At Twitter Meet, Elon Musk’s Comments Trigger Snark on Message Boards

The conversation was moderated by Twitter Marketing Director Leslie Berland. (Case)

Elon Musk, who met directly with Twitter Inc. employees for the first time since signing a $44 billion deal to acquire the social network, told employees they shouldn’t worry about the changes brought to their work once he takes over – as long as their work is “exceptional”, that is.

At a town hall meeting on Thursday, Musk sparked a flurry of sarcastic, frustrated and concerned comments on internal message boards with his remarks on several topics, including potential layoff plans and his approach to remote working. Either way, Musk said employees would be safe from layoffs and could continue to work remotely if they create “exceptional work.”

“The bias definitely has to be strongly in favor of in-person work, but if someone’s exceptional, remote work might be OK,” Musk said, according to people who attended the meeting. The billionaire, who is also CEO of Tesla Inc., recently demanded that many of the electric car maker’s employees return to the office, sparking consternation among Twitter employees who have been given the freedom to work from anywhere in 2020 as the pandemic ended. close offices around the world.

“If someone is great at what they do but can only work remotely, then firing them even if they are doing a great job would be insane,” Musk added. “So I’m definitely not in favor of things that are, like, crazy. I’m in favor of things that build the business and make it better.”

When Musk was asked about possible job cuts at Twitter, he didn’t confirm that a downsizing was imminent, but hinted that the San Francisco-based company needed to manage its expenses better. Twitter has already implemented a number of cost reductions, including canceling its planned retirement for all businesses at Disneyland in early 2023.

“The business needs to get healthy. Right now, costs are exceeding revenues, so it’s not a good situation,” he said. “Anyone who is like obviously a significant contributor shouldn’t have to worry,” he added, noting that he won’t take “actions destructive to the health of the business.”

Musk’s appearance at the meeting did little to appease those who feared the deal would lead to major upheaval within the company. An internal Slack channel devoted to discussions of Musk’s comments was mostly filled with employees upset with his responses, some openly mocking the future boss.

Employees particularly took issue with Musk’s focus on “exceptional” workers, according to three people familiar with the interactions, and some of the comments joked that Musk gave such employees special treatment.

“Friendly reminder that you can show up 10 minutes late to a meeting that has been announced to the world and still be outstanding,” one employee wrote on Slack, sarcastically referring to Musk’s own lateness to everyone on Thursday.

A few comments supported Musk. A staffer said others choose to interpret Musk’s comments in the “unselfish way possible”, although Musk supporters are in the minority, said the people, who asked not to be identified. discussing internal affairs.

Musk joined the video call in a white button-up shirt and appeared to be calling from his phone. He skimmed through parts of the call – at one point late in the discussion he brought up aliens and the “meaning of life”, adding: “I haven’t seen any real evidence for extraterrestrials.”

Still, the conversation started with Musk on a message for his audience, expressing “love” for Twitter’s service. The social network is a great way to get your thoughts out to the public, he said, and pointed out that his tweets alone can generate full stories. “Some people use their hair to express themselves. I use Twitter,” he said.

What Musk hasn’t hinted at is a clear and forceful intention to complete the deal. Some at the company took Musk’s appearance as a positive sign that he intended to stick to his $54.20 a share deal, but Musk himself has warned in recent weeks that he could back out of the deal if Twitter didn’t do more to prove that its user base is mostly real people and not bots.

Musk mentioned bot and spam accounts on the service during Thursday’s meeting, saying it was important for there to be “transparency” on Twitter to build trust with users. He suggested that Twitter could start authenticating a user’s identity through Twitter Blue, the company’s current subscription service.

The conversation was moderated by Twitter Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Berland, who summarized some employee questions submitted in advance. CEO Parag Agrawal introduced Musk, though he and other top executives like CFO Ned Segal didn’t speak during the interview, which lasted about 45 minutes, according to attendees.

While there’s no way to know which executives might leave once Musk takes over, the Tesla CEO has made it clear he’s not happy with Twitter’s current direction. Presumably, that includes Agrawal, as well as Twitter’s top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, whom Musk has publicly criticized for her role in enforcing the company’s hate speech and misinformation policies.

While Twitter’s stock fluctuated throughout the meeting and traded higher for a while even as the market as a whole fell, it ended the New York session down 1. 7% to $37.36, more than 30% below the price per share Musk agreed to pay.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)