Noah Blum put this corrective on employee activism against management best, if in a NSFW manner. As Elon Musk met with Twitter employees yesterday to discuss his plans for a new approach to the social-media platform, a group of SpaceX employees demanded that the firm disassociate itself from its owner over comments Musk made about a sexual harassment allegation against him. He had denied that it happened and made light of the accusation, which prompted several employees to assert their authority over Musk:
An open letter to SpaceX decrying CEO Elon Musk’s recent behavior has sparked open discussion among the company’s employees in an internal chat system. Employees are being encouraged to sign onto the letter’s suggestions, either publicly or anonymously, with a signed version of the letter to be delivered to the desk of SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.
The letter, reviewed by The Verge, describes how Musk’s actions and the recent allegations of sexual harassment against him are negatively affecting SpaceX’s reputation. The document claims that employees “across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles have collaborated on” writing the letter. It’s not known which SpaceX employees wrote the letter; the employees who posted the letter in the internal chat system have not responded to requests for comment.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter states. “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.”
It didn’t take long for Musk and his team to remind those employees who runs the show. “F*** around, find out,” Blum commented:
Fuck around Find out pic.twitter.com/VQ902cnJu1
— Noam Blum (@neontaster) June 17, 2022
SpaceX has reportedly fired the employees who released an open letter this week criticizing CEO Elon Musk and referring to his recent behavior as a “distraction and embarrassment” to the company.
In fact, SpaceX’s president alleged, it was the petitioners who bullied and harassed their fellow employees:
SpaceX president and Musk ally Gwynne Shotwell said in a memo that the firm had “terminated a number of employees involved” in crafting the letter – noting the workers in question had “upset many” with an “unsolicited request” to add their signatures.
“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 views,” Shotwell said in the memo, which was obtained by The Verge.
Shotwell referred to the open letter campaign within the company as “unacceptable” and said the workers were fired after an investigation into their actions. The number of employees terminated wasn’t immediately clear.
It didn’t take too long to conduct an “investigation.” Nor did it need to be long; all management had to do was to confirm that the signatories willingly participated in the effort. The rest of the one-day investigation was likely spent running down communications over company-owned systems to find out who said what to whom. Given the clearly intended proximity to Musk’s Twitter deal, SpaceX clearly wanted to shut this down good and hard.
That’s not to say that Musk is the best boss in the world, of course. There has been significant reporting on employee-management issues in his firms, although some of that may be overblown too. However, this protest had literally nothing to do with the employees involved, who just wanted to scold and cancel the man who pays them over his own public comments.
This should provide a long-needed corrective to the sudden onslaught of woke workforces dictating outcomes to management. Granted, that’s mostly been seen in the media and entertainment industries where executives try to preen on ESG and social-justice issues anyway, but the trend has begun to spread after high-profile indulgence at places like the New York Times, the Washington Post, Disney, and Netflix — at least initially at the latter. Netflix later reversed course after bowing to employees over Dave Chappelle’s comedy special and told them to find someplace else to work if they objected to Netflix’s content and business model.
This is even more emphatically the correct signal to send to wannabe activists within workforces. If they don’t like the CEO or the business model, then they can find somewhere else to work, and so can everyone else who spends their time signing their petitions. Until very recently, it would have been a sign of sheer idiocy to put your name down on a demand like this, let alone use company resources and facilities to wage personal campaigns against the CEO and owner of a firm. That set of incentives clearly needed revitalization, and both Netflix and SpaceX are correct in endorsing them.