Company Culture
Leadership / Social media / Workplace culture

Unsurprisingly, Philly tech hates Basecamp’s new no-politics-at-work policy

On Monday, CEO Jason Fried wrote in a blog post that social or political discussions are no longer allowed on Basecamp's company account: "It's become too much. It's a major distraction." It's another flashpoint in the national workplace culture conversation.

CEO Jason Fried's blog post on "Changes at Basecamp." (Screenshot)
It was the culture memo heard ’round the tech world.

On Monday, Chicago-based project management and team communication platform maker Basecamp rolled out a slew of new workplace policies in a blog post titled “Changes at Basecamp” written by prominent founder and CEO Jason Fried.

“At Basecamp, we treat our company as a product. It’s not a rigid thing that exists, it’s a flexible, malleable idea that evolves,” Fried begins.

Among the immediate changes were new policies to not allow “societal and political discussions” on the company Basecamp account, as well as to eliminate internal committees and “paternalistic” health and wellness policies, like a fitness benefit or continuing education allowances.

“You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target,” Fried wrote in the post. “These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work. It’s become too much. It’s a major distraction. It saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places.”

It’s a move away from what many companies have wrestled with in the last year or so: how to make room for employee’s lives and identities while we work from home amid multiple crises.

And it’s far removed from what we’ve heard from local tech and entrepreneurial leaders, such as Coded by Kids founder and CEO Sylvester Mobley, who said “every organization has a responsibility” to talk about racial inequity, or Technical.ly’s own CEO, Chris Wink, who urged white org leaders not to remain silent on issues of racial injustice. We even heard step-by-step instructions for starting these conversations from local HR pros.

But Basecamp’s changes boil down to making work just about work, Fried argues.

“Employees are free to take up whatever cause they want, support whatever movements they’d like, and speak out on whatever horrible injustices are being perpetrated on this group or that (and, unfortunately, there are far too many to choose from),” the CEO wrote. “But that’s their business, not ours. We’re in the business of making software, and a few tangential things that touch that edge. We’re responsible for ourselves. That’s more than enough for us.”

These changes, he says, will allow for a “return to whole minds that can focus fully on the work we choose to do.”

The feedback on social media was swift, including from local technologists. Some employees shared that the announcement hadn’t been handled internally before it went public.

https://twitter.com/georgeclaghorn/status/1387041235697901571

Many critiqued that it’s impossible to be a person who does work without bringing your whole self to work.

https://twitter.com/fox/status/1386836877857099777

https://twitter.com/NidaCodes/status/1386767542488903684

https://twitter.com/logan_ayliffe/status/1386771388036493316

While much of the social media response was negative, a handful praised the hands-off-personal-topics approach or said it wasn’t a big deal.

https://twitter.com/forstmeier/status/1386877069024432128

https://twitter.com/swarthmoreburke/status/1386820481303580673

I’d like to hear from you, company leaders or employees, about this type of policy: Does this make sense to you? Can a workplace ever be free of “social or political discussions?” Should they be? Shoot me an email at paige@technical.ly.

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