Elon Musk has thousands and thousands of critics — and devoted followers — and nowhere is that clearer than on Twitter. Since Musk, who’s the world’s richest particular person and the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, and Neuralink, introduced plans in April to purchase the social media firm, the controversy has intensified round whether or not he’s a genius who’s saving the world or merely a crass billionaire with a giant platform. And extra folks, together with his personal staff, have begun elevating questions in regards to the more and more blurry line between his Twitter persona and his position because the chief of a number of main corporations.
Last Thursday, SpaceX reportedly fired a minimum of five employees involved in writing a letter to firm executives condemning Musk’s latest habits — notably on Twitter, the place he has been interacting extra often with right-wing politicians and pundits. In latest months, Musk’s Twitter exercise has included posting a meme targeting Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde, making light of an allegation that he had sexually harassed a SpaceX flight attendant, and mocking Bill Gates’s appearance. The letter centered on Musk’s habits on Twitter, the place he has been more and more vocal about US politics and his criticisms of the Democratic Party, which he says has swerved too far to the left.
“Elon’s habits within the public sphere is a frequent supply of distraction and embarrassment for us, notably in latest 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 in regards to the letter, which represents the primary time such a doc from staff to Musk has surfaced, and marks one of the crucial public concerted actions thus far in opposition to Musk from staff of considered one of his corporations. Musk already has huge affect, however now that he’s on monitor to personal Twitter, one of many largest social media platforms within the US, his voice can have even higher attain. It additionally signifies that his skill to affect what folks say about him will possible be higher too. The SpaceX letter, and the following firing of the staff concerned with it, reveals there’s a rising pressure between how Musk presents himself as a person — albeit a really public particular person — and the way his staff really feel represented, or misrepresented, by their CEO.
One of the motion gadgets proposed by staff within the letter is to “publicly handle and condemn Elon’s dangerous Twitter habits” and “swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s private model.”
But the SpaceX letter isn’t solely involved with Musk’s abrasive “private model” on Twitter. The letter writers contend that this habits was “emblematic” of a bigger tradition concern at SpaceX. “SpaceX’s present programs and tradition don’t dwell as much as its said values,” the letter stated. It referred to as on leaders to raised promote a office tradition valuing range, fairness, and inclusion.
The corporations Musk runs have confronted a number of allegations of fostering an unhealthy, and even abusive, work setting. On Thursday, Tesla investor Solomon Chau filed a lawsuit in opposition to 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 in opposition to its personal staff,” Chau stated in the suit.
This follows a case from February by which the state of California sued Tesla’s Fremont factory over allegations of racism. The lawsuit represented over 4,000 former and present Black staff who claimed that Black employees had been segregated into separate elements of the manufacturing unit. According to interviews conducted by the Los Angeles Times, 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 times a day.
Musk’s corporations have additionally confronted allegations of sexual harassment points within the office. In 2021, five former SpaceX employees instructed The Verge that they had confronted or witnessed sexual harassment on the firm. One former SpaceX engineer, Ashley Kosak, published an essay detailing her expertise throughout her time on the firm, the place she had began as an intern in 2017. “I reported every incident of sexual harassment I skilled to HR, and nothing was finished,” she wrote. “Each and each 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 company’s zero tolerance for assholes prevents interruptions, which in flip boosts innovation. The open letter drafted by staff final week claimed that, in actuality, the corporate didn’t dwell as much as this coverage.
Musk himself has additionally been accused of mistreating staff. In May, Business 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 alternate for an “erotic therapeutic massage.” After the report surfaced, Musk joked about it on Twitter.
Now, 5 SpaceX staff have misplaced their jobs after criticizing their CEO’s management. SpaceX has not but responded to a query on whether or not Musk was immediately concerned in firing the staff, however Musk has a reported historical past of firing critics; within the guide Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century, writer Tim Higgins studies a number of situations of Musk firing his employees in moments of anger, together with individuals who disagreed with him. Bloomberg reporter and Musk biographer Ashlee Vance quoted a SpaceX engineer in his guide Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future who stated that “the remedy of employees was not good for lengthy stretches of this period.” The worker recalled some engineers “being blamed for issues they hadn’t finished” and fired. “The kiss of loss of life was proving Elon incorrect 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 manager. 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 slightly brash — even abusive — many appeared to suppose that may be forgiven because of the sheer significance of Tesla’s and SpaceX’s missions. Musk has drawn comparisons between his work and philanthropy, and has stated that sending people to Mars is essential with a view to “extend the light of consciousness.”
This larger-than-life imaginative and prescient of Musk and his corporations has typically drawn folks to work for him. But, as a few of his SpaceX staff made clear, his latest 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 staff proceed to separate the 2 personas — social media superstar and CEO — and do their work with out PR distractions? That’s the query a few of Musk’s staff appear to be grappling with now.
Musk’s staff at Twitter appear to already be cautious of their future boss. In a virtual meeting with Twitter employees final Thursday, Musk wouldn’t deny the potential of layoffs after the acquisition. A video of inner Slack messages of staff reacting critically to Musk in the course of the assembly was additionally leaked on Twitter, with no names redacted. Musk replied on Twitter to the leak with one phrase: “Interesting.”