Musk vows to shrink Twitter workforce

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

If true, Musk will cull Twitter by 5,000 employees, leaving a skeleton staff of approximately 2,000 to run the social media company. Slashing a workforce in this cavalier manner is not only unlikely, but it would also undoubtedly cripple the operations of the company.

Elon Musk wants to send a message.


He announced this week that he will fire 75% of Twitter staff if his bid to take over the online platform goes ahead.


Musk’s announcement correlates with Twitter’s move in March to allow employees to continue working remotely “forever” or “wherever you feel most productive and creative.”


If true, Musk will cull Twitter by 5,000 employees, leaving a skeleton staff of approximately 2,000 to run the social media company. Slashing a workforce in this cavalier manner is not only unlikely, but it would also undoubtedly cripple the operations of the company.


Behind this media noise, however, is the real story.


Whether or not Musk elects to proceed with deep staff reductions, doesn’t really matter. The Tesla leader is going toe to toe with the status quo; betting that other companies, too, will rally against remote work becoming a permanent working construct.


This isn’t just the flexing of PR muscle; with a recession in the offing, organizations of all sizes will demand more from their workers.


Musk has openly opposed a continued remote work model for Tesla employees. This spring he demanded employees return to the office at no less than 40 hours a week. Since then, Musk fired employees who didn’t return to work in June.


CNBC reported recently that Tesla is struggling with its own back-to-work plans, citing lack of chairs and desk space and overall resources to support a full-scale return of its workforce.


The fact is companies are looking for ways to move forward with leaner workforces to ride out the recession. Employees can expect several outcomes if their industry is hit by mass terminations.


Firstly, redundant roles will be eliminated. Packages will be distributed. PR statements promising fair payouts will be proffered to the media. Presumably, role reductions may hit remote workers much harder. This is particularly so if remote workers have not built meaningful relationships while employed.


Secondly, employees that are retained may be given new responsibilities and consolidated roles. Employees that retain their jobs during a recession carry an immense amount of power. They are strong performers, have been earmarked to invest in, and, in some cases, are profitable.


These employees should be openly wary of taking on significant amounts of new work and responsibilities following large-scale layoffs without commensurate pay and benefits. Now is the time for retained talent to open dialogues about retention bonuses, raises and better benefits.


Lastly, employers will likely require changes to how and where employees work. Workers may be required to work hybrid, agree to surveillant software and other measures to monitor daily productivity. These steps can lower morale and attack company culture. Employers must tread carefully as some of these actions could breach existing employment agreements and obligations to employees. Too heavy a hand could result in constructive dismissals.


As large-scale terminations continue to steal headlines, employees should pay special attention to how changes in this market may affect their jobs and how a recession may create meaningful opportunities.


On to this week’s questions:


Q. I started a job based on an email chain between me and my supervisor about pay, start date etc. Now two months after starting I have been given an employment agreement to sign. It is lengthy and includes things like a non-solicitation clause and ownership of my “inventions” as a few examples. What are my options? I have received a few requests from HR to sign the document.


A. I would first advise you to read the agreement and determine if any new benefit is being offered to you in exchange for signing. If there is a new benefit (like a raise, bonus or health benefit package), signing this new contract could be enforceable against you, even though you just started with less formal terms. If the terms in the new agreement are limiting, it may not be advisable to sign. Talk to a lawyer about how declining to sign this contract could affect your new job.


Q. I have worked for over 20 years as a general labourer for one company. I have been terminated and only offered 10 months of pay and benefits. I feel this is very low. My employer said they believe I can get a new job within the 10-month period. I thought I would at least be entitled to one month per year of employment if I was terminated. Do you have any insight?


A. Wrongful dismissal damage calculations are based on several factors, including your length of service, age, nature of employment and availability of similar employment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and no one factor that outweighs the others. For you, if other labourer positions are readily available, your damages may be found to be lower. Terminated employees are required to mitigate their damages and apply and accept similar roles. Your employer is betting that you will mitigate within the 10-month period. Judges will pay close attention to your mitigation efforts, particularly if similar jobs are easier to find.


Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at and your question may be featured in a future column.


The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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