Slack firings and stock options
As the number of Twitter staff fired for tweets grows to at least four, Big Tech reporter Gergely Orosz tweeted that the remaining staff must also watch what they say in Slack. Before Musk’s takeover, the culture at Twitter encouraged staff to be critical in the company Slack, Bloomberg reported. Any employee who thought they were still free to do that now seemingly risks learning the hard way that being critical about Twitter is no longer an option under Musk's leadership.
“Another ~10 Twitter employees who made sassy or critical remarks about Twitter's current leadership on a Twitter internal Slack channel have been terminated overnight,” Orosz tweeted. “One person was told they are let go ‘for accurate behavior.’”
At Twitter, a line seems to have been drawn between Twitter staff and Musk’s advisers and engineers brought in from Tesla and the Boring Company, The Verge reported, and while some of this discord is spilling out onto Twitter publicly, more is leaking out via shared screenshots of the company’s Slack. Things that probably irk Musk include Twitter staff referring to Musk’s trusted outsiders as “the goons” on Slack. One Twitter employee posted on Slack, vaguely summarizing how Musk had shattered team morale: “I’m wondering when people will realize the value of Twitter was the people that worked here.”
Musk has said that he will grant access to code to engineers who need to make urgent changes on a case-by-case basis. But rather than talk to engineers about changes Musk might consider urgent, Musk appears to be fielding some of his questions about Twitter functionality from random Twitter users.
Publicly demonstrating his distrust for Twitter engineers, firing those who criticize him, and freezing out people most knowledgeable of Twitter’s products and services, Orosz tweeted, gives Twitter engineers little reason to stick around and rally around Musk.
“Serious question: outside of outsized, unvested stock on the line or high compensation, why would any software engineer with options consider working at Twitter, going forward?” Orosz tweeted.
It appears Musk has been eyeing stock and options for employees as one potential strategy for retention. CNBC reviewed an internal memo showing that Musk told Twitter employees Monday that “they can receive stock and options as part of an ongoing compensation plan.”
To encourage the “hardcore” work ethic that Musk told Twitter staff they must embrace to remain on his team, Musk said that people who do “exceptional” work could expect to receive “exceptional amounts” of shares. This, Musk said, is how he runs SpaceX, granting SpaceX employees stock awards on May 15 and November 15, CNBC reported.
It’s unclear, though, if stock awards would actually be meaningful enough to keep Twitter employees around, as they’re watching Musk struggle to make Twitter profitable with a much-reduced staff. The Verge reported that one Twitter employee said on the company Slack, “In 2 weeks Twitter has gone from being the most welcoming and healthy workplace I’ve ever known to the most openly hostile and degrading I’ve ever known.”
Firing employees for being critical of their new leader is one thing, but at least two employees said they got fired just for “shitposting”—commenting in an off-topic way, simply to provoke reactions—which is arguably Musk’s favorite part of being on Twitter. It seems on top of risking termination for being critical, employees also risk termination for being funny.
Looks like I just got fired for shitposting too✌️ https://t.co/G7MD2nzmMp— nickrw (@nickrw) November 15, 2022
lol just got fired for shitposting
i said it before and i'll say it again
kiss my ass elon 💋— firstname.lastname@example.org (@sachee) November 15, 2022
As Musk struggles to control what he perceives as insubordination, the director of Fight for the Future (an activist group dedicated to defending human rights online), Evan Greer, tweeted days ago to encourage Twitter staff to keep showing solidarity.
“Honestly at this point Twitter employees should just occupy the headquarters, refuse to work, call for solidarity from labor / activists / Twitter users and see how long Musk wants to sit around burning his personal fortune,” Greer said. “He would have absolutely no clue how to respond to this.”
Twitter has an ethics hotline where employees can report workplace concerns, but that has likely become harder to trust amid the brewing tension between leadership and Twitter staff. There is also a class-action lawsuit moving forward in California, seeking an emergency hearing to secure a court order requiring Twitter to notify staff of their eligibility to join the lawsuit. The lawyer for staff suing, Shannon Liss-Riordan, told Ars that they're expecting that hearing to be scheduled soon.