Basecamp backfire: At least 20 of Basecamp’s 57 staffers left the company after Fried and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson called for the end of “paternalistic” benefits and distracting conversations on politics while working. The nixed benefits included a fitness perk, a wellness allowance, a farmer's market share, and continuing education allowances.
Sorry, but: Fried apologized for the lack of clarity in how he introduced the changes, but Basecamp plans to keep the new policies in place.
“Last week was terrible. We started with policy changes that felt simple, reasonable, and principled, and it blew things up internally in ways we never anticipated. David and I completely own the consequences, and we're sorry. We have a lot to learn and reflect on, and we will. The new policies stand, but we have some refining and clarifying to do.” —Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp
The spark: The Verge reports the new policies were spurred by internal arguments over a list of “funny names” of Basecamp customers whose names were of Asian or African origin. “Employees considered their inclusion inappropriate at best and racist at worst,” according to editor Casey Newton.
Vets depart: Among those that quit were several Basecamp vets with more than five years’ experience, including director of operations Troy Toman and head of design Jonas Downey.
Severance: CTO David Heinemeier Hansson wrote that Basecamp harbored no hard feelings toward employees who left and offered them all a no-questions-asked severance of six months salary.
Free speech vs. efficiency: In a study conducted during the 2016 presidential campaign, many employees reported feeling stressed and less productive because of political discussions at work.
Setting boundaries: About 1 in 4 workers ages 18 - 34 said political discussions at work made them feel stressed out, according to the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence. Nearly a quarter of younger workers reported being less productive, 21 percent cited a decline in work quality, and 19 percent reporting having difficulty getting their work done.
“Today's social and political waters are especially choppy. … You 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. It's become too much. It's a major distraction. It saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places.” —Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp
Following the fallout: Developer John Breen began tracking the people that quit Basecamp in an effort to help them find new gigs. In total, he found more than 20 former staffers that are seeking new work.
What’s next: Basecamp reported about 3.5 million customers to start 2021. If customers are as concerned with the new policies as their former employees, it may affect its bottom line. Several Redditors on r/HeyEmail have indicated they're displeased and may ditch the service.
More to come: Ultimately, this controversy is only the beginning of how companies will approach politics in the workplace — not the end. Expect more organizations to introduce their own policies as employees start to consider returning to the office this fall.
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