back to article Basecamp CEO issues apology after 'no political discussions at work' edict blows up in his face

Jason Fried, CEO of project management tool Basecamp, has issued a public apology following a major bust-up over new policies that discouraged employees from discussing "societal politics" at work. Writing on the company's blog, Fried said: "Last week was terrible. We started with policy changes that felt simple, reasonable, …

  1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Sex, Religion and Politics

    Not suitable topics for discussion in the workplace.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

      Sex, Religion, Politics, Football.

      Not to be discussed down the pub.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Swarthy
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        Why did you put religion down twice?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

          To be sure that people understand that its nothing but a hobby like larping and historical re-enactment, just because you have a passion for something doesnt mean others do, or that it even means anything to anyone else, faith is personal, religion is just government you dont vote for.

    2. b0llchit Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

      • SRP @ work ==> employees can no longer work together
      • SRP @ pub ==> drinking mates become enemies
      • SRP @ home ==> divorce, not even the Sex part will help to make up for for Religion and Politics
      • SRP @ street ==> Sex will get you arrested, Religion will get you marginalized and Politics will result in street fight.

      Is there any safe place for SRP?

      1. B83
        Joke

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        Is there any safe place for SRP:

        Yes, parliament. They are at it all the time!

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

          Usually at the same time?

      2. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        b0llchit» Is there any safe place for SRP?

        I would think either with people who know who you very well (old friends, family) or the Internet where only Google, Facebook, Apple, the NSA, the Chinese & Russian governments and a few dozen ad-slingers know who you are.

        These topics are banned from our workplace unless they somehow relate to work, although politics is not such a charged topic here.

      3. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        Is there any safe place for SRP?

        I think that this view probably finds majority support:-

        Sex: Discussed (or enacted) with your partner in the bedroom.

        Religion: Discussed (or enacted) at your chosen place of worship if you care enough to go, but leave people who don't believe in your particular sky fairy out of it. Yes, we know that you think everybody else is going to Hell. The chap from a different religion on the other side of the room thinks your going to hell because your a heretic to his religion btw. No, we don't care.

        Politics: Discussed (or enacted) at the local lunatics asylum (Or the Party club if these are differing establishments) but again you can leave everybody sane who doesn't want you practising another round of "divide and conquer" between them and their friends out of it.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

          "Yes, we know that you think everybody else is going to Hell."

          You might be surprised at how many people *don't* think that.

      4. Roland6 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        >Is there any safe place for SRP?

        Well....

        Within bounds of common decency (ie. would you tell your grandmother) I suggest the Elreg forums; that is unless the following are/have been barred:

        Codejunky (politics), Bombastic Bob (religion), ? (sex)..

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

          Programmers classify discussions about sex as a fictional topic.

    3. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

      I would have considered that loss of the 30% an additional bonus of the policy.

      1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        I am extremely pleased to read the comments and find them starting (haven't finished reading yet) with support of the policy. I especially like this one. Lots of people seem to have forgotten that the reason for going to work (even if WFH) is to work.

      2. ThePhantom

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        I agree with you. If the folks who want to spend their time doing non-business things during business hours quit, I don't see any downside.

    4. MatthewSt Silver badge

      Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

      That may be so, but people tend to use the term "politics" nowadays for all sorts of things. You think police shouldn't shoot black people? Can't talk about that at work, it's too political. Think women should be paid as much as men? Sounds like a political issue to me.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        And yet you simply sign each commit with "6 million wasn't enough" and suddenly it's all "politics"

        interesting legal point: If holocaust denial is a crime what would that make the 'people' claiming that it didn't go far enough ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

          A really dumb sophism.

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

            I think there's no place for sophism anywhere. I'm a great fan of Sophie.

      2. veti Silver badge

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        Well yes, those are absolutely political issues, and fall under this policy. Would you have a problem with that?

        It's not that hard to go eight hours a day without writing politics, at least not on your work forum. (Talking is not prohibited.)

        1. Chris Fox

          Legal rights of employees are political?

          Re. banning discussions on equal pay, "Would you have a problem with that?"

          Yes. Any employer that bans discussions (written or spoken) that relate to the legal rights of employees ought to face sanctions; in some jurisdiction such a ban would almost certainly be considered unlawful.

      3. Swarthy
        WTF?

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        Hell, in some world-views discussing COVID, or even wearing a face covering counts as "political".

        All because some trumped-up rotted orange decided to politicize a plague.

      4. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        Ah well, the sanity seems to have stopped. You go to work to work, not to cure all the world ills. The time for that is after time has been called and your brain is freewheeling.

    5. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

      Yes, in nearly 40 years of work, those have never been subjects that were allowed to be discussed on company resources - from noticeboards and email through chat systems, wikis and in-house forums, to things like Slack and Teams today.

      It looks like Silicon Valley is slowly getting into the mainstream business mode and people are put out that they suddenly have to adhere to the same rules that everyone else has had since "time immemorial".

    6. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

      I think the root cause of the problem is this:

      "Coinbase had faced internal pressure to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, which culminated in a virtual walkout"

      So clearly there was political discussion in the company that was distracting from productivity. That in return is because US politics is so screwed up that stating that police officers should not use excessive force (in principle at all, and in practice especially not disproportionately against a particular segment of the public) is somehow even remotely controversial.

      Stating that black lives matter in the wake of documented institutional violence against black people should be obvious and non-controversial. Yet some right-wing a-holes are so sensitive about this that they had to transform it into 'all lives matter'*. And some left-wing a-holes abuse of the tragedies to push an agenda which will do absolutely nothing to stop them recurring, which is why supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is very very different than stating that black lives matter.

      With regards to Basecamp, their initiative was spot on (they needed a bit more internal discussion and nuance on the messaging maybe, but they were 100% right about the content). As an organisation they are probably better off without the people who walked out. So really no need to issue an apology (except because, as I said, US politics is screwed up)

      *Ironically, these so sensitive dudes** accuse others of being snowflakes

      **it's almost always dudes, isn't it?

      1. elip

        Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

        > Yet some right-wing a-holes are so sensitive about this that they had to transform it into 'all lives matter'*.

        What a weird assumption and attribution to make. I'm a left-wing anarchic communist, and I can only reasonably conclude that "all lives matter". Anything else seems highly suspect, and illogical.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

          Yes of course "all lives matter". And then there is erasing "Black" and substituting "All" to get "All Lives Matter", which apparently happened on a Facebook whiteboard, creating a lot of controversy and Z to issue some guidance about (non)-erasure of slogans, and finally the happening was published in national newspapers.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

          "I'm a left-wing anarchic communist, and I can only reasonably conclude that "all lives matter""

          Yes, of course, because "all lives matter" is an obvious truth to any righ-minded person.

          But the right-wing nutters pushing "all lives matter" aren't doing so out of their humanitarian spirit, but as a deliberate diminishing of "black lives matter". And saying "black lives matter" doesn't mean other lives matter less, the real message is "black lives matter as much as all other lives, so please stop treating them as if they were worth less"

          1. elip

            Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

            And just like that, we live in a world where the obvious must be stated. Conversations are sure going to be long-winded from now on.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

              Nah. Those few loud-mouths are becoming ostracised as I type.

              Example: As we all know, EVERYBODY in the US is taking about cutting police funding, downsizing the cops, and other variations on the theme, right?

              The Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, announced a new police budget today, which is quite a bit larger than the prior one. So everybody in the ultra-liberal Bay Area is bitching about it, right?

              Wrong. A KGO (channel 7) news poll here in the bay area shows that about 78% of respondents thought it was NOT ENOUGH, about 14% thought it was just right, and a mere 8% thought it was too much. (And I must admit, I took great delight in the talking heads being obviously uncomfortable with the results ... that channel has been pushing for getting rid of most cops for years).

              Remember, kiddies, just because one loon on the corner (or talking head on a news broadcast) is screaming, it doesn't mean that the vast majority of the population agrees with them.

    7. Dan White

      Re: Sex, Religion and Politics

      I had a colleague ask me once what I was giving up for Lent.

      Apparently, "organised religion" was not the answer she was looking for...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I appear to have wiped out half my crew

    I zink zis iz probably perfectly normal behaviour for an autocratic CEO.

  3. Tron

    Politics is a virus.

    I think the original idea is a good one, but I would discourage politics rather than ban it. You want to save the world, do it on your own time. The workplace is not your platform to vent your political spleen or Bible bash. If you have a problem with a colleague's politics, the office is not the place to duke it out. You want to yell at people you don't agree with, invite your family round for Sunday dinner.

    Politics and religion are usually toxic and hammer productivity, so save it for outside the office.

    A civilised, grown up employee works with anyone, regardless of their politics, religion, football club or exotic surfing habits.

    And I would not wish my company to make political donations to anyone, or take a position on any political issues, whether I agreed with them or not. If they have spare cash, they can pay me more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The rollout didn't help...

      The policy and even the announcement weren't unreasonable, but there was no winning when they just announced the policy out of the blue.

      _why_didn't_they_ask_first_?

      A simple temperature check of the room would have saved them a ton of humiliation, lost staff, and brand image damage. Work-shopping a policy might have arrived at one that the staff could live with, and the Internet would mock less. Other posters nailed the problem on the head when termed the decision autocratic.

      1. HildyJ Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: The rollout didn't help...

        Management 101 - announce that you are considering reducing or eliminating political discussions on official company accounts to promote a better work environment and ask for employee input.

        Ignore any input and thank all employees who responded.

        State that after careful consideration you are banning political discussions on official company accounts.

        Again ask for employee input and again ignore it.

        Then announce that you encourage employees to express their views outside of work, just not on their official account.

        The end.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The rollout didn't help...

        And then the one employee who wanted a ban and didn't get one sued for millions for "hostile workplace" after their tweet about a colleagues Confederate flag t-shirt went viral

      3. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

        Re: The rollout didn't help...

        The COMPANY is paying for the worker's time to work. The COMPANY is paying for the equipment used. The COMPANY is paying for the office space (and probably goodies within it).

        Why should the COMPANY have to ask permission?

        Very few companies are democracies.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: The rollout didn't help...

          Companies aren't democracies, so they don't HAVE to ask for permission, sure. Yet non-democracies can only exist inasfar as tolerated by the people*.

          But since the employees aren't serfs, they are also free to leave if they're not happy (as they indeed did), so the CEO might have thought out the messaging a bit better (even though he was actually right about the message content)

          *as was discovered by King Louis XVI, Tsar Nicholas II, General Secretary Gorbachev and countless others

        2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Re: The rollout didn't help...

          Why should the COMPANY have to ask permission?

          Because the COMPANY doesn't exist: its employees make it exist. If it wants to keep its employees it has to take their wishes into account.

          Very few companies are democracies.

          Indeed. But very few companies can afford to ignore the views of their employees.

    2. Richocet

      Re: Politics is a virus.

      Most companies donate to political parties these days to buy influence. I don't think it's practical for any of them to stop doing that. Then the questions of who they are donating to inevitably come up, so beings the politics debate in the workplace.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Politics is a virus.

        Most companies are small businesses that don’t have the money to donate to anyone.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Politics is a virus.

          By number of companies, certainly. How about number of employees, or total revenue?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Politics is a virus.

            Re-setting the goalposts after the kick is cheating.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Politics is a virus.

        try 'most companies pay the Kray twins to avoid getting dangly bits nailed to the floor' . Are you implying that politicians have the same morals as East End gangsters? [edit just realized how dumb that sounds, and I'd like to apologize for denigrating East End gangsters.]

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Politics is a virus.

      "A civilised, grown up employee works with anyone, regardless of their politics, religion, football club or exotic surfing habits."

      If I went to work to find Jim Davidson had been hired I'd kick him so hard his bollocks would come out of his ears.

      1. Trigun

        Re: Politics is a virus.

        And you'd (rightly) be in a poIice cell very shortly afterwards. I'm not a fan of Jim Davisons old views/comedy (not sure what those are these days, though), but violence is not the answer unless you're defending yourself or another from physical harm. Otherwise what happens when someone find your own views distasteful? Should they should use the same solution?

      2. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

        Re: Politics is a virus.

        I may disagree with you feelings about Jim Davidson, but I support your freedom to hold those views. I also support the local police force arresting you for implementing said views in the real world.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Politics is a virus.

        Actually civilized grown up employees draw lines. I probably wouldn't kick JD if he was hired, but there is a limit. Would you work with anyone? Open racism or sexism to a colleague? You would just ignore it and put your head down?

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Politics is a virus.

          There is a difference between working with someone and not "keeping your head down" if what they are doing directly affects someone else.

  4. B83
    Big Brother

    Big Brother is watching you!

    What was he thinking, who does he think he is....Jeez...has he read 1984 and thought 'ah, I know I will become the Thought Police and implement Thoughtcrime':

    The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed--would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper--the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever.

    To far up his own orifice but at least he did come out and apologies. If the 30% walk out is true its a very expensive lesson, will it come out his bonus?

    1. Plest Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Big Brother is watching you!

      Not the way I read it. He seemed to say, "Can we stop all the discussion within the company about politics where they will be seen in a public forum and add no benefit to the company productivity. You want to talk politics with colleagues, please take it to private rooms or outside the company please."

      I think you need to go back and read Orwell's classic text again. I love the book but the second someone in charge of something says "Could we just...", then every numpty pulls out their tattered ( often unread! ) copy of 1984 and starts waving it around!

    2. GraXXoR

      Not how I read it...

      He seemed to make a reasonable request, AFAIAC... I have made a similar, though less explicit request to my employees here in Tokyo.

      If they are solid, competent workers, who don't waste time, are good team players and can foster a friendly atmosphere with those around them, then that's fine by me.

      Politics, Sex, Religion, History, Gambling and Drugs are a no go zone. Just don't. Not during work. I've never explicitly listed those topics, but that is "common sense" here. Nobody does it. Hell, most people don't even know what party their closest mates/spouse/partner voted for, let alone discussing it with a colleague.

      Football/Baseball? well this is Japan, sports fans here have a friendly, healthy rivalry, especially between the two top teams, the Hanshin Tigers and the Tokyo Giants, where commiserations or congratulations are heartily offered the next day after a loss/win... So I've never had that topic spiral out of control. In fact we usually have the telly on in the office with the match of the day or something in the evening when we are winding down

      However, having said that, I certailnly won't be scouring my staff's FB / Insta accounts or forcefriending them as a work condition...

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Not how I read it...

        He doesn't even say that. He said don't discuss it on the general work forum, take it to a private forum.

        Seems reasonable to me.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not how I read it...

        Drugs are a no-go in Japan period. Sak'e excepted.

        1. GraXXoR

          Re: Not how I read it...

          Tobacco is massive here

  5. heyrick Silver badge

    What part of that so people have issues with?

    Work is where work stuff happens. If you want to save the world, or die trying, that's not work. Do it elsewhere.

    In a world where people seem to take offence at anything, and where not wanting to have an opinion means somebody else assigns you one, where just wanting to stay the hell out of the mess means you're taking sides, and when a mob big on the shouty-shouty but not so hot on the thinking is ready to jump on anything they consider controversial...

    ...It isn't really unreasonable for a company to ban political discourse on work systems (if you think a full ban is harsh, consider what would happen if discussions were leaked) and to not wish to take sides in issues.

    Work is where work happens. All the other stuff? Not work. Leave it outside.

    What's wrong with that?

    1. NullDev

      Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

      I wholeheartedly agree. I don't understand what required the apology. Are people that desperate for yet another location to have a shouting match? I believe he bent over backwards to say that no particular opinion was implied by this policy change other than a desire to have a 'safe space' where the company's work could be accomplished.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

      Frankly, if the 18 who left were so tetchy, the company is better off without them.

      It wasn't as if he was trying to ban their political and societal beliefs, just concentrate on work at work.

      What is it that has so many people permanently triggered and ready to go off at the drop of almost any word?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        It might be a case of "Mission accomplished, everyone else: as you were.".

      2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        "Frankly, if the 18 who left were so tetchy, the company is better off without them."

        This, exactly.

        There is often a group of people who consider themselves self appointed political commissars. Responsible for maintaining the correct thinking of the group. What happens when decisions which should be made to optimize the functioning of the company become biased based upon the political stance of the people making them?

      3. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        > Frankly, if the 18 who left were so tetchy, the company is better off without them.

        It's funny you say that, because there's an important part missing from the article - why that post came about.

        BC used to have a list of "funny" customer names, more recently some felt that their customers might not appreciate finding out the company was internally taking the piss out of their names (particularly those with foreign names).

        One of the founders tried to publically (well, internally still) humiliate one of these people into dropping objections.

        That person put a complaint in with HR about the way he'd just been treated. The out of the blue comes the blog-post.

        It's not some well thought out policy, it's butt-hurt at being called out. It also lead to posts by other staff (and ex-staff) detailing their experiences dealing with the founders

        1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

          Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

          I do hope that the poor humiliated individual was one of those that walked out, and that they're not allowed to walk back in.

        2. Citizen of Nowhere

          Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

          >It's funny you say that, because there's an important part missing from the article

          Yes, the background and a great deal of context is missing. I am not sure how, journalistically, one would justify reducing important aspects of the situation to a single unilluminating sentence: "The policy changes provoked fury both internally and externally."

          Without knowing who thus reacted, why they felt such a reaction was justified and what the actual content of said reactions were, the article is at best incomplete, and might at worst be highly misleading.

      4. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        It isn't even that. He hasn't banned political talk in work, just not on the official company forum.

        That's how I read it, anyway.

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

          "That's how I read it, anyway."

          Same here. It might just be a case of management not wanting all this stuff revealed in some sort of legal discovery action. "Not on our machines, so not our official position."

    3. AlanDouglas

      Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

      Sorry, I was considering having an opinion, but realised I was typing this on my work PC;

      Yes, of course you are right. Work is where stuff happens. Nothing else should happen here, especially not anything political. Think of the possible problems!

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

      One wonders what the 20 (at the moment) upvoters think of athletes in the US "taking a knee" during the National Anthem.

      Those athletes are at work, Shirley they should leave politics out of it, right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        Those athletes are at work, Shirley they should leave politics out of it, right?

        Yep.

      2. veti Silver badge

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        Standing during the national anthem is not part of any sport I know. Their contract doesn't specify it. And they're not saying anything on work time, all the explanation and debate happens elsewhere.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

          Their contracts certainly do specify it. They are in the uniform of their team, on the sidelines of the field/pitch, in front of tens of thousands of people (live) and tens of millions (television). By definition, they are at work, selling whatever advertising their employer is getting richer from.

          Not all talking is vocal. Taking a knee is making a statement. On company time, in the company venue, on the company dime. And probably (in the American Footballers case) at odds with the company ownership group.

          To say nothing with being at odds with many/most of their cow orkers/teammates, thus putting a pretty good dent in overall morale and cooperation, which kind of wrecks the esprit de corps necessary in professional team sports. (And Kaepernick, the dim wit, still doesn't understand why nobody would touch him with a ten foot pole ... Simply put, he's toxic to the concept of "team", putting his own needs above the common goals of the team.)

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        "Those athletes are at work"

        They're not really taking time out of their work to talk politics though are they? It's not like they would otherwise be doing touchdowns during the national anthem, they're literally standing around doing nothing.

        1. ITS Retired
          Big Brother

          Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

          The playing, singing the National Anthem, with hand over heart, before a sports game IS political.

          The song itself is a call to arms, which is political. Who's the enemy? With the United States, nearly everyone it seems.

          What could be more political than blind patriotism by standing with hand over heart, while a certain song is being played? Wars have been fought over where that right hand goes. So war is political too.

          Most people don't realize it, but politics affects everything. Not all politics involves governments. Just interaction between different groups of people involves the same actions as government legislators. There needs to be some semblance of agreement before anything gets done.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

            "There needs to be some semblance of agreement before anything gets done."

            And the athletes sign that very agreement. It's called a contract. Don't weep for them too much. Most make more in a year than you will make in a lifetime.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

          But they are not standing around doing nothing. They are standing around selling various products, the names of which are clearly visible in each and every camera angle. As soon as they put that uniform on, they are working.

          Some are so well known, they are working even when they are not in uniform. Some even when their sport of choice is not in season. And their contracts and salaries reflect this.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

            "...they are not standing around doing nothing. They are standing around selling various products..."

            Fair enough. But firstly, unless their contracts explicitly state that they have to stand during the anthem, they can choose to stand or kneel. Secondly, kneeling is hardly going to obscure any adverts they are wearing, on the other hand there's a strong chance of cameras zooming in on any kneeling players.

            Sure, some sponsors might not be happy with some players taking the knee and might look to cancel their sponsorship. But surely other sponsors might be MORE interested in sponsoring players who take the knee. It's not black and white*.

            *and yes I realise the irony of using this particular expression for this particular argument!!

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. eldakka Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

      > Work is where work stuff happens. If you want to save the world, or die trying, that's not work. Do it elsewhere.

      But what if you work for the WHO?

      ACLU?

      Greenpeace?

      etc?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: What part of that so people have issues with?

        That's your choice.

        But don't try taking the Whaler's side if you work for Greenpeace.

        Or the Islamic side if you work for the Westboro Baptist Church.

        Common sense, innit.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The CEO made the mistake of discussing politics trying to implement his no politics policy.

    I do find it strange that people walk out over this and expect an apology. Perhaps the exit compensation was too generous, and so the quitting had nothing to do with this policy itself.

    1. Plest Bronze badge

      Nothing to do with politics!

      Uncertain times coming to an end on the horizon and the company offers you 6 months pay in your hand f you want to leave?

      Politics my arse! this was opportunists grabbing a payout.

  7. gerdesj Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Amateur

    I sometimes spend *years* making effective changes in my firm. I'm the MD of only 20 odd people. There have been a few occasions when I or another director has laid down the law but that has generally been literally laying down the Law (of the land)

    However, if you want to herd the kittens in a new and divisive direction, that can take some real effort. Not a fucking email to everyone@. Ideally, you get everyone to decide its a good idea to encourage you enact the change. If you can't do that then your change is probably the wrong one anyway.

    Managing people is quite hard and just because you own the firm or control the board does not mean you can enact policy like a tyrant (the ancient Greek type or any modern interpretation.)

    Read your Machiavelli - "The Prince" and learn to be patient. I'm still learning stuff after 21 years of not updating my CV.

    1. Plest Bronze badge

      Re: Amateur

      Absolutely, some CEOs out there need to read more of "The Prince" and less "Sun Tsu"!

      Armies needs commanding and commanders need loyalty as people will die if they don't. Working schmo employees change by encouraging them to change through incentives and other methods.

    2. General Purpose Bronze badge

      Re: Amateur

      Yes! Telling employees that they're customers was telling them that they're merely the consumers of a product the owners are offering, namely employment. The first few paragraphs were deeply alienating and demotivating, even before 'no political discussions' and 'if we want your opinion, we'll ask for it'.

    3. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

      Re: Amateur

      OK, I partly agree with you. Naturally there's a but. It takes you years in a titchy firm. How long do you think your approach would take in a large one? Centuries?

      I've been in both, running a small one and a senior manager in a large one. Unless you use the nuclear bomb option sheer inertia will generally keep things the same in a large firm. For the worst examples look at government organisations.

      1. gerdesj Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Amateur

        I've been in both too.

        It took me roughly three years to get a rotary wing manufacturer in the south-west of the UK to use full on DHCP. I mean actually dynamic from a pool per VLAN and not an awful homegrown thingie where each device needed a physical paper form filling out and a VAX based database filling in and the address statically typed in. Finding out the VLAN for a network port, noting the building, floor, port and getting an address was a right old laugh. Even more fun when something was incorrectly labelled.

        That was about 20 something years ago.

        You pick your wars. In small firms there are more battles worth fighting and in large firms you sometimes lose the will to live but the pay off when you get an entire organisation to bend to your will can be priceless if you do it as a lowly grade.

        It's tricky ...

  8. Muppet Boss Bronze badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Purely financial

    Basecamp's actual mistake was offering a hefty compensation for leaving. Imho it is simply f*** the politics if I can grab my 6-month pay!

    They should have offered zilch and good recommendations on top of that.

    1. RErnes

      Re: Purely financial

      I second this... also, the US tech market is on fire at the moment, so those people probably had something really interesting on their plates and the exit package was more of an incentive to leave.

    2. Trigun

      Re: Purely financial

      Indeed. The same thought had occured to me.

    3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: Purely financial

      I thought US employment was "at will" and so no severance is payable? Certainly, in the UK it would have been 1 month's notice, and nothing for those still on probation.

      Unless you are C-suite, of course!

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Purely financial

        > I thought US employment was "at will" and so no severance is payable?

        Depends, if you're under contract then that will stipulate

        > Certainly, in the UK it would have been 1 month's notice, and nothing for those still on probation.

        Not universally true. If my current employer wanted to pull the same, they'd have to give me more than 1 month, because my contract specifies a longer notice period. I'm senior, but not C-Suite.

        I've heard tell of unfortunates with 6 month notice periods too

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What happens at Basecamp stays at Basecamp!

    Unless exit bonuses are offered

    Wooooo hooo!

    1. Plest Bronze badge

      Re: What happens at Basecamp stays at Basecamp!

      Kerrrr-ching!!!

  10. EPurpl3

    So they have cut a lot of advantages and than blamed it all on banning politics?

  11. Trigun

    Having less or even no political discussion in the workplace is not a bad approach considering how things can go wrong when people disagree over such things.

    However, offering a ton of compensation for people to leave was one mistake, not pursuading (as others have said) rather than possibly being high-handed was another (I say possibly because we don't fully know if he did actually consult people, etc. - we're just seeing the results). Finally, apologising for a legitmate decision was worse because now his leadership has been weakened due to backing down on something reasonable. A bit of a hard learning experience - if he choses to learn from it, of course.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      offering a ton of compensation for people to leave was one mistake

      But without compensation there was always a risk they might not leave, and who wants such hotheads in his company?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Working in local government, we're not allowed to voice any political opinion. Technically, even posting something political on social media could cause us to face a disiplinary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While not demanded my company states at least every 2-3 months that your conduct inside, outside, on and off work time is expected to be professional and polite.

      Read as: If the company is linked back to you then it better be good news else you'll be up in HR if we have reporters camped outside the building!

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "Working in local government..."

      I would expect nothing else. Government entities / agencies and by extension their employees are expected to enact the political will of the government without heed to their own personal preferences (which of course they are free to express on their free time)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wanted to leave anyway?

    How many of the 18 who quit wanted to leave, or were at least considering it, got the chance to get paid to walk and took it?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the age of Online Lynch Mobs..

    ..there should be zero tolerance for political discussion in the workplace.

    You know, thirty years ago if someone on my team was a pain in the *rse about politics you might have some argy bargy (and often did) but that was it. If you were team lead unless it got personal it was no big deal. But now, with the instant online lynch mobs on twitter and facebook where the the most innocent remark made in private can be taken out of context and broadcast to the work and yuor life destroyed, no matter how lowly your status, any introduction of politics into a work team means the person will be eased out very quickly. Nothing destroys a team faster than this crap.

    Nowadays you tend to deal with this problem preemptively. Anyone who might cause a problem like this in the future, legal or otherwise, is not going to get the job offer. Let them play out their personal psychodramas and political psychosis elsewhere. I've got a product to ship.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the age of Online Lynch Mobs..

      ..there should be zero tolerance for political discussion in the workplace.

      So naively idealistic. Life is politics is life. Were do you draw the line? Joining a union - politics. Calling out racism - politics (apparently). Pointing out gender pay gaps - politics. Discussing mandatory vaccines - politics. Ethics - often political.

      For sure there are boundaries, and lines that shouldn't be crossed. But banning political speech and thought is of itself an overtly political act.

      1. jtaylor Bronze badge

        Re: In the age of Online Lynch Mobs..

        I have a few coworkers who debate conspiracy theories. Stuff that would be preposterous in most places, but in the US are aligned with a certain political party. "Biden is a socialist traitor. Impeach him!" "COVID is a Chinese plot to destroy the US and these mask rules are for stupid sheep." And of course the weekly weird about Bill Gates.

        This stuff doesn't belong in the office.

    2. tekHedd

      Re: In the age of Online Lynch Mobs..

      "Everything is political" is the new "turn in your parents." It turns any attempt to defuse a situation into a Kafkaesque catch-22, where the person attempting to turn a discussion back to "anything constructive" becomes the villain.

    3. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: In the age of Online Lynch Mobs..

      So what would you do about the problem Basecamp faced?

      It had employees internally ridiculing their customers because the (immature louts) found their names "funny". Clearly this should have been an immediate major disciplinary action: if the customers concerned found out they would certainly take their business elsewhere and Basecamp's reputation would be trashed (as it has, indeed, been).

      Instead, the company seemed to allow discussion about whether this offensive activity should be allowed?? And that discussion of stopping it (let alone taking disciplinary action) was "political"!!

      Then, in an effort to contain the imminent nuclear explosion when customers found out how offensive not only junior staff were but that the founders seem to be equally immature they decide, instead of firing the staff being offensive to customers, to ban discussion because it is political?

      WTF is political about respecting your customers and protecting the company's reputation?

  15. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Dammit!

    This CEO is stupid. Why couldn't he engage a discussion with his workforce before publishing this new policy? Office dictators unable to listen are a PITA.

    1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      I am paid to think, just not about politics. When transactional replication in one of the database servers is generating sp_replcmds error-message, that is what I am there for (although, to be fair, I am sometimes the cause of said error-messages).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and if the transactional replication was organizing deliveries of Sarin stocks to North Korea - would you think it political?

        1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          AC» and if the transactional replication was organizing deliveries of Sarin stocks to North Korea - would you think it political?

          That is at a company level and I have deliberately chosen not to work for such companies, even though the recompense is surely much greater.

          Besides this example is probably illegal as well as being in contravention of international law and then whistleblowing comes into play. Whistleblowers are courageous in the Sir Humphrey sense of the word [1] and necessary and I am not sure that I am that courageous.

          [1] a controversial policy will lose him votes, whilst a courageous one will lose [him] the election

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Probably because if you asked a group "Should we ban the discussion of politics during work hours" then the people who seemingly have no life beyond The Party will of course loudly scream no and denounce the majority of colleauges who says yes.

      Hence you might as well just tell people "your employed to make money, not to chat about politics" in some form and have it over with. The sort of extremists that quit because of this are frankly not the sort of co workers that many people shall mourn the absence of.

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Ever heard of a concept named freedom of expression?

        Everything can be labelled politics as soon as two people interact. If your concept of being an employee is being a mindless robot executing his/her task without any social interaction, I'll be happy never to work for you.

        Being open-minded is a strength, especially in IT. And happy people are more productive at work

        1. jtaylor Bronze badge

          Re: Ever heard of a concept named freedom of expression?

          Being open-minded is a strength, especially in IT. And happy people are more productive at work

          I completely agree. In my experience, people who express their political ideas the loudest are not also the most open-minded. And endless political rants don't make everyone happy at work.

  16. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Just marketing

    I never heard of Basecamp before this furore, and never knew what it was until this Register article told me.

    So, clearly, it's all just an advertising stunt, and it worked, to a degree (i'm still not going to buy it).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just marketing

      I likewise had not heard of them but I think I see the problem.

      They seem to be a US company. If you think that we have a divided and problematic society here in the UK, you should study the USA. Here, outside certain areas, Conservative supporters tend to keep quiet about it. Opinion pollsters have commented that this is why our polls tend to show labour doing better that it turns out on polling day.

      In the USA, this is not the case. A sizeable part of the henhouse will loudly tell you why you need to vote for the fox! I can't see that with most politics here, but there there will be much more aggression in it.

      1. AndrewCappo

        Re: Just marketing

        The US is so divided that some people, whose existence harms nobody, find that their very existence is politicized.

        In many states, Laura from Accounting could be tossed out simply for having married a woman. David from shipping might be evicted of the landlord learns that David was assigned the name Belinda at birth.

        Express dismay that a cop executed a man for selling a loose cigarette? Carla, why do hate America so?

        Companies that respect their employees tend to be the most efficent. But all too often, companies in the USA do not.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't want to discuss politics or religion at work ...

    But any time you offer me 0.5 of my annual salary to go away, I have a two word response: Thanks, Bye!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't want to discuss politics or religion at work ...

      Poor you. My employer did just that a month ago, but I said 'No thanks, I like it here'. (And we talk politics a lot - albeit not on work social media platforms, because..duh...work).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and that is why nothing gets resolved

    things off topic means it stays hidden and no one learns anything. Let's just sweep things under the carpet shall we and ignore the big hump in the middle.

    Welcome to the USA, turning a blind eye as usual

  19. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    "We don't have any current opening right now"

    Uhh...

    Well, it was a thought.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought all CEO's were big fans of BLM

    Bottom Line Matters

    Oh , there is another meaning?

    1. jake Silver badge

      BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management, the agency within the United States Department of the Interior responsible for mismanaging public lands these last 70+ years. The BLM are the much hated government department who (for example) are responsible for the tinder-like underbrush which has directly lead to the Western United States wildfire problems these last several years. Most of Rural America hates those three letters on sight, out of reflex. If you were to start up a new organization, and wanted to be as controversial as possible, giving it these initials would be a good place to start.

  21. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Online "Bravery"

    Most people will post comments in online forums that they would never make when face to face with the same people. If you have a work "forum" of some ilk and you are posting anything non-work related (other than personal pleasantries) to it, then you are an idiot (see, I'm being brave) and I would expect that HR be asked to have a talk with you about it. If you persisted I would expect you to be disciplined according to the contract that you are employed under. If the company you work for decides to support an organisation or ideal that you object to, then you can always formally object in writing, or find alternative employment.

    Most companies shy away from supporting political organisations or ideals precisely because of the problems these can cause in the workplace. Since the advent of social media causing the extremism/polarisation that we are seeing these days I would expect companies to be being even more circumspect about who they support.

  22. Bbuckley

    Absolutely fair and right move by the company. Good riddance to the 'activist' crackpots. More companies should do this - wait, it should be a module on every MBA from now on.

  23. FlippingGerman

    Six months pay to find a new job?

    After having been there for three (or more) years? Sure! I cannot state how horrified I am at the new workplace rules, and feel obliged to leave!

  24. Ernst Blofelt

    I'll lay off politics

    I quite happy to lay off politics at work when they stop taxing me ;)

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I'll lay off politics

      It;s not your work who is taxing you. It's the government that is taxing you. Stop boring your cow orkers with politics, and start telling your politicians to do their jobs.

  25. Edentifier1

    I'm just wondering why The Register framed this as an 'apology' a couple of times in the article, when it is not an apology, it is simply a statement on a blog post that the company has offered to pay off those that wished to leave due to disagreeing with the company policy of keeping politics to personal time, rather than company time.

    Strange editorial decision, there.

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