Elon Musk Finally Explains Why He's Always Sleeping at the Tesla Factory

The billionaire's behavior betrays itself.

It’s important for entrepreneurs to lead by example, which means that as Tesla surged through the “production hell” needed to meet its Model 3 production goals, CEO Elon Musk was obviously burning the candle at both ends himself.

The deadline Musk imposed on the Tesla factory production line for the Model 3 was 5,000 cars built in a week. It completed 5,031. The mental strain Musk underwent is evidenced by his Twitter feed, which was running at all hours of the day. Now, in an hour-long interview published July 13 by Bloomberg, Musk discussed why setting the right example was so important and the lengths taken to keep his employees with their eye on the prize.

“The reason I sleep on the floor was not because I couldn’t go across the road and be at the hotel, it was because I wanted my circumstance to be worse than anyone else at the company on purpose,” Musk tells Bloomberg. “Like whatever pain they felt, I wanted mine to be worse. That’s why I did it. And it makes a huge difference to people.”

The Tesla Model 3.


What’s It Like to Work at Tesla?

Tesla is a divisive employer. Everyone’s trying to get in the room, enough so that the jobs site LinkedIn named it one of the five most covetable employers in the country in 2018. But it’s also a tough place to work: Barely half of company alums who submitted reviews on Glassdoor said they would recommend the company to a friend (compared with more than 75 percent at companies like Apple and Ford).

Some of Tesla’s 30,000 or so employees have spoken out about the conditions. The biggest scandal has to be the accused misrepresentation of employee injuries, which Musk has actively denied. Still, Tesla bounced back with a list of improvements.

Of course, lots of his employees love him, despite his “aggressive” behavior. Even the lowest-paying jobs at the company hover around six figures, and the mission of transitioning the world to more sustainable energy is undoubtedly a necessary one.

Model 3 production as shown at the Model 3 handover.


Can Tesla’s Workers Keep It Up?

Musk hardly invented the capitalist system that constantly demands more and more production to make his bet-the-company cycle profitable. And that’s really what the production hell has been about: Mollifying Musk’s critics who say that his ambitious are little more than a pipe dream fronted by an incredibly compelling spokesman. There are [tons]( of pretty sick, high end electric cars out there: Ramping up the mass market Model 3 was about proving that everyday Americans could go electric too.

But hell isn’t exactly a quantifiable measure for how much an employee can be expected to withstand, and it’s unclear whether the vision of your CEO sleeping on the floor, wearing the same clothes five days in a row is enough to compensate for a culture of chronic over-work. Several analysts including Goldman Sachs have questioned whether the pace of work at the Fremont factory is sustainable.

Musk’s insistence that his pain was always “worse” than that of his employees is a fallacy of moral equivalence. In other words, because his pain is worse, the conditions at Tesla’s factory can’t be that bad. That as long as Musk is suffering more, his expectations for his employees are justified.

This may be necessarily for fulfilling Musk’s worthy ambitions. But as far as his workers, it’s bound to take a toll.

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