Elon Musk had a demand.
On Oct. 28, hours after completing his $44 billion buyout of Twitter the night before, Mr. Musk gathered several human-resource executives in a “war room” in the company’s offices in San Francisco. Prepare for widespread layoffs, he told them, six people with knowledge of the discussion said. Twitter’s work force needed to be slashed immediately, he said, and those who were cut would not receive bonuses that were set to be paid on Nov. 1.
The executives warned their new boss that his plan could violate employment laws and breach contracts with workers, leading to employee lawsuits, the people said. But Mr. Musk’s team said he was used to going to court and paying penalties, and was not worried about the risks. So Twitter’s human-resource, accounting and legal departments scrambled to figure out how to comply with his command.
Two days later, Mr. Musk learned exactly how costly those potential fines and lawsuits could be, three people said. Delays were also piling up as managers haggled over which employees to let go. He decided to wait on cutting jobs until after Nov. 1.
The order for immediate layoffs, the ensuing panic and the about-face reflect the chaos that has engulfed Twitter since Mr. Musk took over the company two weeks ago. The 51-year-old barreled in with ideas about how the social media service should operate, but with no comprehensive plan to execute them. Then he quickly ran into the business, legal and financial complexities of running a platform that has been called a global town square.
The fallout has often been excruciating, according to 36 current and former Twitter employees and people close to the company, as well as internal documents and workplace chat logs. Some top executives were summarily fired by email. One engineering manager, upon being told to cut hundreds of workers, vomited into a trash can. Others slept in the office as they worked grueling schedules to meet Mr. Musk’s orders.
Twitter, which is under financial pressure from debt and a slumping economy, is now unrecognizable compared with what it was a month ago. Last week, Mr. Musk slashed 50 percent of the company’s 7,500 employees. Executive resignations have continued. Misinformation proliferated on the platform during Tuesday’s midterm elections. A key project to expand revenue from subscriptions hit snags. Some advertisers have been aghast.
Mr. Musk, who did not respond to a request for comment, told employees in a meeting on Thursday that Twitter’s situation was grim.
“There’s a massive negative cash flow, and bankruptcy is not out of the question,” he said, according to a recording heard by The New York Times.
Mr. Musk added that they would need to work strenuously to keep the company afloat. “Those who are able to go hard core and play to win, Twitter is a good place,” he said. “And those who are not, totally understand, but then Twitter is not for you.” [Continue reading…]