Elon Musk lays off 10% of Tesla’s workforce . . . as cruelly as possible

Once again, let’s take a look at an Elon Musk missive. This time he’s laying off 10% of Tesla’s salaried workers. Here’s the internal email, according to CNBC:

To: Everybody
Subject: Headcount Reduction
Date: Friday, June 3, 2022

Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10% as we have become overstaffed in many areas. Note this does not apply to anyone actually building cars, battery packs or installing solar. Hourly headcount will increase.


This certainly wins the award for brevity and clarity. There are so many bad ways to pad a layoff announcement with bullshit. Musk avoids all of them.

What any human CEO would do (and Elon Musk didn’t)

This email mystifies me since Musk has sent email memos about layoffs in previous years that were much more humane and understandable. Following in the heels of his email about working in the office or resigning, he continues to come off as an unhinged tyrannical heel.

Here’s what’s missing:

  • Any indication that Musk is thankful for the work his staff have done. “Thank you” are two words that are always worth adding.
  • Any justification for why this he’s doing this now. Is demand slowing? Is there a need to rebalance investments? Is there pressure from Wall Street? Is he sure that a recession will kill demand in the future, or that his competitors are making better cars than he is? Surely there is some justification other than “we have become overstaffed in many areas,” which lacks the detail that any employee or investor needs to understand what is happening.
  • Any instructions for what staff are supposed to do to find out if and when they are laid off, and what severance they might receive. I’ve been through several layoffs; anyone in business for more than decade or two has. Typically, there is a carefully laid out series of stages so that managers can determine who in their department to let go — or whether the whole department will be cut — and to communicate to employees what sort of help the company will provide in outplacement, severance packages, and health insurance. The CEO’s email to the company typically refers staff to either their manager or someone in HR who can answer their questions. Such emails are typically part of a deliberate and detailed plan that management puts in place for an orderly “reduction in force.” Layoffs are brutal even when this is done well; when it’s done poorly, it leaves a huge mess and undermines the motivation of all the staff that remain. While I am not privy to whatever other emails and communications went out to Tesla employees, Musk’s email sure doesn’t seem like a part of a careful plan communicated to all staff through managers or human resources. No HR department would sanction a layoff email like this.

If you need to communicate a layoff, don’t fill it with meaningless self-serving drivel. But there’s no need to treat people like disposable parts whose years of effort aren’t deserving of even the slightest respect.

Honestly. Just think like a human being. Not like a robber baron.

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    1. Since hiring is slow and hard, companies hire based on a predicted amount of growth. When that growth appears to be slowing, they have to “un-hire”

  1. I go hits the Elon musk nail on the head—these excess former humans did not arrive at testyla by accident.

  2. His style is becoming more like Trump’s every day. Speaking of which, when is somebody going to sue E.M. for tampering with Twitter’s value (financial and otherwise) while he postures and delays?

  3. Not that my opinion about E.M. matters, but… He seems like a brilliant guy – he thinks up cool stuff! He figures out what needs to be done, how it can be done, and makes it happen. But, he acts like a total a$$hat and mistreats people. He acknowledges that he is ‘on the spectrum’ and social skills are not his strength. That’s fine. But given the impact of his actions and words, he should hire people to do that part for him. Good staff can be his ‘human side’, and keep him focused on what he does best (and tape his mouth shut when needed). Otherwise he comes off as a two-legged wrecking ball.