Science & Tech

Elon Musk publicly humiliates employee who asks if he's been sacked

Elon Musk Reclaims Title of Richest Person in the World

Normally when you lose your job your employer has the good grace to tell you. But that unwritten rule apparently doesn’t apply when you work at Twitter.

Days after having access to his work computer cut and following numerous unanswered emails, one worker was forced to directly tweet Elon Musk asking him a seemingly straightforward question: had he been sacked?

Rather than answer it, or get his HR team to do so, Musk decided to publicly put the man through the wringer – subjecting him to a brutal tweet exchange which included a pair of “rolling on the floor laughing” emojis.

The thread has been branded “disgraceful” by thousands of users, who have condemned Musk as the “worst boss ever”.

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In the original tweet, senior product designer Halli Thorleifsson wrote: “Dear [Elon Musk], 9 days ago the access to my work computer was cut, along with about 200 other Twitter employees. However, your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You've not answered my emails. Maybe if enough people retweet you'll answer me here?”

The platform’s infamous boss replied curtly: “What work have you been doing?” before proceeding to engage in a back-and-forth that reads like a live job interview, with questions including: “What changes did you make to help with the youths?” and infantile comments like: “Pics or it didn’t happen”.

Here's an overview of their jaw-dropping dialogue:

Critics of Musk’s approach came in thick and fast, with one writing: “It’s easy to forget that we’re not reading the script of a comedy but of an actual person whose livelihood is on the line and being treated like a punchline for online trolling.”

Another pointed out: “The dude wasn’t even trying to justify his job or begging to keep it. He just wanted to know if he was really fired or not. My god.”

Meanwhile, many commentators noted that it was surprising Musk apparently didn’t know who Thorleifsson was, given that he sold his creative design agency, Ueno to Twitter in early 2021 and, as part of the acquisition became a full-time employee for the platform.

One Twitter user succinctly summed up his position as follows: "That dude is one of the most respected designers in the world, so much so Twitter acquired his company just to have him in-house."

So the question now is, was he fired or not?

And the answer, inevitably, is yes.

In an interview with the BBC, Thorleifsson confirmed that following his public duel with Musk, Twitter’s HR department sent him an email confirming he had, indeed, been given the boot.

The Icelandic designer also told the news site about his fears regarding the contract he signed with Twitter when he sold them his company, in light of Musk’s behaviour.

"This is extremely stressful. This is my retirement fund, a way to take care of myself and my family as my disease progresses. Having the richest man in the world on the other end of this, potentially refusing to stand by contracts is not easy for me to accept," he said.

Thorleifsson explained that one of the reasons he decided to sell is that he has muscular dystrophy, meaning his “body is slowly but surely failing” him.

"I have a few good work years left in me so this was a way to wrap up my company, and set up myself and my family for years when I won't be able to do as much," he said.

Did we mention Musk has been branded the “world’s worst boss” and an “absolute scumbag”? – a Twitter user’s words. Not ours…

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