Handbook

Tesla’s “Anti-Manual” for new hires just leaked. It’s pure Elon Musk, and your business should definitely copy it


If you are running a large organization, there are really only a handful of tools you can use to lead effectively.

The most important thing is to design and strengthen the right kind of culture. At Tesla, this is Elon Musk’s # 1 job.

This week, the Tesla intern Anti-Manual Manual, which is apparently provided to every new employee at Tesla, leaked via an article by Mark Matousek on Business intern.

It’s a unique document, and it’s pure Musk, preaching intense ambition, work ethic and corporate culture to employees.

It’s also fun for foreigners to read, and maybe it’s the kind of thing your business should copy. Here are its main takeaways:

1. It establishes and reflects culture.

Suppose this four-page manual is one of the first “welcome to Tesla!” documents that new employees receive. If so, it fits the culture Tesla is trying to project as a company.

The first line reads: “We are Tesla. We are changing the world. We are ready to rethink everything.”

A lot of companies might say something like this, but the Tesla Handbook at least maintains the theme.

He goes on to explain that it won’t be a traditional employee manual, because employee manuals “tell you how badly you can behave before you show you the door.”

Instead, Tesla says, “We prefer to have incredibly high standards and hire great people. “

If you want the other model, where they show you the lowest acceptable standard, the manual says, “You’ll be more successful elsewhere. We don’t want to sound harsh; that’s just the truth.”

You might like it, maybe not. But it’s pretty clear the culture he’s trying to portray.

2. It has a consistent and appropriate tone.

It’s a very conversational manual. But he doesn’t fall into the trap of thinking the conversation has to be funny.

When I found myself smiling or laughing while reading it, it was prompted by the recognition that so many documents in other companies are either full of legal jargon or appearing to have been written by a committee.

So while this document tackles some of the common issues that most businesses are likely to encounter, it does so with a consistent and unusual tone.

In keeping with the idea that it will not just define the basis of expectations, the Tesla Handbook includes lines like the following, under headings such as “Communication”, “Professional tasks” and “Goals and comments”.

  • “Anyone at Tesla can and should email or talk to someone else whichever they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole business. You can talk to your manager, you can talk to your manager’s manager, you can talk directly to a vice president in another department, you can talk to Elon. “
  • “‘Nobody told me’ is an excuse that will never fly here.”
  • “Your # 1 job – everyone’s # 1 job – makes this business a success.”
  • “If you can’t be reliable, this isn’t the place for you.”
  • “‘You’re late’ is something kids say at school. It’s not school.”

3. He does not forget the administrative tasks.

There is a separate internal Tesla website where employees can find information on things like “compensation policies, meal and rest breaks, time off and time off policies.”

The manual provides a link to all of this, but does not include all of the text in this initial document.

I think it’s a good balance. There are both legal and practical requirements. But the Anti-Manual Manual clearly indicates that these overall expectations are the most important.

Matousek included the full document at the end of his article. It is also fully hosted on Scribd.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.