As one of the world’s wealthiest people, Elon Musk is the subject of much public interest. However, his relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation, combined with his live-to-work attitude and puritan stance on freedom of speech, make him a highly divisive character.
Musk completed the acquisition of Twitter in October 2022 before rebranding it to X Corp the following year. He has been criticised for his handling of the acquisition and for the subsequent reduction of the workforce when, in Nov 2022, Musk laid off almost half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees.
X Corp’s liberal stance on freedom of speech and censorship has, for some, made the X platform synonymous with hateful content, and with controversial characters such as Donald Trump, Kanye West and Andrew Tate being re-enabled on the platform following bans under the previous regime. This does not sit well with major corporate advertisers such as Microsoft, Apple and Disney who have boycotted X in their droves, costing X Corp an estimated loss of around $75 million in ad revenue by the end of 2023.
Despite the controversies, it is not possible to become the world’s wealthiest person without knowing a thing or two about business, Musk has extensive experience from his current and previous ventures at Tesla, SpaceX and PayPal amongst others, so it’s certainly possible to mount an argument that Elon Musk is a highly successful entrepreneur, innovator and CEO.
Measuring the ‘Musk Effect’
So, what impact has Elon Musk had on the culture of X Corp?
How have X Corp employees reacted to the change in leadership and the new direction that Musk is taking the business in?
Can this be measured?
It can. Leveraging artificial intelligence (natural language processing, or NLP, for those who are interested), we can score the sentiment of company employees towards key topics related to culture, employee experience and employee value proposition (EVP).
Our algorithms are trained and tuned to detect specific culture & EVP topics in online content and determine whether a mention is positive or negative. By subtracting the proportion of negative mentions from the proportion of positive mentions, we can calculate a Net Sentiment Score (NSS) for each topic which can range from -100 to +100. A NSS score of zero indicates a mathematically neutral score with an equal number of positive and negative mentions detected.
We have done a study to compare topic-level employee sentiment in 2021 (the year before Musk’s takeover) versus 2023 (the year after the acquisition) to detect what has changed, in the views of X Corp employees.
If you have read press coverage of the Twitter acquisition, you may be expecting to learn about the catastrophic impact that Musk has had on employees. Our analysis detects 3 specific topics where there is an observable worsening in employee sentiment over the acquisition period.
- Work-Life Balance
How do employees feel about their working hours and stress levels?
Movement in NSS (2021 to 2023): -67
When Musk bought Twitter in 2022, he famously banned remote working and set an expectation of 80-hour work weeks, making space for workers to sleep in the office. As such, it’s no surprise to observe that the most significant negative swing in sentiment is detected towards work-life balance.
- Supportive Leadership
Do employees feel supported by their leaders and managers?
Movement in NSS (2021 to 2023): -42
Musk is incredibly self-aware and recognises that his strengths do not lie in empathy and interpersonal skills. He once quipped, whilst hosting Saturday Night Live: “I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL. Or at least the first to admit it. So I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running human and emulation mode.” Musk’s own personal style, combined with his ‘do-or-die’ mindset are likely to cascade through the management layers and make a big difference to the overall style of leadership across the firm.
Do employees feel that the company and their work are impactful?
Movement in NSS (2021 to 2023): -17
Despite the best efforts of their corporate social responsibility and public relations teams, big tech and social media firms are seldom associated with societal purpose and doing good for humanity. Sentiment towards this topic was negative in 2021 but has worsened in 2023, likely in-part related to the propagation of hateful content, and partly related to a perceived lack of post-acquisition vision for the company.
Our analysis reveals that Musk’s acquisition of Twitter has also brought about some positive changes in culture and employee experience. In fact, we can observe 3 topics which show a clearly improving position between 2021 and 2023, highlighting the positive influence that Musk’s leadership has brought to X Corp.
- Agility & Bureaucracy
Does the company have efficient processes, free from red tape, and is it quick to adapt to change?
Movement in NSS (2021 to 2023): +133
Elon Musk is famously anti-bureaucracy, and it seems that employees have recognised his efforts to take the axe to unnecessary red tape, enhancing the agility and adaptability of X Corp.
- Learning & Development
Do people feel like the company provides ample opportunities for learning and invests in training?
Movement in NSS (2021 to 2023): +62
Possibly coming as a surprise result to many, significant gains are observed in sentiment towards learning and development. This may be a consequence of Musk’s attitude towards knowledge having once stated “It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree – make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
- Progressive Mindset
Is the company innovative, forward-looking and open to evolve?
Movement in NSS (2021 to 2023): +29
Our past culture benchmarking reveals that, along with Agility & Bureaucracy, Progressive Mindset is a stand-out cultural strength of Tesla. As such, it’s not surprising to note that Musk has moved the needle at X Corp in this regard. Innovation is one of the main things that Musk stands for, having previously said “I think that’s the single best piece of advice: Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
Some things remain the same
Despite the turmoil of the past couple of years, some topics show a stable position on employee sentiment with no significant movement detected between 2021 and 2023. Such topics include levels of empowerment; diversity & inclusion; pay & rewards; and career progression.
Opinions on Elon Musk’s influence on the culture of X Corp are likely to be divided with some employees appreciating the positive changes in reducing bureaucracy, improving organisational agility and dialling-up innovation. Expect X Corp to remain an attractive place to work for young, ambitious and hard-working tech talent.
Others, meanwhile, are likely to find the trademark Musk style falling short on expectations of a supportive and nurturing leadership team and many will struggle with the huge negative swing on work-life balance. This, accompanied by the 2023 layoffs, will likely change the nature of the X Corp talent pool quite significantly.
Those without the appetite for the personal sacrifices on work-life balance (who haven’t already been laid off) may well be using the Christmas break to dust-off their resumes.
How can Deltabase help you?
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