8 Strict Rules Elon Musk Makes His Employees Follow

Musk is a no-nonsense, strict, and sorta harsh boss.

Last updated on Nov 08, 2023

elon musk Phil Stafford / Shutterstock

Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, Hyperloop and OpenAI, is the infamous CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors — and he was once the world's richest person in the world, accumulating a $300 billion fortune.

He's also a very interesting man who has lots of ideas going on in his head, especially those concerning how to run a company efficiently. The world found this out after an email he sent to his employees in 2018 leaked, revealing six rules for Tesla staff to follow if they wanted to work at the company. The email states different rules on what employees have to do to make Tesla successful, with an emphasis on rules involving straightforward communication and no time wasted. 

Here are the rules that Elon Musk makes his employees follow.

1No "excessive" meetings.

Elon Musk employee rules no big meetings Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

The first rule in the email stated that “Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.”

In order for his employees to work towards success, Musk doesn’t believe in a communication hierarchy if the task can be solved with common sense. Big meetings are a waste of time and aren't worth it to him. 

RELATED: 11 Things Elon Musk's Exes Have Revealed About What It's Like To Date Him


2Meetings should be infrequent, unless it's urgent.

Elon Musk employee rules frequent meetings fizkes / Shutterstock

“Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter," Musk wrote. "Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.”

Musk allegedly thought this rule was important to address because frequent meetings can alter the workflow and rhythm of a workplace. However, this rule scared employees who started to worry that they might be perceived as "wasting" Musk's time even with a simple question and would be reprimanded or even fired. There was allegedly fear that they could become the victim of one of “Elon’s rage firings.” According to Business Insider, Tesla employees weren't allowed to walk past Musk's desk or it could jeopardize their career. 


3Leave a meeting if you're not contributing.

Elon Musk employee rules leave meeting Shutterstock

“Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value," said Musk. "It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

This rule might be the least harsh out of all of them as there are some meetings companies have where employees feel they are wasting their time attending but they might just be worried about just leaving.   However, for Musk, if you stay and don't add value or contribute to the meeting then you will be reprimanded because he sees that as wasting others' time and energy talking to you.

RELATED: 8 Good Things Elon Musk Has Done For The World


4Don't use nonsense words or corporate jargon.

Elon Musk employee rules no nonsense Fabio Balbi / Shutterstock

“Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes at Tesla," Musk commanded. "In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.”

Musk believes that using general words and sentences is the appropriate way to communicate. Don't try and use big words with the big man because apparently, he doesn't like confusing, overly technical words.

5Communicate directly and avoid the 'chain of command'.

Elon Musk employee rules communicate directly insta_photos / Shutterstock

According to Musk, communication through a ‘chain of command’ is like a failed game of telephone. 

“A major source of issues is poor communication between departments. The way to solve this is to allow the free flow of information between all levels," Musk said. "If in order to get something done between departments, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.”

Any manager who worked for Musk and tried to enforce chain of command communication was told they would "find themselves working elsewhere."

RELATED: Elon Musk's Long-Time Assistant Exposes The Unjust Reason She Was Fired


6Follow logic, not rules.

Elon Musk employee rules follow logic not rules GaudiLab / Shutterstock

“In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a ‘company rule’ is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change,” Musk wrote.

This rule can be a bit confusing because it's saying don't follow the rules but use your common sense. It's also concerning because something an employee might think is an obviously ridiculous rule might not be ridiculous to Musk, therefore furthering the confusion.

After these rules were created, Musk allegedly threatened Tesla workers, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), when he tried to fire a worker for union organizing, which Musk denied.

“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” he wrote in a tweet.

Soon after, the NLRB started an investigation into the potential company union-busting. According to CNBC, in March 2021, the NLRB decided, after a years-long legal battle between the company and the United Auto Workers union, that Tesla must tell CEO Elon Musk to delete the anti-union tweet as a part of Tesla’s appeal of a September 2019 ruling by an administrative law judge who considered the complaint.

7Employees can't work remotely.

employees working in an office LYCS Architecture / Shutterstock

While the corporate world saw a surge in remote work through and after the pandemic, once restrictions were lifted, Musk mandated all employees return to the physical office full-time — or leave the job altogether. A 2022 report from the New York Times revealed a leaked email from Musk to his Tesla employees revealing the change.

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


8They can listen to music on the job.

woman listening to music while working Soundtrap / Unsplash

Musk may be a stickler when it comes to getting work done in a certain manner, but he's not necessarily a complete villain. Understanding that employees should enjoy spending time at work, Musk reportedly sent an email to his factory staff giving the OK for them to listen to music.

"Just wanted to say that I very much support music in the factory, as well as any little touches that make work more enjoyable," Musk wrote, according to CNBC. He specified that when wearing headphones, factory worker should leave one earbud out "for safety-related issues," but noted that when listening to music out of a speaker, all coworkers should agree on what's playing.

Megan Hatch is a YourTango writer, Emerson College graduate with a major in journalism and a minor in digital media and culture.