Company Culture
Politics / Workplace culture

What Guru’s Rick Nucci and Mitch Stewart said to their team following Basecamp’s no-politics-at-work memo

"If you’re going to bring your whole self to work then you bring whatever life you have with you," the cofounders wrote.

Cofounders Mitch Stewart (L) and Rick Nucci at Guru's Center City HQ. (Courtesy photo)

When Basecamp CEO Jason Fried released a public blog post last week detailing the company’s new policies on discussing politics at work, technologists across the country sounded off.

The changes included not allowing “societal and political discussions” on the Chicago-based project management and team communication platform maker’s own Basecamp account, as well as eliminating internal committees and “paternalistic” health and wellness policies, like a fitness benefit or continuing education allowances. It didn’t go over very smoothly in the court of public opinion (Twitter). It also sent about a third of the company’s 60 staffers away, either quitting or accepting buyouts to leave.

On Tuesday, Fried published an update, starting simply with “Last week was terrible.”

The new policies will stand, he continued, “but we have some refining and clarifying to do.”

For some company leaders, like venture-backed Guru Technologies’ cofounders, Rick Nucci and Mitch Stewart, the very public playing-out of Basecamp’s culture memo and its backlash was an opportunity to double down on the company’s own values.

In an internal note to Guru employees — which got permission to publish here — Nucci and Stewart wrote that tech has long had a reputation for “growth at all costs.” For some, that means disregarding the communities around you, leaving your personal life at home, or “going to war” with our teams. Check it out:

“But at Guru, this growth doesn’t need to come at a cost — it’s not a tradeoff for us. In order to do our best work, we must recognize the communities and people around us where Guru, our team members, and our customers exist. Our belief is this leads to a better performing company.

We don’t believe you can separate societal impacts from your lives the second you start working. As a company and as a leadership team, we believe that attempting to prevent people from having conversations of this nature at work is anathema to inclusion, and it actually breeds divisiveness by telling people to go elsewhere to have those discussions.

Life happens with little to no regard for working hours, and work-life integration is at an all time high. If you’re going to bring your whole self to work then you bring whatever life you have with you. By bringing that life with you, and having healthy discussions at work about them, it gives you the freedom to process everything together and even find solace in the people you spend an inordinate amount of time with. Dare we say that it could make you “more productive” if you’re able to discuss these things together instead of spending energy worrying about what you’re allowed to say or feel at work? Yes, we dare say that.

These discussions will test companies and their Core Values. In our experience, if these values are not clearly defined, they’ll define themselves. For Guru, our six values are publicly displayed on our company’s website, and include tenets like “Give First” and “Embrace the Journey.” Both of these values exist to reinforce the idea that we believe the best performing teams are those who feel energized, included, satisfied. A company alone can’t create these emotions for an employee, but we can certainly design systems that foster these states of being whenever possible.

We have no interest in being a fast growth company at the expense of Embracing the Journey and Giving First. Our path to fast, sustainable growth is not independent of these values. It is built on them.”

Their response echoes some of what we’ve heard from other culture leaders on the changing role of business and society. It’s also a move in line with 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.

Read the full note to Guru employees here.

People: Mitchell Stewart / Rick Nucci

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