SpaceX employees write open letter to company executives decrying Elon Musk’s behavior
An open letter to SpaceX decrying CEO Elon Musk’s recent behavior sparked an open discussion among company employees in an internal chat system. Employees are encouraged to sign the letter’s suggestions, publicly or anonymously, with a signed version of the letter to be delivered to the office of SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.
The letter, reviewed by The edge, describes how Musk’s actions and recent sexual harassment allegations against him are negatively affecting SpaceX’s reputation. The document claims that employees “across the spectrum of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles collaborated” in drafting the letter. It’s unclear which SpaceX employees wrote the letter; employees who posted the letter in the internal chat system did not respond to requests for comment.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere has been a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter said. “As CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is considered the face of SpaceX – every Tweet sent by Elon is a de facto public statement of the company. It is essential to make it clear to our teams and our potential talent pool that its message does not reflect our work, our mission or our values.
Musk has been up to a lot lately, and his Twitter presence can be particularly crass. In April, he shared an image of Bill Gates and a pregnant man emoji, captioned “in case you need to lose a boner quick.” Last year, he also replied to a tweet about Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin, saying “Can’t get it (into orbit) lol.” Musk is also currently trying to buy Twitter.
Shared Wednesday on an internal SpaceX Microsoft Teams channel with more than 2,600 employees, the letter argues that the company is violating its oft-stated “No Asshole” policy and zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. The document goes on to suggest three different “action items” to remedy the situation: SpaceX should “publicly denounce and condemn Elon’s harmful behavior on Twitter”; the company should “hold all leaders equally accountable” for bad behavior; and SpaceX must “clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX’s ‘no asshole’ and ‘zero tolerance’ policies and apply them consistently.”
The number of signatures was not immediately available, but employees were asked to sign the letter by completing a survey or scanning a QR code. The letter generated over a hundred comments on the Teams channel, with many employees accepting the spirit of the missive, according to chat screenshots shared by two sources who spoke with The edge and asked to remain anonymous. Some commenters also claimed to be embarrassed by Musk’s behavior. Others have expressed a desire for the company to better address executive behavior and sexual harassment complaints.
The letter comes nearly a month after a report by Initiated alleged SpaceX paid a former company flight attendant a $250,000 settlement after she accused Musk of exposing himself to her and proposing to her during a massage , an allegation that Musk had offered to buy her a horse. Musk denied the allegations, saying Initiated there is “much more to this story”.
“If I was prone to engaging in sexual harassment, it’s unlikely this will be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it’s been revealed,” he told the outlet. On Twitter, Musk joked about the story in a reply to the tweet: “Hi Chad, long time no see! All right, if you touch my sausage, you can have a horse.
After the story surfaced, Shotwell sent a company-wide email to SpaceX employees defending Musk. “Personally, I believe the allegations are false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and have never seen or heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell wrote. “Anyone who knows Elon like me knows he would never drive or condone this alleged inappropriate behavior.”
This isn’t the first time the subject of sexual harassment at SpaceX has surfaced. In December, a former SpaceX employee wrote an essay on the Lioness platform detailing her experience of what she described as pervasive sexual harassment at the company. She also criticized SpaceX’s HR response to her complaints. The edge spoke with four other former SpaceX employees at the time, all of whom argued that the company’s human resources department improperly handled harassment complaints. Before the story appeared, Shotwell emailed the company reiterating the “No Asshole” policy.
“We also know we can always do better,” Shotwell wrote in December. “That’s why HR sought feedback from different groups across the business to ensure the process is working. HR will also perform an internal audit, followed by a third-party audit. »
A copy of the letter can be read below:
An open letter to SpaceX executives,
In light of the recent allegations against our CEO and his public bashing of the situation, we would like to provide you with our comments on how these events affect the reputation of our company and, through it, our mission. Employees from all spectrums of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles contributed to this letter. We believe it is imperative to maintain an honest and open dialogue with each other to effectively together achieve the main objectives of our company: to make SpaceX a great place to work for everyone and to make humans a multiplanetary species.
As SpaceX employees, we are expected to challenge established processes, innovate quickly to solve complex problems as a team, and use failures as learning opportunities. Commitment to these ideals is fundamental to our identity and is central to how we have redefined our industry. But despite all of our technical accomplishments, SpaceX does not apply these principles to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion with equal priority across the company, resulting in a work culture that remains firmly rooted in the status quo.
Individuals and groups of SpaceX employees have gone to great lengths beyond their technical scope to make the company a more inclusive space through conference recruiting, open forums, executive feedback, outreach , etc. However, we feel an uneven load to complete this effort because the company has not applied appropriate urgency and resources to the problem in a manner consistent with our approach to critical path technical projects. To be clear: recent events are not isolated incidents; they are emblematic of a larger culture that serves many people who enable the extraordinary achievements of SpaceX. As industry leaders, we have a unique responsibility to solve this problem.
Elon’s behavior in the public sphere has been a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks. As CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is considered the face of SpaceX – every Tweet Elon sends is a de facto public statement of the company. It is essential to make it clear to our teams and our potential talent pool that its message does not reflect our work, our mission or our values.
SpaceX’s current systems and culture do not live up to its stated values, as many employees continue to experience uneven application of our oft-repeated “No Asshole” and “Zero Tolerance” policies. This must change. As a starting point, we propose the following share categories, the details of which we would like to discuss in person with the management team within a month:
Publicly denounce and condemn Elon’s prejudicial behavior on Twitter. SpaceX must quickly and explicitly part ways with Elon’s personal brand.
Hold all leaders equally accountable for making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone. Take a critical look at issues that prevent employees from fully performing their jobs and reaching their potential, pursuing specific and sustainable actions that are well-funded, transparent, and treated with the same rigor and urgency as the establishment a flight justification after a material anomaly.
Define and respond uniformly to all forms of unacceptable behavior. Clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX’s “no asshole” and “zero tolerance” policies and apply them consistently. SpaceX must establish safe reporting channels and maintain clear repercussions for any unacceptable behavior, whether it comes from the CEO or an employee from day one.
We care deeply about SpaceX’s mission to make humanity multiplanetary. But more importantly, we care about each other. The collaboration we need to make life multiplanetary is incompatible with a culture that treats employees as consumable resources. Our unique position compels us to consider how our actions today will shape the experiences of individuals beyond our planet. Is the culture we are currently promoting the one we aim to bring to Mars and beyond?
We have made progress in this direction, but there is still a long way to go.