What derails Elon Musk's Twitter experiment might not be legislators or users, but exhausted employees rebelling against hustle culture

What derails Elon Musk's Twitter experiment might not be legislators or users, but exhausted employees rebelling against hustle culture
Elon Musk sent Twitter staff a memo on Thursday confirming job cuts would be announced on Friday.Carina Johansen/Getty Images
  • Users are quitting Twitter, and the federal government is watching it with "deep concern."
  • Elon Musk recently told employees that "bankruptcy isn't out of the question."

The chaos of the Twitter Blue rollout may be the least of new CEO Elon Musk's problems. Having a workforce that is overwhelmed, demotivated, and exhausted could be what ultimately derails the company.

That's according to workplace well-being expert Jennifer Moss, author of the 2021 bestseller titled "The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It."

"If Twitter isn't going to fall apart because of senators or legislators, their workforce is going to make it the end of Twitter because they're so exhausted," she told Insider.

This week, Musk sent a late-night email to staff telling them they must accept his vision for the company, which includes "long hours at a high intensity." The email has reportedly spurred a "mass exodus" of Twitter employees, a former Twitter executive told CNN, with many deciding to leave the company once and for all.

Moss says today's generation — many of whom have embraced quiet quitting and coasting culture and pushed back on careerism — is less responsive to the "extremely hardcore" approach Musk described. If Twitter's remaining workforce is "completely overwhelmed," she says, any chance of a turnaround will be less likely.


"There was this idea of 'This is what you do to make big change happen,'" Moss said of Musk's philosophy. "I think that there was idealism around it. But I think now, that's no longer cool or acceptable."

'Inspiration can be a buffer to burnout,' but Musk's actions are unlikely to inspire workers

Even before many employees resigned this week, users were quitting Twitter, the Federal Trade Commission was monitoring the platform "with deep concern," and its business model was on shaky ground. Musk recently told employees the "economic picture ahead is dire" and that "bankruptcy isn't out of the question." In response to this predicament, the CEO has been asking his remaining workforce to work "round the clock" to keep the company afloat, with some employees working 84-hour weeks and even resorting to sleeping at the office.

Moss says it's not uncommon for companies to ask employees to take on extra work when they face tough times, but when this happens, she says it's important for leaders to find ways to keep their workforce engaged and motivated.

"Inspiration can be a buffer to burnout," she said, but Musk "lacks that kind of inspiration, and lacks that kind of humanity and empathy" that are needed to inspire.

Perhaps this kind of approach would have been more effective decades ago, Moss says, but many of today's workers aren't receptive to it. In response to burnout, many young Americans, for instance, have decided to join the Great Resignation rather than work in a culture that doesn't suit them.


Still, even though many disgruntled Twitter employees have quit, Moss says some are likely to stick around.

"Young professionals have student debt, or maybe you're a single income earner, or maybe you're a visible minority and that it's not as easy to move to another company, so you stick it out," she said. "It's going to be those people that don't have the privilege to quit that are stuck back there, forced to be sleeping overnight to keep their jobs."

But regardless of how hard Twitter's remaining employees work to avoid layoffs and move the company forward, being subjected to a challenging environment may eventually take its toll on their job performance, leaving Elon Musk with a workforce that continues to disappoint him.

"It's really interesting to watch as a social experiment right now," Moss said.