American company Basecamp’s CEO, Jason Fried, recently announced in a blog post a ban on employees sharing “societal and political discussions” at work.
The blog stated “Every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant. You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit or wading into it means you’re a target.”
Since this controversial ban about a third of the companies 60 employees appear to have left stating the shocking new company policy as the reason for their departure. According to Twitter posts many of the high ranking employees are leaving Basecamp. These include the head of design, head of marketing and head of customer support, as well as most of the company’s iOS team. Many of these employees have been very loyal to the company and have worked there for many years.
This no-politics rule at Basecamp is similar to an announcement made by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong last year. Where he stated that debates concerning “causes or political candidates” distracted from the company’s core work. This change in the companies internal policy caused about 60 of Coinbase’s 1,200 staff to leave the company.
Like Coinbase, Basecamp was immediately criticized for censoring its employees, as it limited the discussion of important issues which would impact marginalized employees. This ruling against discussing ‘political’ issues is seen to limit both non-white or LGBTQ employees. As these discussions could easily be deemed political in nature in some circles. For example the Black Lives Matter movement would be seen as a controversial and banned topic.
Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier posted in his blog “If you’re in doubt as to whether your choice of forum or topic for a discussion is appropriate, please ask before posting”.
Whereas this ban could be thought to stop internal conversations about the company, really this kind of censorship seriously marginalise the companies commitment to Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Its that that employees found unacceptable. Particularly as one of Fried’s blog post’s specifically referenced an employee-led DEI initiative that would be disbanded. He stated “We make project management, team communication, and email software. We are not a social impact company.”