Basecamp Follows Coinbase In Banning Politics Talk at Work

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Basecamp, a productivity software maker, said that it’s banning employees from “societal and political discussions” on internal workplace tools. The move, which was met with swift criticism online, mirrors the controversial no-politics-at-work policy set by crypto startup Coinbase Global Inc. last October.

Political discussion at work is “a major distraction” that “saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places,” Basecamp’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Jason Fried, wrote in a blog post on Monday. “You shouldn't have to wonder if staying out of it means you're complicit, or wading into it means you're a target.”

As with Coinbase’s announcement, the new rules from Basecamp prompted outrage from observers on Twitter and elsewhere, many of whom felt that banning discussion of politics at work sends the message that a company doesn’t care about injustice in the world and is interested only in preserving the status quo. Basecamp’s co-founders emphasized that employees are free to engage with politics and advocacy on social media and elsewhere, and that the company wanted only to explicitly keep it out of discussions on tools such as internal workplace chat.

In the tech industry, where companies often compete for top talent by promising fulfilling work with broad missions to change the world for the better, Basecamp and Coinbase’s decisions are unusual. By declaring their companies are focused only on their software products, they’re distancing themselves from more idealistic claims about tech’s role in society. Dozens of staffers left Coinbase after its announcement.

“We are not a social impact company,” Fried wrote. “We’re in the business of making software.”

Basecamp’s founders have previously weighed in on workplace issues. Fried, along with cofounder David Heinemeier Hansson, have authored several books on topics such as managing a remote workforce—Basecamp was fully remote even before the pandemic—and how to reduce organizational chaos within a company. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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