Sacked Twitter exec who went viral for sleeping on office floor defends going ‘all in’ for Elon Musk

February 28, 2023

No one likely personified Elon Musk’s “extreme hard-core” Twitter 2.0 better than Esther Crawford, its erstwhile director of Product Management who became Internet-famous for sleeping on the office floor.

Now Crawford—who survived multiple staff cullings at the social media platform—has herself been let go. Instead of bitterness, however, she defended her decision to forgo family time in favor of grinding it out for Twitter’s billionaire owner, reports Fortune Magazine.

“The worst take you could have from watching me go all-in on Twitter 2.0 is that my optimism or hard work was a mistake,” she wrote on Sunday, February 26, in a post on Twitter already viewed by 1.2 million people.

The November snapshot of the mother of three curled up in a sleeping bag and eye mask posted next to her “cheeky” hashtag #SleepWhereYouWork sparked controversy for its alleged glorification of a corporate culture that required constant self-sacrifice just as Twitter was about to lay off over half its workforce.

The initial weeks of Musk’s Twitter reboot saw Crawford’s coworkers repeatedly pushed out the door in typically headline-grabbing fashion.

One was openly fired via Twitter after daring to publicly correct Musk, while sacked software engineer Nicholas Robinson-Wall even advocated colleagues had a “moral duty” to disobey the new owner.

The blowback over her choice to spend nights at the office prompted Crawford to openly profess her love for her family: “I’m grateful they understand that there are times where I need to go into overdrive to grind and push in order to deliver.” Her husband called her a role model for their children.

Nonetheless, the picture landed at a time when sensitivity over U.S. labor conditions is on the rise, with fresh efforts to organize companies controlled by known union busters like Musk and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

Twitter employees had also begun to question whether it was worth burning

the midnight oil just to help Musk salvage a $44 billion investment he fought until the very end to avoid: “Would you sacrifice time with your kids over the holiday for vague assurances and the opportunity to make a rich person richer, or would you take the out?” ex-Twitter employee Peter Clowes asked rhetorically at the time before bailing on the company.

Throughout this turbulent time, Crawford remained a staunch defender of the capricious visionary—rolling out his scheme to charge users for a previously free verification badge.

Crawford’s unwavering support for Musk may have also been due to her own familiarity with the pressures he faces as an entrepreneur, having herself cofounded and run a software startup called Squad, which she sold to Twitter in December 2020.

In a profile of Crawford published last month, the Financial Times described her as a “rare leader” from the company’s old guard who could win Musk’s favor by challenging him tactfully behind closed doors.

When it became her turn to fall on her sword, however, Musk’s gladiator called out the critics for being armchair generals.

She accused them of jeering from the sidelines rather than being “in the arena” with her—a reference to a 1910 speech by Theodor Roosevelt popular in corporate America for extolling society’s doer of deeds. (Nike liked it so much that it turned it into a commercial.)

Now, the mantle of Musk’s most faithful supporter at Twitter appears to have passed to Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of Trust and safety , whom Bloomberg recently described as the “chief executor of Musk’s whims.”

Irwin replied to Crawford on Sunday, acknowledging the brief but important role she played in assisting the new owner. “Thank you for working so hard to help lay the foundation for Twitter 2.0, Esther,” she wrote. “You will be missed.”

 Research contact: @FortuneMagazine