Several SpaceX employees that criticized CEO Elon Musk found themselves on the receiving end of a pink slip.
A number of employees wrote an open letter to SpaceX executives expressing concern with the Tesla CEO’s behavior, particularly on Twitter. After asking the SpaceX execs to “condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior,” the company turned around and fired them instead.
The news comes only a day after Forbes’ richest man met with Twitter employees and repeated his claim that he wants Twitter to be an open platform for free speech.
Elon Musk Criticism Results In Numerous SpaceX Employees Receiving A Pink Slip
The open letter was first reported by The Verge. In the letter, the employees describe Musk’s behavior as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks.” The employees took things one step further when they cited SpaceX’s “No A–hole” policy and asks the company to “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior.”
The letter stated: “As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values.”
On Thursday afternoon, The New York Times reported that multiple employees who had written the letter were fired after SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent out an email criticizing the open letter.
In the email, Shotwell admits that SpaceX “terminated a number of employees involved” in writing the open letter.
“The letter, solicitations, and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views,” Shotwell alleged, adding, “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
One employee who wrote the letter and asked The Verge to remain anonymous said that the general consensus among other employees was that Shotwell’s email was “tone-deaf.” The employee also said that the letter was crafted over a “month of dedicated hard work and soliciting feedback to try and make sure we got as much input as possible.”
The Verge also published Shotwell’s email sent out to SpaceX employees, which can be read in full below.
Read The Full SpaceX Email From Gwynne Shotwell Regarding Employee Termination
Here is the full email that Shotwell sent out to SpaceX employees after the firing, as published in The Verge.
“You may have received an unsolicited request from a small group of SpaceX employees for your signature on an ‘open letter’ yesterday and your participation in a related survey. Based on diverse employee feedback, this has upset many. That is, the letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views. Employees also complained that it interfered with their ability to focus on and do their work. We have 3 launches within 37 hours for critical satellites this weekend, we have to support the astronauts we delivered to the ISS and get cargo Dragon back to the flight-ready, and after receiving environmental approval early this week, we are on the cusp of the first orbital launch attempt of Starship. We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism — our current leadership team is more dedicated to ensuring we have a great and ever-improving work environment than any I have seen in my 35-year career.”
“We solicit and expect our employees to report all concerns to their leadership, senior management, HR, or Legal. But blanketing thousands of people across the company with repeated unsolicited emails and asking them to sign letters and fill out unsponsored surveys during the work day is not acceptable, goes against our documented handbook policy, and does not show the strong judgment needed to work in this very challenging space transportation sector. We performed an investigation and have terminated a number of employees involved.”
“I am sorry for this distraction. Please stay focused on the SpaceX mission, and use your time at work to do your best work. This is how we will get to Mars.”