SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk gave Twitter employees a deadline of 5 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday to decide if they wanted to work for him, and he asked those who did not share his vision to leave their jobs, in his latest shock treatment of the social media company.
Mr. Musk made the announcement in an early morning email to employees on Wednesday; The New York Times obtained the message, which had the subject line “A Fork in the Road.” In the note, Mr. Musk, 51, reiterated that Twitter faced a difficult road ahead and offered employees three months of severance if they did not want to continue working there “to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0.”
The billionaire has been unrelenting in rapidly transforming Twitter since completing his $44 billion acquisition of the company nearly three weeks ago. Mr. Musk swiftly slashed half of Twitter’s 7,500 person work force, dismissed thousands of contractors, fired employees who had criticized him and trimmed infrastructure costs. He has also proclaimed that Twitter needed to make more money or it faced bankruptcy. And he has pushed on subscription products and alternately wooing and insulting Twitter’s advertisers.
Giving remaining employees a deadline to leave has the dual effect of allowing Mr. Musk to further cut costs and purge the company of disgruntled workers. Mr. Musk has brought in a circle of confidants and employees from some of his other companies, such as the electric carmaker Tesla, to advise him at Twitter.
Mr. Musk and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In his note to Twitter employees on Wednesday, Mr. Musk said they would need to work hard — very hard. “In an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore,” he wrote. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”
Changes at Elon Musk’s Twitter
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A swift overhaul. Elon Musk has moved quickly to revamp Twitter since he completed his $44 billion buyout of the social media company in October, warning of a bleak financial picture and a need for new products. Here’s a look at some of the changes so far:
Going private. As part of Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, he is delisting the company’s stock and taking it out of the hands of public shareholders. Making Twitter a private company gives Mr. Musk some advantages, including not having to make quarterly financial disclosures. Private companies are also subject to less regulatory scrutiny.
Layoffs. Just over a week after closing the deal, Mr. Musk eliminated nearly half of Twitter’s work force, or about 3,700 jobs. The layoffs hit many divisions across the company, including the engineering and machine learning units, the teams that manage content moderation, and the sales and advertising departments.
Content moderation. Shortly after closing the deal to buy Twitter, Mr. Musk said that the company would form a content moderation council to decide what kinds of posts to keep up and what to take down. But advertisers have paused their spending on Twitter over fears that Mr. Musk will loosen content rules on the platform.
Other possible changes. As Mr. Musk and his advisers look for ways to generate more revenue at the company, they are said to have discussed adding paid direct messages, which would let users send private messages to high-profile users. The company has also filed registration paperwork to pave the way for it to process payments.
Engineering would be the primary focus, Mr. Musk added, with design and product management taking a back seat. He included a link to an online form asking employees to confirm their interest in working at Twitter by 5 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday.
Many Twitter employees have openly balked at Mr. Musk’s leadership, and the company’s work force could be further reduced if many workers accept the offer to leave. On Tuesday, Mr. Musk fired nearly two dozen workers who had been critical of his leadership in posts on Twitter or on the company’s internal messaging service, Slack.
Departing staff members have questioned whether Mr. Musk can keep Twitter operating effectively with a drastically reduced work force. During the mass layoffs this month, Mr. Musk’s team made deep cuts to the group that maintained Twitter’s core infrastructure. Top executives overseeing product, security and ad sales have resigned. And the reductions of the contract work force included the dismissals of people working on content moderation and child safety issues.
Twitter could face a test of how well it runs as soon as next week, when the World Cup is expected to bring a flood of visitors to its service. The additional strain on infrastructure could cause problems.
Features that are priorities to Mr. Musk have also been delayed. As advertisers have shied away from Mr. Musk’s leadership, he has focused on adding new revenue from subscriptions through products such as Twitter Blue, which would include selling verification check marks for $8 a month. The paid verification feature debuted this month, but was paused after impersonators used it to mimic major brands and spread misinformation.
On Tuesday, Mr. Musk said in a tweet that Twitter Blue’s launch would be delayed until Nov. 29 to make sure that it was “rock solid.”