Elon Musk gave assistant 2-week test when she asked for raise, and she failed


Also, the employee who never books off sick or takes vacation is the one who’s embezzling.


In Germany that’s actually mandated by most collective labor agreements and supported by law. Not to ensure that no single person is essential but to ensure that an employee gets enough rest and relaxation.


Bizarrely, Musk’s “test” simply encourages extremely dysfunctional behaviour. The incentive now is to be so poorly organised that everything falls apart as soon as you’re out of the office. Or, at least, to communicate and document what you do so poorly that no one else can figure out how the fuck to pick up the reins. If Brown had been running Musk’s office on a JIT basis, instead of JIC, she’d probably still have her job and her significant raise. Basically, it’s arguable that she was fired for being good at her job.

Actually, maybe not that bizarre.


I didn’t say that any of the authors of the piece said that. I said, in agreement with Melz, that on any article about someone being a dick, there will be people defending him.

I’m grey on Jezebel, so thanks?


I doubt he was doing her work himself. He was testing if he could hand the work off to other people who are paid substantially less than she was asking.




Methinks you misunderstood manybells’ comment.

Any time someone acts like a dick and that dickishness becomes public knowledge, it seems there’s always someone somewhere willing to defend it; no matter how repugnant the disckish behavior may be.


I just don’t agree with this; not whether or not the majority of people think this, which I don’t think we can really determine, but your underlying premise that this breaks along those ideological lines. I’m a damn Bolshevik when it comes to breaking up concentrated and generational wealth, but I don’t think it follows that this means Musk should employ someone even if he doesn’t want their services any more

I think Musk is morally obligated to treat his employees fairly, with dignity, and to pay them the fair market value of their services in a way that reflects the cost of living. I don’t think he is obligated to employ people in perpetuity, regardless of whether he actually wants or needs their services.


I think it’s totally fair for him to decide he doesn’t want a personal assistant. It would be fair for him to sit down with her and say “This arrangement isn’t working for me, here’s a nice severance package in recognition of your 12 years of service.”

The dick part comes in when she asks for a raise and he “does her job” for two weeks and then goes “well anyone can do this stupid job, I don’t need you.”


Doubly so if the person is rich and has some sort of a cult of personality built up around them, like Jobs or Musk.


Even if you don’t do ‘respect’; there’s managerial self interest to work with:

There are some industries that are in love with the notion of disruptive genius; super-achievers who are ten times as productive as the common rabble, etc. and in some cases there may even be an element of truth to it(one certainly hears terrible things about software development handled on the “have we tried using the cheapest programmers and sheer weight of numbers?” principle). In other cases, it’s less obvious that it’s true; but easy measurement makes it attractive(sales-heavy areas, say, offer potentially flawed but very handy metrics practically free for the taking); and in others it’s less obviously true but seems to have become part of the compensation structure(get tons of work for comparatively little money from the peons hoping to make partner by paying the partners well enough for it to seem worth the effort); and even when they aren’t ritually adhering to the "fire the bottom ten percent every year, just because’ rule; they tend to be willing to endure a fair amount of burnout, churn, and ugly politicking by selecting for heavily motivated, but hard to satisfy, people rather than the unambitious but reliable.

This isn’t always the irrational choice; but several things have to be the case for it to be rational: worth has to be reasonably measurable; or aggressive ranking is just flailing; there has to be a substantial performance gap between the great and the mediocre; or the very real costs of churn and recruiting will start to eat into the profits; and some sort of innate talent or extreme drive has to be worth more than experience; or the loss of institutional experience caused by the drive to recruit genius wouldn’t be worth it.

Again, it isn’t obvious that these conditions never hold; sometimes nothing but a rockstar will do; but I suspect that “personal assistant” is oh-so-very-much not a position of this flavor. Assuming that they aren’t so hideously incompetent or glaringly incompatible that it was a bad idea from the start; what’s a better bet: that the new one will use their genius to disrupt personal assisting and be super effective; or that the experienced one knows your tedious logistical details so well that you don’t even know how many of them get picked off and dealt with before you learn of them?

There are plenty of positions in a similar situation; where internal experience is valuable; the candidate pool isn’t better than the current employees(or not better enough to be worth the costs of disruption); and the value of being able to retain people by pretty much just offering them market rate and their preference for the status quo is greater than the value of getting some extra work out of people grasping for the brass ring; but expecting to either be lucratively rewarded or quit in bitterness after some years of trying. Also good for the positions of more trust than honor, where the reliable; but merely competent, are a great deal safer and more predictable than the highly motivated; but mercenary or too ambitious to be easily satisfied.

Aside from any being-a-total-jerk he might be engaging in; it sounds like Musk is getting confused about which of his employees fall into what category. Perhaps when hiring rocket surgeons; he is entirely correct that relentless weeding in the search for overachieving rockstars who value stock options is the best strategy; but that doesn’t mean that this is true of every position he wants to fill( see also: his ongoing problem with automobile manufacture on the theory that assembly line workers are really looking for an overworked startup culture with fairly mediocre compensation; but stock options!).

This isn’t to deny the existence of people who seem to have no useful skills except an uncanny knack for organizational survival; but the acolytes of “up or out!” consistently underestimate the value of the reliable and unambitious.


Wonder if Musk would pass his own vacation challenge.

Seems like a great way to make sure the rest of the org does not take advantage of earned vacation time moving forward…


Yep, that does seem to be a factor, but I’ve seen people do it over random “nobodies” too; like the woman who called Michelle O “a gorilla” on FB some months back.

The apathy and lack of core values is real.


Totally fair, and I think there’s plenty of fact patterns that would make Musk a dick in this. But, it’s also possible that this assistant had a job that didn’t really have very much responsibility and made a strategic error that brought that fact to his attention.

In other words, if his actions really were “well anyone can do this stupid job, I don’t need you" then I agree that’s a dick move. But if it was more “I didn’t realize that you had shifted so many of your responsibilities to these other employees, so I don’t think there’s a need for you as an assistant any more, but I’d like you to continue in this other position,” it’s probably not so terrible, is it?


Otherwise it took him two weeks to figure out if he needed an assistant.
Genius? I think not.


I’ll stick my head in the lion’s mouth: the full story and footnotes in the biography seem to paint a slightly different picture. Firstly, she was asking for pay on par with top level executives at SpaceX. Secondly, Musk seemed to have had a number of reasons for letting her go. He had apparently become uncomfortable with how freely she felt she could speak for him, and, and this seems a reasonable part and parcel with that concern, felt that 12 years was a pretty good run for anyone in any position, and it was time for someone new anyway.

Honestly reading the whole story and his wife’s account of their divorce, it seems like he’s not great at ending relationships he wants to end, and tends to come up with a “rational” reason to do what he wanted to do anyway.

Which yes, makes the thinking of this already fairly dumb sounding Business Insider piece just that much dumber.


You get out of here with your ‘reading of the linked article.’ Title gore aside, it’s pitchfork and torch time!


Not everything has to be pro or anti- anything, and I certainly didn’t read it as such. Just something that makes one think about something that is worth thinking about, whatever one’s own situation is.


Love the hyperbole. No one here is “outraged,” many just think it was a dick move because it was.

There are better, more professional ways that Musk could have handled the request for a pay increase, even if said request was unreasonable.


Not an expert in it but that is not my understanding of what MBA school teaches you. I did have some recent experience of a major European mba school pitching stuff at me and it was… interesting. The godlike manager attitude would seem more accurate rather than critical evaluation of self and process.