Elon Musk's erratic behavior and flippant comments since taking the helm as Chief Twit two weeks ago have some Twitter employees worried that he might be setting them up to fail — or that he might not follow through on his severance offer.
As I type this it's been less than an hour since the 5 p.m. ET deadline passed for all "hardcore" Twitter employees to click "Yes" on an online form to keep their jobs, and for all others to go quietly with three months severance. News of this deadline came just after midnight Wednesday morning, with Twitter employees waking up to the new ultimatum in which Musk said everyone would have to work "long hours at high intensity," and "Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade."
It's always, of course, unpleasant to find out that your livelihood depends on you doing something undefined and "more hardcore" than you're accustomed to doing, no matter how hard you may already think you've been working. And generally speaking, when bosses talk this way, it's never a good sign — either for future job security or future mental health.
Some employees learned the hard way this past week that any criticism would be taken as insubordination, and they were likely fired for cause — which means they likely didn't get the somewhat cushy three-month severance packages that those laid off last week and those quitting this week are allegedly getting. As NBC News reported, via some fired employees, a group of engineers who had been complaining about Musk on an internal Slack channel received 4:30 a.m. emails on Tuesday informing them they were terminated, effective immediately.
All of this has created an environment of anxiety and paranoia for Twitter's remaining staffers, and as tech journalist Casey Newton reports on his Platformer newsletter, employees began using the more anonymous Blind app to discuss their worries after the Wednesday morning email.
One employee, who said they had decided to leave, expressed sympathy for many coworkers who might want to do the same but couldn't for financial reasons — or because, say, their visa status depended on their employment. And others worried aloud that the three-month severance offer might not actually get paid out.
Another employee who was also leaving expressed suspicion that even this online form was some sort of test — and they may not be wrong!
"Will they be tracking how long it takes people to click? Like is it a mark against anyone who clicks tomorrow instead of today? ('if you’re truly hardcore, this is a no-brainer! Just click as soon as you read your email') I’m out of here, so not personally worried. I just hate that he is the kind of person that makes me feel like everything is a trap :("
As Newton writes, some employees at Twitter are sticking around to "be a good steward to Twitter, a service that most employees I’ve spoken with still feel deeply protective of."
We won't know until sometime later — if at all — how many employees voluntarily decided to jump ship today.
Newton got access to a new seating chart for the 10th floor at Twitter HQ, which he says offers some clues about the projects ahead. Teams appear to be divided into the Blue verified team,; a Blue for business enterprise verification thing; encrypted DMs; a feature that may let losers send "tips" to others through their profiles; and "longform notes" which sounds like an expansion of a feature Musk already seemed to kill off.
Robin Wheeler, VP of ad sales, announced she was quitting last week amid of spate of exec departures, but Newton now reports that she was persuaded to stay on. And Wheeler held a Wednesday meeting with the ad sales team that was, reportedly, fairly upbeat.
Top image: Twitter headquarters stands on Market Street on November 4, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Twitter Inc reportedly began laying off employees across its departments on Friday as new owner Elon Musk is reportedly looking to cut around half of the company's workforce. (Photo by David Odisho/Getty Images)