Business Insider Edition

Ex-Tesla employees reveal the cryptic ways they learned they were getting fired

Mark Matousek , Business Insider US
 Jun 15, 2018, 11:36 AM

Former Tesla employees told Business Insider they were caught off-guard when they learned they were being fired.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images
  • On Tuesday, Tesla said it was firing around 9% of its employees.
  • Former employees told Business Insider they were surprised by the layoffs.
  • In May, Elon Musk said the company would restructure operations to boost profitability, though he didn't discuss specific layoff plans. 

This week, Tesla is firing around 9% of its employees in an effort to cut costs and eliminate redundancies, CEO Elon Musk said in an email to employees he shared on Twitter.

The move came as a surprise to some employees, who told Business Insider they were given no advance notice about the possibility of being fired. During Tesla's first-quarter earnings call in May, Musk said the company would restructure operations to boost profitability.

At the time, he said the company would review its third-party contractors, though he didn't discuss specific plans to layoff company employees.

One former employee thinks more layoffs are coming

A former Tesla Energy salesperson who asked not to be identified by name said her team received an email at 1am on Tuesday morning asking them to clear four hours in their schedule that day for a video conference. The video conference turned into a conference call with a human-resources employee and Brent Baldwin, the company's director of energy sales.

During the call, 250 people, including the energy sales employee's entire training class, learned they would be let go, and Baldwin apologised for having to fire salespeople who had hit their quotas, the former energy salesperson said.

Despite the apology, the former energy salesperson said she and her training class were made to feel as if they had failed the company.

But the former employee said she believes this round of layoffs won't be the last.

"My theory is that this is the first wave. I don't think there will be enough business for the staff levels that they have," she said. "I would be scared to lose my job if I still had one.

The former employee started at Tesla in January and said she had to work nights and weekends to hit her quota while dealing with a shifting commission structure that made it more difficult to hit her goals.

"Honestly, since I started with this company it's been nothing but a disaster," she said.

The company broke promises more than once, she said, adding that she was not reimbursed for travel costs, as promised, and never received any company apparel. Tesla also didn't mark out sales territory, so she would run into her co-workers in her region, she said.

In April, she said solar salespeople signed a new commission plan that would prevent them from receiving commissions at different stages in the sales process. Instead, they would only receive commissions at the end of the process. The former solar salesperson says she'll end up losing money she would have made under the old commission structure because she was fired before some of her clients had their installations completed.

"There's no way around it, they just got away with not having to pay people," she said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her claims. 

Employees were caught off-guard

Another employee, who worked in vehicle delivery and asked not to be identified by name, said he wasn't aware of the meeting that would lead to his firing before he came to work on Monday morning. An hour after he arrived at the office, two of his supervisors and a regional human-resources manager brought one of his colleagues into a conference room, putting the vehicle delivery employee on alert.

"It was a little odd to see three managers show up," he said

Once his colleague left the conference room, she gathered her belongings and was escorted out of the building. The former delivery employee said he thought his colleague had been fired for performance reasons, but once he was called into the conference room, he said he realised his position was being eliminated.

He was given no advance notice of the meeting before Monday. For each of the prior two weeks, he had worked 60 hours over six days, he said. 

He had worked for Tesla since 2015 and said during his time at the company his team had to adjust to a sixfold increase in deliveries while being told to increase delivery speed. Despite the raised expectations, his team decreased from its original size.

"How are we understaffed and you’re still letting 9% of employees go?" he said, "It boggled my mind."

A third employee, an engineer who still works at Tesla and asked not to be identified by name, said he discovered his manager had been fired after the manager didn't show up for a meeting on Tuesday. When a colleague of his attempted to email the manager, the email bounced back. He said he thinks they fired the wrong people.

"I think it was really squirrelly how they did it," he said.

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