In what has become a crisis at Twitter Inc. that sounds like a Hollywood script, new owner Elon Musk today sent a rather stern letter to his staff – the ones remaining, anyway.

No sooner had Musk’s acquisition of Twitter finally go through — following wrangle after wrangle with the company — he began firing executives he didn’t much like. Later came the mass layoffs, but that was always going to happen, just as it has throughout much of the tech industry. Nonetheless, Musk (pictured) is struggling with more than the necessity of downsizing during a difficult time in the economy.

Ever since Musk called himself a free speech absolutist, there was widespread concern regarding what kind of platform Twitter would become. Many of the company’s staff seemed to believe that Twitter would become a hub of hatred and insults – not that it has ever been free of such activity.

The bad feeling among some staff and Musk has recently resulted in what one might call a mutiny. Some of his staff took to Twitter this week, criticizing their boss out in the open. Musk’s immediate response was somewhat hardline. Just yesterday, he went on a firing spree. “I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses,” were his barbed words. “Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.”

It seems he has now been pushed to the limit, expressing so in an email to Twitter employees that tells them in no uncertain terms that if they don’t like, lump it. Musk wrote that they must either be prepared for “long hours at high intensity” or they can pack their bags, collecting three months of severance pay once they’ve passed Go for the last time.

“Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore,” he said. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”

Musk added that the emphasis from now on will be on “writing great code.” Twitter, he said, has always been a “software and servers company,” and staff should accept that the platform from now on will be much more “engineering driven.”

That still sounds pretty vague, and what Musk is really saying is likely to stop complaining and put your head down. So far, the mutiny has mostly been related to Twitter’s culture and free speech issues, although it has also consisted of some employees criticizing Musk’s vision for Twitter. That includes a controversial verification program and Twitter becoming a payment processing hub, as well as making it a place where creators of content can sell their videos.

The email could be a consequence of frustration as much as it is about agreeing to a vision. That’s underlined by the fact that Musk asked employees to tick a yes box to his ultimatum within a day or claim that severance cash tomorrow. That’s hardly tactful and seems unreasonable.

Even when he finishes the email with “Whatever decision you make, thank you for your efforts to make Twitter successful,” one can’t help feeling there’s some amount of exasperation hiding between the words. Still, this likely won’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who has worked for him before.

Photo: Mohammed Abdelzak/Flickr

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