Basecamp and the Separation of Politics and Work

This is my brief take on the mass exit that transpired at Basecamp and what I think it means for companies and our culture.

Anton Moulder, Urbian Managing PartnerPosted in Urbian

Here is my take on the mass exit that happened at Basecamp, my tweet that got some peoples backs up and what I think this debacle means for companies.

So Basecamp got a lot of attention when a third of their employees took a voluntary package in response to Jason Fried asking their employees to take any political conversations outside of work.

I replied to a tweet from Sahil at Gumroad and was surprised my comment got the attention it did.

From what I can read, it sounds like tensions flared and things get very emotional and out of control. I'm completely shocked at Ryan Singers resignation after spending over 16 years at Basecamp. I've loved his views on how to build products and the ShapeUp book and feel it was completely unecessary.

Is it me or is it completely unrealistic to expect 80% of the conversations at work to be about work and 20% to be about non-work related topics?

Is it me or is it not perfectly fine to work at a company that doesn't encourage political debate?

Is it me or is it crazy to think that some level of maturity is shown when we can work in a company with people that don't share the exact same beliefs as you?

Is it me or is it obsurd to think it is totally fine that if you don't like the values of the company you work for that you can leave and find one that does?

To be honest I think the way Basecamp founder DHH ended his post to the company is a very sound approach and really struggle to understand why anyone would disagree with this view:

Everyone at Basecamp has been, as you can read from the snippet above, actively encouraged to do the same! Bring all your political advocacy to whatever personal spaces you have. Twitter, Facebook, your local advocacy group, all of it. Just don't bring it into the internal communication platforms we use for work, unless it directly relates to our business. I'm applying that same standard to myself, and Jason is too.

— David Heinemeier Hansson

What I think is healthy

  • If you experience constant blatent toxic behaviour and when brought forward to the company management is shrugged off. Then I agree, that is bad. You should leave. But in all honesty is not the majority of the companies I know.
  • To expect the company you work for and the people you work with to carry the exact same values as you is just unrealistic.
  • The ability to show respect to anyone you work with regardless of their views and for it to not effect your work is called maturity and is what I expect from adults.
  • The workplace is not the vehicle for politics and social justice.
  • If you need to work for a company that spends a significant amount of company time and money on social issues then it's best you mention that upfront in your job interview.

Anton Moulder

Urbian Managing Partner at Urbian

Anton advises senior executive teams on digital strategy and product innovation.