Jason Fried, Basecamp founder and CEO, posted on his blog on April 26th about policy changes at the company that makes collaboration software. Many people noticed one policy that stood out: the company will no longer allow employees to discuss politics or society on its internal accounts.
The result was a tsunami of public outcry and employees speaking out against policies and discussing why they were made. There were several revisions to the blog post, and nearly a third of employees decided to accept buyouts or leave. Fried has since apologized, but it is unclear if more will come — there are still allegations made by employees that haven’t been addressed.
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Jason Fried, Basecamp CEO, has apologized for the “policy changes” he announced last Wednesday that ultimately resulted in a third of the company’s workforce leaving.
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“Last week’s events were terrible. Fried wrote that we started with policy changes that felt easy, reasonable, and consistent. But it caused cultural disruptions in ways we didn’t anticipate. “David, I and we are fully responsible for the consequences. We’re sorry. We still have much to learn from and reflect upon, and we will.
The blog post that caused the company’s horrible week was a list of new company policies which prohibited “societal and political discussion” in internal forums.
The political and social waters of today are particularly turbulent. Sensitivities have reached 11 and any discussion that is even remotely connected to politics, advocacy or society in general quickly becomes unpleasant. It shouldn’t be difficult to wonder if being silent means that you are complicit or if you are a target. These are hard waters to navigate in your life. But they’re even more difficult at work. It has become too much. It is a distraction. It drains our energy and diverts our conversation towards darker places. It is not healthy and has not served us well. We’re done with it in our company Basecamp account, where the work happens.
Casey Newton, The Verge contributor editor, later reported that the original motivation for the letter was uncomfortable internal disagreements over a “funny name” list of Basecamp customers. Management knew that many of the names on this list were either of Asian or African descent. Their inclusion was deemed inappropriate by employees and racist by others.
The backlash to Fried’s initial blog post was quick and immediate. A few days later, David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founder of the company) posted that described a severance plan for employees who were uncomfortable with the company’s current direction. Hansson stated, “No hard feelings. No questions asked.” We’ll assist those who can’t see a future for Basecamp under this new direction in any way we can.
Newton reported that an all-hands meeting on Friday pushed some employees to accept the severance offer. Ryan Singer, the long-serving head of strategy at Basecamp, was dismayed by the questioning of white supremacy within the company. Singer, who was 18 years old, eventually resigned.
Also, read Jeff Lawson SF Knight San Francisco Chronicle
Fried’s Tuesday post included an apology but didn’t address any tension or Singer’s situation. The post also did not outline any changes Basecamp will make. Fried’s post felt like a placeholder for the promised third-party investigation, even though the company has been in the news recently due to a serious internal error. He and Basecamp needed to make the situation public. He stated that the company would “root for” employees who leave and apologized to those who chose to stay.
Our second message to our staff: We understand it can be difficult to let go of colleagues. However, we are deeply grateful that you have remained with us. It’s been a wonderful experience to have a great team, with everyone relying on each other, helping where they can, and supporting our customers. We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts.
Fried’s latest post reassures customers that Basecamp will continue to support them. “Our Technical Operations and Customer Support Teams continue to ensure that all products run smoothly, that support requests are answered and that new customers sign up as usual.”
Fried ends his speech by promising to “regroup and rebuild” before returning to the business of creating great software. However, he didn’t give any details about how that would look. He wrote, “We’ve been in the business for 22 years through thick and thin.” “We will be in this business until the end of time.”