Twitter employees head for the exits after Elon Musk’s ‘extremely hardcore’ work ultimatum

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SME Business

Another employee exodus appears to be underway at Twitter as many workers rejected Elon Musk’s terms for staying with the company, choosing instead to depart, according to multiple current and former employees.

As the deadline approached for Twitter employees to respond to Elon Musk’s ultimatum to commit to working in an “extremely hardcore” fashion at the company or leave, some employees appeared to publicly indicate they had chosen the latter option. Twitter employees began using the salute Emoji on Thursday afternoon to signal their exit. One Twitter employee said in a tweet that deciding to join the company was “one of the easiest decisions ever made. Deciding to leave today was 100% the opposite.”

Meanwhile, an internal Slack channel at the company was filled with employees posting the salute emoji after the 5pm ET deadline, indicating they had chosen not to sign Musk’s pledge and depart the company, employees told SME.

Twitter’s remaining workforce had until 5 p.m. ET Thursday, to make a decision about whether to join the culture Musk has in place at Twitter or if they want to resign. According to an email that he sent staff Wednesday,

A former Twitter executive who recently exited the company described Thursday’s employee exits as a “mass exodus.”

On Thursday evening following the exits, employees remaining at the company received an email alerting them that the company’s offices will be temporarily closed and badge access will be restricted through Monday, according to a copy of the email obtained by SME from a current Twitter employee. Musk’s team similarly shuttered offices during the mass layoffs earlier this month out of a concern for safety and an apparent fear that exiting employees could attempt to sabotage the company on their way out.

SME was informed by two Twitter employees that they would reject Musk’s ultimatum. They cited a hostile work environment. Another Twitter employee told SME Wednesday they were still weighing the decision, saying the email from Musk “felt like a punch in the gut because no matter how you felt about wanting to stay or wanting to go, you were forced to make a decision and feel like you’re up against the time clock to make the best decision for you and your family.”

The employee added: “Those decisions are more than just 24 hours.”

Musk told employees on Wednesday that his goal is to build “Twitter 2.0” and that employees who choose to stay will be required to commit to working “long hours at high intensity” and presumably agreeing to Musk’s demand for Twitter employees, who have been largely working remotely, to return to in-office work. One employee stated that employees were still unsure about which remote work exceptions they would receive if they decided to remain at the company.

According to text from the email, which was obtained by SME by a Twitter employee, Musk wrote to his staff on Thursday to clarify his position regarding remote work.

“Regarding remote work, all that is required for approval is that your manager takes responsibility for ensuring that you are making an excellent contribution,” Musk said in the email, adding that workers would be expected to attend in-person meetings no less than once a month.

Twenty minutes later, Musk sent a follow up email saying: “At risk of stating the obvious, any manager who falsely claims that someone reporting to them is doing excellent work or that a given role is essential, whether remote or not, will be exited from the company.”

The decision to issue an ultimatum came after Musk earlier this month fired half of Twitter’s staff, reducing its workforce to around 3,700 employees, and also reportedly cut many of Twitter’s contract workers. The board of directors was also dismantled and its top leadership removed. Musk fired several employees recently for criticizing Musk in Twitter posts or via internal Slack channels.

“I don’t want to stick around to build a product that’s being poisoned from the inside and out,” said one of the employees who plans to reject the ultimatum, but requested anonymity to avoid putting the severance at risk. “Everyone has a price to a certain degree and this severance gives me some comfort into looking for a better environment in the time frame despite the economy.”

That employee said management now appears to have grown concerned about the number of people planning to depart and are “scrambling” to convince talent to stay. Twitter has apparently cut most of its public affairs team. They did not respond immediately to my request.

A Twitter employee shared the same concerns but asked to not be quoted. They also stated that they were planning to leave the company.

A recently laid off employee who remains in touch with former coworkers told SME that everyone they had spoken to plans to reject Musk’s ultimatum and exit the company. “People can’t overlook the public mockery and firing of other employees,” the former employee told SME. “In the same vein, they can’t overlook or feel comfortable working for someone who has handled the last few weeks in the way Elon has.”

“People don’t want to sacrifice their mental health and family lives to make the richest man in the world richer,” the former employee added.

Others may find the process more difficult. This ultimatum is issued during difficult times for the tech sector, after mass layoffs, hiring freeze announcements, and massive layoffs at major companies like Meta, Amazon and Lyft. Workers from foreign countries who work in America could lose their visas to work if the company is closed.

A fourth employee told SME Thursday they plan to stay at the company “because change is rarely influenced from the outside.”

The shakeup likely to come as a result of the ultimatum will be the last element of the “fundamental organizational restructuring” following Musk’s takeover, he told a Delaware court Wednesday during a trial over his Tesla pay package.

Musk said in the Wednesday email that the “new Twitter” will be “much more engineering-driven,” leaving some non-engineering workers questioning whether their jobs could be at risk even if they opt to stay.

“There’s no assurance in this, you’re just like, ‘I might be able to advocate for myself, I might not,’” the employee who expressed uncertainty about the decision said. “What’s behind this door? You don’t know. The only door you know that’s certain is the exit door.”

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