‘Elon Is Watching’: Twitter Employees Panic On Musk’s First Day As Owner

‘Elon Is Watching’: Twitter Employees Panic On Musk’s First Day As Owner

Illustration by Forbes; Photos by Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Constanza Hevia/AFP/Getty Images

As the billionaire assumes ownership of Twitter, staff at the social media company are “freaking.”

By David Jeans, Alexandra S. Levine and John Paczkowski

Silent Slack channels. Lawyers in war rooms. Final meals.

After Elon Musk took control of the company Thursday evening, four top executives—including the CEO, CFO, general counsel and head of legal policy, trust, and safety—were escorted from the company’s San Francisco headquarters. Now employees wonder if and when Musk will make good on his reported pledge to investors to cut Twitter’s workforce by 75 percent, and if they will be next.

“People are freaking,” said one current employee, a sentiment solidified by the arrival of a “small battalion of new lawyers” at headquarters this week.

Communication has been so sparse that some staffers tell Forbes they are looking to press reports on the outside for clues as to what’s unfolding on the inside, and whether they’ll still have their jobs by the end of the week. “There have been no internal comms about the departures,” one employee said. “No internal comms about anything, really.” Some are learning about developments in real-time through the Twitter hashtag #TwitterTakeover, where potential misinformation has started to spread—encapsulating their very concerns over what may happen under a Musk-owned Twitter.

There has not yet been any word on when, or if, employees will be addressed today by Musk, or other senior leaders. Of particular concern is whether a mass firing event will occur before Tuesday, November 1, when a major stock vesting is scheduled to occur. An all-hands was supposed to happen today, but employees still have heard nothing about it. “It’s just silent,” said one employee.

Musk and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

Among one another, employees have taken communications away from Slack, for fear that it could further jeopardize their roles. “ELON IS WATCHING,” one employee texted.

In some cases, employees have taken to their own platform to discuss internal issues, and concerns. Teams and coworkers have gathered for impromptu meals to commiserate and theorize on what’s to come or who their bosses may be by day’s end—with some even likening the gatherings, half jokingly and half seriously, to The Last Supper.

Reporters gather at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco.

Kenrick Cai

“There’s a horse in the hospital with a flamethrower,” said one employee, updating John Mulaney’s Trump-era political joke with a reference to the flamethrowers Musk’s tunnel startup The Boring Company once sold.

Ali Mogharabi, an analyst at Morningstar, said that some of these anxieties contrasted starkly with Musk’s recent message to advertisers, in which he said that he didn’t want the platform to become a “free-for-all hellscape” and that he plans to “show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs.”

“Based on that tweet, it seems that he is going to be focusing on the ad-based model a little bit more seriously, than many expected,” Moghrabi said. “In the early stages of that process, I wouldn’t think that significantly cutting that headcount is going to help.”

Despite the uncertainty inside Twitter, some employees have noticed a spike in applications to the company. “Started a new job at Twitter! Wahooo! Now is a good a time as any to announce this right?” senior technical program manager Kevin O’Brien posted publicly on LinkedIn on Friday, using a crying-laughing face emoji.

“You will clearly have a huge surge of resumes coming toward Twitter now that Musk owns it,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush. “To many it makes it a much more appealing place with Musk owning it.”

Meanwhile, on the heels of the executive firings Thursday night, outsiders are feeding the frenzy over who is on the chopping block. Videos of employees who have posted about how they spend their days at Twitter are going viral on social media: “This is ‘a day in the life of a Twitter employee.’ No wonder @elonmusk is firing 75% of them,” the right-wing Twitter account @LibsofTikTok posted, resharing a video of an apparent Twitter staffer spending her day drinking iced matchas and eating gourmet meals between meetings, exploring meditation and yoga facilities at the San Francisco headquarters, and drinking red wine on tap to round out her day.

News outlet Morning Brew posted its own TikTok parody on Friday, showing a day-in-the-life of a Twitter executive heading to work happy—before the video is cut short by his sudden firing. “Just let him finish the video Elon!” the caption read.

But for now, the scene is quiet outside Twitter headquarters, where a gaggle of reporters—some of whom fell for two pranksters who claimed to be fired employees—waited in anticipation for actual employees to start leaving.

Kenrick Cai contributed reporting.


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