Eric Frohnhoefer thought his tweets to the CEO of Twitter (and his new boss) Elon Musk explaining why there was a problem with the speed of the platform was pretty innocuous.
Musk had tweeted“I would like to apologize that Twitter is super slow in many countries,” blaming it on “poorly grouped RPCs” (remote process calls).
Fröhnhoefer replied to the message and said the billionaire was wrong about the cause of the app’s slowness. He also suggested potential solutions.
Frohnhoefer had been a Company staff software engineer for eight years, with expertise on Android systems. In other words, he knew a thing or two about how the site worked.
“I feel like I didn’t cross the line. I feel like I responded to it appropriately. And yeah, obviously they saw it differently,” Frohnhoefer told NPR.
Some on social media looked at Frohnhoefer’s trade with his boss and saw it as problematic and a potential offense that could be fired. But Frohnhoefer noted that part of Twitter’s culture, at least before Musk, was to be able to point out issues and disagree when the company’s product was at issue.
Musk apparently saw it wrong. On Monday, Musk tweeted that Frohnhoefer was fired. Musk later deleted the tweet.
“That’s how I found out. From that tweet,” he said.
Incredible exchange. Can I write this as a teaching case for my management class? pic.twitter.com/lYteE7d4N8
— Sandy Piderit (@SandyPideritPhD) November 14, 2022
Frohnhoefer learned of his dismissal from another colleague who saw Musk’s tweet. He checked with the company that he was fired from Twitter and that was it.
A Twitter spokesperson could not be reached.
But reports from Platformer, who spoke to Frohnhoefer first, indicate that he was not the only one fired in this way. The outlet said others would have been fired for “their behavior”.
In addition to Frohnhoefer’s public dismissal this week, Musk also issued an ultimatum to employees: They must commit to long, intense hours at an “extremely hardcore” company by Thursday afternoon or leave, with severance pay. of three months.
These latest very public antics from Musk not only harm his employees, but also the platform’s ability to operate transparently and generate profits, a labor lawyer and tech public relations specialist told NPR. Musk’s actions are also likely costing the company skilled talent and more money in the long run.
“Creating an environment where workers are afraid to report problems with the product for fear of being fired by tweet in the middle of the night will not encourage people to want to work there,” said Catherine Fisk, professor of law at the university. UC Berkeley School of Law, said. “It’s not going to encourage those out there to want to give their all at work or wonder if there’s a better way to do something.”
Musk is already under fire for laying off much of the workforce just a week after his takeover. Twitter was sued the day before the layoffs by workers fearing they would not receive the legally required 60-day notice for layoffs. (Twitter actually offered three months compensation.)
“He continues to act with this blatant disregard for Twitter engineers,” said Ed Zitron, who runs a media consultancy for tech startups. “It’s a remarkable thing that Twitter has remained active for the past few weeks, given the complete mania with which Musk operates.”
Employees care deeply about Twitter, says Frohnhoefer
Before Musk, Twitter was always a place where employees cared for the product, worked hard, helped each other and tried to do what was right, Frohnhoefer said.
“If you think something is wrong or wrong, you say something. And if you think something needs to be done, you say something,” he said of the pre-era -Musk. “I think the worldview of anyone on Twitter is that we’re just a bunch of lazy slackers. But we work hard.”
After Musk took office, staff waited to hear his next steps. The first communication the company received was about the mass layoffs.
“Nobody even signed [the email]”, he said. “It’s cowardly the way they act and it’s clear that they don’t trust us. And people don’t trust management. And it destroyed almost everything in less than two weeks.”
Frohnhoefer said his former colleagues still care about each other as many deal with life after Twitter.
“I know people choose to stay for a variety of reasons. But I know a lot of people who don’t have a visa, or they have to pay bills, or they have a mortgage to pay,” he said – and they will continue to work on a very different Twitter.
Musk risks advertising money and employee well-being, experts say
Zitron and Fisk both describe the way Musk took over Twitter as “crazy” and “crazy”.
The company’s financial outlook is bleak as many advertisers have meanwhile taken a “wait-and-see approach”. Under Musk’s watch, talk of the company going bankrupt has been circulating.
“The advertisers are the only way back for Elon. If he can’t get those advertisers back, he’s screwed,” Zitron said.
Musk’s new belief that employees should take a ‘hardcore’ approach to work is likely going to make things worse, Zitron said.
“There’s so much research that says if you overload people, it literally kills them,” he said. “And now it turns to the remaining people, many of whom I’m sure have terrible survivor’s guilt, who have to sit around and work those obscene hours to create products that they know are unlikely to generate. not the money Elon Musk needs to keep We are witnessing one of the worst financial deals in history, and possibly one of the worst leaders in history.
Twitter can potentially add more legal issues to the messy plate, Fisk notes.
“We know that Twitter was sued for this brutal dismissal, which means that they are going to pay 60 days of compensation to all these people who have been terminated. That is a lot of money to pay people for a job that the company is not going to profit from it,” she said. “And then you add up the arbitrary or retaliatory dismissals, like [the Frohnhoefer firing] could be.”
California, in particular, has labor laws that make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees for a variety of reasons.
“That’s a lot of litigation that seems pointless,” Fisk said.
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