Twitter Employees Search for Answers as Musk Deal Takes Shape

In January 2020, hundreds of Twitter staff gathered in Houston for a company summit known as #OneTeam. In the course of the occasion, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief government on the time, revealed he had invited a shock visitor. Then, with a wave and a smile, Elon Musk appeared on large screens above the stage. The group cheered, clapped and pumped fists. “We love you,” one worker shouted.

Inside Twitter at the moment, shock bulletins about Mr. Musk land otherwise. Staff stated they’d largely stopped celebrating the richest man on the planet since he declared his intent this month to purchase Twitter, scrap its content material moderation insurance policies and remodel the publicly traded firm into a personal one.

Twitter staff additionally stated they have been pissed off as a result of they weren’t listening to a lot from their administration about what was happening with the takeover battle and what it meant for them, at the same time as Twitter closed in on a cope with Mr. Musk on Monday morning. They requested their chief government, Parag Agrawal. They requested Mr. Musk himself in questions despatched on Twitter. Some even went to Charles Schwab, the monetary agency that manages their inventory choices, for readability concerning the impression a sale of the corporate would have on them.

However they weren’t getting very many solutions, stated 11 Twitter staff who requested to not be named as a result of they weren’t approved to talk publicly, even because it turned clear that they may quickly discover themselves reporting to Mr. Musk. On Sunday, Twitter’s board met to debate Mr. Musk’s supply and was stated to be significantly contemplating it. Some staff vented their frustrations with the continued silence on Twitter Monday morning, whereas others commiserated in personal chats.

This sort of silence is routine in takeover fights. Because the board of administrators confers with bankers, attorneys and costly public relations companies, staff are sometimes stored at nighttime. However for workers at Twitter, an organization that has billed itself because the world’s city sq., discovering out what is going on to their firm primarily by way of Twitter, the service they constructed, has been significantly embittering.

After years of management squabbles, calls for for change from activist traders and the boundary-testing tweets of former President Donald J. Trump, Twitter’s greater than 7,000 staff are accustomed to turmoil. However a few of them say the takeover bid by the mercurial billionaire is hitting them in methods different firm crises haven’t.

Staff stated they apprehensive that Mr. Musk would undo the years of labor they’d put into cleansing up the poisonous corners of the platform, upend their inventory compensation within the means of taking the corporate personal and disrupt Twitter’s tradition along with his unpredictable administration fashion and abrupt proclamations.

However Mr. Musk additionally has followers amongst Twitter’s rank-and-file, and a few staff have welcomed his bid. In an inner Slack message seen by The New York Occasions that requested if staff have been enthusiastic about Mr. Musk, about 10 individuals responded with a “Sure” emoji. A Twitter spokesman declined to remark.

If Twitter is value shopping for, a lot of its worth is within the staff who construct and handle the service, stated David Larcker, a professor of accounting and company governance at Stanford College. “The wild card is, what if it turns into a really completely different firm than they thought they have been working for? It’s an uncomfortable working relationship,” he stated.

Mr. Musk has made a few of his intentions clear in regulatory filings, tweets and public appearances: The corporate should scrap almost all of its moderation insurance policies, which ban content material like violent threats, harassment and spam. It should present extra transparency concerning the algorithm it makes use of to spice up tweets in customers’ newsfeeds. And it should grow to be a personal firm.

Twitter has been increasing its content material moderation insurance policies since 2008, when its twenty fifth worker was employed particularly to fight abuse on its platform. The groups overseeing moderation and security have now grown to tons of of staff.

Many Twitter staff really feel personally invested within the firm’s effort to encourage wholesome dialog — even when they don’t straight work on content material moderation — and have pressed executives to crack down additional on hate speech and misinformation, six staff stated. They see Mr. Musk’s proposal to revert to Twitter’s early, lax method as a rebuke of their work.

However different staff have argued in inner messages seen by The Occasions that their co-workers have shifted too far to the left facet of the political spectrum, making staff who assist Mr. Musk’s plans too uncomfortable to talk up. In a worker-run survey of almost 200 Twitter staff on Blind, an nameless office assessment app, 44 % stated they have been impartial on Mr. Musk. Twenty-seven % stated they liked Mr. Musk, whereas 27 % stated they hated him.

Though executives and staff at Twitter have agreed with Mr. Musk about adjustments to its algorithm, that work is in its earliest levels and will take years to finish. That might take a look at one thing Mr. Musk will not be significantly recognized for — endurance.

One of many high issues amongst Twitter staff is whether or not they’ll take a monetary hit from Mr. Musk’s plans. Many Twitter staff make 50 % or extra of their whole compensation from Twitter inventory. If Mr. Musk succeeds in shopping for Twitter at his proposed value of $54.20 per share, staff stated, they concern lacking out on the long-term worth of their inventory.

In an try to quell monetary worries, Sean Edgett, Twitter’s common counsel, informed staff that any potential purchaser would most probably be required to maintain worker fairness “as is” or present equal compensation, like a money award.

Mr. Edgett harassed that staff mustn’t view his steering as perception into the deal-making. “That is meant to offer some peace of thoughts and clarify how these items sometimes work, not as a result of we imagine there can be one final result versus one other,” he wrote in messages to staff reviewed by The Occasions.

Twitter has been on a hiring spree, spending $630 million on stock-based compensation in 2021, a 33 % improve from the earlier yr. Twitter predicted in a February earnings report that it could spend between $900 million and $925 million on stock-based compensation this yr.

However Mr. Musk’s marketing campaign has additionally begun to undercut Twitter’s makes an attempt to recruit new staff, in keeping with inner paperwork outlining the corporate’s hiring efforts that have been considered by The Occasions. Potential hires have expressed skepticism about Mr. Musk’s plans to rework Twitter and upend its content material moderation, these paperwork stated.

Recruits have additionally fretted that the shares included of their supply letters may shortly grow to be devalued if Mr. Musk took Twitter personal.

Twitter’s recruiting downside may balloon additional if present staff stop, as some have warned they might do if Mr. Musk took over. Different staff apprehensive about layoffs or the lack of work visas below Mr. Musk, and raised questions on these points with Mr. Agrawal.

Managers answerable for hiring have been requested to maintain observe of what number of potential staff flip down job gives due to fears about Mr. Musk, in keeping with inner communications reviewed by The Occasions.

Staff have additionally questioned: Might he additionally transfer Twitter’s headquarters to Texas, as he did with Tesla? Might he finish the corporate’s flexibility about returning to the workplace, which has grow to be a promoting level for workers and recruits? Mr. Musk, in spite of everything, fought with officers in California to maintain his automotive manufacturing facility open early within the pandemic.

Mr. Agrawal has tried to calm his work pressure. In a question-and-answer session with staff held the day Mr. Musk introduced he meant to purchase Twitter, Mr. Agrawal declined to share particulars about how the corporate would reply to Mr. Musk however urged staff to stay centered on the issues they may management, like their day-to-day work, in keeping with staff who attended the assembly.

Mr. Agrawal has not addressed all the firm since then, two staff stated. The corporate is about to report its first-quarter earnings on Thursday.

The stress on the point out of Mr. Musk is a stark distinction to the welcome he loved from staff two years in the past. Though some staff stated they have been skeptical of Mr. Musk on the 2020 occasion, a lot of them listened attentively as he gave his recommendation for Twitter: The corporate ought to step up its moderation, he stated, by doing extra to weed out bots and scammers from the precise people utilizing the platform.

“By the best way, do you wish to run Twitter?” Mr. Dorsey requested Mr. Musk.

The assembled Twitter staff laughed. Mr. Musk didn’t instantly reply.

Ryan Mac and Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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