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Tesla employees' morale suffers amid cost-cutting, layoffs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tesla Inc.’s rankings at two high-profile job websites have declined, suggesting that job dissatisfaction at the electric car company is intensifying amid layoffs, strategy shifts and executive turnover.

Tesla placed 16th on LinkedIn's annual "Top Companies 2019" list published in April, compiled from billions of actions taken by its over 600 million users that indicate job interest and demand. It held the fifth and sixth spots in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

At jobs site Glassdoor, Tesla's overall company rating fell to 3.2 out of 5.0 stars based on reviews written in the first quarter from a high of 3.6 in 2017, according to historical data compiled by Glassdoor at Reuters' request. The average rating of the nearly 1 million employers reviewed on the site is 3.4.

In the first quarter, Elon Musk's CEO approval rating dropped to 52 percent from 90 percent in 2017.

Tesla's "recommend to a friend" rating fell to 49 percent in the first quarter from a high of 71 percent two years prior, the Glassdoor data showed.

Similarly, Glassdoor ratings for culture and values, career opportunities, senior leadership and six-month positive business outlook all fell. Only "work-life balance" and "compensation and benefits" remained static. No metrics improved.

The reviews are anonymous and Glassdoor says it does not verify identities or employment status.

Told of the rankings, a Tesla spokeswoman said the company remains a highly sought after employer. Tesla received over half a million job applications in 2017 and again in 2018 and expects to exceed that figure in 2019, she said.

Tesla also made Forbes list of "Most Innovative Companies" last year. Employer branding specialist Universum ranked Tesla and sister company SpaceX as the most attractive employers for engineering students.

Difficult period

As Musk prepares to talk up future growth at Tesla's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, the car maker is weathering a difficult period. Two years after the official launch of its Model 3 sedan, intended to catapult Musk's company to volume car producer status, Tesla is still struggling to reach its targets.

Tesla lost $700 million in the first quarter and saw a drop in vehicle deliveries, raising concerns about consumer demand and shipping logistics.

Wall Street is also souring on Tesla, with the company's shares falling 39 percent so far this year. Analysts have cut their ratings after the company announced lower deliveries and worries over the company's direction. The stock has begun bouncing back and rose 4.1 percent to close at $212.88 on Monday. 

Of the two current and 16 former employees who spoke with Reuters since January, some praised Musk as a visionary but said his management style and the exodus of executives have left a void in leadership.

Management exodus

Tesla's chief financial officer retired in January and the company's top lawyer left in February after two months on the job. The head of communications is leaving this month. Those positions have been filled.

Tesla had 48,817 full-time employees at the end of 2018, according to SEC filings, after a 9 percent headcount reduction throughout the company announced in June 2018. Tesla announced it would lay off another 7 percent of its workforce in January.

In a company-wide email last month, Musk said all expenses would be reviewed, including by him, adding that current spending could quickly eat up Tesla's recent capital raise. Tesla declined to comment on whether Musk was signing off on each new hire.

Tesla has 1,100 jobs posted on its website, down from 2,510 in January, according to statistics provided by job-post scraping site Thinknum. Many show vacancies since October.

Tesla said job postings differ from jobs open, as one posting could represent multiple openings.

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