Once in my early 20s I quit a retail job because my boss called a mandatory staff meeting on an evening that I had a date. When I think back on it, I realize how privileged and possibly foolish it was. But also, I’m not mad about it. Announcing a last-minute mandatory meeting is a jerk thing to do. I didn’t want to stand for it. It doesn’t hurt that my boss did not actually fire me, or even yell at me, for missing the meeting.
I was thinking about that job recently because of Elon Musk. I haven’t been a big Twitter user in years, but like many people, I am fascinated by the situation at Twitter. I am following every mass firing and mass resignation and potential crisis as though it actually mattered in my life, and I think I know why.
Elon Musk reminds me of every bad boss I’ve ever had.
The boss who demanded things of workers without any awareness of how their financial situation differed from his own. The boss who thought he was a funny genius and thought that absolved him of actually listening to people. The boss who came in from the outside convinced they knew how to save the situation and made everything worse. The boss who let petty grudges guide his management decisions. The boss whose financial actions were misguided at best, illegal at worst.
The thing about all of these bosses is that nothing every happened to them. Good people left jobs they were good at to avoid them. Or, the bosses failed up into even better jobs where they caused more havoc. For so many of us, Elon Musk reminds of us of these bosses. We are watching and waiting because we hope that a bad boss might be made to pay.
The truth is that even if Twitter fails, Elon Musk will probably not lose as much as those who work there, or those who depend on it for their livelihood in other ways. But it will still feel good.
There are no leadership lessons to be learned from the Twitter fiasco. Managers who would attempt to lead the way Elon Musk does aren’t going to learn from this. But maybe, there are some worker lessons to be learned. Maybe one or two people will see the people who say no to Elon Musk and know that they can do so, too. Even if it’s just for a date.