back to article First Coinbase, now Basecamp: Should workplaces ban political talk on internal corporate platforms?

Project management software maker Basecamp has come under fire for banning its employees from having “societal and political discussions” using their work accounts. The Chicago-based outfit announced a number of changes to its workplace on Monday, including getting rid of peer-performance reviews, disbanding all committees, …

  1. Trigun Bronze badge

    Where I work we self moderate for the most part. We're all aware that everyone has different views, so we don't let things get to the unplesant stage. If a discussion is getting people angry then they will just say "look, let's agree to differ and leave it there" or something similar. Not a bad system as no one is having to tell us to shut up and we're also not clawing each others throats out on whether Brexit was a good thing or not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You are obviously not in America.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      I worked in an office in central Belfast in the 80s, mostly fairly young staff with a good educational background. The political/religious makeup of the office was pretty close to that of the province as a whole. We tended to avoid local political subjects in large groups at coffee break time because they were sensitive (and there were two guys that we just knew would get steamed up) but we frequently discussed wider political, and religious subjects. The conversations were usually tolerant and light-hearted, and most people know when to draw a line and change the subject. I like to think we all learned something about other cultures & backgrounds, and it never stopped us all heading for a beer together on a Friday after work.

      1. Mongrel

        I think the fact that all your talking was face-to-face was probably a major contributing factor.

        People find dickish behaviour easier if there's a display separating them

    3. big_D Silver badge

      At most of the companies I've worked at it has been either a written or unwritten rule that politics is taboo.

      You can have you own opinions and follow whichever party you want, CDU, FDP, SPD, Grüne, Linke AfD etc. But you don't discuss it at work it has nothing to do with your job, so keep it for your social circle.

      Certainly all company communication tools are for business purposes only.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LOVE IT!

    We have this rule at our workplace, and I absolutely love it. Save the politics for family holiday dinners!

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Sportswear bans in Scotland

    Apparently there is some minor theological disagreement which is evidenced by the local association football teams

    I am informed it leads to some less than good-humoured rivalry

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

      Re: Sportswear bans in Scotland

      On the racial split in Scottish football ( for those who don't know, Glasgow Rangers are protestant, Glasgow Celtic are catholic ), I recently found out that there's a tradition in Scotland of the Celtic team all bending down into a a huddle before the game.

      Hatred of "the other side" means that ex-Rangers players will refuse to do this even if playing in England.

      You'll see a whole team in the English Premier League bending down in a huddle before a match, with one Scottish bloke standing straight.

      Bizarre.

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        Re: Sportswear bans in Scotland

        Thumbs down because what?

        Have I mixed the teams up? Rangers fan who thinks it isn't bizarre? Pathetic little stalker downvoting all my posts because they disagree with one of them ( wouldn't be the first time )?

      2. David Neil

        Re: Sportswear bans in Scotland

        It's a bit more nuanced that Protestant/Catholic and more around Native Scots/Irish immigrants.

        Dressing it up as sectarian avoids the elephant in the room that it's essentially racism.

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          Re: Sportswear bans in Scotland

          That's beside the point, I was giving a brief summary of the background so that people from the wrong side of the pond might roughly understand the context behind the story about the not crouching in a huddle. It was near enough.

  4. cornetman Silver badge

    > Fried also said that controversial discussions are a “major distraction” and aren’t “healthy.”

    That's a troubling statement right there. Difficult discussions aren't healthy? Real discussion is something that is sorely lacking in modern times, particularly in modern times.

    The reason for it is that many people these days don't seem to be mature enough to realise that other people might disagree with their views for very valid reasons and are not sure how to handle that difference. The default social media response is to silence and dehumanise those with which you disagree, to call them fascists, racists or whatever *-ist they think might stick. It's why we have such polarised politics now, nobody really wants to listen to different perspectives.

    What we need is *more* discussion of the productive kind and less of the "you're a fascist arsehole" kind.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Except extreme right wing supporters NEVER, EVER debate in good faith.

      Far left wing fanatics aren't much better, but at least they aren't advocating wholesale death and depravity as a general rule.

      One group is just numpty annoying wankers. The other group is outright dangerous.

      1. cornetman Silver badge
        Facepalm

        I'm sure you are being ironic. Surely?

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
          FAIL

          His name starts with 'eco', so I'm assuming he's a far left environmental obsessive, who views himself as centrist for some bizarre reason

        2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          He's got 17 upvotes. El Reg is gone. It's dead. The children took over a couple of years ago.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I refer you to Hitler and Stalin. Which one won the mass murder prize?

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          Why does it matter, they were both left wing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

            By which definition of left ?

            1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

              Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

              I suggest you read up beyond "bad=right, right=bad".

              1. martyn.hare
                Joke

                Re: @Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

                Thought everything being on the up and up was meant to be good, not gulag!

    2. Notas Badoff

      Difficult discussions aren't healthy?

      Not among the surgical staff while you're on the operating table. Not for you, anyway.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's be honest...

    You need your head testing to conduct any type of personal discussion over your work's network in these woke times.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Let's be honest...

      What has "woke times" got to do with it? Since the mid-80s, personal discussions over company communication tools has been at least frowned upon, if not banned by company policy.

  6. GrumpyKiwi

    The only thing more tedious than that person who wants to turn every topic of conversation to politics is the one that wants to turn it to their favourite conspiracy theory. If I worked somewhere with "that person" I'd welcome this rule with open arms.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I had a colleague like that, we were mates, it only got worse after, like everything else, Brexit, but since we were a bit closer I could afford myself to quickly shut him up or steer the subject away more rudely than others in the room would feel appropriate.

      He's pro leave as some relatives of his in some iberian village who will be losing their property there so I no longer have to do the above.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What about the ones that communicate exclusively via memes, or the ones that post 1000+ word essays on his political views? Extra points if they do that in Telegram or Whatsapp groups.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I had this come up entirely unexpected when interviewing someone. On paper and until then, I was happy with this character and this candidate was heading for the shortlist.

      That is, until said candidate started giving a personal take on politics (let's just say that calling it a tad off-centre would be understating things).

      Here's a rule: your interview isn't done until you have physically and/or electronically left the meeting. In addition, especially in companies dealing with very sensitive issues they will watch for anything that could be abused as leverage against the company and its reputation like a hawk.

      Yes, we have such bans in place, and during induction days it is explained why as well. A sensibly motivated restriction is far easier followed than one that is just imposed, that's just human nature.

  7. ecofeco Silver badge

    Pub rules

    The best advice I ever heard was there are two things you should NEVER talk about in a pub/bar: politics and religion.

    It's the same for work.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Pub rules

      Pubs in the Vatican can get really rowdy

    2. slakr

      Re: Pub rules

      ^ So much this. Not only are they polarizing minefields to discuss, they are incredibly boring topics anyway.

    3. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Pub rules

      What makes a bestselling novel? The best themes are: sex, the aristocracy, religion, and crime/mystery.

      On that basis, the best possible opening sentence for a novel is said to be,

      “‘Hell!’ said the Duchess, ‘I’m pregnant. Whodunnit?’”

    4. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

      Re: Pub rules

      politics, religion and money

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I work in local government in the UK, we are not allowed to have a political opinion that is public. As council officers, we have to be seen to be neutral.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      This.

      So much.

      You are allowed a personal opinion, though. And you can (depending on what your work is) be a member of a party.

      And I think it is a healthy thing for everybody to think about and adapt to it.

      I do discuss politics at work with some people I am friends with, and we do disagree quite a bit, but we keep the discussion civilised. And neither is it visible company wide nor outside of the company.

      What is a problem here is that it seems they are trying to use this to shut up people complaining about xenophobic attitudes among colleagues.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nobody is being shut up.

        They can still formally raise concerns with their managers/HR.

        They can still discuss things in-person.

        They can still use messaging systems other than their official/employer-supplied one.

        I've worked for a company that had no restrictions on the internal email system (apart from "nothing illegal"). The amount of useless crap that ended up in everyone's inbox was incredible. Some people didn't even have a personal email account outside the company and were upset when leaving that they could not take all their emails with them.

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          I'm guessing that the parent poster is the sort that thinks that voting Conservative is a racist act that needs to be called out. Just ignore him.

  9. Khaptain Silver badge

    Well done Basecamp

    This is exactly how things should be.

    Why should the company get dragged through the mud of their employees personal opinions.

    Today's Left Wing have become yesterday's Right Wing and they are terrible people. With their Silence is Violence leitmotif they are accusing everyone who does not stand with their opinions as a Right Wing Bigot...

    This is simply physiological violence. And it is very easy to understand why companies do not want to become embroiled.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Well done Basecamp

      That should read psychological not physiological ..

      1. Merefield

        Re: Well done Basecamp

        Actually, I disagree, psychological stress can have very real physiological consequences.

    2. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: Well done Basecamp

      You're either with us or against us. Where have we heard that before?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small hint: perhaps the second question should include: "There is no rule, company hasn't said anything at all about it at all". Small companies, like my employer, often don't even experience this sort of problem, as everything is informal and friendly; the nearest I could get was that nobody ever does it. Of course in the unlikely event that anyone did, that could change :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Also ...

      ... it might depend on the topic, and the context. Much Brexit discussion might have been generally off-topic in a university, for example; unless it was about (e.g.) the pro's, cons, and tradeoffs of Brexit and research funding; no doubt there might be businesses where some Brexity politics was business-relevant, but not all. Which leaves you next to a vast grey area as relevant discussion merges into related issues, and further into irrelevant ones. Where do you - or rather how can you - draw a line? It sees to me that a "no politics at all" rule could easily be used as a way of shutting down discussion on managerially disliked but nevertheless relevant issues.

  11. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    People should, instead, have these conversations with co-workers using private channels, whether that’s over other messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp, or through a personal Basecamp account.

    Or perhaps in person, over a beer or a coffee? My Czech colleagues are always happy to chat about the political issues of the day, but only in person, never by mail or slack. We're adult enough to avoid aggressive posturing, and I certainly think we all learn a lot even if we disagree on solutions. I find it amusing (and a little sad) that most of my US colleagues, on the other hand, flatly refuse to discuss politics, even at the generic "can you explain about..." level, and religion/culture is only discussed reluctantly. There was one exception, someone that I knew was involved outside work with the Democrat campaign when Obama was running. I knew him well enough to ask (over dinner outside the office) if he thought the USA was ready for a black president, we had a most interesting discussion. He was genuinely pleased that a European would take an interest.

    I agree that using work social media apps for it isn't a good idea, it's far too easy for that sort of basic text-only discussion to lead to misunderstandings. The posts also tend to hang around long after the fine nuances of the issue are lost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The posts also tend to hang around long after the fine nuances of the issue are lost.

      And that, ladies and gentlemen, is well worth remembering. Today's gutter press and hate groups (collectively best referred to as "the outrage brigade") literally seem to survive on taking things entirely out of context.

  12. nohomo

    So what?

    I can't talk about politics here in the Register forum without getting censored, and I'm a customer!

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: So what?

      I've seen countless political discussions on the forums here, and the only times I've seen posts (including mine) get deleted are when the poster has been an egregious asshole. Perhaps try expressing your opinion without being an asshole.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: So what?

        Typical Judean People's Front supporter

  13. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Politics and Religion

    Both can be rather contentious topics in any social environment. Depending on who is involved the conversation could get rather heated face-to-face and will escalate faster online in most cases. Often all it does create a wedge between people who often need to work together. By keeping certain topics out of the work place you are less likely create unnecessary friction. The fact too many do not have wisdom to tread on these topics very carefully is a problem.

  14. John 104

    “It has become common for Silicon Valley companies to engage in a wide variety of social activism, even those unrelated to what the company does, and there are certainly employees who really want this in the company they work for,” CEO Brian Armstrong, said last year.

    If you want this in the company you work for, go work for Green Peace, PETA or any other activist company. You are at work to work, not to spin politics and spout your virtuous opinion. The lack of work ethic and maturity in the work place (at least here in the US) these days is staggering.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did the list of funny names include the old classics Randy Bender and Ginger Minge?

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      Coat

      Ivor Biggun.

      Coat, that is.

    2. Merefield

      My Dad and his brother, up to no good as young boys, once looked up funny names in the phonebook, only to call up Mr. Smelly and ask him "Are you smelly?" ... I loved that story!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Where I worked some time ago, among our client list were Smelly, Brownsword & Backholer. Always thought that would be an excellent name for a law firm.

        We also had a Mr Twat ring in once. My colleague was very professional and only pissed himself laughing after hanging up.

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