Basecamp founder Jason Fried has published a blog post on Tuesday. In contrast to the rest of the world, it is not about a “healthy work culture”, but about the announcement that in future no socially relevant topics will be discussed in the workplace.
When the blog post was published, it still looked as if the inclined reader would have to figure out for himself which topics would be allowed in the future and which would not. It is now clear that the trigger for the apolitical realignment of the startup was the discussion about an internal problem that the founders wanted to prevent. Last year, a third of the workforce had organized themselves into a so-called DE & I working group and discussed approaches for more diversity and inclusion in the company. In the course of this, a list of “funny customer names” that had existed for more than ten years was discussed. The employees wanted to talk about it, the founders didn’t. In order to end the debate, the two apparently had no choice but to change the company values accordingly. Fried’s reason for the sudden decision to want to rethink the company: Such discussions distracted, consumed unnecessary energy and steered the conversations in unpleasant directions. In addition, it is unhealthy and does not lead to anything. You don’t want to forget who you are. “We do project management, team communication and e-mail services. We are not a social impact company. Our influence is limited to what we do and how we do it, ”he writes. That is “more than enough”.
A healthy work culture looks different
Not wanting to be a social impact company , however, the processing of problems has precious little to do. Much more likely with a healthy corporate culture. And the Basecamp founders should really know about that.
The startup has published five books on the subject , one of them a New York Times bestseller. Only in 2016 was the company certified in a portrait that it “knew the recipe for a healthy work culture”, “without the hype that is commonly associated with the term thought leadership”.
Basecamp – previously 37Signals – became known and admired as an opinionated, sometimes idiosyncratic startup, with products and a corporate philosophy that served as inspiration for many. Founders and companies are likely to have completely lost this magic after this slip-up. If the founders’ desire to no longer talk about certain topics within the company had an effect, it was that a lot of dirty laundry was now done in public.
The workplace as productivity pod
What is supposed to be healthy about preventing employees from dealing with internal company problems in favor of productivity remains unclear. It looks much more like Heinemeier Hansson and Fried, behind Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, in the unfortunately growing line of long-established tech giants who apparently believe that the workplace is a place where people can express their personality and their desires and could just slip away their needs, worries and hardships for the duration of a working day. The quintessence of the blog post and all iterations of it is ultimately only that in the future nothing should be discussed within the company that David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried are not in the mood for. Not in the mood for debates about diversity and inclusion is easy – for those who are not themselves affected.