SpaceX has fired employees who slammed Elon Musk’s ’embarrassing and distracting’ tweets
SpaceX has fired some of the employees behind a letter criticizing CEO Elon Musk’s ’embarrassing’ and ‘distracting’ tweets yesterday, claiming some workers were pressured into signing it.
The letter was posted to the company’s internal communications system Wednesday, hours after Musk revealed publicly that he had voted for a Republican candidate for the first time by voting for Mayra Flores in South Texas.
In the letter, the unnamed workers gave the company’s directors ‘one month’ to ‘swiftly and explicitly separate’ from ‘Elon’s personal brand’.
They demanded that the company become more ‘inclusive’, and said its ‘zero asshole’ policy was not enforced clearly.
It’s unclear exactly how many people signed it or which employees instigated it but it slammed Musk for his unfiltered comments on Twitter, his new company, and called them unprofessional.
The New York Times on Friday revealed that some of those employees were fired afterwards.
In an internal statement Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO, said: ‘The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their view.
‘We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.’
Posted to the company’s internal communications system Wednesday, the letter, penned by unnamed workers at the California-based spacecraft manufacturer, called out the famously outspoken executive for unprofessional behavior on social media
Transcript of SpaceX staffers’ scathing open letter
An open letter to the Executives of SpaceX,
In light of recent allegations against our CEO and his public disparagement of the situation, we would like to deliver feedback on how these events affect our company’s reputation, and through it, our mission. Employees across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles have collaborated on this letter. We feel it is imperative to maintain honest and open dialogue with each other to effectively reach our company’s primary goals together: making SpaceX a great place to work for all, and making humans a multiplanetary species.
As SpaceX employees we are expected to challenge established processes, rapidly innovate to solve complex problems as a team, and use failures as learning opportunities. Commitment to these ideals is fundamental to our identity and is core to how we have redefined our industry. But for all our technical achievements, SpaceX fails to apply these principles to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion with equal priority across the company, resulting in a workplace culture that remains firmly rooted in the status quo.
Individuals and groups of employees at SpaceX have spent significant effort beyond their technical scope to make the company a more inclusive space via conference recruiting, open forums, feedback to leadership, outreach, and more. However, we feel an unequal burden to carry this effort as the company has not applied appropriate urgency and resources to the problem in a manner consistent with our approach to critical path technical projects. To be clear: recent events are not isolated incidents; they are emblematic of a wider culture that underserves many of the people who enable SpaceX’s extraordinary accomplishments. As industry leaders, we bear unique responsibility to address this.
Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks. As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX—every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values.
SpaceX’s current systems and culture do not live up to its stated values, as many employees continue to experience unequal enforcement of our oft-repeated “No Asshole” and “Zero Tolerance” policies. This must change. As a starting point, we are putting forth the following categories of action items, the specifics of which we would like to discuss in person with the executive team within a month:
Publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior. SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.
Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone. Apply a critical eye to issues that prevent employees from fully performing their jobs and meeting their potential, pursuing specific and enduring actions that are well resourced, transparent, and treated with the same rigor and urgency as establishing flight rationale after a hardware anomaly.
Define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior. Clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX’s “no-asshole” and “zero tolerance” policies and enforce them consistently. SpaceX must establish safe avenues for reporting and uphold clear repercussions for all unacceptable behavior, whether from the CEO or an employee starting their first day.
We care deeply about SpaceX’s mission to make humanity multiplanetary. But more importantly, we care about each other. The collaboration we need to make life multiplanetary is incompatible with a culture that treats employees as consumable resources. Our unique position requires us to consider how our actions today will shape the experiences of individuals beyond our planet. Is the culture we are fostering now the one which we aim to bring to Mars and beyond?
We have made strides in that direction, but there is so much more to accomplish.
Staffers wrote that Musk tweets, especially in recent months, have ‘become a source of distraction and embarrassment’ for the company, and asks SpaceX brass to take action against the CEO – before he further harms the company’s reputation.
SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell confirmed the employees’ firing
‘Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,’ the letter, viewed and first reported by The Verge, reads.
‘As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company.’
The note, which reportedly received more than 100 comments from staffers who generally supported those sentiments, called on leadership to address Musk’s behavior.
‘It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values,’ the letter reads.
Staffers went on to urge SpaceX leadership to ‘[P]ublicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior’ in order to ‘explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.’
Musk, who heads both Tesla and SpaceX and is in talks to take over Twitter, has used his social media as a platform to air his own beliefs.
Just this week, Musk faced heat for publicly backing newly elected congresswoman Mayra Flores, a Republican in Texas with a history of promoting QAnon – while asserting that his political beliefs are ‘moderate.’
In April, he shared an image of Bill Gates and an emoji of a pregnant man, captioned ‘in case u need to lose a boner fast’. The employees did not specify which tweets they found most embarrassing or offensive
Musk wrote online that he was leaning toward staunch conservative Ron DeSantis, the anti-woke governor of Florida, as a potential president in 2021 Wednesday, after being asked about his preferences concerning who the next head of state should be.
Musk, who has described himself as a moderate in recent years but has shown a shift to conservatism in recent social media posts, made his political allegiance clear in a barrage of tweets.
Musk began by revealing he voted red for the first time ever, casting a ballot for Flores.
‘I voted for Mayra Flores – first time I ever voted Republican,’ Musk wrote.
The mogul went on predict a ‘massive red wave in 2022.’
Then, when asked who he is leaning toward supporting in 2024, the tech billionaire responded simply: ‘DeSantis’ – a particularly polarizing figure in politics due to policies that many view as anti-progressive and harmful to the LGBTQ community.
Musk has also used the platform to push his preference for in-person work.
Responding to a question on Twitter from a follower about whether he thinks ‘coming into work is an antiquated concept,’ referring to the CEO’s staffers at his other company, Tesla, Musk sniped: ‘They should pretend to work somewhere else.’
Musk, a staunch libertarian and businessman who has saw his wealth swell during the pandemic, has shown a shift towards the political right, after previously being heralded by young progressives as a new, more hip breed of businessman.
On Wednesday, Musk, who has a history of backing both Democrats and Republicans, tweeted: ‘I’m thinking of creating a “Super Moderate Super PAC” that supports candidates with centrist views from all parties.’
Musk’s changing political views were thrust into the limelight in April, after he announced his intention to purchase a majority stake in Twitter.
His offer to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share was made public on April 14.
He has since said the deal is on hold, arguing, without presenting evidence, that there are too many automated accounts for the deal to move ahead.
The deal was approved in April but was put on pause due to Musk’s reported concerns of the number of fake or spam accounts on the service.
By the end of the month, Musk hinted his political sentiment had shifted rightward over the past 14 years, by posting a meme showing a moderate liberal driven into the arms of conservatives.
The image depicted a stick figure labeled ‘me’ remaining stationary relative to another labeled ‘conservative’, as the figure at the ‘liberal’ end of the spectrum moves further and further to the left.
Musk, who has described himself as a moderate in recent years but has showed a shift to conservatism in recent months, made his political allegiance clear in a barrage of Tweets early Wednesday, where he revealed he had voted Republican for the first time on Tuesday
By the final diagram, labeled 2021, the ‘me’ figure is to the right of the center line – as the conservative chuckles and the liberal – now labeled ‘woke progressive’ – accuses the centrist of bigotry.
Many Democrats and liberals are concerned that Musk’s vision for Twitter will allow for the spread of more misinformation on the platform.
It also comes after SpaceX was accused last month of paying a SpaceX worker $250,000 in severance after she accused him of exposing himself to her after refusing Musk’s sexual advances.
Musk made light of the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him on Twitter recently, joking that the affair should be dubbed ‘Elongate’ before soliciting the co-founder of YouTube to touch his ‘wiener’.
Chad Hurley, who co-founded YouTube and once served as the company’s CEO, joked about the claims in a tweet directed at Musk last month, telling him: ‘Stop horsing around and close this Twitter deal. We all want a happy ending!’
Musk, who knows Hurley well from their time working together in the early days of PayPal, responded by writing: ‘Fine, if you touch my wiener, you can have a horse.’
Musk has since denied the claims, which alleged that he exposed himself to a private flight attendant during a massage, rubbed her leg, and offered to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage.
It came on a day of whirlwind tweeting from Musk, who called a 2016 tweet from Hillary Clinton a hoax, questioned the integrity of Business Insider, the outlet who reported the alleged misconduct, and announced plans for a new ‘hardcore litigation department’ at Tesla.
He went on to seemingly made light of the misconduct accusation by quoting a tweet of his own from 2021 in which he said if there was ever a scandal about him, it should be called ‘Elongate.’
‘Finally, we get to use Elongate as scandal name. It’s kinda perfect,’ he tweeted.
The world’s richest man has also used the platform in recent months to lambaste rival billionaires, taking childish jabs at both Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
In April, he shared an image of Bill Gates and an emoji of a pregnant man, captioned ‘in case u need to lose a boner fast.’
Last year, he responded to a tweet about Jeff Bezos’ own aerospace company, Blue Origin, after the Amazon founder’s company filed a protest against NASA for picking rival SpaceX to build a lunar lander.
Musk took to Twitter to tease Bezos over that lawsuit, replying to a tweet sharing a New York Times story about the space wrangle: ‘Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol.’
Musk has asserted that if the wants to maintain users’ free speech on the platform, by allowing extreme or ‘outrageous’ views on their social media – as long as they are within the bounds of the law.
Last month, he used the platform to label an old tweet of Hillary Cinton’s a ‘hoax’ after a Twitter user flagged it as misleading.
The 2016 Clinton tweet, referencing claims that were later included in the Steele dossier, read: ‘Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.’
When a Twitter user said that he had flagged the tweet as misinformation but was ignored by the company, Musk responded: ‘You are absolutely correct. That tweet is a Clinton campaign hoax for which their campaign lawyer is undergoing a criminal trial.’
Musk, while outspoken, has yet to comment on the contents of Thursday’s open letter.