With those words, tweeted just after 8 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday, Twitter CEO Elon Musk dismissed a veteran engineer who had publicly questioned his new boss. It took roughly five hours for the company to disable Eric Frohnhoefer’s access to his company-issued laptop.
When Forbes reached Frohnhoefer by phone on Monday afternoon from his home in San Diego, the engineer said he had received no formal communications from the company at all about his sudden dismissal.
“Nope, nothing,” he said. “They’re all a bunch of cowards.”
That Twitter’s new CEO is firing veteran rank-and-file engineers on a whim, in public, is indicative of the unconventional approach that Musk has taken to running the company.
In the few weeks since Musk bought Twitter, he has summarily fired the previous executive team, and laid off an estimated 50 percent of the company’s workforce. He has instituted a botched plan to have users pay $8 for a “verified” account, with no procedure in place for actual verification. With impersonation plaguing the accounts of public figures and companies, some large advertisers including General Mills and Volvo pulled their dollars from the platform. All the while, Musk continues to tweet, acting as both the company’s chaos agent, and its self-proclaimed white knight.
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The spat between Musk and Frohnhoefer began when Musk tweeted Sunday morning that he wanted to “apologize for Twitter being super slow in many countries.”
Just a few hours later, Frohnhoefer tweeted back: “I have spent ~6yrs working on Twitter for Android and can say this is wrong.”
The two got in a back-and-forth in a public Twitter thread over technical issues concerning the Android app’s performance, with Musk at one point asking on Sunday afternoon: “Twitter is super slow on Android. What have you done to fix that?”
Later that day, after another user chimed in on the thread to admonish Frohnhoefer for criticizing Musk in public, Frohnhoefer responded: “Maybe he should ask questions privately. Maybe using Slack or email.”
Then on Monday morning, at 8:01 a.m. Pacific Time, a third user piped up: “with this kind of attitude, you probably don’t want this guy on your team.”
“How can you function? Employees don’t trust the new management. Management doesn’t trust the employees.”
Just one minute later, Musk threw down the gauntlet – “he’s fired” – and Frohnhoefer responded with a saluting emoji.
Frohnhoefer, 41, who has been with the company for over eight years, said the end came rather abruptly, right around 1 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday afternoon.
“My laptop just shut off and now I can’t get back into it,” he said.
Frohnhoefer said he didn’t have a strong opinion of Musk prior to his arrival at Twitter, characterizing himself as being in the “wait-and-see camp.” But, since the new regime, “it’s gone downhill,” Frohnhoefer noted.
“No one trusts anyone within the company anymore,” he said. “How can you function? Employees don’t trust the new management. Management doesn’t trust the employees. How do you think you’re supposed to get anything done? That’s why there’s production freezes – you can’t merge code, you can’t turn things on without permission from VPs.”
The San Diegan added that he remains “concerned” for the near-future of the company, particularly given how its top leadership treats employees.
Before Musk took over, he said, “people were more open and felt that they could criticize and now that’s clearly not the case,” he said.
In a separate part of the Twitter thread before the firing, Musk said early Monday that he has “been at Twitter SF HQ all night. Will be working & sleeping here until org is fixed.”
Twitter, which has disbanded its public relations department since Musk’s takeover, did not respond to Forbes’ request for comment. Similarly, Musk himself did not respond to a request for comment by email.