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Elon Musk and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad coddled tech worker

Elon Musk keeps proving what a tone-deaf leader looks like.
Elon Musk and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad coddled tech worker

Sustain issue #60 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

I’ll get right to it. I really don’t like Elon Musk.

Recently as he attempted to take over Twitter, stories about Elon’s past emerged. He threatened to fire interns simply for chatting over the coffee machine. Ane he’s leading a movement against woke and coddled tech employees.

“Tech employees who were once encouraged to bring their whole selves to work are publicly mocked as woke crybabies by venture capitalists who see Musk as the leader of a righteous cleanse.”

As somebody who has worked in both tech and the public sector, I’ll be the first to say that yes tech employees are coddled. I’ll never forget the glee of my public sector co-workers the single day leaders handed out free granola bars for a snack. I’ve participated in conversations at present where people would need a better lunch to come to the office that’s different than the normal already-free lunch – in addition to endless free snacks and beverages.

But being accused of being coddled hits a little differently when it’s coming from the richest person in the world. Elon, no doubt has several assistants running around for him all day fielding requests I can only imagine, a private jet where he allegedly exposes himself, and no worry in life.

I had planned to write about just this as a standalone issue of Sustain. But the internal emails he sent this week sent me to a new level.

So today, I’m helping Elon rewrite each of the emails he sent to Tesla employees this week to help him better communicate his real feelings.

Email 1: Sent to exec staff

Subject: Remote work is no longer acceptable

Setting the mood nicely 👌

Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla.

Strong open with setting the expectation of an impossible-to-navigate implicit expectation around how many hours you should work. 

This is less than we ask of factory workers.

Who’s coddled? Could it be the executives? 

If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly. 

Exceptions only for those that attend ‘cuddle puddle’ parties with Elon

Moreover, the “office” must be a main Tesla office, not a remote branch unrelated to the job duties,

I’m always a sucker for poorly used quotes. “Office” Is it really?!

For example being responsible for Fremont factory human relations, but having your office in another state

You can guarantee this is not a hypothetical example to illustrate the point. 



Seems like ‘Regards’ would be more prudent here

Email 2: Sent to all staff

Subject: To be super clear


Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week.

You didn’t even say anything about working lol. Someone should tell him the secret that less work gets done in an office. 

Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office.

Actual colleagues like the white Elon-worshipping bros. Forget the critical DEI benefits of remote work. Oh yeah, Happy Pride Month! 

If you don’t show up, we will assume you’ve resigned.


The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence.

I thought we decided that just being there is not leadership?

That is why I lived in the factory so much – so that those on the line could see me working alongside them.

Chef’s kiss using “lived” when 40 hours *minimum* is your expectation

If I had not done that, Tesla would long ago have gone bankrupt.

What did turnover look like during that time?

There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product? It’s been a while.

TikTok is pretty popular these days. Their employees work mostly remotely. 

Tesla has and will create and actually manufacture the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth.

Assuming there are people left to do so. 

This will not happen by phoning it in.

Thanks for working in our toxic culture where I could care less about your hard work during a pandemic, a racial justice movement, a climate emergency, and divisive politics. A ring I’m happily entering. Send me your hot takes @elonmusk



Deuces ✌️,


I can’t help but think that timing of other big – and now overshadowed – tech news this week is related. Sheryl Sandberg, long seen as the moral compass and adult of Silicon Valley, is departing Meta/Facebook.

Yes, some really bad stuff happened under her watch. But imagine what she kept from happening?

Even though layoffs are picking up, still the best form of making your voice heard is where you choose to work (or don’t).

Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) and suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

✉️ Want my top tips? I share my full step-by-step playbook in How I Quit Burnout, my premium newsletter. Get the next one delivered straight to your inbox >

🗄️ See the past issues of Sustain