Chaos continued to erupt when employees left Twitter in droves on Nov. 17 at the urging of Elon Musk’s iron fist. He gave workers until 5:00 p.m. to decide whether to quit or stay on “for long hours and intense work.” Meanwhile, major corporations like CBS have suspended their Twitter accounts due to acquisition confusion and uncertainty about their future. Musk has used the kind of oppressive leadership tactics that have wreaked havoc in the post-pandemic workplace — the exact opposite of what experts are calling for to correct workplace disruption and heal the mental health challenges the pandemic has created.
Workplace leadership experts assert that, so far, Musk’s leadership style is headed in the wrong direction. In a recent Forbes.com interview, Delivering Happiness CEO and author Jenn Lim Beyond Happiness: How Authentic Leaders Prioritize Purpose for Growth and Impact, Tell me that Musk treats people like collateral damage rather than human beings, forgetting basic human dignity in the way he handles layoffs. Lim’s assessment raises the question of what effect his inhumane actions would have on the already injured mental health of his employees. Others worry that copycat leaders will emulate Musk’s strategy, sacrificing employees’ mental health for greater gains.
The world’s richest man’s latest back-to-office strategy runs counter to many other leaders who also insist that remote work is the way of the future and is here to stay. Steve Black, Topia’s chief strategy officer, asserts that an all-on-the-job policy is a dangerous talent strategy for other companies. “Elon Musk asking employees to return to the office full-time is a dangerous talent strategy because it could cause many employees to leave for more flexible work,” Black said. “In our recent Adapt survey, we found that 65% of workers forced to return to the office full-time said they were more likely to seek new work; 46% were attracted to jobs that Work from home when you need to. Musk does this by taking away all flexibility and enforcing at the lowest limit or 40 hours per week. “
Musk went in the wrong direction
If a motorist is driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street, pedestrians will signal him. If a leader steers a large organization in the wrong direction, those in the know will flag him before he crumbles and burns. Here’s what experts say business leaders must do in 2023 to restore stability to the post-pandemic workplace — all of which are the opposite actions Musk is taking.
- The psychological safety of employees. Jennie Yang, vice president of people and culture at 15Five, says leaders need to consider the competencies they want to see in managers and employees, such as resilience, self-direction and adapting to uncertainty. “In order to survive the recession, the psychological safety of employees will become critical next year, so leaders especially need skills to deal with internal communication,” she said, adding that recovering from the trauma of a toxic workplace, And honing soft skills to manage tough economic times is imperative. “Key skills to focus on include strong mental and emotional health and the ability to get along with others.”
- Increase team productivity without burnout. Tim Harsch, CEO and co-founder of Owler, told me that the biggest challenges leaders face in 2023 will be managing economic uncertainty and increasing team productivity without burning them out. “This requires clear, honest communication across the organization and setting quality key performance indicators (KPIs) that everyone on the team agrees on,” he says.
- Create a stable workplace. David Hassell, CEO and co-founder of 15Five, agrees that business leaders must remain steadfast in the face of uncertainty in 2023. When business leaders step up and lead them through uncertainty, they ultimately create a positive workplace for employees to thrive, Hassell told me, predicting that businesses will double down on leadership and management training, toward Gone is the standardized nine-to-five workplace, adding, “Creating a stable workplace that underpins employee confidence and loyalty is critical. This is especially important in remote or hybrid work environments. Feel A sense of stability, support from leadership, a sense of purpose at work and connection to others – all of which leadership must promote – makes disengagement or ‘quiet resignation’ less likely in the next year.”
A Better Way to Make Tough Decisions
Elon Musk’s strategy is diametrically opposed to that recommended by evidence-based research findings and expert opinion. Here’s what top leaders say is needed to remedy post-pandemic workplace disruption:
- Gallup insists that a company’s most important asset is its people.
- TalentLMS reports that 78% of employees want more support from the workplace.
- Numerous studies have shown that empathy is the most important leadership skill, especially in times of crisis.
- Experts say that amid economic uncertainty, leaders must manage with stability and certainty, rather than adding more chaos and confusion.
Still, many well-informed leaders would agree with Musk’s reckless tactics and follow in his footsteps. For other companies, it’s a dangerous path, notes Topia’s Steve Black. Twitter and Tesla have been powerful, well-known brands. Black pointed out that most brands don’t fall into the same category. He cautions and warns organizations that there is a danger, “If these brands follow Musk’s example, they will not be able to attract and retain enough top talent for full on-the-job empowerment to be an effective strategy. Ultimately,” Trump said. Tesla is doing it, so we can do it too” is a high-risk strategy for most organizations.”
The best way for leaders to stay true to their company culture in the face of the kinds of difficult decisions facing Elon Musk is to reverse the leadership decisions that were made with apathy. “It’s easy to get emotionally drained when leaders make these tough decisions,” Jane Lin told me. “Psychologically, it can be good medicine for a disturbed conscience. But conscious leaders take the opposite approach. During Covid, these leaders put aside titles and office politics, put on their empathy hats, and know How they affect livelihoods is at stake. If you make these decisions, keep your company’s values and purpose in mind as part of your considerations. Leadership should start with why These choices are being made, and how They align with the company’s values and purpose. When they are maintained, an organization’s true character has a chance to show its humanity. “