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You Don’t Need to Eat Shit When You Get Fired. Even if Your Boss Is Elon Musk

Ex-Tesla employees publicly thanked the CEO after he laid them off. No leader deserves blind devotion—no matter how many flamethrowers he has

This week, flamethrower salesman and Grimes dater Elon Musk announced that Tesla, his car company, would slash its workforce by a whopping 9 percent — meaning some 4,100 employees are out of a job. The news confirms his misjudgment on mass production of the Model 3 sedan and reminded everyone that Tesla is a machine that burns cash instead of fossil fuels. It’s not as if these kinds of reorganizations are uncommon in the breakneck tech and automotive sectors, but the reactions from those let go certainly were: A lot of these suck-ups were actually thanking Musk.

After racking my brain to understand this, I can offer three potentially illuminating theories:

  1. Musk acquires compromising information on every hire, much like the Church of Scientology, and may disclose it if the employee insufficiently flatters him or Tesla after parting ways with the company.
  2. Said flattery is a non-negotiable condition of receiving the layoff severance package.
  3. Musk told everyone getting the ax that he’d hire back the one person who kissed his ass best on the internet that day.

I’m currently leaning toward No. 3, as I really don’t see what else is in it for these folks.

You Don’t Need to Revolt, Either—Just Bow Out Gracefully

I’m not demanding that the ex-Tesla crew immediately turn on an irritating entrepreneur who chose to wage a petty war with journalists as the bottom fell out of his never-profitable startup. Take your time, seriously! What I want them to know right this moment, though, is that you needn’t eat shit for your boss after getting fired. Not at all!

I’ve been laid off exactly once in my life, and while I wasn’t entirely pissed — I was honestly psyched to sleep in the following Monday — I didn’t feel the urge to grovel before the executives who opted to save a few bucks by eliminating my underpaid copy-editing position. I accepted the paperwork, cleaned out my cubicle and left to hit the nearest dive bar. There are, of course, healthier ways to get over the shame of losing a job.

And so, I must suggest that tech workers do what everyone in my industry does after they’re dropped from a masthead: Post something along the lines of “LOL, guess this is my last day at [failing publication]. Who wants to hire me? I cover X, Y and Z. Hit me up at [email address].” And if you see the layoffs coming, there’s no shame in taking that meeting with another company’s hiring manager. (Just use your PTO.)

No Company Is Perfect, and No CEO Deserves Blind Devotion

When I was laid off, my CEO didn’t hop on Twitter and passive-aggressively hint that the Fake News Media had misrepresented the situation in their early reports on the downsizing, nor did he buy $25 million in company stock as it happened. To top it off, Tesla’s cuts were the perfectly predictable result of an ill-advised hiring binge, so it’s not as if Musk can blame external factors for the crunch.

It doesn’t matter if the organization talks up its noble mission to, say, “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable, clean energy,” because some higher-up just decided that you weren’t much help in achieving that alleged goal. When you declare yourself a “believer” in Musk’s brave new hypercapitalism, you’re simply shilling for him.

I’d hoped to receive backup on this take from several career advisers and job counselors, and I did reach out to half-dozen of them active on Twitter to ask if Musk’s bootlickers had made the right move by professing gratitude. “What, if anything, do we owe the people who fire us?” I added. Literally none of these advisers replied. Fair enough: Cruising social media throughout the day, and engaging with me on these platforms, is a bound to end in professional failure.

Nevertheless, I must insist: Unless a billionaire up and sends you a few hundred grand on Venmo — sorry, PayPal — you aren’t in their debt. What if you shouted out the people you actually worked with on a daily basis instead of your neo-feudal, anti-union overlord? Crazy! Okay, enough, I’m done discussing this nonsense. I have to go thank Jeff Bezos for inventing books.