Nearly everything about Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of social media company Twitter has been out of the ordinary, experts say.
From the billionaire’s solo purchase of the company to a slew of personnel changes made within days of the Oct. 27 acquisition, it’s “definitely an anomaly,” said Ayesha Whyte, attorney and chief people officer at human resources and law firm Dixon Whyte LLC.
Typically, there is a leadership shakeup after a company is purchased, but those executives are saddled with golden parachutes that carry them until their next gig, Whyte said. Meanwhile, there are reports Musk fired top executives for cause, which could strip them of severance payouts.
If Musk is willing to open himself up to lawsuits from C-suite leaders with the “means and wherewithal to sue,” he likely would treat other employees with fewer resources the same way, Whyte said.
“That’s why there's so much anxiety about this,” Whyte said.
Twitter could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a merger and acquisition situation, the best way to avoid employees panicking is by delivering open and frequent communication, said Thom Fladung, managing partner at crisis communications firm Hennes Communications.
“People panic when they think they're being lied to; they panic when they think you don’t know what's going on,” Fladung said.
Even if there is uncertainty, being upfront about it and admitting what you don’t know is better than pretending “you’ve got it,” when you don’t, Fladung said.
Communication should start internally, then move external, he said. And it should be frequent with employees. Even when there isn’t news to report, giving workers regular updates during a time of turmoil can “give them a little slice of certainty in uncertain times,” Fladung said.
Musk, however, on Sunday tweeted criticism of an auto-generated email from Twitter’s human resources department inviting him to take part in a company management course. The email, in part, read, “M101 covers what it means to be a good manager at Twitter by showing you how to create opportunities for impact, help your Tweeps grow their careers and demonstrate care for your team.”
Just received this email from Twitter. This is an actual, real email that was autogenerated ???????? pic.twitter.com/7DQp4sNINX— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 30, 2022
Harley Lippman, CEO of staffing firm Genesis10, said Twitter employees are “highly desirable” and are probably getting offers from other companies.
“If you are a recruiting agency and you hear of any turbulence at a company, you tend to go after those employees,” said Lippman, who is an investor in Musk and his Twitter venture. “These are skilled workers that are going to hit the job markets.”
Whyte said it’s important not to lose the “critical knowledge of those working there for years” during an acquisition.
“Him becoming CEO happened very quickly, and he’s making a lot of business decisions, not keeping in mind the people who need to implement those changes,” Whyte said. “Elon is at a place where he doesn't know who does what at his company. If they leave, he doesn’t know how to replace them. Knowledge management in tech is paramount.”