Black Friday is coming a few weeks early at Twitter, as sources suggest that Elon Musk will lay off 50% of the company starting Friday, which hardly bodes well for the new paid blue-check system that is supposed to launch Monday.
Far be it from me to say that apartheid trust-funder Elon Musk is just not thinking through his decisions in his first week at the helm of Twitter. But consider this: Musk’s first big sweeping plan is to implement a new system where users would pay $8 a month for the verified blue check. (Which was $20 as of just three days ago, but Musk lowered it possibly because Steven King made fun of him). And Musk has given Twitter engineers a very aggressive deadline of this Monday, November 7 to pull it off, according to The Verge.
Yet we wake today to news from Bloomberg that Musk plans to lay off 50% of Twitter staff, with the mountains of pink slips slated to start on Friday (yes, tomorrow). Hopefully the people working on the verification system redo aren't among those pink slips.
“Elon Musk plans to eliminate about 3,700 jobs at Twitter Inc., or half of the social media company’s workforce,” Bloomberg reports. “Musk also intends to reverse the company’s existing work-from-anywhere policy, asking remaining employees to report to offices.”
To some degree, eliminating the work-from-home option will probably self-sort out some of these employees, who will leave voluntarily. And as TechCrunch succinctly observes, “A number of staff already left Twitter prior to the Musk takeover, electing to leave pre-emptively rather than stay for the inevitable drama/workplace hell.”
The news of layoffs is not that surprising, considering Musk fired a ton of top executives when he took over the company last week. Bloomberg adds that “Engineers and director-level staff from Tesla Inc., the carmaker also run by Musk” were involved with drawing up the pink-slip list, which obviously adds to concerns that Musk is killing the golden goose of Tesla, and drawing resources away from that very productive and profitable business to pursue his money-losing vanity project at Twitter.
Though Axios points out the obvious, that “Musk is known to quickly change his mind on major decisions, which could happen with both the layoffs and the back-to-the-office plan." That site also adds that “Musk has yet to communicate directly with employees and several all-hands meetings have been scheduled only to be canceled shortly thereafter.”
Update: Some employees at Twitter (they call themselves "Tweeps") compiled a pragmatic "Layoff Guide" that was circulated on Wednesday, and picked up by the Times. The writers of the guide note that while some employees will be laid off with compensation and benefits, others may be "maliciously 'terminated for cause.'" The guide goes on to offer a raft of advice, including not to expect any help or support from your manager, and to expect to lose login access to internal systems before being told you've been let go.
It’s sad to see people laid off, though in this case, axed Twitter employees certainly have a silver lining in that Musk likely overpaid to take the company private at $54.20 a share. So they are still hopefully getting a handsome payday on their employee shares.
And that overpaying, plus what the New York Times describes as an “exodus of advertisers” over Musk’s scattered and unpredictable leadership, is what’s driving Twitter into very sudden and desperate needs for both severe cost-cutting and new revenue streams.
Listen, I’ve worked for very wealthy and maniacally narcissistic tech founder-types before. And one of their signature moves is to blame employees for mistakes that are very clearly their own, and hand the consequences down to the employees. Musk seems to be doing exactly that here. But the more Twitter employees Musk fires, the fewer people other than himself he has to blame for the increasing chaos down at the 1355 Market Street headquarters, and the increasing chaos on your own Twitter timeline.
Image: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 26: The Twitter logo is displayed on the exterior of Twitter headquarters on October 26, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Elon Musk has reportedly visited Twitter headquarters in San Francisco ahead of the Friday deadline to complete his $44 billion deal to purchase the social media company. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)