Tech reporter Casey Newton's newsletter Platformer captured the mood inside the company immediately when the announcement came that Muck's bid had been accepted by the board.
Before the news, "One thread [on the company's Slack channels], in which an employee asked good-naturedly whether anyone was excited about the prospect of working for Musk, drew dozens of responses, many of them quite ugly," he reports. "After the announcement, sentiment in the public Slack channels remained largely concerned and negative."
Though Newton does say he spoke to at least one employee who is excited by the prospect of Musk transforming Twitter.
With Musk, always expect the unexpected
One understandable concern, captured in the clever tweet below, was what the deal meant for employees' stock options. The larger issue among commentators both in and out of the company seems to be the complete unpredictability of what Musk might do with Twitter once he's in charge.
"If Musk has a hand, he's not tipping it. His official statement today bears little evidence that he has thought much about what he will do with Twitter as a business much beyond the close of the deal," Newton writes.
Another long-term Twitter watcher, the Atlantic's Charlie Warzel, remembers that "in the summer of 2016, Twitter employees described the internal culture to me as 'never once tranquil' and 'intense, chaotic, and morale-draining, despite working with some of the best people I've known.'" This, he adds, "sounds a lot like the way that some of Musk's current employees describe working at his companies."
Both Twitter as a company and Musk as a person feel like agents of chaos. What exactly will happen when you combine them is anybody's guess.
Boring leaders make for lousy headlines but happy workers
So does that mean there is no takeaway from the latest weird-but-impossible-to-look-away-from Musk saga? Even the best-informed industry insiders are struggling to say anything definitive about Musk's plans for Twitter, but this very unpredictability (and the stress it's causing Twitter employees) is a helpful reminder of an often overlooked but essential leadership skill: being boring.
"The concerns now being raised by Twitter employees are a reminder of just how important stability is in a leader," Quartz's Sarah Todd wrote earlier this week. She cites research showing "people are physiologically less stressed out by a supervisor who's consistently a jerk than a boss who's reasonable one day and unfair the next. The study also found that workers with unpredictable bosses are more likely to say they're emotionally drained and unhappy at their jobs than those with bosses who are consistently awful."
Similarly, when Google crunched reams of data on what makes for an excellent boss a few years ago, an unexpected quality surfaced. Bold vision and supersmarts are great traits. But what helps employees function at their best are leaders who are steady and predictable. Being boring isn't sexy, but it frees up emotional energy wasted on trying to guess the boss's next move and enables employees to work secure in the knowledge that neither the rules nor the goalposts will suddenly change on them.
"If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom," Google's then senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, commented at the time.
Elon Musk is bold. He's brilliant. He's entertaining. But no one has ever accused him of being consistent, predictable, or boring. So if you're looking for a lesson from the current Musk-induced craziness at Twitter maybe remember this research. Emulate Musk's passion. Be inspired by his daring. But maybe don't take inspiration from his love of chaos, not if you want your employees to be happy and productive at least.