Carl Medlock
A former Tesla employee who managed a sales territory from 2009 to 2013 shared their perspective on what it was like to work at Tesla, including the company's work environment and the feeling of possibly being fired. YouTube Screenshot / The Iced Coffee Hour

Carl Medlock, a former Tesla territory manager from 2009 to 2013, recently shed light on their experience working at Elon Musk's company, detailing the work culture and even hinting at what it might feel like to be on the verge of termination.

After four years in his post at Tesla, Medlock shared his experience working under the famed billionaire CEO. During an appearance last August on "The Iced Coffee Hour" podcast, Medlock offered a glimpse into his experiences working under Musk.

He even shared some insights into Musk's management style, particularly regarding employees who might be on the chopping block. Let's just say Musk's methods for identifying those at risk weren't exactly subtle.

Micromanagement From Elon Is A Bad Sign

"If Elon is micromanaging you, you're probably on your way out because he hires good people [and] lets them do their thing," he said. Despite this intensity, Medlock described the overall experience as "fun," though he acknowledged Musk wasn't exactly known for socialising with the team.

Medlock continued, "He would talk to you if he needed to talk to you, but he didn't just go BS with people at all." This raises the question: was Musk known for joking around with employees? Medlock clarified, "I never saw it."

Despite the intense work environment, Medlock emphasised a deep respect for Musk among the staff. They admired his leadership, even if it wasn't always sunshine and he wasn't doing any socialising. This aligns with comments from another former Tesla employee, Cameron Sralla, who mentioned in May that Musk didn't enforce excessive hours at work.

"One of the respectful things that everybody at Tesla did without even saying it, when he was with kids, nobody disrespected him – nobody went over there and talked to him." Medlock recounted a specific incident that ultimately led to his departure.

During a podcast episode, he explained, "There was a car in Hawaii that was all scratched up, so an email came to me from somebody way high up at Tesla and said fix the problem." His manager, however, disagreed with the approach. He insisted, "I don't care what he says' you're not going to Hawaii for more than $500."

Medlock countered, "We need to take care of this lady. She's in her third year of owning this car, and she still has not been able to drive it because it is so scratched up." He explained he received confirmation to proceed, so he went ahead and shipped all the necessary buffing and polishing supplies directly to the customer in Hawaii.

Medlock, determined to provide exceptional service, arranged for his son to fly to Hawaii with the necessary supplies and fix the car. The customer was thrilled with the results, raving about the service. Unfortunately, this act of going above and beyond backfired.

Medlock recounted, "My boss looked at me and said, ' You are not going to live through this.".' He told HR the trip was not authorised, and we got fired for an unauthorised trip to Hawaii."

What Is Micromanaging?

Medlock's story exemplifies the downsides of micromanagement, where good intentions can be stifled, and employee morale can suffer. Here's how to navigate a similar situation and potentially improve your standing with a micromanaging boss.

First people need to understand that micromanagement is a management style often viewed negatively. It's characterised by a manager's excessive control and supervision of employees' work and processes. Micromanagers tend to delegate tasks with specific instructions and hesitate to trust their employees to make decisions.

Micromanagers are often reluctant to empower their teams with decision-making authority. They may also exhibit a tendency to overemphasise information gathering, constantly seeking updates and details. This excessive need for control can be seen in reported instances, such as Bill Gates's memorising of employee car plates to track attendance.

Strategies For Managing A Micromanaging Boss

Micromanagement can be a real drain on employee morale and productivity. Constant supervision, limited autonomy, and the feeling of being watched can lead to stress and frustration. The good news is that there are proactive steps you can take to navigate this situation and potentially improve your working relationship with your boss.

1) Understanding the "Why" Behind Micromanagement

Micromanagers have various reasons for their behaviour. It could be stress, past trust issues, or simply their personality. Uncovering the root cause is crucial. This knowledge can help build trust and guide your approach to address the situation.

2) Building Trust: The Cornerstone

Trust is essential for any successful working relationship. To encourage your micromanaging boss to delegate more:

  • Demonstrate reliability by consistently delivering high-quality work.
  • Take initiative in keeping them informed of your progress, showcasing your commitment.
  • While personal connections can foster trust, prioritise professional excellence in this initial stage.

3) A Direct Approach

Consider a direct conversation. Express your concerns about the impact of micromanagement on your productivity. Frame the discussion calmly and professionally, focusing on solutions rather than blame.

4) Open Communication and Boundaries

A direct conversation is key. Express how the micromanagement affects your work. Focus on solutions and establishing clear expectations for both you and your manager. This includes setting healthy boundaries and communicating when they're crossed. While initially daunting, open communication can lead to a more trusting and productive work environment.

5) Maintain Momentum: Communication is Key

This is a continuous process. According to a Slingshot report, regularly communicate progress and solicit feedback to ensure alignment with your manager's expectations. You can solidify the path towards a more trusting and productive work environment by staying proactive and demonstrating value.

Micromanagement can be frustrating, but by understanding its reasons and taking proactive steps, you can navigate the situation and potentially improve your working relationship with your boss. Clear communication, trust-building, and setting boundaries are key to a more positive and productive work environment.

This micromanagement tendency aligns with Musk's reputation for being a demanding and highly involved leader. While some employees thrive under such pressure, others find it stifling. The key takeaway for Tesla employees, or anyone facing a micromanaging boss, is to remember that proactive communication and boundary setting can be the tools to navigate a challenging situation.