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.
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.