In an internal letter to executives, several SpaceX employees called flamboyant billionaire and CEO Elon Musk a “distraction and embarrassment.”
Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla Inc, has made headlines and been the subject of late-night comedy monologues in recent months for a tumultuous bid to buy Twitter, a reported allegation of sexual harassment that Musk has denied, as well as crude online comments and a foray into political discourse.
“Elon’s public behavior is a frequent cause of distraction and humiliation for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the letter said, without mentioning any specific dispute. A copy of the letter was sent to Reuters.
“Elon is perceived as the face of SpaceX as our CEO and most visible spokesperson – every tweet Elon makes is a de facto public statement by the company,” the letter continued.
A request for comment from SpaceX was not immediately returned.
According to a source familiar with the situation, the open letter was produced by SpaceX employees recently and posted as an attachment in an internal “Morale Boosters” group chat, which includes thousands of employees.
It was unclear who wrote the letter or how many employees contributed to its development.
“SpaceX must rapidly and explicitly distance itself from Elon’s brand,” the letter adds in a list of three demands. “Hold all leadership equally accountable for making SpaceX a fantastic place to work for everyone,” it said, as well as “define and respond uniformly to all forms of inappropriate behavior.”
Musk refuted and derided the allegations that he sexually harassed a flight attendant on a private plane in 2016. But, according to three people acquainted with private discussions among SpaceX personnel, several of his tweets demonstrated vulgar levity that embarrassed and made some of them cringe.
One SpaceX employee said about Musk, “He often doesn’t realize how what he says could influence others.” “The letter is a group ‘Hey!’ We’re getting a lot of criticism for things that have nothing to do with us.'”
Many SpaceX employees are annoyed by Musk’s issues but “remain as motivated as ever and excited about the future,” according to a SpaceX employee.
Musk, who also serves as the company’s chief engineer, has been credited with many of SpaceX’s high-profile achievements, including pioneering the reuse of orbital rocket boosters and bringing routine human spaceflight back to the United States after a nine-year absence.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, is in charge of the company’s day-to-day operations. She has vowed to implement SpaceX’s “zero-tolerance” guidelines against employee harassment after previous workplace squabbles.
When asked how she handles crises, Shotwell stated, “workers were begging to hear from me” about the alleged sexual harassment charges against Musk and that she addressed their concerns in a company-wide email during a leadership session at Stanford University in May.
Shotwell explained, “I have to communicate with my employees.” “They’re the reason SpaceX exists, and I genuinely care about them.”