And let’s just say the email wasn’t pretty.
After highlighting Tesla’s numerous accomplishments over the past year, Musk got down and dirty, announcing another round of job cuts–this time reducing the number of full-time employees by about 7 percent.
The job cuts are necessary, Musk argues, to help the company meet the unique challenges it faces. Challenges like “making our cars, batteries, and solar products cost-competitive with fossil fuels,” products that Musk admits “are still too expensive for most people.”
Musk also acknowledges that since Tesla is competing “against massive, entrenched competitors … [employees] must work much harder than other manufacturers to survive.”
All of this hard work is worth it, Musk says, to support the “mission of accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy, which is important for all life on Earth.”
It’s hard not to be inspired by this message.
Everyone–including the world’s major car manufacturers–knows the continued use of fossil fuels is not sustainable. And no one can deny that those companies probably wouldn’t be as vested in clean energy as they currently are if it weren’t for Tesla leading the charge.
But while I’m a fan of much of Musk’s philosophy, it’s the next part of the memo that worries me:
There are many companies that can offer a better work-life balance, because they are larger and more mature or in industries that are not so voraciously competitive. Attempting to build affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity, but succeeding in our mission is essential to ensure that the future is good, so we must do everything we can to advance the cause.
“We must do everything we can to advance the cause.”
Musk’s personal goal to save the planet may be admirable, but what he’s implying here is not.
Treating people like people
We generally think of emotional intelligence as a positive quality, one that can help you manage conflict or establish deeper relationships. But in my book EQ Applied, I describe how people can also use their knowledge and understanding of emotions to motivate or even manipulate others with the sole intent of strategically achieving a goal.
Once that goal is reached, or when individuals are no longer helpful to pursuit of the goal, they are discarded with little or no concern for their well-being.
While it’s likely that Musk truly believes his own rhetoric, what he’s trying to achieve–namely, getting people to buy into the mission of “saving the world” by working themselves to the bone–simply isn’t sustainable.
And it’s hurting Tesla employees in the process.
In contrast, the most effective mission-driven organizations encourage balance and taking care of oneself. They realize that anything other than that is foolish and will hurt the cause in the end, in the form of damaged workers and, subsequently, damaged culture.
Yes, the best organizations use their messaging to inspire their people and reach them on an emotional level. But they do so while keeping their individual needs in mind.
The best organizations encourage their people to get enough sleep by not sending emails at 1 in the morning.
The best organizations encourage their people to take time off, by providing an adequate vacation policy–and encouraging company leaders to set the right example by not working on their own vacations.
The best organizations set a pace their people can maintain indefinitely. Because they realize that long-term success is brought about, not necessarily by those who are the fastest or who work the longest days, but by those who are steady and reliable.
By keeping the big picture in view, and treating their employees as real people–as opposed to disposable commodities–the best organizations inspire company loyalty.
The sooner Musk faces this reality, the greater Tesla’s chances of truly changing the world.