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HR reacts to Elon Musk’s mandatory in-office policy at Tesla

Some say the policy will spark an exodus of workers. Others say it’s brilliant.
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Musk's utopia. (United Artists Digital Studios/The Apartment)

· 3 min read

Elon Musk has entered the RTO chat. In leaked emails Musk sent last week, the EV maker’s CEO detailed a mandatory in-office work policy, writing that “everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week.”

Failing to meet this standard will presumably result in termination for Tesla employees, with Musk writing: “If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.” One of the two emails was tweeted by Sam Nissim, whose Twitter bio says he’s a Tesla shareholder, on Wednesday, generating the kind of polarizing buzz so commonly associated with the tycoon, who was recently accused of exposing himself to a flight attendant working for his aerospace company, SpaceX. (Musk denies the allegations.)

Musk’s memo catapulted throughout Twitter, sparking debate among the pro-office and WFH camps cluttering Nissim’s mentions and beyond. Musk also tweeted more, surprising no one, and noting that people who think coming into an office for work is an antiquated concept should “pretend to work somewhere else.”

The HR world, naturally, had some feedback on Musk’s new policy.

Evil HR Lady: “Senior leadership should be there when employees of any level need to be on-site. I don’t know who Musk includes in his ExecStaff…but I doubt he’s referring to a junior analyst. These are likely the decision-makers and people making big bucks. These people decide when the factory workers work, where they work, and how long they work. They can’t claim to support and lead when they aren’t there.”—Suzanne Lucas (AKA Evil HR Lady), writing for Inc. magazine, in response to Musk writing in his email: “The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence.”

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Headhunters get ahead. “The true winners will be headhunters, who will have no problem poaching talent from Tesla and placing these people elsewhere.”—Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, predicted on LinkedIn.

Authoritarian, much? “This authoritarian, top-down approach rooted in mistrust and false assumptions goes against best practices and reflects an illusion of control that will undermine employee productivity, engagement, innovation, retention, and recruitment at Tesla.”—Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, wrote in an opinion column for the New York Daily News.

Poaching (on Twitter): “hey @elonmusk- saw your letter! We’d be happy to hire any of your team who don’t want to count 40hrs in the office. Wanna intro me to your HR?”—Sachin Dev Duggal, chief wizard at AI app developer Builder.ai, tweeted.

And General Motors. The automotive giant did donuts around Musk on Friday, firing off a press release with an email subject line that declared, “Elon Musk’s stance on remote work is harmful to diverse talent.” In a statement, Tamberlin “Tammy” Golden, GM’s executive director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, touted the car manufacturer’s “flexible work” policy.

Also on Friday, news broke that Musk, who wrote that he has a ”super bad feeling” about the economy, is planning a 10% workforce reduction at Tesla, prompting speculation that his new RTO policy could potentially be a pretext for layoffs.—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SammBlum on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Sam for his number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.