There are a lot of things that are hard right now.
Staying inside is hard. Millions of Americans losing their jobs is hard. Figuring out how to safely reopen the economy across a range of different conditions is hard. Keeping a business running in the midst of stay-at-home orders across the country is hard.
Taking seriously Elon Musk's threat to move all of Tesla's operations out of the state of California ... is hard. Enduring what is mostly a personality-driven publicity stunt by a tech billionaire isn't necessarily hard, but it is getting a little old.
That's right, in a tweet, Musk says that the decision by public health officials in Alameda County that the company should not reopen its factory is "the final straw."
Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2020
Obviously, no one can fault Musk for being frustrated that Tesla is unable to reopen its factory. Continuing as a business when you're unable to actually build the products you sell is no easy task.
And Tesla's founder and CEO hasn't been shy about his feelings about the Covid-19 lockdown. This isn't the first time he's pushed back about government-imposed restrictions on which businesses are allowed to operate. It's also not the first time Musk has made statements on the social media in the past few weeks that may or may not be true.
He previously faced criticism over his promise to deliver 1,000 ventilators to hospitals when those facilities indicated that they never received them. Musk pushed back on that assertion though it appears that the devices were actually BiPAP machines and not ventilators at all.
Here's the thing: Musk says some pretty outrageous things from time to time. Some of them get him into trouble. Some of them he may even believe. This, however, isn't realistic.
It's not actually irrational to think that California isn't the best place to run a car company. The state has some of the highest regulatory and tax burdens in the country. Considering the company delivers its vehicles directly to consumers, it would make far more sense to have a factory somewhere in the middle of the country, where other car factories are located.
Even if Musk wanted to move the company completely out of California, the company's Fremont factory is the only place in the country it makes its Model S, X, and Y vehicles. Building a new manufacturing facility from the ground up, or even retrofitting an existing plant, isn't something that happens quickly. That's another thing that's hard.
Right now, however, Tesla's biggest problem isn't that it can't turn the assembly lines back on. Right now, its biggest problem is that it's hard to tell when to take its leader seriously. If, for example, GM's CEO, Mary Barra, said that the company was frustrated with how Michigan was handling the coronavirus pandemic and was moving the company's HQ out of the state as a result, it would be astonishing news.
Thousands of people would worry about their jobs; the state would have seek to address the comment. In other words, people would take it seriously. Not so, Musk's tweets, which are met with head shakes and smirks.
That's a big deal, now more than ever. In a time where almost nothing is certain, and almost no one has a clear picture of what "normal" is going to look like in a few months, your team needs to be able to take you seriously. Which is why you may want to take your company and work seriously.
That's the least you can do--for all of us.