People who have worked for Elon Musk often describe him as a difficult boss and impossible to please. It appears things were taken to another level when he took over Twitter and began managing a company in an industry he’s unfamiliar with.
“Elon has an exceptional talent for tackling hard physics-based problems, but products that facilitate human connection and communication require a different type of social-emotional intelligence,” wrote Esther Crawford, a former Twitter product manager, in a lengthy tweet yesterday (July 26) sharing her experience working at the social media company. Crawford is the founder of Squad, a screen-sharing social app acquired by Twitter in 2020. Following the acquisition, Crawford joined Twitter as a product manager and oversaw various projects, including Twitter Blue under Musk.
Crawford drew a lot of media attention in November 2022 for posting a (now deleted) photo of herself sleeping on the floor in the office. “When your team is pushing round the clock to make deadlines sometimes you #SleepWhereYouWork,” she tweeted at the time. But three months later, in February, she and her entire team were fired. In her post, Crawford said she was very disappointed at Twitter’s “siloed and bureaucratic” corporate environment when she first joined the company and was “cautiously optimistic” when Musk came along.
“I saw him as the guy who built incredible and enduring companies like Tesla and SpaceX, so perhaps his private ownership could shake things up and breathe new life into the company,” she wrote. But Crawford soon found herself puzzled and frustrated by Musk’s unpredictable personality and erratic decision-making style.
“His personality and demeanor can turn on a dime going from excited to angry,” she wrote. “Since it was hard to read what mood he might be in and what his reaction would be to any given thing, people quickly became afraid of being called into meetings or having to share negative news with him.”
Crawford observed Musk made almost all business decisions based on his instinct instead of data and outside expertise like a reasonable manager would.
“His lack of process and empathy is painful…I believed I had useful institutional knowledge that could help him make better decisions,” she wrote. “Instead he’d poll Twitter, ask a friend, or even ask his biographer for product advice. At times it seemed he trusted random feedback more than the people in the room who spent their lives dedicated to tackling the problem at hand.”
Musk fired 75 percent of Twitter’s staff, about 5,000 people, in the months following his acquisition of the company. Crawford said “it was the best gift” when she was told she got laid off.