Elon Musk has tens of millions of critics – and devoted followers – and nowhere is that clearer than on Twitter. Since Musk, who’s the world’s richest particular person and CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Firm, and Neuralink, introduced plans in April to purchase the social media firm, the controversy has intensified round whether or not he is a genius who’s saving the world or merely a crass billionaire with a giant platform. And extra individuals, together with his personal workers, have begun elevating questions concerning the more and more blurry line between his Twitter persona and his position because the chief of a number of main firms.
Final Thursday, SpaceX reportedly fired not less than 5 workers concerned in writing a letter to firm executives condemning Musk’s current conduct – notably on Twitter, the place he has been interacting extra continuously with right-wing politicians and pundits. In current months, Musk’s Twitter exercise has included posting a meme concentrating on Twitter govt Vijaya Gadde, making mild of an allegation that he had sexually harassed a SpaceX flight attendant, and mocking Invoice Gates’s look. The letter centered on Musk’s conduct on Twitter, the place he has been more and more vocal about US politics and his criticisms of the Democratic Social gathering, which he says has swerved too far to the left.
“Elon’s conduct within the public sphere is a frequent supply of distraction and embarrassment for us, notably in current weeks,” the letter reads. “As our CEO and most distinguished spokesperson, Elon is seen because the face of SpaceX – each Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public assertion by the corporate.”
The firings adopted a Verge report on Thursday concerning the letter, which represents the primary time such a doc from workers to Musk has surfaced, and marks probably the most public concerted actions up to now towards Musk from workers of one in every of his firms. Musk already has huge affect, however now that he’s on observe to personal Twitter, one of many largest social media platforms within the US, his voice can have even better attain. It additionally implies that his potential to affect what individuals say about him will seemingly be better too. The SpaceX letter, and the following firing of the workers concerned with it, reveals there is a rising rigidity between how Musk presents himself as a person – albeit a really public particular person – and the way his workers really feel represented, or misrepresented, by their CEO.
One of many motion gadgets proposed by workers within the letter is to “publicly handle and condemn Elon’s dangerous Twitter conduct” and “swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s private model.”
However the SpaceX letter is not simply involved with Musk’s abrasive “private model” on Twitter. The letter writers contend that this conduct was “emblematic” of a bigger tradition challenge at SpaceX. “SpaceX’s present methods and tradition don’t reside as much as its said values,” the letter stated. It known as on leaders to higher promote a office tradition valuing range, fairness, and inclusion.
The businesses Musk runs have confronted a number of allegations of fostering an unhealthy, and even abusive, work atmosphere. On Thursday, Tesla investor Solomon Chau filed a lawsuit towards Tesla in Texas, the place the corporate is headquartered, for failing to adequately handle the claims of office abuses. “Tesla has created a poisonous office tradition grounded in racist and sexist abuse and discrimination towards its personal workers,” Chau stated. within the go well with.
This follows a case from February through which the state of California sued Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing facility over allegations of racism. The lawsuit represented over 4,000 former and present Black workers who claimed that Black employees had been segregated into separate elements of the manufacturing facility. In response to interviews carried out by the Los Angeles Occasions, there was a very labor-intensive part of the plant that was nicknamed “the plantation” by Tesla employees. One Black employee stated that they heard racial slurs as typically as 50 to 100 instances a day.
Musk’s firms have additionally confronted allegations of sexual harassment points within the office. In 2021, 5 former SpaceX workers instructed The Verge they’d confronted or witnessed sexual harassment on the firm. One former SpaceX engineer, Ashley Kosak, printed an essay detailing her expertise throughout her time on the firm, the place she had began as an intern in 2017. “I reported each incident of sexual harassment I skilled to HR, and nothing was completed,” she wrote. “Every man who harassed me was tolerated regardless of the corporate’s so-called no-tolerance and no-asshole coverage.”
SpaceX’s “no asshole” coverage is well-known. President Gwynne Shotwell has boasted that the corporate has zero tolerance for assholes prevents interruptions, which in flip boosts innovation. The open letter drafted by workers final week claimed that, in actuality, the corporate didn’t reside as much as this coverage.
Musk himself has additionally been accused of mistreating workers. In Might, Enterprise Insider reported an allegation that Musk had sexually harassed a SpaceX flight attendant, exposing himself to her and providing to purchase her a horse in trade for an “erotic therapeutic massage.” After the report surfaced, Musk joked about it on Twitter.
Now, 5 SpaceX workers have misplaced their jobs after criticizing their CEO’s management. SpaceX has not but responded to a query on whether or not Musk was straight concerned in firing the workers, however Musk has a reported historical past of firing critics; within the e-book Energy Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Wager of the Centurywriter Tim Higgins stories a number of cases of Musk firing his workers in moments of anger, together with individuals who disagreed with him. Bloomberg reporter and Musk biographer Ashlee Vance quoted a SpaceX engineer in his e-book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Incredible Future who stated that “the therapy of employees was not good for lengthy stretches of this period.” The worker recalled some engineers “being blamed for issues they hadn’t completed” and fired. “The kiss of dying was proving Elon unsuitable about one thing,” the engineer instructed Vance.
The SpaceX worker letter and its fallout additional reveal the dissonance between Elon Musk the genius innovator and Elon Musk the supervisor. For a very long time, Musk has commanded respect as an excellent tech founder who many consider is pushing humanity ahead. If his management is just a little brash – even abusive – many appeared to suppose that may be forgiven as a result of sheer significance of Tesla’s and SpaceX’s missions. Musk has drawn comparisons between his work and philanthropyand has stated that sending people to Mars is essential as a way to “lengthen the sunshine of consciousness.”
This larger-than-life imaginative and prescient of Musk and his firms has typically drawn individuals to work for him. However, as a few of his SpaceX workers made clear, his current conduct and the scandals which have adopted are detrimental to that mission. As Musk turns into more and more divisive on Twitter, a communications platform that he intends to personal, how can his workers proceed to separate the 2 individuals – social media celeb and CEO – and do their work with out PR distractions? That is the query a few of Musk’s workers appear to be grappling with now.
Musk’s workers at Twitter appear to already be cautious of their future boss. In a digital assembly with Twitter workers final Thursday, Musk would not deny the opportunity of layoffs after the acquisition. A video of inner Slack messages of workers reacting critically to Musk through the assembly was additionally leaked on Twitter, with no names redacted. Musk replied on Twitter to the leak with one phrase: “Attention-grabbing.”