SpaceX Staff Denounce Elon Musk’s Behaviour – Report

Staff at SpaceX have reportedly denounced the behaviour of CEO Elon Musk in recent months in an open letter to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

The letter, which has been reviewed and published by The Verge, describes how Musk’s actions (including his Twitter takeover, SEC bashing etc) and the recent allegations of sexual harassment against him (which he has denied) are negatively affecting SpaceX’s reputation.

The document claims that SpaceX staff “across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles have collaborated on” writing the letter.

Embarrassed staff

However, the exact number of signatories to the letter is not known at this time, and SpaceX staff who reportedly posted the letter in the internal chat system did not respond to requests for comments from the Verge.

Staff have been asked to sign onto the letter by filling out a survey or scanning a QR code.

According to the Verge, the letter generated more than a hundred comments in the Teams channel, with many employees agreeing to the spirit of the missive, according to screenshots of the chat shared by two sources who spoke with The Verge and asked to remain anonymous.

And the letter is pretty damning, alleging that SpaceX staff think that Elon Musk is a “distraction and embarrassment.”

“Elon’s behaviour in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter reportedly states. “As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX – every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company.”

“It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values,” the letter states.

Musk is currently locked in a very public battle with Twitter’s board of directors over his $44 billion takeover attempt of the social media platform.

Musk is also once again clashing with the US financial regulator, the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Crude behaviour

And on top of this Musk has crudely lashed out at a number of high profile people in recent years.

For example in April this year he hit out at Bill Gates, when he shared an image of Gates and an emoji of a pregnant man, captioned with “in case u need to lose a boner fast.”

Prior to that in 2021 he responded to a tweet about Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin, saying “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol.”

That was in April 2021, when NASA had solely awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build the Artemis lunar lander to carry humans to the moon, as early as 2024, much to Blue Origin’s frustration.

Prior to that in 2019 Musk was sued by British cave diver Vernon Unsworth, over his controversial ‘pedo guy’ tweet about one of the rescuers of the Thai boy football team who were trapped in a flooded cave in 2018.

Elon Musk has also ventured into the political sphere of late, and signalled his support for the US Republican party.

This week he indicated he may vote for Republican governor of Florida Ron DeSantis in the 2024 Presidential election.

Musk on Twitter has denied and mocked a media report last month that alleged he had sexually harassed a flight attendant on a private jet in 2016.

Steps to take

The letter from disgruntled SpaceX staff presents the SpaceX executives with the following action points.

  • Publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior. SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.
  • Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone. Apply a critical eye to issues that prevent employees from fully performing their jobs and meeting their potential, pursuing specific and enduring actions that are well resourced, transparent, and treated with the same rigor and urgency as establishing flight rationale after a hardware anomaly.
  • Define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behaviour. Clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX’s “no-asshole” and “zero tolerance” policies and enforce them consistently. SpaceX must establish safe avenues for reporting and uphold clear repercussions for all unacceptable behavior, whether from the CEO or an employee starting their first day.

Earlier this week Elon Musk appealed a judge’s refusal to end his 2018 tweet oversight agreement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

That agreement with the SEC means that Musk has to submit any public statements (including tweets) about the company’s finances to vetting by Tesla’s legal counsel before publishing them.

Musk has been accused of flouting that oversight rule on a number of occasions.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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