Time was when political activism in business was controversial. But in these hyper-political times, refusing to turn your company into a workplace of the woke can make you a target.
That’s what’s happened to Basecamp, after the Chicago-based software firm said last week that it will no longer allow political discussions on the company platform. Employees are free to have these conversations on private accounts, but “it can’t happen where the work happens anymore,” said CEO
Talk about “politics, advocacy, or society at large” has become “a major distraction” that is “not healthy” and “hasn’t served us well,” Mr. Fried wrote. Employees “shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target. These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work.”
Seems sensible enough. The company offered severance of up to six months’ salary to “those who cannot see a future at Basecamp under this new direction,” said co-founder
David Heinemeier Hansson.
“No hard feelings, no questions asked.”
So much for goodwill. A day later the Verge website ran a hit piece citing unidentified employees making vague allegations that the company wasn’t committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Among the purported bombshells, Verge revealed that “customer service representatives began keeping a list of names that they found funny.”
Messrs. Hansson and Fried had already apologized for their employees’ list, which they said was inappropriate. But Mr. Hansson rejected the assertion that such conduct belongs “on a pyramid of escalations that can lead to genocide.” That claim is “just not an appropriate or proportionate comparison to draw,” Mr. Hansson said. That’s for sure.
Rep. Ted Lieu
(D., Calif.) joined the pile-on Friday, tweeting that Basecamp’s new policy may prevent employees “from talking about fear of hate incidents.” But employees can indulge their fears or loathing all they want on their own time. A company isn’t obligated to make itself into a political public square.
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Appeared in the May 4, 2021, print edition.