When Dick Costolo took the stage in Twitter’s cafeteria in front of hundreds of employees on Thursday afternoon, there was little evidence that he was about to drop a bomb.
For the most part, employees had no idea Costolo, who has been battered and beaten in the press over the past six months for the company’s slow growth and recent earnings miss, was stepping down. The only subtle signal was that the company’s all-hands meeting, called Tea Time, was changed at the last minute from 10 am PT to 1 pm PT when the stock markets would be closed.
Costolo addressed the staff first, and others — like board member Peter Fenton and now interim CEO Jack Dorsey — followed after. Some executives, like product head Kevin Weil and head of global revenue Adam Bain, added some nice words about the boss. One employee said Dick seemed happy and light. Fenton even joked that the decision had nothing to do with Chris Sacca, the investor who started publicly critiquing the company earlier this month.
But still, the news stung, if only because it caught the majority of Twitter’s workforce completely off guard.
“Employees were definitely shocked,” one Twitter employee told Re/code. “He’s loved by all so I think there’s sadness all around.”
It certainly looked and felt that way on Twitter, where employees turned to tweet out support and gratitude for the CEO. The sharing was heavy enough that the hashtag #ThankYouDickC was actually trending in San Francisco. A few employees even tweeted photos of the crowd giving Costolo a standing ovation.
Costolo has always had a reputation for being a likable manager. He’s a fun person — a former comedian — and some people took that humor for a lack of seriousness, but people tended to respect him. That respect was on display Thursday.
There is some belief from employees that Dorsey, who says he will split his time running Twitter and Square until a permanent replacement can be found, may actually be the next man for the job. Multiple current employees told Re/code there’s a feeling within some circles in the company that Dorsey may be back for good.
Twitter has been criticized in the past for moving too slowly or too tentatively when it comes to evolving the product. Some believe that part of the issue is that, as a non-founder CEO, Costolo lacked some of the moral authority needed to make major changes to the Twitter product. Bringing a founder back to run the company might help Twitter push some of those ideas forward with more confidence.
Dorsey and Costolo said on a conference call Thursday that a hiring committee made up of Twitter board members will look for a replacement CEO, but there’s no timetable for that hire.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.