Expert comment: Elon Musk's method of cultural change at Twitter

Categories: Salford Business School

Dr Jonathan Lord, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Employment Law at University of Salford Business School, shares his thoughts on Elon Musk's method of cultural change at Twitter. The comments come in tandem with Musk's recent Twitter poll, which led to the vast majority of respondents voting for him to step down as CEO from the social media giant.

Elon Musk’s recent poll on Twitter is far from a cry for publicity, but a blueprint for the crisis he has created at the social media giant - replicating what he did at Tesla and SpaceX. Musk has developed a formula for managing these companies through uncertain times, utilising shock treatment and alarmism that creates a culture of uniformity.

As with his previous companies facing difficulties, he has placed 50% of Twitter’s 7,500 employees at risk of redundancy and, as he has famously done previously, is now sleeping at Twitter’s offices in San Francisco. Informing Twitter’s workers that the company could go bankrupt if he wasn’t able to turn it around is the kind of mission-driven language that he has used previously to instigate innovation and change.

Achieving this cultural shift at Twitter will be more difficult as workers there are motivated by a different ethos, in comparison to those galvanised workers wanting to move consumers away from traditional powered cars or to populate other planets. Musk’s tactic has been to literally transform the workforce rather than the culture itself, which can be an easier method of changing organisational culture. When there has been a high labour turnover and undercurrent of job losses, leaders know that workers will ‘toe the line’ and eventually, despite initial resistance, conform to the overall mission.

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