The pressure inside Twitter is so intense these days, some veteran employees of Elon Musk are comparing it to his lowest days at Tesla in 2018, a time he’s referred to as “excruciating” and “the most difficult and painful” of his career, Business Insider reported.
Musk, 51, who bought Twitter in October and immediately fired about half of its 7,500 staffers, is pulling all-nighters at the company’s San Francisco headquarters and pressing the remaining workers to do the same, BI said. He’s quick to fire people he thinks are not working hard enough, and is demanding total loyalty, the report said.
Musk is known to fire workers who challenge him publicly, sent a memo threatening to fire anyone who leaks to the media and even canned a top engineer over the declining number of Twitter users who see his tweets, the Silicon Valley news site Platformer reported.
As a result, Twitter now employs just about 500 engineers, down from about 600 at the end of 2022 and from several thousand when Musk took over, BI reported.
What’s more, the number of “principal engineers,” a title that reflects years of experience at a company, had dropped to just one from about 30 when Musk bought the company. Overall head count is thought to be about 2,000, the report said.
With so few people tending the site, it has become unreliable. (Twitter experienced a major crash just last week.)
Musk will reportedly walk around Twitter’s office querying staffers about what they’re working on as a test. “You have to figure out how to answer the question in a way that will not get you fired,” one source told BI.
“You just have to go to work every day knowing that it could be your last and be fine with that,” another staffer said.
Another person at Twitter told the outlet: “He’s gone fully nutso.”
The report said Musk’s mood started to deteriorate at the end of last year as issues with Twitter, investor complaints and costs mounted. He publicly said he was trying to stave off bankruptcy. He’s suggested cost cuts that some at the company see as “insane” and tossed around ideas from making Twitter an entirely subscription product to limiting services to only the U.S. and Japan, where the site is most popular.
Few of his ideas have been implemented, but major cuts have taken place, including shuttering a huge data center in December that led to the head of engineering resigning.
Now, BI said, Musk is fixated on his own engagement metrics, in part because showing increased engagement is how Twitter can charge more for ads, and partly because he likes attention. Last week, he reportedly forced engineers to change the platform’s algorithm to boost his tweets on users feeds.
On Friday, Musk said those reports were false.
“Several major media sources incorrectly reported that my Tweets were boosted above normal levels earlier this week,” Musk tweeted. “A review of my Tweet likes & views over the past 6 months, especially as a ratio of followers, shows this to be false.”
“We did have a bug that briefly caused replies to have the same prominence as primary Tweets, but that has now been fixed,” he said.
Staffers who’ve been at both Tesla and Twitter said that the situation at the social media company is now “worse than 2018,” the BI report continued.
“People that worked with him at Tesla then say they’ve never seen him this bad,” one of the people said. “He is obviously stressed.”
Yet Musk shows no signs of bowing out soon. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported, he said it will likely be the end of the year before he taps a new CEO to run the company.
“I need to stabilize the organization and just make sure it’s in a financially healthy place and the product road map is clearly laid out,” Musk said via a remote video link to the World Government Summit in Dubai on Wednesday. “I’m guessing toward the end of this year should be a good timing to find someone else to run the company.”