Elon Musk “doesn’t know what he’s doing” with Twitter and is “making everyone alarmed”, a former executive has said, after major brands paused their advertising spend on the platform and the company laid off thousands of staff.
That is the lede in a piece on The Guardian site. As I noted in a tweet when I shared the article on Twitter, if I had a dollar for every time employees have said the same thing about the new boss in their workplaces …
In Twitter’s case, they are talking about the new CEO, who I think it would be safe to say has killed morale among what’s left of the employees. I think many of them are polishing up their CVs, perhaps even hatching a plan to start a new Twitter — because after all, they have the know-how, eh?
It’s a malaise affecting companies around the world these days, I think, despite the labour force shortage some countries are experiencing. Many employers are suffering from bad management, or more precisely bad managers, from the CEO’s office on down to the various units of corporations.
Hence the new term “quiet quitting.” While many employees in the past have given free time and free labour to their employers when morale was good if not high in their workplaces, now many of those workers aren’t giving anything extra: they put in the exact hours required, take their full lunch breaks, and turn off their office messenger service when their shift is done. And worse, they are putting initiative on the back burner as well. As in, why do anything extra for a company if the manager is going to treat everyone like crap?
It often shows in the products, especially in legacy newspapers and now, it seems, in social media as well. Musk seems to be taking a page out of that sector’s playbook: slash staff to the bone, and make those who are left do more — and for less pay, in the case of some companies crying poverty while awarding their brass hefty annual bonuses no matter what the loss on the balance sheet.
Few who are still reading legacy newspapers — and the numbers are plummeting for most metropolitan papers — would dispute that their quality has taken a severe hit. Not to say that there aren’t any good legacy media outfits with good writers and editors, anymore: The Guardian and the N.Y. Times have progressed with the times, and even some legacy rags in many cities have some good writers and columnists. But so many newspapers are in their death throes now. They didn’t make a sincere effort to digitalize: they’ve been wringing the last few bucks out of the legacy products for the guys with the big, fat cigars in the boardrooms before they close up for good. They’ve pushed away the best journalists and their managers in many cases, and are bringing in inexperienced, clueless managers who are little more than puppets for head office.
Hey, the people in the boardrooms are not stupid. They don’t believe in throwing good money after bad. They simply don’t believe in the potential of their products to make any large financial investments. And they aren’t entirely ogres, even if many of their unit managers are: they are still providing some jobs as the sun sets on their business.
And the sun will set on Twitter, too — faster than it is setting on legacy newspapers. After all, newspapers used to be “a licence to print money,” as we said in the trade in pre-internet days. But one can’t say the same about Twitter. And the potential for someone to create a new Twitter-like site that will overtake the current one is very high because in this day and age it is so simple to create things online that just about anyone can do it if they try.
Heck, I could start a new type of news publication in a matter of minutes from the comfort of my home and make enough to supplement any pensions I get when I finally retire (OK, I am a veteran newsperson actually mulling this over because, well, I’ll tell you later). And adding a chat forum to it for readers would be a cinch.
But legacy newspapers wouldn’t care about my small publication because it wouldn’t pose a threat to them now. There are countless little news publications popping up. No matter to aforementioned folks in the boardrooms who are playing the endgame.
Perhaps Musk should have read further in legacy media’s playbook, to the part about not throwing good money after bad. And that is really where he comes across like just another inexperienced and insensitive office manager rather than a CEO with a board of directors behind him. He’s the proverbial elephant in the room, killing morale, driving advertisers and users away, and perhaps inspiring former and current Twitter employees to plot the creation of a product that will put Twitter out of business.
Because that’s what can happen when a bad manager pisses off the employees.
On the other hand, a good manager can inspire workers to go above and beyond. I can understand legacy newspapers not caring about that kind of thing anymore. But I can’t understand how Musk can be so naive. He seems to be killing the goose before it even had a chance to lay a golden egg.
Safe to say, I think, that he is going to learn the hard way — big time.
What Musk does with Twitter will be constrained by whatever business model he comes up with. I am more curious to see what comes out of it than anything else. The only big changes may be some slack in the moderation and the addition of an “edit” button. (I might finally get to post some freehiking nudes!) Or he may pull a rabbit out of his hat and make it 100% better. Or he may run it into the ground. No judgment from me until I see the results.
Musk may be personally a nutcase but I think his business instincts are very good and he knows users are what Twitter will live or die by.
Normally, I would agree that Musk’s business instincts are good. But I think he made a huge mistake by buying Twitter and paid way too much for it. I was reading an interview with the founder of the Mastodon site today, who had this to say about Musk, among other things: “The man is not entirely comprehensible. I don’t agree with a lot of his behaviors and his decision-making. I think that buying Twitter was an impulse decision that he soon regretted. And that he basically got himself into a situation that kind of forced him to commit to the deal. And now he’s in it, and he has to deal with the fallout.”
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Well, he is high functioning autistic. It explains an awful lot.