The internet is abuzz with Twitter’s latest exodus, all a result of Elon Musk’s USD $44 billion purchase of the social media company a week ago. The #LoveWhereYouWorked hashtag has been blowing up with thousands of now-former employees shedding light on how the mass retrenchment went down and what they’re leaving behind.

What happened?

Twitter employees had all but a night’s notice before some thousand employees all around the world found themselves retrenched when they couldn’t sign into their corporate accounts and company laptops the next morning. 

Twitter #Oneteam

Image credit: Karen Zapata

And while Musk has spoken about mass layoffs prior to his successful acquisition of the company, the news still came as a shock to employees who weren’t given ample notice or reason at all. In fact, employees were finding out about the uncertainty of their employment at the same time as the news was being publicly unravelled.

Twitter Mass Layoffs

Two emails that had been sent out to all Twitter employees.
Image credit: Tim Pool

In what many call the employment lottery, those “safe” and those “fired” were all sent standard emails regarding their fate. The only difference being that those laid off didn’t even get the courtesy of seeing that final email in their inbox, they were straight-up exiled with all access to confidential information barred.

Employees who had spent close to a decade working for the company were also notified in the same “dehumanising” manner. The ripple of layoffs also affected Twitter employees in Singapore, with some of them tweeting about having been part of the 50% to be cut.

Twitter Mass Layoffs

A now-former Twitter employee from the Singapore headquarters mentioned that she was fired on 5th Nov.
Image credit: Candice Chen

The company culture that took decades to build

The affected employees took to Twitter feeds in droves, but instead of cursing the man behind it all, they did quite the opposite: they showed their gratitude for having had the best time of their corporate lives and the opportunity to work alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry. It’s clear to see that Tweeps had something special – and that’s great company culture.

Twitter Mass Layoffs

Image credit: Julie Steele

The #OneTeam hashtag doesn’t vilify Elon Musk for ruining the lives of some 4,000 people, but it celebrates all that Twitter was, and the friendships that have been built over the years. This is pretty outstanding given the fact that these ex-employees weren’t even given an ounce of the respect they deserved in this retrenchment scenario.

Twitter #Oneteam

One laid-off employee even tweeted his handover to anyone who was still in his department, which speaks volumes of the work ethic Twitter has cultivated.
Image credit: JohannMG

Why is company culture so important? Great company culture, in most cases, equates to highly motivated employees who share the same values and are working to bring the company forward towards a common goal. On top of that, you also benefit from greater employee retention, which in turn leads to higher productivity, lower costs and a pretty good brand image.

The repercussions of mass layoffs

The glaring takeaway here is just how devastating a business acquisition and a change in management can have on existing employees and company culture. In the case of Twitter, the move to fire most of the executive committee and over 3,000 employees worldwide has decimated Twitter’s company culture, which has taken more than a decade to build.

Unstable environment and low morale

The mass layoffs bring with them a drop in morale that may forever impact the remaining employees at Twitter. Moreover, these “lucky ones” that remain employed now have to deal with a lingering sense of guilt, knowing that their retrenched co-workers deserved to stay.

Then there’s the burgeoning instability and fear that comes from knowing that they could lose their jobs at any time because the company’s new management hasn’t shown that they care about its people, but profit.

Lower productivity

With 50% of the company’s headcount gone, management probably still expects the show to go on. What we can foresee is an emotionally scarred group of employees who will face burn-out in the near future if performance targets are not modified accordingly.

And in the event that the company realises they’ve “over-fired”, they’ll have to dedicate more cost and manpower to rehiring talents to replace the perfectly good workers they decided to let go.

No employee loyalty towards the company

Twitter #Oneteam

Image credit: Ron DeVera

I think we can all agree that the manner in which the layoffs were handled was distasteful. You can almost expect another wave of resignations in the weeks to come as existing employees grapple with what is left of their work teams and the uncertainty of the future.

We speak to Matthew, a Chief Human Resources Officer in an SME, who has expressed that “Layoffs should be the absolute last resort for a struggling company. The fact that mass layoffs of that scale happened days after a change in ownership, meant that the intention may be more sinister. Perhaps to drastically alter culture (via new leaders), or even just sending a stern message to the employees about what is expected of the new owner – both of which I feel are unjustified and unethical. There are many instances where integration is better managed and most do not have as many casualties.”

The Twitter Layoff saga

It is unfortunate that what started as a tussle for “free speech” involving one very prominent individual has resulted in the disruption of so many lives just 6 months down the road. If there are lessons to be learnt here, it is that a company is responsible for the livelihoods of their employees, and retrenchment should be handled with tact and compassion.

With meta’s recent announcement of impending layoffs, we can only hope it’s all executed way better than it was at Twitter.

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Cover image adapted from: juanshishido


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