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Twitter workers flee after Elon Musk's "hardcore" ultimatum

Musk's Twitter ultimatum met with resignations
Elon Musk's Twitter ultimatum met with mass resignations 01:56

Twitter continued to bleed engineers and other workers, after new owner Elon Musk gave them an ultimatum: Either pledge to "hardcore" work or resign with severance pay by 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. Many have opted for the latter.

Some took to Twitter to announce they were signing off after Musk's deadline to make the pledge. A number of employees took to a private forum outside of the company's messaging board to discuss their planned departure, asking questions about how it might jeopardize their U.S. visas or if they would get the promised severance pay, according to an employee fired earlier this week who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Hundreds of Twitter employees took Musk up on his offer to leave with severance pay, according to The New York Times, although the exact number isn't clear. The newest round of departures means the platform is continuing to lose workers just at it is gearing up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, one of the busiest events on Twitter that can overwhelm its systems if things go haywire. 

The wave of resignations is sparking concern about Twitter's ability to continue to operate with a skeleton crew, especially as some "critical" teams have either completely resigned or have only a few people remaining, The Verge reported.

"To all the Tweeps who decided to make today your last day: thanks for being incredible teammates through the ups and downs. I can't wait to see what you do next," tweeted one employee, Esther Crawford, who is remaining at the company and has been working on the overhaul of the platform's verification system.

Amid the reports of layoffs, Twitter announced via email that it would close "our office buildings" and disable employee badges until Monday, the New York Times reported.

Tumultuous takeover

Since taking over Twitter less than three weeks ago, Musk has booted half of the company's full-time staff of 7,500 and an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation and other crucial efforts. He fired top executives on his first day as Twitter's owner, while others left voluntarily in the ensuing days. Earlier this week, he began firing a small group of engineers who took issue with him publicly or in the company's internal Slack messaging system.

Such a management style is the opposite tack that leaders should take in a time of uncertainty, noted Ben Wigert, director of research and strategy of workplace management at Gallup. Poor leadership provides an opportunity for employees to quit, especially when the job market remains tight, as it currently is.

"Saying 'work harder,' especially coming out of a pandemic, is tone deaf and it's hard to undo that damage to your culture," Wigert said. 

Musk's implication that Twitter workers aren't doing their jobs does not "reflect a strong employer brand and culture," he added. "They don't reflect that inspiring organization you want to work for."

"Extremely hardcore"

Then overnight on Wednesday, Musk sent an email to the remaining staff at Twitter, saying that it is a software and servers company at its heart and he asked employees to decide by Thursday evening if they want to remain a part of the business.

Musk wrote that employees "will need to be extremely hardcore" to build "a breakthrough Twitter 2.0" and that long hours at high intensity will be needed for success.

But in a Thursday email, Musk backpedaled on his insistence that everyone work from the office. His initial rejection of remote work had alienated many employees who survived the layoffs.

He softened his earlier tone in an email to employees, writing that "all that is required for approval is that your manager takes responsibility for ensuring you are making an excellent contribution." Workers would also be expected to have "in-person meetings with your colleagues on a reasonable cadence, ideally weekly, but not less than once per month."

As of 7 p.m. Pacific Time, the No. 1 topic trending in the United States was "RIPTwitter" followed by the names of other social media platforms: "Tumblr," "Mastodon" and "MySpace."

Twitter did not respond to a message seeking comment.

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