By the end of April of 2021, Twitter witnessed a surge of tweets from Basecamp employees, leading to wide-scale resignations from the company. The reason reported for this drastic response is the company’s new policy of banning political discussions in the workplace. So, the question arises, why did the company introduce this new policy? What does this mean for Basecamp’s future? And how did Basecamp become responsible for its loss?
The creation of Basecamp as a web design company occurred in 1999 through the collaborative efforts of Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest Kim. However, technology such as remote working became a centerpiece for businesses. Basecamp also steered themselves in a similar direction, and by 2004 they designed various software applications for remote work.
The basecamp app offered many lucrative features such as to-do lists, document support, and group chat made up for the app’s success. When the pandemic of 2019 hit globally, applications like Basecamp became the forefront of remote office work. Unfortunately, recent times have exposed Basecamp in another light. This exposure has led to a staggering blow for the company that had enjoyed an upward trajectory thus far. Here’s an account of what happened:
How Did It Start?
The issue that surrounds Basecamp today goes back to 2009. According to a report from The Verge, customer service employers curated a list of customers. These names were American, European, Asian, and African origin and were picked solely because of how they sounded. They were allegedly hilarious to pronounce. As a decade passed and the world steadily became more socially and politically aware, so did Basecamp’s diversity quota, but the list remains unattended.
However, because the company wanted to hire more employees from different socio-economic backgrounds, this caused the list to come to light. Employees found the list highly inappropriate and held the company accountable. Basecamp’s executives showed a very underwhelming response to these accusations. Their CEO Jason Fried even posted an internal memo stating he knew about the list. He then introduced a series of company policy changes. One of which was a ban in political discussions.
How Did Employees React To These Policies?
Employees expressed their disdain publicly. Most of them took to Twitter to shed light on the incident and the lack of apology on Fried’s behalf. As a result, Fried offered a severance package for employees who had an issue with the company’s policies. It included a six-month pay for employees who were part of the Basecamp’s company for more than three years. What the company didn’t expect was the insurmountable number of employees who decided to leave the company.
Several reports came forward, including multiple sources confirming about 1/3rd of Basecamp’s staff decided to leave. !8 employees publicly announced their departure on Twitter. However, a significant blow hit the company when two prominent employees Jonas Downey and Andy Didorosi, the head of design and marketing, also resigned. This shows that people no longer have the tolerance or patience to put up with a lack of social awareness any longer. Companies can no longer introduce policies and hide behind them without showing they stand behind their message and vision.
How Does The Future Look For Basecamp?
Losing an employee is a difficult situation for any company. Losing 1/3rd of the employee base sends a company plummeting to the ground. The future for Basecamp looks bleak, and if they were to introduce another series of policies to hold on to the remaining employees. It wouldn’t do them much good as the damage is too heavy to control despite Basecamp’s drastic decision. They’re not the first tech company to voluntarily put themselves in this position. Coinbase, a cryptocurrency platform, introduced similar policies.
This incident took place back in September when the company issued a statement that banned employees from engaging in societal issues. Coinbase’s employees showed equal disdain for these new policies. History seems to be repeating itself with Basecamp despite the imagery they tried to exude that of inclusivity and diversity.
How Did The Public Respond?
The public responded swiftly to the outcry of the employees. They pointed out how vague the new policies were and where did the company draw its lines? They even presented different scenarios. If an employee was a victim of hate crimes, would they be allowed to answer what they were facing? Did the company not stand behind transgender rights? No company in this day and age can function while asking their employees to express selective moralism while they’re at work. We all live in a society. Everything that happens outside our workspace impacts us within our house and in our workspaces.
Therefore, now more than ever, a safe space to exchange ideas and opinions should be encouraged. Banning political speeches calls for a union. Employees no longer allow themselves to be tied down by company policies and make their demands known. Take the protests held by Microsoft employees against the company’s interest in military contracts.
Even the poor handling of sexual harassment cases in Google led many women employees to walk out. For any long-term success of a company, you can’t ignore the impact social awareness has. If a company only introduces policies for the sake of appearing diverse. It only exposes their hypocrisy, and the public refuses to do business with them.
Do Consumers Want Politically Active Companies?
Society is becoming more aware day by day. The current generation is interested in Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, and LGBTQ rights. If companies make no move to include activism in their policy, consumers don’t like doing business with them.
This also includes making advertisements targeting these social issues. Companies like Nike have shown a substantial move towards social activism. They included Colin Kaepernick, a controversial athlete, in their ads. His controversy started when he bent his knee during the national anthem in an NFL game. This was supposed to be a peaceful act of silent protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
Retailers like Walmart also stopped selling weapons in response to mass shootings that shook America nationwide. In short, the more aware a company is political, the more consumers will work with them.
Basecamp had enjoyed a prominent position as a pioneer for web design for a long time. However, not understanding the severity of the racist incident in their company became the reason for their downfall. Employees packed up their offices and immediately filed their resignations in light of the company-wide policy changes.
Banning political speech is like asking employees to put their humanity on hold. This is also a wake-up call for other companies. The public will no longer stand for any form of discrimination or inequality. So if companies now choose to act socially aware while the company’s atmosphere reflects otherwise – there are repercussions!