Is everything political?

Corporate activism, what we discuss at work, and 5 links worth your time

I spend most of my waking hours at work. To be clear, I love my family and would prefer to spend more time with them, but the pesky mortgage company expects regular payments.

Many of you probably find yourselves in a similar situation. No matter how many interests you have outside of work, most of your time is spent working. That means you’re with your co-workers a lot, either in person or virtually, and, as often happens when people spend lots of time together, you talk.

The more you talk, the more comfortable you probably feel talking about things that matter to you: sports, current events, maybe even politics. 

“No more societal and political discussions”

Should we mix politics and work?

It’s a subject we’ve previously considered, and it prompted strong feelings. Some people wrote angry emails to tell me I must want to deny important rights to individuals if I’ll even question whether politics ought to be a part of business. Others wrote to say that politics have no place in the workplace. 

The subject has also been in the news. Earlier this month, more than 100 leaders and companies signed a statement raising concerns about Georgia’s new voting laws (another subject we’ve recently written about). Just as those headlines faded, Basecamp, a tech company that specializes in project management software, announced it would no longer allow employees to use the company’s internal communications to conduct “societal and political discussions.” 

Benefits or necessity

Basecamp is (or, more precisely, was) a sixty-person company. You might be wondering why this relatively small business made headlines. 

The company’s co-founders have written bestselling books about “the better way to work.” They’re active on social media and have popular TED talks about making the workplace more productive and rewarding for employees. 

Employees at Basecamp have been able to work remotely for years, well before “working from home” was something we all found ourselves doing. Unusual benefits at Basecamp also include “summer hours” of four-day work weeks, May through August. 

But what Basecamp employees will no longer get is the opportunity to use the company’s internal communications platform for discussion of “societal and political” issues. In his announcement of the changes, co-founder Jason Fried noted that these sorts of discussions are tricky and “You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit or wading into it means you’re a target.” 

Separating politics from everything else

There’s a lot more to the story, and you can read all about it in our five links this week. A third of the company’s employees have resigned over the new policy. Critics argue that many people, particularly those who are not white and male (as both Basecamp’s co-founders are) don’t have the privilege of separating their work lives from political and societal concerns. 

We spend a lot of time encouraging you to have civil conversations about issues that matter to you. Are conversations at work about political and social issues constructive? Does that depend on the issue, who you are, or your vocation? Does a post-pandemic workplace, with fragile social connections, influence what conversations should take place?

I hope you’ll read more and discuss with the important people in your life!

5 links worth your time

  1. Here’s the actual staff memo that Jason Fried, co-founder & CEO at Basecamp, shared with his team (and the world) announcing controversial changes at his company.
  2. Co-founder & CTO at Basecamp, David Heinemeier Hansson, shares his thoughts about the now infamous “best names ever list.”
  3. This expert opines on what he thinks Basecamp should have done instead of banning social and political conversations at work. 
  4. A third of Basecamp’s workers just resigned.
  5. “Silence isn’t violence, and recusing your company from political discourse, as Basecamp and Coinbase have done, is a perfectly valid line to draw.”

Photo by alfa27 on Adobe Stock