Tesla says Elon Musk doesn't 'randomly' fire people for no reason, and employees are allowed to disagree with him

  • Tesla hit back at a Wired piece which portrayed chief executive Elon Musk acting erratically and going on firing sprees.
  • Tesla called the piece an "overly-dramatic and sensationalized tale."
  • The company disputed stories of Musk going on firing rampages in the Gigafactory which caused employees to avoid going near his desk.
  • But Wired's report dovetails with earlier reporting from Business Insider, with employees likening the firm to a 'cult.'

Tesla has fought back against claims made in an explosive deep dive on Tesla published on Thursday by Wired.

Journalist Charles Duhigg spoke with current and former Tesla employees over the course of six months during the company's 'production hell' caused by the production ramp for the Model 3.

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Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla, speaks at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla, speaks at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk takes the stage to speak at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
FILE PHOTO: Tesla Chief Executive, Elon Musk enters the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
Elon Musk, Chairman of SolarCity and CEO of Tesla Motors, speaks at SolarCity's Inside Energy Summit in Manhattan, New York October 2, 2015. SolarCity on Friday said it had built a solar panel that is the most efficient in the industry at transforming sunlight into electricity. REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi
Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk unveils a new all-wheel-drive version of the Model S car in Hawthorne, California October 9, 2014. Tesla Motors Inc on Thursday took its first step toward automated driving, unveiling features that will allow its electric sedan to park itself and sense dangerous situations. The company also said it will roll out an all-wheel drive option of the Model S sedan that can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds yet doesn't compromise the vehicle's efficiency. Musk said "D" stands for "dual motor," meaning Tesla's all-wheel drive vehicle will have a motor at either end of the chassis to increase control. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk unveils a new all-wheel-drive version of the Model S car in Hawthorne, California October 9, 2014. Tesla Motors Inc on Thursday took its first step toward automated driving, unveiling features that will allow its electric sedan to park itself and sense dangerous situations. The company also said it will roll out an all-wheel drive option of the Model S sedan that can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds yet doesn't compromise the vehicle's efficiency. Musk said "D" stands for "dual motor," meaning Tesla's all-wheel drive vehicle will have a motor at either end of the chassis to increase control. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk speaks during a news conference in Tokyo September 8, 2014. Musk said on Monday that he would not be surprised if there was a significant deal with Toyota Motor Corp in the next two to three years, though there were no definitive plans. REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN - Tags: BUSINESS TRANSPORT)
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, waves during a news conference to mark the company's delivery of the first batch of electric cars to Chinese customers in Beijing April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA
CEO & CTO of SpaceX and CEO & Chief Product Architect of Tesla Motors Elon Musk receives The President's Award for Exploration and Technology at the 110th Explorers Club Annual Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York March 15, 2014. The club, which promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space featured catering for the event by chef and exotic creator Gene Rurka. Chef Rurka prepared a variety of dishes featuring an array of insects, wildlife, animal body parts and invasive species. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY FOOD)
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk talks at the Automotive World News Congress at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks after unveiling the Dragon V2 spacecraft in Hawthorne, California May 29, 2014. Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, on Thursday unveiled an upgraded passenger version of the Dragon cargo ship NASA buys for resupply runs to the International Space Station. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TRANSPORT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY SOCIETY)
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk poses at the premiere of the documentary "Revenge of the Electric Car" in Los Angeles October 21, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT TRANSPORT BUSINESS PORTRAIT)
Elon Musk, Chief Executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, attends the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TRANSPORT)
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk leaves a press event at his company's factory in Fremont, California, June 22, 2012. Tesla began delivering its Model S electric sedan to customers on June 22. REUTERS/Noah Berger (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk pauses at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
SpaceX founder Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk waves as he leaves the stage after speaking at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
89th Academy Awards - Oscars Vanity Fair Party - Beverly Hills, California, U.S. - 26/02/17 ? Elon Musk. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks during the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla, arrives at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition II in Hawthorne, California, U.S., August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk attends a forum on startups in Hong Kong, China January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks about new Autopilot features during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
Tesla founder Elon Musk arrives for the the annual Allen and Co. media conference Sun Valley, Idaho July 7, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 11: Elon Musk speaks onstage at Elon Musk Answers Your Questions! during SXSW at ACL Live on March 11, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 11: Elon Musk speaks onstage at Elon Musk Answers Your Questions! during SXSW at ACL Live on March 11, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW)
AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 10: Elon Musk speaks on stage during the Westworld Featured Session during SXSW at Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for HBO)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 10: Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX speaks onstage during SXSW at Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW)
BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 08: Elon Musk attends the 'Goldenes Lenkrad' Award at Axel Springer Haus on November 8, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Tristar Media/WireImage)
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks at a press conference during the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on September 27, 2016. / AFP / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
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The feature told stories of CEO Elon Musk going on firing rampages, interrupting meetings to make executives watch clips of Monty Python, and rejecting a job candidate because he didn't like their shoes.

Tesla acknowledged that the ramp-up for the Model 3 had been "excruciatingly difficult" for everyone at the firm. But it accused Wired of an "overly-dramatic and sensationalized tale."

Read more:Elon Musk apparently has a heightened sense of smell, which means people can’t wear perfume or cologne in job interviews

But in a somewhat joking statement, the company said it wasn't true that its CEO couldn't take criticism. 

The spokesperson said: "[If] employees really weren’t able to disagree with Elon, rather than ramping Model 3, Tesla would currently be focused on building cyborg dragons, implementing a company-wide policy banning blue shoes, and playing Monty Python videos on a 24-hour loop in all of the break rooms."

"Cyborg dragons" is a reference to a tweet from Musk from April of this year.

Tesla also acknowledged that it had fired people from its battery plant, the Gigafactory, in 2017. The company said it had let go of people who were "not performing" and were "putting the success of the entire company... at risk."

In spite of this, it said Musk didn't go on random firing sprees and that people weren't afraid to go near his desk.

Tesla said that Musk "doesn't even have a desk in Gigafactory."

Musk has previously said that he doesn't keep a fixed office desk. It is possible that employees were told to avoid whatever desk he had adopted for the moment.

Still, Wired's reporting tallies with an investigation by Business Insider which found that Tesla employees worked extremely long hours and, in some cases, were scared to go anywhere near Musk.

Here is Tesla's statement in full:

"It's no secret that the Model 3 production ramp was excruciatingly difficult for everyone at Tesla. We've been open about that since the day we delivered the first vehicles and said we were entering 'production hell.' But Wired's overly-dramatic and sensationalized tale would have you believe that we somehow pulled off this incredible feat – and succeeded in achieving profitability and building a car that no one thought was possible – by suppressing internal debates and randomly firing people for no reason or simply because they disagreed with Elon. That fundamentally does not make sense, as it would literally be impossible for Tesla to still be here if that's how we operated. After all, if you were to believe the Wired story and employees really weren’t able to disagree with Elon, rather than ramping Model 3, Tesla would currently be focused on building cyborg dragons, implementing a company-wide policy banning blue shoes, and playing Monty Python videos on a 24-hour loop in all of the break rooms…

In order for Tesla to succeed, we must have extremely high standards and work harder and smarter than everyone else. And although it is painful, Elon and the company's leadership will sometimes take the difficult step of letting people go who are not performing and who are responsible for critical areas of the business, and who as a result, are putting the success of the entire company, including 45,000 people and their families, at risk. This undoubtedly happened at Gigafactory last year when the module line was the number one bottleneck and challenge facing Tesla. But Elon cares very deeply about the people with whom he works – Tesla owes its existence to its employees – and he basically lived in the factory for months working hand-in-hand with them to get production on track (though he doesn't even have a desk in Gigafactory, contrary to Wired's reporting). While this piece would make for a compelling dramatic screenplay, it’s certainly not news, since that would require it more accurately reflect reality."

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