GM Halts Paid Twitter Advertising As Twit-in-Chief Elon Musk Takes Ownership

When Peter Close last updated his LinkedIn profile, he listed his role as “Layoff Survivor” on Twitter. Yet Clowes, a senior software engineer who joined the company in the spring of 2020, is also gone. He left yesterday, dispassionately explaining last night on Twitter that he decided to leave not to limp on Twitter or because he hates its new owner Elon Musk, but simply because he no longer had an incentive to stay.

Now it seems a significant percentage of Clowes’ colleagues feel the same way. Although they were not part of 50% of Twitter employees who lost their jobs at the end of October in an unprecedented layoff across the social media team as the remaining 3,700 employees were given an ultimatum this week by Musk. The choice which he presented to them: commit to a new “extremely hardcore” Twitter, “work long hours at a high intensity” or leave the company with three months’ severance.

A Hobson’s choice, essentially, Musk was clearly hoping that some percentage of Twitter’s remaining employees — who are expensive and whom he had no say in hiring — would choose to leave the company. In fact, Musk has reportedly told investors he may cut back 75% of staff before taking over the company, so whether he’s in shock today or celebrating their mass exodus is something only Musk and his inner circle know.

Of course, the numbers are staggering to almost everyone else. New York Times reported earlier today that, based on internal estimates from its sources, at least 1,200 full-time employees have just turned in their figurative key cards. Clowes, in a long series of tweets about his own departure suggests the number may be even higher. Speaking of his own “organization,” he writes that “85%+” of his colleagues were laid off in October, and that a staggering “80%” of those remaining quit yesterday.

Really, what strikes us, reading Close’s explanation of why he left, isn’t that so many people went out with him. Almost more amazingly, 100% of employees didn’t leave, raising questions about who Musk thought would stay. If he only wanted those employees who have no choice but to kill themselves for now, it seems… . . as a flawed business strategy.

Otherwise, if Musk was hoping to retain someone else, one assumes a carrot would have been offered. Instead, as Clowes wrote yesterday, there were only sticks, and lots of them.

Close writes, for example, that he left because “he no longer knew what I was staying for. I used to stay for the people, the vision and of course the money (let’s all be honest). All of them were radically changed or uncertain.

Close left because if he had stayed, he “would have been constantly on call with a little support for an unspecified period of time on several additional complex systems that I had no experience with.”

He left because he saw no upside to Musk’s brazen management style, which Close suggests he might have endured longer if he hadn’t been operating entirely in the dark. Instead, he said, Musk has yet to share a vision for the platform with employees. “There is no 5-year plan like at Tesla,” Close wrote. “Nothing more than what everyone can see on Twitter. It is said to be coming for those left behind, but the inquiry is blind faith and requires signing the exit offer before you see it. A pure test of loyalty.”

There was so little communication from the top that rumors and speculation ran rampant, Close surmised. Among the employees’ apparent concerns: not only that Twitter would become subscription-based, but that eventually “adult content: could become a major component of subscription offerings,” Clowes wrote. (Underscoring how little insiders have been told, Close then refers readers to a Cable story about a The Washington Post story about Musk’s reported discussions with employees about monetizing adult content on Twitter.)

Last but not least, Close writes, “there was no plan to hold those who remained. There is no clear plus to carry him through the storm on the horizon. Just verbal “trust us” style promises.

Until yesterday, he lived in a world where “his friends are gone, his vision is dim, a storm is brewing, and there are no financial advantages. What would you do?” he continued. “Would you sacrifice vacation time with your kids for vague assurances and the opportunity to make a rich man richer, or would you give up?”

You’ll get an out, which Musk surely expected.

The question is whether he can build back with the one he left before the whole thing fails.

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