Elon Musk has gone head-to-head with a top product designer left wondering if he still had a job after he was frozen out of his work accounts without notification.
Halli Thorleifsson, 45, believed he was one of the 200 employees laid off at the end of February, having sold his company in 2021 to join Twitter, prompted by the worsening of a degenerative muscle condition.
The esteemed designer claimed in a tweet last night that, nine days on, Twitter’s head of human resources still had ‘not been able to confirm if [he] is an employee or not’ and that Musk had not answered his emails.
Thorleifsson chose to engage Musk in his own forum in an exchange that saw the Twitter CEO reference memes as the designer sought clarity on his future and was asked to explain in front of 16.8mn people what he had been working on at Twitter.
Musk ended the exchange with two laughing emojis and the designer confirmed he had since been told he no longer worked at Twitter.
Musk later wrote: ‘The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm. Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.
‘But was he fired?’ he added. ‘No, you can’t be fired if you weren’t working in the first place.’
Elon Musk responds to the Twitter designer who he said ‘wasn’t working in the first place’
Haraldur Thorleifsson led innovation team that among others spearheaded Communities on the platform
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Thorleifsson told the BBC that he had joined Twitter in 2021 after selling his company, Ueno, to the site.
He said: ‘I decided to sell for a few reasons but one of them is that I have muscular dystrophy and my body is slowly but surely failing me.
Elon Musk has bodyguards at Twitter HQ who even escort him to the bathroom
Twitter staff claimed yesterday that Elon Musk is accompanied everywhere by two bodyguards when at work.
An engineer said that he thought Musk’s use of ‘tall’ and ‘bulky’ bodyguards suggested a lack of trust.
The anonymous lead told the BBC that ‘for someone on the inside, it’s like a building where all the pieces are on fire.’
They said the office was underequipped to perform its responsibilities.
Thousands in other roles have been laid off since October in a drive to cut costs.
According to his father, Musk has a team of ‘100’ security guards for his protection.
‘I have a few good work years left in me so this was a way to wrap up my company, and set up myself and my family for years when I won’t be able to do as much.’
The Iceland-based designer urged in his Twitter thread that he was most concerned about whether Musk would uphold the commitment to his contract and ‘paying him what they owe him per his contract’.
The back and forth started when Thorleifsson tweeted at Musk to say he had been without access to his work computer for nine days, and that Twitter’s HR department had not been able to confirm whether or not he still worked for the company.
He also looked for support from former CEO Jack Dorsey and two Twitter investors.
Musk replied a few hours later to say: ‘What work have you been doing?’
Thorleifsson said he would have to break confidentiality to answer, which Musk waived.
The designer explained how he had worked on saving and closing down different Twitter contracts, prioritized design products to adapt to the company’s downsizing, level up design, acted as the hiring manager for design roles, and helped steer the company towards younger users.
Musk replied: ‘Level up from what design to what? Pics or it didn’t happen. We haven’t hired design roles in four months. What changes did you make to help with the youths?’
Thorleifsson replied that he did not have access to docs as he had been locked out of his computer.
Musk also pulled the designer up on the specifics of a contract and design prioritization. When Thorleifsson gave an example, Musk sent back laughing emojis.
Halli sought permission to explain what he had been working on, which Musk granted
With permission, the designer gave a list of some of the things he had been working on and expressed concerns about getting paid
Musk quizzed Thorleifsson about what exactly he had been working on at Twitter
The designer gave examples of things he was working on before Musk ended the exchange
Haraldur Thorleifsson took to Twitter to find out if he still had a job
Musk ended the exchange by sharing a clip from Office Space, where Bob Slydell asks: ‘What would you say you do here?’
Soon after, Halli confirmed on his own Twitter page that he had been laid off.
He said that after the exchange, ‘Twitter’s head of HR (who had previously twice been unable to tell me if I had a job or not) emailed and said I was no longer employed.
‘Which is totally ok and it happens all the time. Companies let people go, that’s within their rights.
‘They usually tell people about it but that’s seemingly the optional part at Twitter now.
‘But ok, fair enough, I’ve been laid off and I’m ok with that.
‘Next up though is finding out if Twitter will pay me what they owe me per my contract.’
Thorleifsson spoke to the BBC about his experience losing his job at Twitter.
He said that he suffers from muscular dystrophy and that he was concerned over whether the company would pay him the money he claims he is owed.
‘This is my retirement fund, a way to take care of myself and my family as my disease progresses. Having the richest man in the world on the other end of this, potentially refusing to stand by contracts is not easy for me to accept,’ he said.
He confirmed after the engagement that he had been laid off by the company he joined in 2021
In a alter exchange, Musk shared his thoughts on how much work his colleague had done
Musk earlier today replied to Alex Cohen, the director of a healthcare provider, who had written about the thread: ‘I’m not going to lie, this is the most entertaining exit interview I’ve ever witnessed.’
Musk said: ‘The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealth) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.
‘Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.’
He concluded the exchange: ‘But was he fired? No, you can’t be fired if you weren’t working in the first place!’
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