Tesla blocked its employees from talking about them on Blind. Blind is an app where you can chat anonymously about your work, but the catch is you have to verify that you work for the company you say you do. To do this, you have to sign up with a Tesla email to access the Tesla chat room.

Tesla, according to Verdict and Gizmodo, started blocking verification emails at the beginning of May and blocked Blind on its company WiFi. Therefore, Tesla employees who didn't join before May cannot verify they work for Tesla and can't join the company only chat rooms.

This is a significant mistake on Tesla's part. Here's why.

Everybody's Talking About It

The best way to ensure that your bad behavior becomes the hot topic of conversation is to try to hide it. Usually, this happens by companies attempting to sue people into silence (the Streisand Effect), but this works as well. Tesla has around 45,000 employees. Approximately 2000 of them have signed up at Blind before the ban. That's less than 5 percent of their workforce. 

Now, you can bet a ton more people at Tesla are talking about this then they were before. Plus, Tesla is getting press coverage right and left about the ban. It's good news for Blind, as well. It's great free publicity for them. Tesla employees who hadn't heard about it before will now want to join to see what secret things were going on. (And employees of other companies now know to check it out!) 

The thought will be that if it's so bad that Tesla needed to ban it, there must be interesting things being said.

And Tesla isn't helping to alleviate the fear that there are truly horrible things to discuss by not responding to requests for comments. They haven't responded to me (and I will happily update if they do), nor have they responded to Gizmodo. If Tesla has a good reason, it's best to talk about it, instead of silently hoping it will go away.

Tesla Loses the Opportunity to Hear and Understand Its Employees

Employees won't talk about the boss in the boss's presence, but in an anonymous chat room, the person you are complaining to may well be the boss. People feel comfortable sharing things when they can do so anonymously. But, anonymous means that you can have your HR spy or your senior executive spy reading everything.

Now, if the reason for being there is to try to figure out who the complainers are, you're part of the reason employees need an anonymous chat room. But, if you are there to figure out the real problems and then fix them, then this is a valuable resource.

People will say things in an anonymous chat room that they will never say to your face, in a company-sponsored survey, or in an exit interview. If you want to know how employees feel, this is where you lurk. This is how you learn what's really going on. Why would you want to give this up?

Tesla Can Do This, But Should Not

There's a considerable difference between can and should. They own the WiFi and can control which websites and apps are available to employees. They own the email addresses, and if they want to block emails from  Blind's servers, they are within their rights to do so. But they should not do so. 

Now, employees could argue that Blind membership could be protected by their right to concerted activity. Companies cannot prevent employees from discussing working conditions. Now, I don't know whether or not this is a strong enough argument to get a court's attention, but perhaps it could. Even if Tesla wins ultimately, it's more bad press for them.

Tesla said, previous to the ban, that they are concerned about employees sharing confidential information. That's a legitimate concern, but again, if an employee is planning to share confidential information, blocking an anonymous chat room is not going to stop that from happening.

You want your employees to feel comfortable discussing work among themselves, and an app like this not only allows it but allows management to lurk and find out what they are saying. Instead, Tesla's decision to block not only prevents that but makes employees feel less comfortable with their company. It's a decision that will backfire.

Published on: Jun 6, 2019
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