An Open Letter to Elon Musk - Workers Aren't Going Back to 2019

Rian Chandler-Dovis writes an open letter to Elon Musk about organizational leadership and what it calls for today.

Open Letter to Elon Musk

Dear Elon,

I have followed your career and innovations with a sense of awe at your ability to stay just ahead of the curve and deliver technology that accelerates the future’s arrival. 

That’s why your recent email to Tesla employees was so surprising to me.

I didn’t expect someone so clearly in tune with what’s next to express opinions firmly rooted in yesterday’s management myths. 

Myth #1— Productivity requires a sacrifice: life for work.

You wrote to your executives that “I have lived in the factory,” and that you expect “a minimum of 40 hours in the office.”

The pandemic proved that such sacrifice isn’t necessary. With the right tools and communications infrastructure, people can collaborate, lead, and deliver from anywhere, and do. 

Remote work lets employees live the lives they determine best for themselves and where they want to live it. For most everyone, that’s not in the factory. Organizations that trust employees to build their lives around their work get back enormous returns in loyalty, innovation, and yes, productivity. Drag them back to management styles of 2019 and watch productivity, morale and retention plummet. 

Myth #2 — Face-to-face interaction fuels collective intelligence (or productivity, innovation, etc.).

You wrote that you lived in the Tesla factory “so that those on the line could see me working alongside them.”

Study after study shows open concept workspaces decrease employee morale and productivity. You may not have reported to a “boss” in awhile, but I guarantee you that the rest of us can’t think of anything more stressful than our bosses living at our office.

Instead, let go. If you give people control of their work environment, you decrease their feelings of being judged and eliminate groupthink. According to Forbes, 31% of employees in open offices say they hold back their true thoughts and opinions while on calls because they don’t want co-workers to hear and judge them. 

Additionally, a distributed workforce in different locations exposes employees to new concepts, viewpoints, and opportunities that can spark ideas and innovation that otherwise would not have surfaced. 

Myth #3 — Power is gained through proximity.

Reading between the lines of your email, Elon, it’s clear you find power in keeping your executives physically close. But it’s not the proximity of your team that gives you power. It’s your brand’s influence.

Great brands are built and carried on the backs of leaders and employees who believe in it and will give their all for it, whether they’re down the hall or across the ocean.

Tesla is arguably one of the world’s top mission-driven brands, attracting the world’s best and brightest to lead the electric vehicle revolution and move the planet away from carbon-based fuels.

Why stifle that with outdated missives about being in the office? 

Back in 2018, Brand Federation built an organizational  structure on a fundamental belief: People do their best work when they are able to live their best life. 

We have grown to span three countries, work with dozens of contractors and employees to help organization's reenergize at a time when standing still means giving up. Our distributed workforce doesn’t preclude us from building a strong culture, collaborating daily, or fueling world-changing innovation. In fact, our distributed workforce enables all of these things—because we can attract the best talent from diverse backgrounds and locations, and keep them happy and fulfilled. 

It’s a win-win.

It will be for Tesla, too. Join us in accelerating the future. Show your team—and the world—what organizational leadership in 2022 looks like.

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