Elon Musk’s first month as CEO of Twitter: Layoffs, chaos and “hardcore” leadership


A couple of week and a half after shopping for Twitter and assuming the function of CEO, Elon Musk rolled out a brand new service letting customers pay $8 a month for a verification test mark with out truly verifying their identification.

Musk had portrayed the previous verification mannequin as a system of “lords & peasants,” tweeting, “Energy to the folks!” New check-mark-wielding accounts wasted no time in impersonating brands, such as Musk’s own car company, Tesla, and prescription drugs firm Eli Lilly, even saying that the insulin producer would now provide insulin without spending a dime, sending the actual Eli Lilly’s stock prices right into a free fall. A fake LeBron James requested a commerce to a different NBA workforce. An account impersonating former president George W. Bush tweeted, “I miss killing Iraqis.”

Inside days of its launch, the service was paused. Musk stated it might be relaunched when there was “high confidence of stopping impersonation.”

The much-mocked launch of paid blue checks is only one instance of the eyebrow-raising selections Musk has made since his $44 billion buy of the social community one month in the past. A brief checklist of concepts he’s thrown on the wall within the weeks since: bringing back Vine, paid video content, paid direct messages to celebrities, a Twitter payments platform (which may embrace a high-yield money market account) — even placing the entire site behind a paywall. In his first month, Musk additionally reinstated the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump, who was permanently suspended in January 2021 for inciting violence in mild of the January 6 Capitol assault.

As Musk’s first month as Twitter’s CEO involves an in depth, his run can solely be described as head-spinning. Musk’s technique thus far, nonetheless, echoes a Silicon Valley ethos attributed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: “Transfer quick and break issues,” says Peter Harms, a professor of administration on the College of Alabama who has researched authoritarian leadership types.

Fears that Twitter might actually break have reached a brand new pitch. Beneath Musk’s leadership, Twitter laid off about half of its workforce within the first week of November; it additionally laid off 4,400 out of 5,500 contract workers. Some 1,200 additional employees resigned after Musk set a deadline by which they’d should resolve to remain or go away, and #RIPTwitter started trending on the positioning. In the meantime, advertisers have disappeared from the positioning, taking thousands and thousands in income with them: In keeping with a new report by Media Matters for America, half of Twitter’s prime 100 advertisers, from Coca-Cola to American Categorical to Chevrolet — who spent a collective $2 billion on Twitter adverts since 2020 — appear to have stopped promoting on the positioning.

The chaotic implementation of new options and the corporate’s cold-blooded remedy of staff have attracted a torrent of criticism from Twitter customers, former and present Twitter staff, journalists, and others. Twitter is a really public stage, and Musk as its CEO is airing out his each thought — irrespective of how inane or crude — for the general public to see.

Musk isn’t any novice at working corporations. However the complicated imaginative and prescient he has introduced for Twitter in his first month on the job has made it clear that working a social community is, in reality, onerous, and that promoting this city sq. as a monetizable product is proving to be a much more confounding prospect for Musk than even promoting EVs.

It’s a job that requires managing the expectations and needs of an unlimited, numerous swath of individuals who typically really feel a way of possession over the social community, and maybe rightfully so; they’re those bringing worth to the platform with each tweet. After Musk introduced the chance of introducing a month-to-month charge to maintain utilizing Twitter as a verified consumer, the response was swift: “Fuck that, they need to pay me,” writer Stephen King tweeted.

It stands to cause that Twitter’s CEO ought to perceive the connection between the platform and its customers. Musk, nonetheless, has despatched conflicting messages about how he sees Twitter: According to a recent missive from Musk, Twitter isn’t a democracy-promoting city sq., as he’s lengthy urged it’s, however “at its coronary heart, Twitter is a software program and servers firm,” one which wants a “technologist” as its CEO.

“He’s been very profitable at quite a bit of issues,” stated Harms. “However we all know from different tales that he’s additionally variety of unstable and impulsive. He typically fires people on a whim. And very often, he makes errors.”

On Musk’s “hardcore” leadership

Tales of Musk as the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX typically paint him as a demanding taskmaster who has a hand in virtually each choice at his corporations. Musk biographer Ashlee Vance reported early on in Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Improbable Future about one specific incident when a quantity of staff had been current at Tesla headquarters on a Saturday. “Musk noticed the scenario in a special mild,” Vance wrote, “complaining that fewer and fewer folks had been working weekends of late. ‘We’ve grown fucking smooth,’ Musk replied. ‘I used to be simply going to ship out an electronic mail. We’re fucking smooth.’”

Nonetheless, the environment-saving, Mars-exploring grandness of the Tesla and SpaceX missions held appreciable sway over staff. Musk’s cult of persona as a real-life Tony Stark constructed hype and model loyalty, and this private model helped catapult his companies to unimaginable success: Tesla is one of essentially the most useful corporations on the earth, and SpaceX is now NASA’s second biggest contractor.

“When Musk units unrealistic objectives, verbally abuses staff, and works them to the bone, it’s understood to be — on some stage — half of the Mars agenda,” Vance reported. “Some staff love him for this. Others detest him however stay oddly loyal out of respect for his drive and mission.”

Twitter, nonetheless, shouldn’t be Tesla or SpaceX. Treating it solely as a software program and servers firm misses its utility as a social house. It’s like describing a restaurant as an emporium of tables and chairs.

“It’s, for higher and worse, the city sq., and it additionally typically brings out the worst in folks in that city sq.. And I feel [Musk] drastically underestimated how tough of a problem that’s,” stated Nick Bilton, writer of Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Cash, Energy, Friendship, and Betrayal.

Bilton, who studies on tech and enterprise for Self-importance Honest, informed Vox that former Twitter CEOs have additionally had their very own takes on easy methods to run the social community. “Evan Williams’s method to working Twitter was a really product-oriented method and much less of a enterprise method. Dick Costolo’s model of Twitter was to attempt to repair all of the technical issues and make the corporate go public, which he did,” Bilton stated. “Jack [Dorsey]’s was a really hands-off one — he felt like somebody who simply didn’t need to contact it, or do something that would break it.”

The best Twitter CEO most likely doesn’t should be a “product genius” or a “enterprise genius,” Bilton stated, however as a substitute — consider it or not — somebody like Jeff Bezos. “Individuals can love or hate Amazon — however the place [Bezos] deserves credit score is he ran an organization the place he delegated,” he stated. “His job was to variety of be a statesman for Amazon. It was virtually like a godfather, if you’ll. I really feel like Twitter wants the identical factor. It wants a spread of viewpoints and folks and experience, and I really feel just like the CEO shouldn’t be the individual dictating that.” (Musk stated not too long ago that he doesn’t intend to remain Twitter’s CEO, nevertheless it’s unclear who he would hand the reins to or when he would achieve this.)

Musk’s technique, as Bilton describes it, seems to be to “slam on the fuel pedal” whereas hoping he doesn’t hit something. And whereas others may agree that Twitter might be improved and that the positioning hasn’t innovated sufficient because it first launched in 2006, Musk’s breakneck tempo of remodeling Twitter is on a collision course together with his extremely seen persona — his continuous tweeting, and extra particularly, tweeting about his private politics.

Is Musk tweeting an excessive amount of?

When Musk first reached a deal to purchase Twitter in April, he stated the positioning’s noble mission was to be a politically neutral, free speech “city sq..” Musk himself has lengthy been a prolific tweeter, telling interviewer Chris Anderson on the 2022 TED Conference that he tweets “kind of stream-of-consciousness,” and telling Twitter staff in a gathering over the summer time that he most popular tweeting to issuing press releases.

Now he’s the CEO of a social media platform tweeting encouragement to his 115 million followers to vote for Republican candidates a day earlier than the midterm elections, and that the stability of energy is stacked against conservatives, and selling a right-wing conspiracy theory about the recent attack on Paul Pelosi. An MIT study estimated that greater than 875,000 customers could have deactivated their accounts between October 27 and November 1 — the first few days of Musk’s tenure. Twitter estimates that it has round 237 million monetizable every day lively customers.

Musk needs to persuade folks of his imaginative and prescient of a politically impartial Twitter — but additionally needs to stay extremely opinionated on an unlimited vary of political points. “It threatens Twitter’s means to be the primary supply for information, which is what [Musk] is attempting to do together with his blue badge tactic,” stated Bilton. “The issues he needs to do don’t essentially correlate with the issues he thinks he needs to tweet.”

Administration consultants have various views on how vocal corporate leaders should be about their politics, however few would argue for the diploma of soapboxing Musk has achieved. “My private take is that it’s a foul concept,” stated Harms. “[Twitter] primarily trades in folks sharing their opinions and freedom of speech — so it turns into variety of delicate.”

Being Twitter CEO is by nature extra politically fraught than Musk’s prior ventures. The corporate is a serious media platform that often addresses a broader set of shoppers than electrical automotive and house fanatics (even with its declining user base); it’s public-facing in a method that Musk’s earlier government roles haven’t been.

The platform is on the middle of an ideological struggle, and Musk has been fairly clear about taking sides. Past criticisms of the Democratic Get together, together with implying that Democrats may have laundered money for disgraced crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, Musk has also been replying to and soliciting evidence from customers claiming Twitter unfairly suspended several Brazilian right-wing politicians accusing the opposition of committing fraud in its recent elections. Musk’s international enterprise ties have even gotten the attention of President Joe Biden, who not too long ago stated that the relationships Musk’s different corporations had with different nations was worthy of scrutiny.

Although previous Twitter CEOs had been rather more restrained about their very own politics, they’ve additionally confronted lots of criticism and backlash from varied factions for his or her dealing with of content material moderation on the positioning. “All 765 CEOs which have run the corporate have all had a really tough time coping with the issues round politics and hate speech,” Bilton stated, cracking a joke in regards to the firm’s frequent leadership adjustments. “Donald Trump was president for three-and-a-half years earlier than they lastly began fact-checking his tweets.”

In 2018, then-CEO Jack Dorsey testified at a House hearing on Twitter transparency and accountability, addressing Republican politicians’ issues of partisan bias in Twitter’s algorithm as nicely as what the positioning was doing to fight disinformation. On the day of his testimony, Dorsey tweeted, “I need to begin by making one thing clear: we don’t take into account political viewpoints, views, or social gathering affiliation in any of our insurance policies or enforcement selections.” He continued in another tweet, “Twitter can’t rightly serve as a public sq. if it’s constructed across the private opinions of its makers.” Beneath Dorsey’s reign, Twitter banned political advertising.

Twitter’s most up-to-date ex-CEO, Parag Agrawal — who was fired by Musk the day he took possession of Twitter — was arguably even more reticent to wade into ideological feuds. “You gained’t see tweets from me on the ‘matter of the day’ or the loudest sound chew, however slightly on the continued, steady, and difficult work our groups are doing to enhance the general public dialog on Twitter,” Agrawal tweeted a couple of months in the past, making uncommon public feedback after Musk claimed that the deal he’d signed to purchase Twitter was “temporarily on hold.”

Whereas Musk’s outspokenness may typically be a boon for driving enthusiasm for his different corporations, profitable him loyal followers who noticed his work as a testomony to the ability of human innovation, for a web site lengthy embattled by political fights, it’s an enormous danger. The battle between Musk’s superstar and his function as the highest government of a number of corporations has been lengthy simmering, however at Twitter it seems to be on the boiling level.

Bilton believes that it’s “one thousand %” hurting Musk’s means to run Twitter. “His greatest downside proper now shouldn’t be essentially what he’s doing to the corporate,” he informed Vox. “His private greatest downside is his Twitter account.”

Musk’s problem is worker belief

Musk grew his earlier corporations both from their inception or, within the case of Tesla, from its early days; he wielded much more management over what variety of staff he would rent and what variety of tradition he would construct over time. “He was capable of push his persona stamp on them proper from the start,” Harms stated.

Twitter has a longstanding work tradition of its personal. For one, Twitter staff are usually liberal. Musk now votes for Republicans. “So that you’ve received a hostile workforce, ideologically — you’ve received one which’s a little bit incompatible in phrases of his values,” Harms stated.

However Harms stated he believes that the only greatest problem Musk will face at Twitter is gaining staff’ belief. “Proper now, that’s completely not there,” he stated.

Within the meantime, Musk has brought Tesla engineers to work at Twitter. The billionaire is coping with an more and more resentful workers, mirrored in a month of mass resignations.

The way wherein many different staff had been laid off has been extensively condemned by human sources professionals. The e-mail notifying workers that layoffs had been imminent wasn’t personally signed by Musk. Whereas the layoffs had been already underway, Musk tweeted, “Relating to Twitter’s discount in drive, sadly there isn’t a selection when the corporate is dropping over $4M/day. Everybody exited was supplied 3 months of severance, which is 50% greater than legally required.” The cuts occurred November 4; the first staff-wide email Musk despatched together with his title hooked up got here on November 10.

By comparability, Meta laid off 13 % of its workforce in November, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg despatched staff a lengthy letter expressing his remorse and making an attempt to elucidate the state of the corporate. This isn’t particularly noteworthy within the large image of company layoffs; one may argue that it’s the naked minimal. However the timing has offered an unlikely distinction to Musk’s leadership. “He was clear and principally stated, ‘Hear, I miscalculated,’” stated Matthew Kerzner, the managing director at administration consulting agency Eisner Advisory Group. “He laid the case of why he was doing what he was doing.”

At Twitter, “they despatched everybody dwelling someday and they stated, ‘you’ll get an electronic mail tomorrow morning, and you is perhaps fired, otherwise you may not,’” stated Harms, the administration professor. “That’s actually nerve-racking, and even the survivors are going to be extremely wired by that have, since you now know you’re in an atmosphere the place nobody is secure in any respect. It makes it very onerous to do issues.”

Staff at Tesla and SpaceX have confronted mass layoffs and impetuous firings too. Musk has a historical past of firing staff who criticize or disagree with him, based on the biographies written about him. In June, a leaked electronic mail confirmed that Musk deliberate to put off about 10 percent of Tesla’s 100,000-strong workforce (Musk later stated the true quantity could be nearer to 3.5 percent). Two laid-off staff sued Tesla alleging that it violated federal labor laws by not offering sufficient discover. The case has been moved to out-of-court arbitration between Tesla and the ex-employees. Nine SpaceX employees were fired this previous summer time for penning a letter to firm executives voicing issues about Musk’s leadership and latest public habits, together with his downplaying of a sexual misconduct allegation.

Not like with Musk’s different corporations, no formidable, particularly Musk-branded Twitter mission exists to attract awe and even begrudging respect for his leadership. Mix that with the truth that Twitter staff are sometimes avid customers of the platform, and the result’s that the type of office toxicity that used to play out behind the scenes at Tesla and SpaceX is instantly out within the open for all to see relating to Twitter.

Twitter’s CEO has eclipsed Twitter itself

Musk is now one of essentially the most hyper-visible company leaders on the earth. Current data from Morning Consult reveals that the majority US adults — 94 % of them — now know who Musk is, in comparison with 75 % in early 2021.

However title recognition isn’t all the time good — simply ask Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg. He’s America’s most recognizable CEO, based on the Morning Seek the advice of research — and his favorability was additionally the bottom of all of the CEOs included within the report, whereas Meta had the bottom favorability of all analyzed corporations. Musk’s outspokenness has apparently broken his fame: His web favorability has plummeted previously 12 months, from +22 proportion factors to +9.

Jordan Marlatt, a tech analyst at Morning Seek the advice of, credit the general public’s unfavorable impression of Zuckerberg largely to the 2018 Cambridge Analytica consumer information scandal. “Fb by no means fairly recovered from that, and neither did Zuckerberg, as a result of their manufacturers are so intertwined,” he informed Vox. Musk has been the topic of condemnation for his remedy of Twitter staff, however his high-profile Twitter persona is sowing extra anger and chaos throughout an important transition interval for the social media firm. He’s now the face of a platform that journalists, pundits, activists, and trolls routinely use to criticize public figures.

Individuals do need company leaders to take a public stance on points which are politically and socially essential to them, Marlatt stated, however “that doesn’t essentially imply simply any concern.”

He famous that there’s particularly an elevated demand for CEOs to talk up on worker well-being.

The Morning Seek the advice of report discovered that the highest expectations most individuals surveyed had of CEOs was that they respect prospects’ privateness, lead with honesty and integrity, and have a optimistic impression on staff. Least essential was having a “extremely seen public persona.”

“It’s a really delicate stability for company leaders,” stated Marlatt. “How do they arrive throughout as taking stands on points which are essential to their shoppers with out alienating too many of them on the similar time — or making all of it about themselves?”

It’s unclear when precisely Musk will appoint another person as CEO, eradicating himself as the general public face of the corporate. “I see him being very seen for the first six months to a 12 months till issues cool down,” stated Kerzner.

Harms agrees, saying that what Musk doubtless wants is an “emotionally steady and boring quantity two, who can variety of easy issues out — you’ll discover that with quite a bit of tough leaders.”

“He has so many challenges, fairly frankly,” stated Bilton. “However I feel his greatest problem proper now’s himself.”

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