Tesla Employee Survey Describes Elon Musk as an Unapproachable Tyrant

Tesla workers said Elon Musk was an unapproachable tyrant in employee surveuy 10 photos
Photo: Tesla/edited by autoevolution
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Tesla is said to adopt arbitration and have its employees sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to avoid courts. Public judgments would force it to present documents that show what is really going on behind the curtains. A good example was an employee survey Tesla had to deliver in the lawsuit Richard J. Tornetta filed against Elon Musk’s $56-billion compensation package. Employees called Musk an “unapproachable tyrant.”
That is just part of what Business Insider obtained from the document. One of the employees said Musk “devalues the contributions of the staff, and may fire them on a whim.” Another one told the researchers that “Elon fired multiple engineers and KUKA at the Gigafactory last year” – the survey was conducted in 2018, so that was probably in 2017. “If that was because of the ego, that needs to change.”

That comes from long before that. In 2014, Cristina Balan believed Musk when he said Tesla employees should report anything directly to him. When she did that, she was taken into a room and forced to resign. Balan sued Tesla for Tesla of misclassification, demotion, retaliation, wrongful termination, and gender discrimination. Her case went into arbitration, and she won more than $320,000 in 2017.

Around the same time, the Huffington Post decided to tell her story. After it was published, Tesla demanded to tell its story and accused Balan of embezzlement and kickback. She sued Tesla again, now for defamation. Apart from trying to have a public judgment on her case, the Romanian engineer is currently fighting breast cancer.

The document brings other interesting remarks about Musk and his executives. One employee said that “he and JB (Straubel) need to quit being little children and take that on themselves.” Straubel is currently the CEO of Redwood Materials, a battery recycling company. The “that” refers to the “sh** position he has put the team in,” which can be explained by fragments such as “the disassociation between the executive team and reality,” and “Tesla is hemorrhaging highly talented, ferociously-driven people.”

Curiously, 83% of respondents said they trusted Musk and his executive team "to successfully lead the company," 81% said the company was worried about creating "a culture of diversity and inclusiveness," and 81% said they could freely express their opinions. Considering the racism lawsuits the company faces and the complaints about being fired for nothing, these numbers and the remarks from employees sound contradictory.

One of them even revealed engineering problems. A Tesla worker said that “the crushing blow of the ramp and team demoralization of the Model 3 battery has been extremely disheartening. More so, the blame placed by Elon and the Exec team on lower-level engineers without owning any accountability to (sic) the poor level of design review, non-reality-based scheduling, and insufficient resource allocation has lead (sic) me to lose (sic) all trust in Elon as a leader of this company."

In other words, the document published by Business Insider shows someone at Tesla was worried about pretty serious issues in car development. They make the “deliver now, fix later” motto even more certain about the “fix later” bit. Rushing people to deliver stuff with poor design reviews and insufficient resources will necessarily backfire. Honestly, it may already have.
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Editor's note: The gallery contains images of the Fremont factory and its workers.

About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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