The announcements of massive industry layoffs, especially in the thriving tech sector, have arrived with an alarming frequency just as the world of work was ready to leave the pandemic behind. From the “great resignation” to “quiet quitting,” “hybrid working,” and “work from anywhere,” the theme of “employee experience comes first” has dominated the post-pandemic headlines.

It appears the “new employment contract” has been redrawn in favor of the employees. The question today is whether the next economic stress test will expose the weak links in the employee-centric management model. Can the notion of “stakeholder capitalism” withstand the slowing economy and the looming recession that is forcing companies and their leaders to make difficult decisions and bring back the austerity tactics? Everyone is carefully watching how far the pendulum of change will swing in the other direction.

No matter the prevailing HR convention and “best practice” rhetoric, business disruption can force divergent responses to change. Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter serves as a reminder that “the arc of management history” does not always bend in the direction of progress. As for Musk’s management playbook, his disregard for the 21st-century norms of good management and a healthy workplace is a function of a deeper cultural phenomenon – America’s fetishization of the technology CEOs. On that front, Musk is in the company of Theranos’ Elizabeth Homes and FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried. Given the tri-factor of cases, could we also be experiencing a crisis of leadership all at once?

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