About a third of Basecamp employees quit after the CEO banned politics and shuttered the DEI committee. Some describe an autocratic culture.

jason fried basecamp

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The tech industry is well known for its abundant perks — laundry service, fitness rooms, and an abundance of snacks — geared toward supporting employees’ full lives, even outside of work.

Basecamp’s recent policy changes, including a ban on political discussions and the end of wellness and education allowances, go against the grain. The aftermath of Basecamp’s announcement bears that out: Roughly a third of the company’s 58 employees have decided to leave after the cofounders offered severance packages to those who disagreed with the changes, a source told Insider. At least 18 of them have announced their departure on Twitter.

The company is striving to separate work from personal life, in part to avoid a clash of dissenting opinions, according to writings from Basecamp’s cofounders and statements from employees, including one who spoke with Insider. But it’s a move that’s risky, experts told Insider, as employees grow accustomed to having a bigger say in the culture of their workplaces.

On Monday, Basecamp cofounder and CEO Jason Fried announced that the productivity software company was making a series of sweeping changes to its workplace policies. In addition to banning “societal and political discussions” at work and ending “paternalistic benefits” like wellness perks, the company disbanded its workplace committees and ended 360 reviews, in which employees receive evaluations from peers and subordinates in addition to their bosses. The changes unleashed a torrent of criticism on social media, including from Basecamp employees.

Though the decision to bar political talk closely resembled Coinbase’s ban on discussing social issues, the end of wellness benefits has less of a precedent. Most tech companies are adding such benefits, said Christina Sullivan, principal and vice president at Sequoia Consulting Group, which advises companies on benefits packages. Attention to employees’ emotional well-being has especially ramped up in the past year as the pandemic upended people’s work and personal lives, she told Insider.

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Yet the move is in line with the desire of Basecamp’s cofounders, Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, to separate other aspects of employees’ lives from the company’s day-to-day work. “We’re in the business of making software, and a few tangential things that touch that edge,” Fried wrote in his blog post announcing the company’s new policies. “We’re responsible for ourselves. That’s more than enough for us.”

‘Bullying behavior’ and low tolerance for dissent

As with benefits, Fried cited a desire to focus on work as the impetus behind banning political discussions. But that particular change also reflects a founder-driven culture in which others’ opinions are not always welcomed, according to current and former Basecamp employees. “There’s always been this kind of unwritten rule at Basecamp that the company basically exists for David and Jason’s enjoyment,” one told Platformer’s Casey Newton.

One former employee who spoke with Insider pointed to several instances of witnessing “bullying behavior” from Basecamp’s cofounders. The company’s short-lived diversity, equity, and inclusion council got started, the former employee said, after a conversation in December about fear among employees, especially those of …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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