Episode 307: Elon Musk Strikes Again

Today, we have a special episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! for you! Paul read about Elon Musk’s latest Twitter adventure, screamed “He did WHAT?!”, and quickly gathered CEDR’s Director of Compliance Jennie McLaughlin and Content & Education Curator Amanda Rishor to discuss the situation.

Although you might have already known about advanced HR tactics like “Don’t fire your employees but not tell them” and “Don’t publicly mock your disabled employees over Twitter in front of billions of people”, there’s a lot of other interesting HR stuff going on in this situation that many people might not have realized. Listen now to get the details and learn how “The World’s Smartest Man” got pretty much everything wrong with this one.


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 

Amanda: Hello. 

Paul: Hey.

Jennie: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda: Hi, Jenny.

Paul: Seemed like I’ve been dragged down here for this.

Amanda: You have? And it’s blowing up on the Internet right now, and we have to talk about it because everyone in the h.R. World is, you know, jumping at their seats right now.

Paul: It is our job to be on the cutting edge of H.R. cutting edge. So, wait, wait. Before we start, I just want to comment on the fact that Jenny’s here with me from the solutions center from Cedar Solutions Center. She’s wearing some really kickass red boots.

Amanda: She is.

Paul: And kicked out Mopsy. Her dog is sitting in her lap right now. He’s in red.

Jennie: Yeah.

Paul: So I feel so coordinated. Yeah.

Jennie: I mean, I did coordinate.

Paul: It’s very.

Jennie: I made a decision about what shoes to wear based on what Mopsy was wearing today.

Paul: Oh, nice.

Amanda: Stay tuned. For the podcast. Has a video element to it. You’ll be able to see this and see.

Jennie: The ridiculous outfits we wear.

Paul: OK, so I hate I don’t love talking about this human being, but.

Amanda: None of us do, but just the sheer insanity of it all. OK, so we have an employee of Twitter So obviously Elon Musk’s company. Well, his company now. He supposedly was reaching out because his computer got locked and he was wondering, did I get fired? What’s happening in my soul? An employee.

Paul: The employee.

Amanda: The employee reached out. He reached out to the well, first he reached out not on Twitter. He reached out to like the H.R. department. Elon was not getting any responses.

Paul: He reached out to the department at Twitter, at the company that he works for and got no reply. And his question was, hey, do I still have a job? I’m locked out. So. So problem number one. Yeah.

Amanda: And we’re going to read those tweets because that’s when it pretty much blew up. Right.

Paul: As I saw it. I saw it last night. It was interesting.

Amanda: So the employee said, Dear Elon Musk, nine days ago, the access to my work computer was cut along with about 200 other Twitter employees. However, your head of H.R. is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You’ve not answered my emails. Maybe even if people retweet, you’ll answer me here. Elon responded 4 hours after he initially tweeted, What work have you been doing?

Amanda: So I love that. Great response.

Paul: Well, I’m locked out for nine days, so.

Jennie: No, no, no. If I’m an employee, what should I be doing?

Paul: Hey, no work, Captain Brainiac, because I’m locked out of my computer. See, first tweet.

Amanda: But a good reply. He says, I would need to break confidentiality to answer this question here. If you have your lawyer share in writing that I can do that, then I’d be happy to discuss this openly.

Paul: I like this employee a lot.

Jennie: He’s great.

Paul: He’s getting.

Amanda: Better. Yeah. You didn’t find him stupid. Exactly right.

Paul: He doesn’t sound like the idiot that he’s being treated like. Let’s keep going.

Amanda: Elon response. It’s approved. You go ahead.

Paul: You go right ahead. Okay. There you go. All right. So what did he say?

Amanda: So he responds in a two part tweet. Among others led the effort to save about 500 K on SARS contract, supported closing down many others. Led prioritization of design projects. Across the company to make sure we were able to deliver with a small team. And goes on to list a bunch of other things, and I won’t read them.

Amanda: Elon responds with three bullet points. Level up from what? Design to what? Pixar didn’t happen. We haven’t hired designers in four months. What changes did you make to help with the youth?

Paul: OK.

Amanda: The youth. We love that.

Paul: The user is a young man. Young people, I guess.

Jennie: Youth.

Paul: It’s got to be something else. I’m OK. Yeah.

Amanda: I don’t know.

Paul: With the kids.

Amanda: And then he, Elon responded with an additional tweet. Would you say that you’re a people person? And then a YouTube video of a meme from a show. OK, so we love that.

Jennie: I don’t think Elon’s a people person.

Amanda: And then Elon keeps firing off and he goes. The reality is that this guy who is independently wealthy did no actual work and claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm. But was he fired? No. You can’t be fired if you weren’t working in the first place.

Amanda: And then the employee response at this point, again, he goes on to talk about his past. So he was really involved with the startup of a company that Twitter ended up adopting, and that’s how he came on board of Twitter, as far as I understand. Then he’s been.

Paul: Can I just add, please, that they bought this company?

Amanda: That’s what it is.

Paul: Yeah. So they purchased so that’s what some of these tech companies do is when they see a piece of technology that would just take them forever to design, build or it’s protected, like it’s got some kind of patent or something on it, then they’ll go in and they’ll buy the company. And that’s what occurred here. They purchased this gentleman’s software and incorporate I guess, parts of it into the Twitter platform.

Jennie: And just another just note about how Elon apparently owns a tech company, but never heard of voice to text technology. Right. Like you can’t type, therefore it’s impossible. You could tweet.

Amanda: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Paul: Especially work or whatever. Yeah. And of course, I mean, one of the first things I just want to say here, are we done with his tweets? We have a.

Amanda: Little bit more.

Paul: Okay. Go ahead. And this is.

Amanda: The relevant part. So he mentioned the employee mentioned during my time at the new Twitter or Twitter to point out, as you called it, I talk to my manager every week and I said I should be focusing on then proceeded to focus on that. He also mentioned he contacted H.R. regularly and asked if his job description was correct or needed updating.

Amanda: He wanted to make sure he was doing what you’re supposed to do. Then, you know, his computer gets locked out. So he’s saying, but as I told H.R., I’m assuming that’s the confidential health information you are sharing. I can’t work as a hands-on designer for the reasons outlined above. I’m typing this on my phone, by the way.

Amanda: It’s easier because I only need to use one finger. I hope that helps. Let me know if you’re going to pay me what you owe me. I think you can afford it. OK, the end of that.

Paul: So the background here is he sold the company. The gentleman that we’re talking to. The gentleman. The employee or ex employee. We don’t have any idea because apparently.

Amanda: Neither does Elon.

Paul: Well, Twitter doesn’t have an H.R. department.

Amanda: Oh, yeah.

Paul: I mean, so just if anybody wants to claim that they’ve worked at Twitter, now’s the time to do that, because no one.

Jennie: Can verify.

Paul: It. No one can verify against you. So I’m just putting that out there in the podcast. Just, you could be head of whatever. Just make yourself that me. Just put it in the resume because nobody there is going to come to reply or reply accurately. The guy is up in the north in Iceland, I think.

Amanda: Yeah. He’s a remote employee.

Paul: Who’s a remote employee in Iceland. He’s also, I believe, been voted Iceland’s man of the year.

Amanda: He was 22.

Paul: Yeah. So what he did was he, he, he asked for the $100 million that he was owed to be paid to him in salary a little bit at a time which actually works against him because he’s having to pay more payroll tax to do all sorts of things that pay taxes in Iceland. And the reason why I think if I, if I read this properly is the reason why he was voted man of the Year is because he very publicly did this and said I’d rather pay the taxes because of what this country has done for me.

Paul: Yeah. And my disability and everything else that’s been going on with me.

Amanda: He’s a good human.

Paul: He’s a good human. Based on, you know, just based on who he is and lucky, you know, not all of us get to sell a piece of our company to Twitter or do all those things. But there are penalties here built into his agreement. And I think that’s what he’s kind of poking Elon in the neck with right now, which is when he asks, I hope you’re going to pay me if they breach this agreement with him.

Paul: They owe him all of it in one lump sum immediately. Oh, and I don’t know if you guys know or not, but the richest man in the world is having cash flow issues right now. So he really doesn’t want to be writing checks for $100 million. So to me, on the outside looking in, this is his reason for his apology.

Paul: He’s back to his backwards step because I bet he has lawyers. And one of them heeded him.

Amanda: I can’t say they’re single.

Paul: Please do so.

Amanda: Well. Just ask. I’m assuming it’s not made legal. I don’t know if that’s the right word to announce that one of your employees has a disability, right?

Jennie: No, it’s not. And what happens here was, you know, if I provide information about a medical issue to my employer, particularly if that medical condition is covered by the ADA or the FMLA, my employer is not allowed to disclose that other than to people who have a reason to know. And what happens here, which is interesting. And for our members in the healthcare industry, I cannot out and make this relate directly to you the employee, you know, asked like, you know, I don’t want to breach confidentiality in the public.

Jennie: And Elon’s like, go ahead. But the employee didn’t give Elon the right to breach his own private confidentiality. So just by Elon saying, say what you want, it doesn’t mean that he can now say whatever the medical issue and this comes up with a lot of our members where patients leave negative reviews online and the doctor wants to respond and correct what happened.

Jennie: But you can’t because you’re still subject to HIPAA, because the patient hasn’t released that right on Yelp.

Paul: Even though they have said I was at your practice and this is what went wrong and this is what I didn’t like. The doctor still can’t reply and say, let me let me actually correct the record here and say, what? Well, you’re.

Jennie: Not allowed to.

Paul: Not allowed to because.

Amanda: So announcing it to the entirety of Twitter is definitely not.

Jennie: No, it’s not, not OK. And definitely backfires. I think when you learn this guy has muscular dystrophy.

Amanda: And.

Jennie: When he is done this really significant work. Oh, yeah. And also having that condition doesn’t mean he’s incapable of working well.

Amanda: He even said himself, he outlined with H.R. everything. Well, I mean, quote unquote, H.R., who knows what their department is, but everything he needed and was, you know, and it seemed to be working well until it wasn’t.

Paul: We don’t have privy to the agreement, but here’s what it sounds like to me. I’d like to take this money as salary. I’d like to continue working. I’m air quoting here, and I don’t mean like I’m making fun of his work or anything, but he’s just saying, like to continue to contribute to they’re like, you know what? It would be cool to have someone like you who knows his own technology, who is bright on our team, can continue to contribute.

Paul: But I doubt that he had any kind of parameters for I mean, he’s still supposed to get paid no matter what. Now, this is a very unique situation of which I’m kind of I’ve never seen anything like this. It might be common where they want the person in on the team because they’re incorporating the code and the technology.

Paul: Maybe they want them on the team so they can come up with new ideas and new ways to, to, to utilize whatever it is that they purchased so I just want to get back to being a manager. Yeah, OK. Being a manager is hard understanding what you can and can’t say and some of the salaries in it. I don’t know if we give enough credit to people out there who are either owners of small businesses who are managing their employees or who are raising their managers up.

Paul: So if you’re an owner out there and you’re raising a manager up, here’s a really good example of being managers. It can be kind of difficult. I’d like to just address directly to Elon. My sense of this gentleman is, is that in some ways he’s incredibly intelligent, but he is not equipped with the emotional intelligence required to lead people.

Amanda: Oh, absolutely.

Paul: Not. He leads by he thinks he’s leading by, you know, the rod where he will just whack people until he gets what he wants from him. And it’s it’s it just lacks the emotional intelligence. And it’s not how it’s not the best way to get people to do the things you need them to do or for them to fulfill their highest purpose working for you.

Paul: And so I really resent him for this. And I see it show up. I see it show up. I’ve seen it show up personally in using the Starling product. So I live up. Oh, really? In the middle of a kind of nowhere, getting good service. It’s difficult. So I get to Starling Island and there, customer service comes.

Paul: If you put in a request for help, it comes around that it can be three to four days later at four in the morning, they answer and say, it looks like everything’s working and then it goes away. And that’s a sign of his leadership. And it doesn’t work. We’re in Arizona, everybody. It doesn’t work in the summer and bury deep, deep down in the agreement it tells you that these things may have some trouble with heat, but really, he’s the smartest man on the face of the earth.

Paul: He has a zip code. He has access to zip codes and average temperatures and he shouldn’t. So that product into a service area that has temperatures that go above 102 degrees, these are all things that are just leadership things, just doing the right thing. Right? Yeah. And so he tends to not do the right thing. Quite publicly.

Amanda: Yeah.

Paul: And it’s really difficult to watch sometimes.

Jennie: And let me tell you that I’m offended by this man and angry with him. And I purposefully when I saw something about this in the news yesterday, didn’t want to read it. And then you’re like, I want someone to do a podcast right now. OK, I.

Paul: Know I have.

Jennie: But this is why and for personal reasons and you know that I don’t, I’m not a personal story share, but what he’s done is very offensive to the disabled community and it has a real impact. And it’s immediately reminiscent of several years ago. Well, let’s start with this. My brother is disabled. He has a learning disability, and I’ve never heard him use the word disabled to talk about himself.

Paul: Right.

Jennie: Never really clear what he knew until Trump was running for president. And he mocked someone with a disability.

Amanda: Oh, God.

Jennie: And my brother says to me, Trump can’t become president because he doesn’t like disabled people. So people like me won’t be able to have jobs.

Paul: Yeah.

Jennie: And that I mean, that broke my heart. And I stood there and I told him that’s not how that works, and he’ll be fine. And I’m an employment lawyer, so I’ll kick anybody. But who fired you? Don’t worry about it. And then I went home and cried yeah. That was really significant. That was the only time he’s used the word disabled to talk about himself.

Jennie: And I promise you, Elon’s tweets are doing the same thing to other people.

Paul: Oh, it’s having these, it’s happening. You don’t get to be like try to be this omnipresent everywhere kind of voice. On Twitter and everywhere and then say things like this and then, well, and then it’s like, well, it doesn’t really matter because I apologized, you know, a few minutes later when I found out I was in trouble, my my lizard brain kicked in to preserve myself, not as an emotional intelligence, not not.

Paul: But at least from what I can see in his words. I mean, we just come on and we’ll do it quickly, you know, because every now and then something will hit the news. And I guess it’s a little more fun to talk about it and make it something relevant. But for everybody who’s listening out there, we have people who just own businesses and are trying to get by with their employees.

Paul: I mean, this is just terrible. And I think what you need to do is look inside your own look inside your own organization. And if you have someone like Elon Musk, working in it, you have a problem. His voice is not the voice that we want to hear. No. And it’s definitely not the H.R. voice that we want to hear.

Paul: I feel like the man was abused at some point. So I have some because he’s acting like he’s acting like it’s OK to abuse other people. So he’s.

Jennie: Right. So he’s he’s acting out in that way.

Paul: He’s acting out in that way. So I fear he has some experience there. But I don’t know. I don’t know the man, but he knows more than an apology.

Amanda: Yeah. I don’t even see the tweets up any more. I think.

Paul: He.

Amanda: Needs to.

Paul: Just be quiet.

Jennie: Someone needs to just deactivate his Twitter account.

Paul: He just needs to be quiet and go about his quiet, brilliant brilliance and do the thing in space and do the other things that he does that he does well and let good people with emotional intelligence, with h.r. Training, working with the people who work with him so that everybody feels I hate to use the word safe, but valued and led.

Paul: And, you know, you can throw a counter in there without having to whack people, but I just, you know, I’ve silenced I don’t I deleted twitter. I don’t go to, you know, any of those feeds or anything anymore, but I just want to silence them. Yeah. Yeah.

Jennie: Well, and to just another H.R. lesson. Clearly, this is a pretty extreme public situation. But also avoidable. Someone tell this guy why his stuff was shut off. Make sure you have an entire department. Yeah. And if you are going to separate from someone, make sure you directly tell them. Yeah, you know, it’s unusual for someone, one of our members or an employer out there to be like, Well, I don’t really want to have to have them come to the office.

Jennie: Can I just text them? Can I send them a letter? And all these things, which is you know, a little disrespectful to the person who’s receiving that. But also you have no way of knowing if they got your message. Yeah. And this is an extreme example of what can happen.

Paul: Well, he’s in Iceland today. I don’t think they can pull him in, but I can say that they could contact him and they could make the effort to pay someone to call around to each person and say, Hey, this is what’s going on. But I mean, he I think I saw one of his tweets, one of his announcements that everybody who was rated below us, seven or 70 was fired one day like you don’t work any longer.

Paul: So mass announcing that two or 300 people just lost their job is just not.

Amanda: Not the way to do it.

Paul: It. It’s just childish. It’s you know, there’s this: we are still humans. We are still communicating face to face.

Amanda: Yes, we.

Paul: Can when we want things to turn out well.

Amanda: Well, just to bring it to an end until I mean, maybe we’ll have to come back and talk about our updates. But the last thing was Musk’s stupid apology saying I would like to apologize for my misunderstanding of the situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or in some cases true but not meaningful.

Amanda: So, you know, blaming other people for. Yeah, and then he is considered to be remaining at Twitter. So he’s not fired, sir.

Paul: I think I would. Yeah, I don’t think I would keep working towards that. I would have to be out. I would accept that firing and say, OK, yeah, I’m.

Jennie: I’m.

Amanda: Yeah, and.

Jennie: Actually that allows me to end this on a positive note. This is the moment where Jenny sucks up to her boss.

Amanda: Do it.

Paul: So hang on, everybody.

Jennie: So I’m I’m disabled because I have chronic migraine and it deeply affects my day to day life. And I always tell people one of the reasons I’ve been with theater close to ten years now is that no one here will ever question it. Paul doesn’t give me he doesn’t question it. We have I have accommodation letters on file because I was like, you need this, but no one ever questioned it.

Jennie: The only person who gives me flak about having any issues is me and my dog. Yeah. Yeah. And I know that if I were to, to try to work somewhere else, it wouldn’t necessarily be as a protective of an environment that acknowledges that medical issues are real and that you don’t, you know, you don’t go after them for it.

Paul: Yeah, it’s, you know, it it’s people we all have things going on in our lives. It’s, you know, it’s easy to accommodate people who do good work. And I think, you know, you don’t just go and look and say how much work did this guy do? Let me see his keystrokes or let me see, you know, that’s what he did.

Paul: He went out and got a piece of information that he thought he used to draw a conclusion, I would assume. And then he used that to make a very public spectacle of this thing.

Jennie: Yeah. This guy can’t type.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah. But, you know, people can have disabilities and still do really amazing work. They can. And I think.

Amanda: That’s reasonable accommodation.

Paul: You know what that’s the point of this podcast is to say to everyone out there who’s listening, whether someone has a medical condition, a temporary disability or permanent disability, there are a lot of ways that people can do really good work absolutely. For the for the world. And if you can find a way to involve people, it is a challenge.

Paul: Jenny, right now, I mean, you know, your brother, he’s got to get the right kind of job in the right position.

Amanda: All right. Accommodations.

Paul: You know, all that stuff has to be in place. But, you know, if you can help someone who’s in a position like this, it’d be amazing.

Jennie: Yeah.

Amanda: Absolutely.

Jennie: And yes, I’ll shout out to my brother’s boss. Yeah. He works at AEG’s, which is a local company. His eggs shut down and his manager was going to manage a different location and she was allowed to bring three employees.

Paul: Did she bring your brother?

Jennie: She brought my brother.

Amanda: Oh, we love that. Yeah. That’s amazing.

Jennie: Thanks. Crazy.

Paul: Yeah, that is awesome. That’s a shout out to our local company. Oh, OK. Well, thanks for bringing this, butthead into my life this morning.

Amanda: Oh, you’re welcome. That’s what I’m here for. To bring back into your life.

Paul: At least I got a little swing at him over my StarLink that’s all I get out of this book. It’s a pretty good food.

Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What The Hell Just Happened? do Paul a favor; share this with your network. If you have an HR issue or a question, and you’d like us to discuss it on this show, send it to podcast@WTHjusthappened.com. For more HR advice and insights from Paul and his team of experts, you can also join the private Facebook group, HR Base Camp, or visit HRbasecamp.com. Make sure you tune in next week. And remember: better workplaces make better lives.

Mar 10, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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