Basecamp CEO Jason Fried announced on Monday the company would no longer allow employees to discuss politics or cultural issues at work, among other policy updates that eliminate committees and streamline the review process.
Fried acknowledged upfront in his announcement that some employees would likely bristle at the changes but he believed they’re necessary to return the focus of Basecamp to its business operations. It’ll be interesting to see how the changes play out, especially among the younger employees.
“In the product world, not all changes are enjoyed by all customers. Some changes are immediately appreciated,” Fried wrote in his announcement. “Some changes take time to steep, settle in, and get acquainted with. And to some, some changes never feel quite right — they may even be deal breakers.
“The same is true when changing your company, except that the customers are the employees. And when you get to a certain count — customers or employees or both — there’s no pleasing everyone. You can’t — there are too many unique perspectives, experiences, and individuals,” he wrote.
Here’s a closer look at the changes at Basecamp. Will AV business leaders adopt any of these policies at their company—or maybe they already have?:
No more societal and political discussions on Basecamp accounts. Today’s social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and 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. 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. It’s not healthy, it hasn’t served us well.
No more paternalistic benefits. It’s none of our business what you do outside of work, and it’s not Basecamp’s place to encourage certain behaviors — regardless of good intention. By providing funds for certain things, we’re getting too deep into nudging people’s personal, individual choices.
So we’ve ended these benefits, and, as compensation, paid every employee the full cash value of the benefits for this year. In addition, we recently introduced a 10% profit sharing plan to provide direct compensation that people can spend on whatever they’d like, privately, without company involvement or judgement.
No more committees. We’re turning things back over to the person (or people) who were distinctly hired to make those decisions. When we need advice or counsel, we’ll ask individuals with direct relevant experience rather than a pre-defined group at large. Back to basics, back to individual responsibility, back to work.
No more lingering or dwelling on past decisions. It’s time to get back to making calls, explaining why once, and moving on.
No more 360 reviews. Peer feedback is often positive and reassuring, which is fun to read but not very useful. Assigning peer surveys started to feel like assigning busy work. Manager/employee feedback should be flowing pretty freely back and forth throughout the year. No need to add performative paperwork on top of that natural interaction.
No forgetting what we do here. We make project management, team communication, and email software. We are not a social impact company. Our impact is contained to what we do and how we do it.
We write business books, blog a ton, speak regularly, we open source software, we give back an inordinate amount to our industry given our size. And we’re damn proud of it. Our work, plus that kind of giving, should occupy our full attention.
We don’t have to solve deep social problems, chime in publicly whenever the world requests our opinion on the major issues of the day or get behind one movement or another with time or treasure.
Employees are free to take up whatever cause they want, support whatever movements they’d like, and speak out on whatever horrible injustices are being perpetrated on this group or that (and, unfortunately, there are far too many to choose from). But that’s their business, not ours.
We’re in the business of making software, and a few tangential things that touch that edge. We’re responsible for ourselves. That’s more than enough for us.