Updated: November 22, 2023
Updated: November 20, 2023
It turns out that Altman isn’t returning—at least for now. Still, the mere fact that the board considered the notion undercores the main point of this post. If staffers depart en masse as promised, I could still see it happening.
Late Friday, OpenAI announced that it had shitcanned CEO Sam Altman. The word shocking is entirely apropos, but not unheard of. Uber and WeWork are just two recent examples of valuable decacorns whose boards and investors forced their CEOs to walk—although after much more protracted battles.
Evidently, news of the unexpected departure isn’t sitting well with OpenAI’s workforce. Many employees threatened to resign if Altman isn’t reinstated. As Alex Heath and Nilay Patel write on The Verge, “If Altman decides to leave and start a new company, those staffers would assuredly go with him.”
Can OpenAI stand to lose a significant portion of its employees? Hell, no. I suspected that recruiters at Google, Amazon, Anthropic, and Meta are probably trolling these folks on LinkedIn as we speak. I would.
By the time you read these words, who knows where things will stand? Does Altman even want to return? The situation is nothing if not fluid.
I do know, however, that we’re arguably living in an era of unprecedented employee empowerment. (It’s the first of the nine forces I cover in The Nine.) With historically low unemployment, all workers are holding better cards than, say, March of 2020 or January 2009. I’m hard-pressed to think of any employees in greater demand than those crafting the generative artificial intelligence tools that are all the rage.
Stay tuned. My sense is that OpenAI employees will soon win out, not unlike the autoworkers who received some surprising concessions.
What say you?