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"Today is your last day at work"

A few days ago, an employee published a photo from Twitter headquarters.

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"Today is your last day at work"

A few days ago, an employee published a photo from Twitter headquarters. It shows manager Esther Crawford sleeping on the floor of a conference room, wedged between tables and chairs. Crawford shared the picture with the caption: Her team has deadlines to meet, so she spends some nights in the office. Elon Musk, it seems, is already making its mark on the corporate culture.

The billionaire took over Twitter about a week ago. He is known for demanding a lot from his employees. And also from himself. If there are problems at his electric car company Tesla, he sometimes sleeps in a factory.

Twitter, based in California, has had a rather relaxed atmosphere so far. For example, there was a paid day off every month. So that everyone can “refuel”, as the company put it. Musk has eliminated these “days of rest” and is now demanding twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week, from some employees.

But the biggest change for the time being was probably on Friday. At 9 a.m. local time, employees received an email from Human Resources, subject: "Your Role at Twitter." It was the start of a major downsizing. A mass layoff, the likes of which has never been seen in the company's history.

Employees were informed via standardized message whether they had to stay employed – or have to go. One of the employees wrote on Twitter that the resignation emails began with the sentence: "Today is your last day at the company". Another claims he was suddenly logged out of his work laptop at home. Still others report that they had lost their access to the company's internal chat program even before the e-mail from the HR department and therefore suspected that they were among those who had been kicked out.

Before the wave of layoffs, Twitter had around 7,500 employees. How many were released on Friday is unknown. According to analysts, it could be as many as 3,700. If that's true, then Twitter has been cut in half.

Twitter's offices were closed on Friday, all access cards blocked. The dismissed therefore had no opportunity to collect personal belongings. The company spoke of a precautionary measure. The step is intended to ensure the “security of employees, systems and customer data”.

Does Twitter fear a revolt by the fired? It seems so. That would not be unprecedented: In November 2017, on his last day at work, an employee deactivated the account of then US President Donald Trump. It took about ten minutes for Trump to tweet again.

The past few months have been tumultuous for Twitter. Musk signed a contract to take over the platform in April – and canceled it again in July. Twitter then sued the entrepreneur and wanted to enforce the agreement in court. Last month, Musk gave in and bought Twitter. For $54.20 per share, as originally planned. The deal is worth around $44 billion. The very day Musk graduated, he fired Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and three other executives.

Musk generally doesn't think much of managers, instead appreciating engineers. Twitter, he keeps saying, is ponderous and pompous. A few days ago, one of his 114 million followers asked him what the company's biggest problem was. Musk replied: There seems to be ten people per programmer managing anything.

New times could also dawn for Twitter in terms of content. Musk often complains that America's tech companies are too leftist and that Silicon Valley is suppressing conservative voices. Twitter should therefore become a "hoard of freedom of expression".

Musk also wants to bring back Donald Trump, who was banned from the network in January 2021 after the Capitol storm. But the ex-president has so far declined, saying he'd rather stay on his own platform, Truth Social. Musk also announced that he would take action against fake accounts and spam and make Twitter "the most correct source of information in the world".

But Musk is also about money. Last year, Twitter lost $221 million. And Musk borrowed heavily to buy the network. He now needs to increase revenue, but how? Musk is apparently considering charging users to send personal messages to celebrities. In addition, he could charge for watching certain videos. It has already been decided that verified accounts – those with the blue tick – will in future be charged eight dollars a month.

Twitter could be facing tough times financially. Several large companies have decided to suspend their advertising on the platform: the car companies Volkswagen and General Motors, for example, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the food giants Mondelez and General Mills.

In addition, five fired employees have sued Twitter. Musk, they argue in a California court, failed to announce the layoffs in violation of state labor law. In fact, California law requires companies to give 60 days' prior notice of major layoffs. The turbulent times for Twitter, it seems, could only really begin now.

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