Cheeks in Seats

Why does Elon Musk have such a problem with his employees working remotely? As reported by Gizmodo, Elon Musk recently emailed all Tesla executives and announced that since the COVID pandemic has subsided, they are expected to work in the office at least 40 hours a week. In very exceptional circumstances from ‘critical contributors’, Elon will personally vet every individual request to continue remotely.

When asked on social media what he thought about those who objected to an enforced office work policy, Musk replied “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”

Tact is not his strong suit

I’m not sure what drives Musk, but the least he can do is respect the people that his social media rants harm. As a Tesla executive I wouldn’t appreciate the lack of flexibility on the issue of remote work, but the implied threat is rather alarming when the consequences are aired in such a public forum. 

When did Elon Musk become to godfather of confrontation? I am profoundly confused as to why Musk so often needs to comment on every issue, even the most mundane like remote work policies? Why must he share every opinion so publicly? Is it because he’s the richest man in the world and feels he can say whatever he wants? Or is it that absolute power corrupts absolutely?

The times they are a changing

Perhaps when you’re obsessed with private rockets and living on Mars, you don’t notice what’s really going on in the world. We’re all enduring the effects of two plus years of pandemic lockdown. Many had their lives upended and many families moved to more affordable locations to raise their children.

The ‘cheeks in seats’ management style was never particularly popular with workers pre-pandemic. Today however, there are millions who will not wish to, or be able to, return to the office. Human Resource experts agree that flexibility is the future, but a public pronouncement via social media makes that impossible at Tesla. Maybe that’s exactly what Musk intended.  

Your flexibility is much appreciated

I wonder if Elon will realize his mistake and walk this one back just like he appears to be walking back from buying Twitter. Tesla is the most valuable car company in the world by a long shot, and it employs some of the best and brightest minds in electric vehicle design and manufacturing. Every other car company is struggling to match Tesla and they would kill for the opportunity to poach some top talent. Perhaps all they need to do is offer a flexible remote work policy.

I wonder how many of the Tesla executives who received the Musk email have also received job offers from Ford, GM, Nissan and Toyota. Musk may believe he is untouchable, but his employees aren’t. If Tesla wants to stay on top of the EV mountain, the CEO better be nicer to the brilliant minds that parked him there.