Poisoned chalice? | HR is the reason Elon Musk will struggle to find a successor

HR is the reason Elon Musk will struggle to find a successor

It should be little surprise that within the HR community, Elon Musk’s takeover of social media giant Twitter serves as an almost ideal case study of what not to do as a leader.

We’ve all seen the innumerable headlines about threatening emails, redundancies, restructures, the expectation to work almost all the hours in the day, beds being installed in the offices of long-gone executives and meeting rooms. To put it lightly, Twitter’s culture is in total shambles, and one man is almost entirely responsible.

This isn’t to say that Twitter wasn’t problematic before Musk took over. Like most companies, especially in the post-start-up tech space, Twitter had its fair share of issues that needed addressing. However, under Musk, any semblance of a culture-centric or HR-compliant workplace went out of the window.

Yet for musk, the biggest shock came when public opinion of his leadership of the intensely-visible company seemed to turn. Calls for his resignation both inside and outside of Twitter’s ranks seemingly outshone those who applauded his efforts.

This culminated in the now infamous poll Musk himself tweeted, asking his followers if he should depart, or stay on. He promised to abide by the outcome, and more than 57% of voted for the ‘quit’ option.

Therein started a new mission to find a replacement willing to take on the – excuse my curtness – dumpster fire of executive management left in his wake.

Twitter is still a hugely influential company. By Musk’s own evaluation, the firm has a net worth of $44billion. Without Musk at the helm, executives from around the globe may have been clamouring to take the open role.

However, as Forbes’ Jena McGregor recently opined, working for “a mercurial billionaire who says and does exactly as he pleases, acting on whims and flip-flopping on policies,” doesn’t sound too great.

And then, of course, there’s the HR angle to consider. Musk has effectively decimated any hopes of a robust internal culture that may have existed at Twitter. Good culture, and the investment of your employees is incredibly hard to gain, and incredibly easy to lose. What can take decades to hone can be undone within a day.

We now live in a world in which HR strategy is tantamount to overall strategy. We understand the power of our people, and their wellbeing. Remote working, flexible working, inclusion, reward and benefits – these things are the driving fuel of a successful company. If you need proof, just consider the innumerable HR leaders who have found themselves with a key seat at the table within the past decade.

For whomever may choose to take on the debatably poisoned chalice, they’ll be starting not just from scratch, but in the red. The road to gaining the confidence of Twitter’s staff, to gaining valuable talent and retaining them, will be a long and hard one. That’s if it happens at all.

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