Tech

Basecamp employees are distraught over the company’s policy changes. And a diversity council had to shut down before its first meeting.

  • “Right now is the wrong measure of the moment,” writes Basecamp CEO in blog post responding to critics.
  • Cofounder David Heinemeier Hansson told Insider that employee reactions have been split.
  • The company’s council on diversity, equity and inclusion had to end days before its first meeting.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several Basecamp employees lamented the company’s controversial workplace policy changes, including a move to bar social and political discussions at work, calling it “disheartening” and “sad.”  

“Over my 11+ years at Basecamp, my coworkers have made me a better person through thoughtful and respectful societal and political dialog,” wrote John Williams, a systems administrator at the company, on Twitter. “Todays [sic] policy changes are disheartening and fill me with sadness. I’m angry for my friends that have lost their voices.”

Basecamp cofounders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson responded to the criticism in new blog posts. Fried wrote that he had thought long and hard about the potential consequences of his decisions.

“Whenever I make decisions, I don’t think about now, I think about eventually. How will this feel then.”, he wrote. “Right now is the wrong measure of the moment. Later is the right one.”

In his blog post, Hansson wrote that work does not provide a good environment for political discussions.”We need vigorous debate in a free society,” he wrote. “But as the joke goes, ‘Sir, this is a Wendy’s.’ Not every place is the right place. Not every time is the right time.”

On Monday, Fried announced that he would outlaw “societal and political discussions” at work, end “paternalistic benefits” like fitness and education allowances, and disband internal committees, which includes a council focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

David Heinemeier Hansson, Basecamp’s cofounder and chief technology officer, told Insider that he and CEO Jason Fried had discussed the issues addressed by the new policies with some employees in advance. 

After the changes were announced, internal reactions at the company have been split, he said.

“The response has been as mixed and polarized as the debates!” he wrote in an email. “Some employees are deeply thankful for these changes, others are deeply upset.”

The changes also unleashed a lively debate on social media, with many tech industry observers condemning the changes. Much of the controversy focused on the company’s stance on political discussions, which Basecamp CEO Jason Fried called a “major distraction.” Some critics said banning such conversations would make the workplace less welcoming for employees from underrepresented groups, including racial minorities and LGBTQ communities.

For the company’s council focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, the policy changes came just days before it held its first official meeting. Basecamp’s DEI Council had been formed in February, and recently created a structure and targeted issues to focus on, Navid Afshar, a senior administrative assistant at the company who helped spearhead the council’s formation, wrote on Twitter

The council will have two weeks to wind down and pass along any work in progress to Andrea LaRowe, the company’s head of people ops, Afshar tweeted.

Some employees expressed confusion about what prompted the changes. Most conversations on political and social issues at Basecamp were confined to the DEI Council and a chat group called “Civil Solace,” wrote Conor Muirhead, product designer at the company, on Twitter.

“To me it seems reasonable to talk with my co-workers about the stuff going on in our world, country, and lives in the place where we actually see each other?” he tweeted. “You know…at work.”

Those whose Tweets appear in this story did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

 


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