Musk, a “tyrant” who shoots because of his “ego”

  • Tesla employees complained about Elon Musk’s leadership and culture in a 2018 survey obtained by Insider.
  • The survey identified compensation, “Elon and the management team” and “care of company employees” as high-risk areas.
  • The investigation was referenced on the first day of testimony in a shareholder lawsuit against Musk.

A 2018 internal survey of Tesla workers during a difficult time for the company reveals that employees expressed concerns about Elon Musk’s leadership.

The investigation, which Insider obtained and is publishing in full for the first time, was referenced last week in a lawsuit against the billionaire over his $50 billion-plus compensation package.

Former Tesla human resources director Gabrielle Toledano sent the survey to Tesla board member Ira Ehrenpreis, who chairs the company’s compensation committee, on March 2, 2018. In her e -mail, Toledano identified two key issues facing employees: concerns about compensation and concerns about leadership at Tesla, particularly around Elon Musk.

“Review of employee survey results,” Toledano said in the email. “Not good for composition, especially for VPs, and not good for leadership, especially about Elon.”

In the survey of Tesla professionals, managers, executives and directors, 65% of respondents said they trust Musk and the leadership team to “balance the interests of employees with those of the company.” 67% said they believe Musk and his executives “care about the employees of the company.”

A total of 58% of employees at the professional level or above said they felt “fairly compensated” for their work.

A screenshot of Tesla's 2018 employee survey

A screenshot of the 2018 Tesla employee survey, showing favorable responses from Tesla professionals, managers, executives and directors.


A selection of responses about Elon Musk and his management team showed employees complaining about his company culture, leadership, accessibility and communication, working hours and layoffs.

“Tesla is hemorrhaging highly talented and fiercely motivated people who truly believe in the company’s vision and continue to hope for its success,” one worker wrote in the survey. “Elon is a top-notch technical leader, yet is widely seen as an unapproachable bully who devalues ​​staff contributions and can fire them on a whim…we treat people, the fundamental unit of a business , like any other consumable resource.”

The worker added that Tesla “fails to distinguish between technical leadership and human leadership”, calling it “an ugly part of Tesla’s culture”.

A screenshot of a page from Tesla's 2018 employee survey, showing comments on

A screenshot of a page from Tesla’s 2018 employee survey, showing comments about “Elon and Exec Staff”


Another worker wrote that he felt like “at any moment me or anyone around me would be fired”, saying he did not plan to stay in an “extremely toxic environment” any longer.

One worker said Musk’s “ego” needed to change, while another said people were “bullied by Elon into making unrealistic commitments”.

In 2018, when the survey was conducted, Tesla was struggling to ramp up production of its Model 3. Years later, Musk said Tesla was only weeks away from bankruptcy during the test.

“Watching the crushing thump of the ramp and the demoralization of the Model 3 battery crew was extremely disheartening,” one worker wrote in the survey. “More so, the blame placed by Elon and the Exec team on lower level engineers without being responsible for the low level of design review, non-reality based planning and insufficient resource allocation m led to losing all faith in Elon as the leader of this company.”

Despite several negative comments about Musk, 98% of employees surveyed said they were “proud of Tesla’s impact in the world.”

The investigation was cited last week during the first day of testimony in a lawsuit filed by a Tesla shareholder against Musk over his pay package, which alleged that Musk and the automaker breached their obligations. trustees by awarding indemnification “beyond the bounds of reasonable judgment”.

The email was cited as potential evidence that the Tesla CEO was a “threatening” figure to Tesla staff, including executives tasked with approving his salary package.

Musk and a Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider before publication.

Last week, Ehrenpreis agreed in court that the quotes were “consistent with a long history of how some people felt”.

The billionaire has long been known for his intensity. At Tesla and SpaceX, he pursued lofty goals and has even been known to work up to 120 hours a week and sleep on the factory floor. Former executives said the billionaire could be a difficult person to work for, prone to outbursts of anger and even instances of rage from fired employees – allegations he flatly denied, calling them “fake” on Twitter and saying he gives “clear and candid” feedback to employees.

More recently, Musk fired several Twitter employees last week after engineers criticized Musk’s technical knowledge.

Read the full survey:

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