Thursday, November 17, 2022

I have zero sympathy for insubordinate employees who are fired

This is how it started.

This is how it's ended (for now).

In the intervening 48 hours, Elon Musk reportedly fired dozens of Twitter employees who criticized him publicly on Twitter and privately in the company's Slack channel. The first to go was Eric Frohnhoefer, a Twitter engineer who publicly challenged Musk's knowledge of how the app's backend actually works. Other employees, like this one, took to Mastodon to challenge Musk's termination of Frohnhoefer in obscenity laced rants.

While Twitter is undoubtedly a colossal mess at the moment, and perhaps on the verge of collapse, its turmoil does not give employees the right to criticize the boss. That's what we call insubordination. Whether the boss is an insecure bully like Elon Musk or an effective and beloved leader like Tim Cook, insubordination is almost always grounds for termination.

The only exception would be if the employees were engaging in protected concerted activity under section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act — discussing between and among themselves wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. But insubordination isn't protected concerted activity

Compare Frohnhoefer comments, for example, to the comments of eight SpaceX employees who have filed unfair labor practice charges over their terminations. They had complained about Musk's use of Twitter to mock the settlement of a sexual harassment claim against him. That looks a lot more like protected concerted activity than individual employees challenging Musk's knowledge of the platform.

Don't get me wrong, my current favorite pastime is doomscrolling on Twitter about Twitter. But I don't work for Twitter. And I'm free to say whatever I want about its chief Twit(terer) Musk. If I worked for Musk, I'd sure be a lot more judicious over what I say about him and his company. And I don't feel badly for people who don't understand what should be common sense.