February 9, 2023

To most people outside of Silicon Valley, it seems obvious that Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter is an unmitigated disaster.

Less than two months after taking office, Musk fired more than half of Twitter’s employees, scaring away many of its major advertisersMade (and didn’t make) a series of ill-advised changes to its verification process, angered regulators and politicians with erratic and offensive tweets, declared a brief war on Apple, made a case for the bizarre “Twitter file” “Exposure given the green light to stop paying rent for Twitter’s offices, and falsely accused the company’s former trust and safety chief Support pedophiles.His personal wealth has shrunk billions of dollarshe is Get booed at Dave Chappelle’s show.

It’s not a good thing for him in almost any way. One group, however, remains firmly behind Mr. Musk: the bosses.

In recent weeks, many tech executives, founders and investors have expressed their admiration for Mr. Musk, despite the billionaire’s Twitter tantrums.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, praise mr musk At the New York Times DealBook conference late last month, he was called “the bravest and most creative person on the planet.”

Gavin Baker, private equity investor, recently claimed Many VC-backed CEOs are “inspired by Elon.”

Several partners at the influential venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz tweeted similar praise Mr. Musk’s management style.

Some elite cheerleading may come down to class solidarity, or outright economic gain. (Andreessen Horowitz, for example, invested $400 million in Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.) Some of this may reflect the goodwill left by Mr. Musk after his success at Tesla and SpaceX.

But when I’ve called senior executives and influential investors in Silicon Valley over the past few weeks, I’ve been amazed by how many are backing Mr. Musk — even if they won’t publicly admit it.

Defenders of Mr. Musk point out that despite losing thousands of employees, Twitter has not collapsed or gone offline as some critics had predicted. They see his tough management style as a necessary corrective, and they believe he will eventually pay off with cost-cutting and laws.

“He said what a lot of CEOs wished they could say, and then he did,” said Roy Bahat, a Bloomberg Beta venture capitalist.

Bahart has criticized some of Mr Musk’s moves, describing his tenure at Twitter as a “living natural experiment” — a controversial but illuminating window into how other executives might be able to get away with it if they tried .

“He made people understand more about what was possible,” he said.

The tech elite does not support Mr. Musk simply because they like him personally, or because they agree with his anti-awakening political campaign. (Although there are some.)

Kevin Roose and Casey Newton are the hosts of Hard Fork, a podcast that provides insight into the rapidly changing world of technology. Subscribe and listen.

Instead, they saw him as the standard-bearer of an emerging worldview they hoped would spread more widely in Silicon Valley.

writer john gantz already called This worldview “bossism” – the belief that the people who build and run important tech companies have ceded too much power to the entitled, lazy, overly sober people who work for them, and they need to start taking it back.

In Mr. Ganz’s telling, key proponents of Silicon Valley bossism — including Mr. Musk and financiers Mark Anderson and Peter Thiel — are seizing an opportunity to shift the tech industry’s culture sharply to the right, shifting left-wing workers and Worker sympathizers pushed to the bottom. Pinned while restoring themselves and their bosses to their rightful place atop the totem pole.

Some Musk sympathizers do see things in such a blunt, political way. For example, author and crypto founder Antonio García Martínez cheer Mr Musk’s takeover of Twitter was a “venture capital rebellion” against the “ESG scammers” and “skippers” who occupy rank-and-file employees at companies like Twitter.

But while some tech CEOs may blame their problems on a sleeper group of gender studies majors, many of Mr Musk’s elite fans cling to a more straightforward business-school-style bossism. They admire him for ruling Twitter with an iron fist and taking all kinds of moves that tech executives resist for fear of alienating employees — laying off staff, stripping perks, punishing internal dissidents, resisting diversity and inclusion efforts, and forcing employees to Back to the corporate office.

These bosses argue that a booming tech industry and talent shortages have forced many chief executives to make unreasonable concessions over the past decade or so. They spoil workers with perks like big meals and kombucha. They agree to use workplace chat apps like Slack, which flatten office hierarchies and give junior employees a way to directly challenge leadership. They go out of their way to accommodate workers’ demands—DEI workshops, flexible remote work policies, company wellness days—to keep them happy and prevent them from jumping ship to a competitor.

Then Elon Musk showed up on Twitter and refused to do anything. Instead of trying to curry favor with Twitter employees, Mr Musk fired many of them and dared others to resign – forcing them to prove they were “extremely hardcore” if they wanted to keep their jobs. He’s done some of this before at his other companies. But at Twitter, he does it all in full publicity, using his Twitter account as a stick to keep his employees in line.

Twitter’s former leaders steeped in the conciliatory style of boom-time management, fostering an atmosphere of open debate and discussion — one of the company’s core values ​​is “communicating fearlessly to build trust” — but Mr. Musk Replace absolute loyalty with a culture. He publicly abused Twitter employees and fired anyone who criticized him. He’s especially dismissive of the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts — mocking an old “Stay Woke” T-shirt found in a Twitter closet and disbanding the company’s employee resource groups (including groups for black, LGBTQ and women employees) .

To many, Mr Musk’s actions appeared to be a case study in how not to run a company. But for some Silicon Valley elites, they were like a bolt of lightning — the answer to a long-awaited question, “What if we only treated workers … worse?”

Bosses may disagree with every move Mr. Musk makes, but many of them think he’s right about the big picture. Tech companies are bloated and inefficient. Waking up to HR has gone too far. Workers should stop being activists and focus on doing their jobs well.

Mr. Musk is not the first tech leader to express these views. Companies like Coinbase, Kraken, and Basecamp have tried to limit employee activism in recent years, with questionable results. (recent, Yuan Ban Workers Avoid discussing “destructive” topics such as abortion and gun rights on workplace forums. )

The difference now is the context. For the first time in nearly 20 years, economic pressures have slashed profits in the tech industry, and companies that once went out of their way to keep their workers happy are changing course and laying off workers. Executives whose stock prices fell declared themselves “wartime chief executivewhile workers who a year ago could have credibly threatened to quit their jobs in exchange for easier jobs are now working their ass off.

All of this has shifted influence from workers to bosses.

“When the job market relaxes, management’s focus on employee aspirations—whether it’s workplace perks or a better DEI—wants, simply because they have less need to offer those things to recruit or retain,” Historian says Margaret O’Mara. A professor at the University of Washington who has written about labor culture in Silicon Valley.

In other words, Mr. Musk picked the right moment to start managing the revolution. Now, here comes the question: How many bosses will follow him into the fire?

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