David Heinemeier Hansson

April 26, 2021

Basecamp's new etiquette regarding societal politics at work

Jason announced a raft of changes we've made to Basecamp earlier today. By far the most controversial is a new etiquette around societal politics at work, and the stances we'll take as a company. So to expand on that, here's a segment from what I wrote internally on that topic, as part of the announcement to employees at Basecamp.

As cliché as it may sound, these are very difficult times in many places of the world, and in America in particular. We're constantly confronted with terrible tragedies, pulled into polarized political fights, and egged on by social media to engage.

There are many places to be involved, exposed, and engaged in those conversations. Basecamp shouldn't be one of those places.

Basecamp should be a place where employees can come to work with colleagues of all backgrounds and political convictions without having to deal with heavy political or societal debates unconnected to that work.

You shouldn't have to wonder if staying out of it means you're complicit, or stepping into it means you're a target. That is difficult enough outside of work, but almost impossible at work.

By trying to have the debates around such incredibly sensitive societal politics inside the company, we're setting ourselves up for strife, with little chance of actually changing anyone's mind. These types of discussions are so difficult that even if we were having them at the best of times, together in person, with trust batteries fully charged, we'd struggle. And we have none of those advantages right now, so it's not a surprise the results have been poor.

We also like to tell ourselves that having these discussions with the whole company is "healthy". I used to think that too, but I no longer do. I think it's become ever more stressful, unnerving, and counterproductive. No comment thread on Basecamp is going to close the gap on fundamental philosophical and political differences. And we're left worse for wear when we try.

Therefore, we’re asking everyone, including Jason and me, to refrain from using our company Basecamp or HEY to discuss societal politics at work effective immediately.

This includes everything from sharing political stories in campfire, using message threads to elucidate others on political beliefs that go beyond the topic directly, or performing political advocacy in general.

If you're in doubt as to whether your choice of forum or topic for a discussion is appropriate, please ask before posting. But if you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. Someone will gently remind you of the etiquette, and we'll move on. This isn't some zero-tolerance, max-consequences new policy.

We encourage you to continue these difficult discussions with willing colleagues on other systems. Signal is an excellent choice that provides end-to-end encryption and group support.

We also encouraged you to exercise your right to activism and political engagement outside of work. It's none of Basecamp's business how or whether you choose to spend your time, money, or voice to support charities, causes, or political action groups.

Note that we will continue to engage in politics that directly relate to our business or products. This means topics like antitrust, privacy, employee surveillance. If you're in doubt as to whether something falls within those lines or not, please, again, reach out for guidance.

Next, Basecamp, as a company, is no longer going to weigh-in publicly on societal political affairs, outside those that directly connect to the business. Again, everyone can individually weigh-in as much or as little as they want, but we're done with posts that present a Basecamp stance on such issues.

Aftermath

Unsurprisingly, parts of Twitter is very. disappointed. in. us. And the search for the tweet to serve as a stake for that disappointment is in full swing. Several contenders have included my tweets about how I find it OK for leaders and employees to be political on Twitter. I still do! And I still will be. Not just on twitter, but on this here blog as well. These are my personal spaces.

Everyone at Basecamp has been, as you can read from the snippet above, actively  encouraged to do the same! Bring all your political advocacy to whatever personal spaces you have. Twitter, Facebook, your local advocacy group, all of it. Just don't bring it into the internal communication platforms we use for work, unless it directly relates to our business. I'm applying that same standard to myself, and Jason is too.