Elon Musk and the Pizza: There’s Two Sides to Every Story


Margaret ScavottoBy Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC
President, Management Performance Associates

There’s a rumor going around about Elon Musk.

A rumor that Elon Musk is very generous.

The story goes that Mr. Musk was visiting the Tesla Headquarters in Texas, when he encountered an individual waiting in the lobby. This man told Elon he needed to get paid. Elon asked the man how much he gets paid a month, and the man said: “$2,000.” So, Elon wrote the man a check for $2,000 and told him to have a nice day. The man leaves with his check. Another Tesla employee turns to Elon and says: “You just tipped the pizza guy two grand.”

I don’t know how this story started, or if it’s true. My bet? Not true. I couldn’t tell you if Elon Musk tips the pizza delivery guy (or gal) $2,000. But I bet he uses payroll to compensate his employees, rather than writing a personal check.

There’s two sides to every story. And things aren’t always what they seem.

This is true for (mythical) hasty check writing, and for compliance investigations. Here’s an example – and this time, it really did happen.

A nursing home Compliance Officer called to tell me someone slid an anonymous note under her door. The note said: “A nurse aide hugged a resident at lunch and I think it was inappropriate.”

The Compliance Officer’s first reaction was: If this report is accurate, it is concerning. But we need to know more. The next day, the Compliance Officer found a way to help out in the dining room – and she watched. And she saw the hug! A nurse aide did indeed hug a resident: her great aunt. After the nurse aide left, the Compliance Officer spoke with the resident, who confirmed that the hugs are very welcome.

There are two sides to every story.

Now the Compliance Officer knew both sides to this story – but the anonymous note writer did not. To address this, we put together a compliance educational flyer to post throughout the building: “When is it OK to hug a resident?” It didn’t provide the entire story, but hopefully it showed the reporter that she was heard – and Compliance responds.

How do you find all sides to a complaint?

  • Don’t make assumptions. Don’t jump to conclusions. Your mind should be blank. Maintain objectivity.
  • Ask questions. Look for FACTS.
  • Can you interview an independent eyewitness (or eyewitnesses)?
  • Conclude what you can from facts. This requires you to put aside what “could have” happened.

I’ll never know if the Elon Musk story is true. But if it is, I’m glad that pizza deliverer got a huge tip.

You don’t need to know all sides of a story to be generous. Especially if you’re Elon Musk. But you do need to look for both sides to get to the bottom of compliance business.