The message from SpaceX bosses to their worker drones humiliated by CEO Elon Musk’s recent, seemingly endless array of decreasingly amusing antics was clear: Elon can do whatever Elon wants!
On Thursday, the private rocket company fired “a number of” employees responsible for drafting and disseminating an open letter denouncing Musk’s behavior of late as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us,” and calling for internal changes—including an examination of SpaceX’s zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy.
Musk, of course, is a highly vocal, self-proclaimed proponent of free speech, and is well known for his off-the-wall, immature and sometimes crass tweets, which the letter-writers listed as a pain point.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, was faster than one of Musk’s low-earth orbiters is destroying all that pesky dissent. The SpaceX enforcer responded to the loose cogs’ concerns in an email obtained by the New York Times stating that an investigation had been launched and that she had “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter.
Apparently, Shotwell feels that plenty of employees are not at all mortified by the things Musk says and does.
“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,” she wrote. “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
Shotwell added, “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.”
The employees who drafted the open letter—who described themselves as “across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles have collaborated on”—asked other employees to sign on to its suggestions, which included that SpaceX “swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand” and “hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone.” While they’re at it, the workers would like the company to “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior”.
The letter came on the heels of bizarre allegations of aerial misconduct against Musk, supposedly involving the SpaceX leader and a SpaceX flight attendant, with Musk eventually—allegedly—offering to buy that employee a horse.
In emails to Tesla executives and SpaceX employees earlier this month, Musk pushed for a return to the office, writing that the targeted employees at both companies must spend 40 hours a week on-site or be fired.
“The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence,” Musk wrote, according to the Times.
Musk, the world’s richest human, is also pursuing a $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, and participated in an all-hands question-and-answer session with 8,000 Twitter employees on Thursday. He revealed lofty goals for the social media platform, saying that he hoped to quadruple the number of people using Twitter to one billion worldwide.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.