In emails to full-time employees of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk ordered full-time employees to return to the office for at least 40 hours a week.
The first batch of emails went out to a Tesla-related email group labeled ExecStaff, presumably going to Tesla’s senior management. Then a mass email went out to all employees.
“The office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned,” the second email said.
The first email to the executive staff of both companies echoed that sentiment, stressing that it was important for them to return to a main office, not a satellite.
Elon Musk did show a willingness to cut the executive staff some slack if there was a good reason for it: “If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly.”
Previous emails to employees may have expressed his frustration with managers who ignored his orders:
“If an email is sent from me with explicit directions, there are only three actions allowed by managers:
1. Email me back to explain why what I said was incorrect. Sometimes I’m just plain wrong!
2. Request further clarification if what I said was ambiguous.
3. Execute the directions.
If none of the above are done, that manager will be asked to resign immediately.”
The emails were called both Musk issuing an ultimatum – “My way or the highway” – and an example of clear communications with managers who are expected to actually, you know, do their jobs.
Musk has a history of butting heads with disgruntled former employees, including accusations of racial discrimination and legal battles over leaked documents and industrial espionage. Tesla and Musk fought back against the National Labor Relations Board over past anti-union tweets from Musk.
Musk’s reputation as a tough boss may have contributed to increased stress-related issues and even several departures among Twitter employees after Musk made a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. Left-leaning activists and politicians expressed concern that Musk might restore Donald Trump before Musk even confirmed that he would. Advocacy groups launched a campaign against Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
In an SEC filing related to the deal, Twitter expressed concern about attracting and retaining qualified employees under Musk. It also expressed concern about reduced productivity due to employees becoming distracted under Musk.
Others, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, gloated about it in anticipation of having their personal accounts restored.
Since the deal was reached, Musk expressed concern about the number of bots on Twitter. However, the deal has a chance to move forward now that it passed review by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice’s antitrust division.
The emails sent out by Musk could be interpreted as him being the classic “tough boss” – or just a control freak. It does follow his pattern of laying down clear expectations for Tesla and SpaceX employees.