Sunday, June 5, 2022

Quote of the Day (Edward Niedermeyer, on the ‘Negligent and Sometimes Cruel Workplace’ of Elon Musk)

“For those of us who have followed Mr. Musk’s antics for some time, the latest twist in his bid for the social media platform [i.e., reevaluating his acquisition Twitter] is entirely in character. The way that he has managed and marketed his businesses from Tesla’s early days reveals a dysfunction behind the automaker’s veneer of technofuturism and past stock market successes. Often announcing new features without consultation with his team, he forces his employees to bridge the enormous gap between technological reality and his dreams. This disconnect fosters a negligent and sometimes cruel workplace, to disastrous effect.”— Edward Niedermeyer, “Elon Musk Masks Dysfunction With Hype,” The New York Times, June 5, 2022

Since Niedermeyer’s article was posted on the Web site of the Times four days ago, the owner of Tesla and Space X has engaged in additional “antics,” including:

*announcing that he plans to launch “thousands” of 394-ft.-tall rockets to Mars;

*demanding that Tesla employees currently working remotely should prepare to spend a minimum of 40 a week back at the office, or resign;

*engaging in a bit of economic soothsaying by letting it out that he has a “super bad feeling” about the economy;

*informing employees that Tesla planned to lay off 10% of its workforce, then partially walking the statement back by saying that this only applied to “salaried employees,” and that the automaker is still hiring hourly workers.

These recent developments point to something that Niedermeyer only hints about when he explains that managers have taken to “deciding whether or not to take issues to Mr. Musk based on the shade of blond of his wife’s hair that day (with platinum shades being correlated with better moods).”

All of these multiple head-snapping mood swings beg the question of whether Musk is either a charismatic business and technological visionary or a megalomaniac. You can bet that not just his closest advisers, but also the shareholders in his ventures and even all of West Street, are sweating out the answer.

(The image accompanying this post, showing Elon Musk at the 2015 Tesla Motors Annual Meeting, was taken June 9, 2015 by Steve Jurvetson.)

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