “tweeps” — how employees of the social network describe themselves — wrote farewell messages on the platform with many hearts, and then created groups on Discord or Signal to support each other.
Many said they were okay with working hard, but not just with bombastic promises (“building a revolutionary Twitter 2.0”), at the mercy of sudden decisions.
After Thursday’s ultimatum, dozens of them gathered in an audio lounge on the platform to evoke a “care bear” atmosphere — never criticizing those who chose to stay.
Asked at an employee meeting about the risk of losing staff, Elon Musk replied that he didn’t have a “right answer”. “I can tell you what works at Tesla: being physically present in the office and giving your all,” he added.
The eccentric leader, who hates teleworking – very popular among computer engineers – likes to tell how he slept on site, at Tesla, when his company was “on the verge of bankruptcy”.
“With Neuralink or Tesla, he was able to make life difficult for employees because they are focused on the goal, they work with innovative technologies. There is a vision”, explains Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor at Yale University.
At Twitter, on the other hand, between the massive layoffs, the culture of coercion and its “whims”, it is probably not yet in the process of uniting the staff around a creative culture, elaborates the specialist this in corporate governance.
According to Sarah Roberts, for many in Silicon Valley, “being fired by Elon (Musk) has been an honor.”