An internal survey conducted by Tesla in 2018 during a difficult time for the company revealed that employees were concerned about CEO Elon Musk’s leadership abilities, even calling him a tyrant.
In 2018, Tesla was in the midst of a struggle to expand Model 3 production. Elon Musk said a few years later that Tesla was just weeks away from bankruptcy during this ordeal.
On March 2, 2018, Gabrielle Toledano, then Tesla’s chief people officer, sent the survey to Ira Ehrenpreis, a member of Tesla’s board of directors and chair of the company’s compensation committee. In her email, Toledano identified two key issues facing employees: concerns about pay and concerns about Tesla’s leadership, particularly Elon Musk’s leadership.
“Combining the results of the employee survey,” Toledano said in the email, “employees are dissatisfied with compensation, particularly for vice presidents, and dissatisfied with leadership, primarily for Elon Musk.”
A selection of employee responses to Elon Musk and his management team show that employees are unhappy with his company culture, leadership, approachability and communication, work schedules and firings.
Tesla employees call Elon Musk a tyrant
One employee who participated in the survey wrote, “Tesla is losing talented, driven people who truly believe in the company’s vision and continue to want it to succeed. Elon Musk is a top technology leader but is widely viewed as an unapproachable tyrant. He devalues the contributions of his employees and may fire them on a whim …… Employees are the basic unit of the company, but we treat them like any other expendable resource.”
Another employee wrote that they felt that “at any time, I or anyone close to me would be fired” and said they did not plan to stay in an “extremely toxic environment” for long. One employee said Elon Musk’s “ego” needed to change, while another said people were “bullied by Elon Musk into making unrealistic promises.
Despite some negative comments from employees about Elon Musk, 98 percent of employees surveyed said they were “proud of the impact Tesla is making in the world.