What Suits Elon Musk Better? Twitter Celebrity or Twitter Boss?

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Twitter Elon Musk’s biggest criticism is from his employees, Twitter employees seem to have questions.

Nowhere is this more evident than on Twitter, where Elon Musk has millions of detractors as well as devoted supporters. The argument over whether Musk is a brilliant visionary who is saving the world or just a sleazy billionaire with a significant platform has heated up since he announced plans to purchase the social media company in April. Musk is the world’s richest person and the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, and Neuralink. More people are beginning to question the increasingly hazy distinction between his Twitter persona and his position as the CEO of numerous significant corporations, even his workers.

According to reports, SpaceX dismissed at least five employees on Thursday for contributing to a letter to business leaders criticizing Musk’s recent actions, particularly on Twitter, where he has been engaging with right-wing politicians and commentators more often. Musk’s Twitter activity in recent months has included making fun of a claim that he sexually harassed a SpaceX flight attendant, sharing a meme that targeted Twitter CEO Vijaya Gadde, and making fun of Bill Gates’ appearance. The letter mostly addressed Musk’s conduct on Twitter, where he has become more outspoken about US politics and his critiques of the Democratic Party, which he feels has veered too far to the left. In the letter, it is said that “Elon’s conduct in the public domain is a frequent cause of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks.” Elon is regarded as the face of SpaceX because he is its CEO and most visible speaker; every Tweet he sends serves as the organization’s de facto public message.

The letter, which is the first time from employees to Musk has come to light and is one of the most well-publicized coordinated actions against Musk from workers of one of his firms to date. Musk already has a sizable following, but his voice will now have much more clout given that he is likely to acquire Twitter, one of the biggest social media networks in the US. It also implies that he will probably have more power over how others perceive him. There is developing friction between how Musk presents himself as a person, albeit a very public one, and how his staff feels represented, or misrepresented, by their CEO, as evidenced by the SpaceX letter and the subsequent termination of the employees engaged with it.

Employees in the letter include “publicly confront and denounce Elon’s damaging Twitter behavior” and “swiftly and unambiguously remove itself from Elon’s brand” as one of the suggested actions. The SpaceX letter, however, addresses more than just Musk’s unpleasant “personal brand” on Twitter. According to the letter writers, this action was “emblematic” of a bigger organizational culture problem at SpaceX. The letter said that “SpaceX’s current systems and culture do not live up to its professed values.” It urged executives to do more to foster a work environment that values inclusion, equity, and diversity. Musk’s businesses have been accused on numerous occasions of generating an unhealthy or even abusive work environment. In Texas, where Tesla’s headquarters are located, investor Solomon Chau filed a lawsuit against the firm on Thursday for failing to effectively respond to the allegations of labor violations.

This case comes after one from February in which California’s state government sued Tesla’s Fremont factory on claims of racism. Over 4,000 Black former and present employees alleged in the lawsuit that they had been separated into different areas of the factory. According to interviews obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Tesla employees gave the plant’s most labor-intensive area, known as “the plantation,” the nickname. One Black employee reported hearing racial epithets 50 to 100 times every day. Additionally, complaints of workplace sexual harassment have been made against Musk’s businesses. Five former SpaceX workers revealed to The Verge in 2021 that they had experienced or seen sexual harassment at the business. Ashley Kosak, a former engineer at SpaceX who began working there as an intern in 2017, published an essay in which she described her time there. She added, “I reported each instance of sexual harassment I encountered to HR, but nothing was done. Despite the company’s purported “no-tolerance and no-asshole policy,” every male who harassed me was permitted.

Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president, has bragged that the company’s strict policy against assets minimizes disruptions, which in turn fosters innovation. Employees wrote an open letter last week alleging that the business did not adhere to this guideline. Musk has also been charged with treating staff unfairly. A SpaceX flight attendant said that Musk had sexually harassed her, exposing himself to her, and offering to purchase her a horse in exchange for an “erotic massage,” according to a Business Insider piece from May. Musk made jokes about the news on Twitter after it was released.

Five SpaceX workers have now lost their jobs as a result of criticizing the CEO’s management. In the book Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century, author Tim Higgins details several instances of Musk firing his employees in fits of rage, including those who dissented from him. SpaceX has not yet responded to the question of whether Musk was directly involved in the firing of the employees, but Musk is known to have a history of doing so. In his book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Bloomberg reporter and Musk biography Ashlee Vance cited a SpaceX engineer who claimed that “the treatment of personnel was not nice over extended stretches of this era.”

The employee remembers some engineers “being dismissed for things they hadn’t done” and “being blamed for things they hadn’t done.” The engineer explained to Vance that “proving Elon wrong about something” was the kiss of death.