The letter labelled the CEO’s actions as a “frequent source of distraction and embarrassment”.
SpaceX employees have denounced Elon Musk’s behavior in an open letter sent within an internal company chat system. A day after the release of the document, SpaceX reportedly fired several employees who helped in its distribution.
“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 reportedly wrote to employees. “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
In the full email, published by The Verge, Shotwell said the company had “launched an investigation” into the letter and that several employees had indeed been fired.
“I am sorry for this distraction,” she wrote. “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.”
The SpaceX employees who penned the open letter said their words were a collaboration between “employees across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles.” In particular, the letter took aim at the company’s CEO and his public actions.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” they wrote. “Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us.”
“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.”
The letter continued to speak about SpaceX’s “extraordinary accomplishments” and technical achievements, which the authors said are at odds with the company’s “promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion” and claimed employees were experiencing “unequal enforcement of our oft-repeated ‘No Asshole’ and ‘Zero Tolerance’ policies.”
The document was reportedly circulated in an internal Microsoft Teams channel with over 2,600 employees. Employees were asked to sign the letter either by filling out a survey or by scanning a QR code. According to The Verge, many employees agreed with the letter, some expressing embarrassment over Musk’s tweets and behavior. The number of signatures accumulated is not known.
The letter then cited three action items, requesting time to speak through these points with the company’s executive team within the next month. These included “publicly address[ing] and condemn[ing] Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior,” asking that SpaceX “explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.” They also asked for clarification on the company’s aforementioned “No Asshole” policy and its “Zero Tolerance” sexual harassment policy.
Mashable has reached out to SpaceX for comment.
SpaceX employees have recently been told by Musk that they must spend at least 40 hours in the office, or face the prospect of unemployment. The NYT suggests that Musk has been “rarely challenged by his own workers.”
Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, recently acquired Twitter for $44 billion, in a deal which has proved to be controversial. The deal is yet to go through, with Musk stating he could not move forward until Twitter provides data regarding its cluster of fake/spam accounts; the company has said this information will be handed over. Just yesterday, Musk met Twitter employees and hinted at potential layoffs.