An Open Letter to Elon Musk, Tesla Motors

Elon,

That was some email you sent to 10,000 employees of the Tesla Fremont factory. Your concern for worker safety, request to have every injury reported directly to you, and offer to perform the same task as the injured employee is inspiring. Inc. called it a “Masters Class in Emotional Intelligence.”

It’s great that you want every injury reported directly to you. How practical is that given your position and commitments? With so many workers, could a backlog of incidents develop? And what about misconduct or floor hazards that go unreported?

It’s tempting to trust that a weekly safety team meeting and having the injured come forward will reveal every worker safety-related issues. The employer/employee dynamic says otherwise. Employees want to keep their jobs and not cause issues, nor be the center of an investigation. There’s a strong motivation not to speak up.

It’s noble what you wrote about Tesla managers. “Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.” No doubt Tesla has managers who believe wholeheartedly in this, but to say all managers will follow this directive seems unrealistic. John Maxwell, a recognized leadership expert, writes about the five levels of leadership. It’s safe to assume that every Tesla manager would have to be at the fourth or fifth level of leadership to put their team’s safety above their own. It sounds like a work in progress, doesn’t it?

We were struck by something rather obvious missing from your emotional appeal for workforce safety. What if there was a way to empower Tesla employees to speak freely when they spot a safety-related issue? What the Tesla factory could use to further improve worker safety is a web-based anonymous reporting tool. We thought: if anybody would gravitate toward a technology solution, it has to be Elon Musk, inventor of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, among others.  

Using a private, non-traceable web-based form like our Anonymous Incident Portal, your 10,000 employees can submit what they see, hear or experience that’s unsafe or unethical. Once recorded, incidents can be automatically forwarded to you wherever you are or integrated with your incident management process for addressing.

Employer-sponsored whistleblowing that’s anonymous is a great addition to your workforce safety program, which you’ve got to admit is more top-down management. Anonymous reporting gives every employee who’s hesitant or afraid to speak up a voice, a way to contribute to worker safety at the Tesla factory.  

Thanks for writing that email and for everything you’re doing to promote worker safety, Elon. More leaders in manufacturing should follow your lead. In the meantime, keep inventing!

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