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Business Insider spoke to 42 current and recent Tesla employees about what it's really like to work for one of the world's most ambitious and controversial companies.
Employees agreed that the company was demanding and the hours were often long.
But, they said, no one works as long as CEO Elon Musk, who always seems to be there.
We heard many stories of employees finding him curled up under desks or tables napping.
Some people found this work ethic inspiring; others, not so much.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a reputation among his employees as the super human guy who almost never sleeps.
As Tesla scrambles to meet the demand for its electric vehicles, and attempts grow itself into a profitable big-league car company instead of a cash-burning upstart, its factories are running 24/7, with employees working 8-12 hour shifts, morning and night, they told us.
And they see their leader toiling right alongside them, from the wee hours of the morning to late at night, showing up anywhere and everywhere, at any time, they said.
Musk works until he has to crawl into a corner somewhere in Tesla's facility to catch a few winks, they told us. He recently admitted that he was so exhausted from this past year at Tesla that he sometimes uses the sleep aid Ambien.
Business Insider spoke to 42 employees about what it's like to work at the controversial company, and we heard story after story of employees finding Musk asleep somewhere: on the factory floor, under a desk, in a conference room.
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For instance, Miguel Carrera, a manufacturing tech lead, told us, "He’s here all the time. I know people have seen him sleeping on the floor under a desk. All of a sudden, everybody's all walking out and you look around and someone is curled up under the desk, come to find out it's Elon."
Jimmy Guajardo, a Tesla production associate in Fremont, says there aren't always clues that Musk has pulled up a patch of floor to catch some z's. But in the office section at the company's main factory in Fremont, California, he can sometimes be found under a table near where a security guard is standing, asleep with a pillow and blanket.
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Employees can walk right by him unaware, especially "if you didn’t know what you're looking for," Guajardo said, adding that Musk is never asleep on the floor for very long.
Some people are not impressed with Musk's sleep habits, seeing it as an indication of a weakness: poor management.
For instance, a former VP who worked with him and admires him for being a visionary, also complained that, "he is terrible at management."
"Because of his management techniques, the entire management structure at Tesla is intricate and terrible," this former manager said. "Then something they are not managing spirals out of control and becomes this gigantic problem ... so Elon fires some engineer that made some irrelevant, bad decision and Elon sleeps on the factory floor until the problem is fixed, or whatever. Some symbolic thing. But it doesn't actually fix the root problem which is terrible management."
There's been some research supporting the idea that working long hours on a regular basis is often a form of poor management.
Still, the happiest Tesla employees are self-described workaholics who say they love working long hours.
Several employees, including Carrera, said they found Musk's work-till-you-drop work ethic "inspiring." And that it causes them to push themselves harder, too, to help their company and stare down Tesla's many naysayers.
Dexter Siga is a quality manager in Fremont who explained it this way: "He’s not afraid to get dirty, not afraid to work on the [production] line," Siga says. "He sleeps over here. For real. That man is dedicated to his craft. He's dedicated to his company. I was talking to one of his guys. They literally sleep on the floor. They are under the tables, on the rug sleeping. They don't have airbeds. Why would you not want to work for someone like that?"
Siga says Musk's sleep-at-work practice shows employees that "he cares so much" and that he understands how hard they are working too. "He’s got a following of people willing to go to battle with him."
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