Two years ago, the company brought in a blunt executive to make things move faster and to promote diversity. Then the problems began.
SAN FRANCISCO â€” Soon after joining Twitter in 2019, Dantley Davis gathered his staff in a conference room at the companyâ€™s San Francisco headquarters. Twitter was too nice, he told the group, and he was there to change it.
Mr. Davis, the companyâ€™s new vice president of design, asked employees to go around the room, complimenting and critiquing one another. Tough criticism would help Twitter improve, he said. The barbs soon flew. Several attendees cried during the two-hour meeting, said three people who were there.
Mr. Davis, 43, has played a key role in a behind-the-scenes effort over the past two years to remake Twitterâ€™s culture. The company had long been slow to build products, and under pressure from investors and users, executives landed on a diagnosis: Twitterâ€™s collaborative environment had calcified, making workers reluctant to criticize one another. Mr. Davis, the company believed, was one of the answers to that problem.
The turmoil that followed revealed the trade-offs and conflicts that arise when companies attempt dramatic cultural shifts and put the onus on hard-nosed managers to make that change happen.