I was wondering how this would go down where I currently work, because people here rarely discuss politics at all. Then I realized that making fun of customer names - and we work with large enterprise customers across the globe - would be shut down in a personal conversation with anyone I work with, and circulating a list like this would just never happen. The way to keep politics out of work is to keep your work environment professional.
This wasn't employees pontificating on the merits of BLM or party politics in Basecamp channels, this was direct response to dumb shit the company was allowing certain people to get away with. DHH's blog post where he got into the details was still basically tittering at "lol Bigbuttson is a funny name", and it's deplorable.
We didn't have to pay them to leave. One tried to use the company social media accounts to advance her politics, so we fired her, and the other person became frustrated that she couldn't vent at work, and quit.
I don't know if it was Trump specifically that made them so persistently agitated, but they just could not stop talking about politics and creating drama.
We later discovered that one of them had been considering reporting us to the state financial authorities because she didn't agree with our policy of accruing interest on client debts - and was collecting client invoices on her work desktop as "evidence".
Placating "activists" in the work place may initially seem like the new norm in corporate responsibility, but it is actually a self-destructive spiral, as there are ever-changing foci for woke outrage. The risk of these same employees turning on the company is extremely high in the long term.
Policies like "No Religion / No Politics" have benefits that far exceed eliminating office distractions. They limit legal liabilities by removing easily-disgruntled employees.
No need to make it no politics/no religion at work. Endless talking about keto or veganism or BeachBody or CrossFit or vaccines or children or being anti-child or emacs or vim or whatever can be just as divisive and counterproductive if it's not managed. Lots of people are assholes or misinformed about a lot of stuff. Big deal. Manage. That's the active part of the word "manager".
Don't use the company social media to advance your politics or sell your MLM products or shill for cryptocurrencies -- company social media must be managed. Financial policies must be managed, and if people don't like them or aren't able to accept it, talk to them directly. Clear up misunderstandings if they exist and lay out the parameters of the job.
This is not about Trump or politics or activists. This is about bad management.
I manage and work with people of a wide variety of political persuasions. Out of work I have plenty of opinions about politics and causes. In work, I demand mutual respect and professionalism. I won't let A misgender B, I won't let C make fun of D's evangelical church, we're going to keep all the politics talk to a minimum but we're not going to ban it. If someone doesn't want to engage, that must be respected as well.
But it's just foolishness to think that my "employees can come to work... without having to deal with heavy political or societal debates unconnected to that work". Not when heavy political debates unconnected to that work affect where and when they can pee or whether they fear for their lives at the speed trap that's stationed about a mile up the road from the office. We don't need to debate it, we can't solve the world's problems, and we don't need litmus tests, but the basic mutual respect and professionalism demanded of every employee applies to me too and I need to recognize that different employees walked in the door from different worlds, and their skin color/presence or lack of uteruses/accents come along. I need to proactively make this a good place to work for my valued employees because they deserve human respect and they're f(*^ing expensive to replace. That's the bottom line.
Managing people is hard to do well. It's like writing code. There are bugs, everyone has their own style, everyone thinks the other person's management process was faulty.
At some point, your organization needs to set company wide standards. ...and like coding standards, they aren't perfect, they can have grey areas, and in some contexts they don't even make sense. But on the whole, they do more good than bad.
Don't put GOTO statements in your code. Don't hard code passwords in your scripts. Don't talk about politics or religion in the office.
Tech has awful leadership development pipelines and programs at the Junior and mid levels. I sort of struggle to think of anyone that actually does this at non-managing director levels other than the military with its Junior officer corps and maybe a very select few companies.
Not to be extremely pedantic, but the fact that the term “management” is thrown in as a solution and not “leadership” sort of proves this point.
OP is referring to generally strong and sound leadership techniques. These can and are taught by a select few orgs I just referred to; there’s definitely a science there to learn.
The issue is that so, so much of professional America doesn’t produce good leaders or bother to train them. The idea that strong management is a tenable, broad based solution, when the ball is currently at the line of management == don’t be an a* when you make schedules for your team, is not a good one.
Until corporate America, and especially tech, starts planning how to produce leaders and not just managers, a blanket ban is the only thing that makes much sense as an org policy that could actually work.
It’s true, fwiw. This is a leadership challenge that is solvable, and the orgs that grow leaders have track records of solving it without total bans. It’s usually just a matter of enforcing professionalism, diverting attention, steering attitudes, and most importantly working to create extremely high trust environments by designed. But: too many managers try* to hang in this brutal forum where* the best engineer who wanted to do EM stuff is a manager, and suddenly has to handle this. Leadership dev programs for junior leaders/EM-equivalent take years to do, not a promotion.
Even full MBA programs do a poor job at this.
No, I’d more expect a tech firm that arose in that era which gave us the “tech bro” image and in which reacting against stuffy, corporate, professional corporate structure and culture was all the rage to be among the least likely of firms to have that.
1. You have a controlling share in the company and don't give af (b/c you might lose customers and employees)
2. Everyone else (at the company) already completely or mostly agrees with your rants
3. You are so damn good at what you do that people have to put up with you
Let's be honest, the most common reason people do get away with personal political rants at companies is because they get lucky and are in Scenario 2.
This is another reason why everything is becoming more polarized. Companies are beginning to "lean" much more one direction or another. There is no reason to think that this will change anytime soon.
I've seen that one before. It usually seems to involve throwing chairs.
One problem is that if management, especially owners, feel like control of the company is being wrested from them, they'll get pretty radical in the course corrections.
An 18th C. Navy Captain facing a mutiny will probably need to hang people until he's sure of his position. There really is no other way.
Politics, religion, and sex are always going to be a problem in a company, as they distract from the core mission, divide people along lines that aren’t helpful in accomplishing the core mission, and add large potential liabilities everywhere.
Based on the extreme degree of ... inflammation ... fanned by twitter, fb, etc I would say that people who are not able to keep their opinions under control beyond an occasional two person conversation are the ones who need to seek some sort of counseling.
There are conversations and then there are youtube meltdowns. I have no desire to work with the latter. You speak of professionalism and respect. In the diverse world we live in keeping to oneself seems the only reasonable path for the time being.
(not saying at all if this was appropriate or not)
Well it's important to keep the context in mind here: "the holocaust reference" in this case was a chart from the Anti-Defamation League making the case that normalizing seemingly minor bad behavior makes it easier to go on to slightly worse behavior, which now doesn't seem that different from what you're already tolerating, and so on, and so on.
This is not a terribly controversial assertion, in and of itself. Was it a stretch to use it in this context? You could definitely make that case. (I've long been fond of the quip, "If you use a slippery slope argument once, you'll start using it everywhere.")
But I would argue that when DHH acknowledged the list making fun of 'funny names' was a bad idea, apologized, and promised to shut it down, he had the choice to stop talking at that point. He didn't have to publicly chastise the employee who brought up the Pyramid of Hate. He took positive steps toward putting out this fire, but then threw on a match of his own -- and then doubled down on that, publicly calling out an employee who kept at it.
So, if we're talking about DHH-the-manager, I would suggest he maybe didn't do the bestest job of managing here. He could have said, "yes, we'll take down the list"; instead, he went with "yes, we'll take down the list, but don't you think you're being a drama queen about it."
One thing that I think gets lost in discussions of hypocrisy is that there are actually two types, and they should be handled very differently.
The first type is when an alcoholic tells you to slow down on your drinking, e.g. "do as I say and not as I do" hypocrisy. This kind is usually ok, because it tends to be more of a "learn from my mistakes" situation than a failure to understand the contradiction in your own words.
The second type is "rules for thee and not for me" hypocrisy – people that try to catch others out in their "bad behavior" but then think it is totally fine when they do it themselves, as they provide some sort of post-hoc rationalization for why it is ok for them to do it ("because context" or whatever) but totally unacceptable for others to do so.
Most people conflate the two types, but I try to only refer to the latter type as hypocrisy, and I think it is generally bad to be a hypocrite in that way. And from the sounds of it, the Basecamp employees in question were definitely more of the latter than the former.
The damage done to Basecamp's public reputation, internal morale, and now all the projects set back by losing a third of their employees is unfathomable -- all for the satisfaction of "by gum, at least I don't have to say I put up with one of my now-former employees talking back to me in a way that was arguably hypocritical." On balance, was that really the right tradeoff to make here?
What do you do when a (previously-complicit) employee keeps an issue going on and on and on?
A little 'hey, get off your high horse, you were involved too' doesn't go amiss.
(As a first, second or even third reaction it's not great - but it sounds like there had been a lot of talking preceding this).
But it doesn't really matter if the manager (or owner) believes they handled it well. It matters if the employees thought it was handled well. In the case at least a third of them didn't.
Even putting aside the substance of the no politics policy, the delivery and crafting of it was terrible. There was a DEI committee, and it and all other committees were unilaterally dismissed. The no politics rule was decided with zero employee input. And worse than that it was delivered via public blog post that had to be hastily edited after the fact.
Had DHH and Fried carefully taken employee input and crafted a policy that took their concerns into account, and delivered with care and respect, they could've still ended up with a no politics policy. But employees would not have been blindsided and maybe more people would've bought in.
But maybe DHH and Fried really want a company culture devoid of significant employee input into how the company is run.
This feels like a statement along the same lines as "just don't be poor".
If it's so easy to manage, how come so many people screw it up?
On the other hand, however, these are in fact business leaders who have written books about how good they are and how much they know about leading people, so... it's reasonable that our expectation of good leadership is a bit higher for them than the average middle manager.
> keep all the politics talk to a minimum
Ok, so this is one management strategy and the parent comment provided another. You seem to be implying that one management choice has moral superiority to the other?
> whatever can be just as divisive and counterproductive
Yes, and their management choice could be to minimize these just as you choose to minimize politics. That is entirely orthogonal to making managerial decisions to ban certain topics.
They could choose to ban some of the non-politics topics of discussion as well. Hell, they could just say "shutup and work". They could say no work related discussion allowed at work.
Again, these are all managerial choices but you seem to be accusing the company of not managing at all?
> when they can pee or whether they fear for their lives at the speed trap that's stationed about a mile up the road from the office.
> their skin color/presence or lack of uteruses/accents come along.
You have addressed nothing about the actions of employees as the parent comment discussed. You have only addressed that people have different looks, feelings, organs, and politics. Great observation.
Those attention seeking personalities are just the ones who get your attention and stand out.
I've noticed an overlap between attention seeking personalities and people who get noticed for...well, anything.
But that’s kind of the nature of “attention seeking”.
My assumption is that levels plummet
Facebook use after acute social stress impair recovery of cortisol levels. I translate it as "Facebook use after social altercation makes stress longer".
Thanks for idea!
My bank employer’s approach is maximum inclusivity and mutual respect. That generally mean no politics just because it isn’t professional. Religion is a grey area. If religion is an excuse for social gatherings and celebrations then it’s fully allowed so long as everybody is allowed to participate. If a religious focused context is cause for distraction or disagreement then the conversation isn’t professional and the behavior, regardless of the religious content, can be punished.
My military employer is absolutely adamant that politics must be far away from the office. They also strongly nurture and require maximum inclusivity. Their view on religion is maximum support for any professed religion or faith as necessary to advance the religious Liberty of all employees. They have dedicated employees to ensure and guarantee religious support and exercise for any employee that requests support.
A big problem in 2021, going back some years, is that the internet makes it easy for anyone to put out their slate and call themselves an "activist." Years ago people used to say that politics was the last refuge of a scoundrel. This is what activists engage in: politics.
Outrage is one of the emotions that's easiest to garner virality. Many "activists" are not conversant in ethics and philosophy. Many of them aren't good people. Many of them seem to be quite bitter and hateful while they talk about justice.
Many of the loudest voices in this arena are engaging in outrage mongering.
They limit legal liabilities by removing easily-disgruntled employees.
"Easily disgruntled" is a signpost. Activism in 2021 needs better filters, because far too many people who should be in counseling and therapy are proselytizing to the masses and young people, with public results that corroborate this. At least in the 60's and 70's, one had to be capable of organization.
Once upon a time, when I was in college one of the times (twenty odd years ago), the university debating society invited David Irving, well known Holocaust denier.
The Anti-Facist/Socialist Workers party people got involved, and threatened protests and violence, and pressured the University to not allow the talk.
This started happening then, and not enough of us (including me) spoke up, so it got normalised. Obviously the internet et al has had huge impacts on this (as well as the messed up world we live in), but I do kinda remember those experiences as a turning point, looking back.
Two years ago we had Ibrahim X Kendi speak at our company, he's now considered by many to be a "neo racist". Within months our open Slack channel for Q&A was shut-down.
However we still have a lot of the internal activists.
Regardless, I came not to blame him, but to praise him.
Though I do agree with Kmele Foster’s insistence that the term “racist” is well and good enough to describe the type of segregationist thinking and reification of the fiction of race that is promoted by so-called anti-racists.
...I’m realizing I can’t use the term neoracism in the subtitle of my The Elect book.
From assorted social media posts, I am realizing that if I say Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and Their Threat to a Progressive America, many understandably think I am referring to black people being racist against whites.
I need to specify – despite that it may dampen the enthusiasm for my book among some – that I do not think of black people being racist against whites and white people being racist against blacks as equally reprehensible.
Many whites are deeply aggrieved that they are assailed for being racists, but that no one seems to mind black people not liking white people. They want us to assail black racism as vociferously as we do white racism.
I must disappoint. I am fully on board with the idea that racism is about who is up versus down. Black racism against whites is, at least at its foundation, about resentment at being abused. To apply the same judgment to this as to blacks being racist against whites is facile, uninsightful – frankly, almost a debate team trick.
“But where does it lead if you hate me and I hate you and you hate me …?” – okay. But we live in our own limited time slices. There are two layers here.
One: just a few inches past about 1964, is it so unpardonable, so incomprehensible, that black people might be mad at white people?
Two: if you object that 1964 was a while ago now, then is it so unpardonable, so incomprehensible, that lots of black people might be mad at white people now when so many intellectuals and artists and community leaders have taught them to be that mad for decades?
Note – I didn’t ask whether it was right that they have been taught that. The issue is that they were. And they harbor what they were taught at a time – today -- when no one can deny that racism does exist. Anyone who thinks I don’t know that hasn’t read me much.
So. In this vein, I am seeing that “neoracism” sounds to many like I am decrying racism against whites. I get why they think that – and I know that quite a few will think that’s what I mean without subscribing to the white nationalist groups who have used the word that way.
Some in my position would try to reclaim the word and make it mean what they want it to mean. I, for example, meant “new racism against black people.” But my comfort zone cannot fashion community meaning. I am not interested in standing athwart common human understanding and hollering “Stop!,” watching it continue despite me, and then self-gratifyingly grumbling that nobody listens to me.
My strategy will be to eschew the word “neoracism.” If people are going to read it to mean that my book is about arguing against racism against white people, they will be massively disappointed by my book.
This is because my book is about how the modern conception of antiracism is racist against BLACK people.
Social media and Substack allow one to fashion a book according to public feedback in a way never possible before. My book will no longer be titled The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and Their Threat to a Progressive America,” because I can see that this leads some whites to see me as defending them against black racism. My book will not do that, and I frankly suggest the whites in question learn to understand it. Racism punches down. Yes, I believe that, even though The Elect do too. I always have.
Instead I will try something new. The Elect: The Threat to a Progressive America from Anti-Black Antiracists.
In this passage McWhorter clearly disavows this word completely, because of just the misunderstanding seen ITT.
It seems like our era of fast decentralized media makes it tough to employ a neologism in a way that clarifies rather than confuses.
I also appreciate your good faith effort to help clear this up.
Is it racist subculture or something? It just sounds absurd compared to saying 'racist'.
Race abolitionists like Kmele Foster (Fifth Column podcast) and Thomas Chatterton Williams (Self Portrait in Black and White), as well as scholars like Barbara Fields (Racecraft) point out that what people call antiracist depends on re-centering race in the discourse, which they see as promoting a race-based system of evaluation, which results in racist thinking (in the normal dictionary, pre-Foucaultized definition of the term).
Hence some people who agree with this line of thinking (though not the three I mentioned afaik) prefer to call “antiracism” neoracism because it’s a very different thing promoted by different sorts of people than what we traditionally call racism, but it still requires one to think in terms of race and to believe that race exists in a meaningful sense.
I'm sorry, what!? The author of "How to be Antiracist" is considered a "neo racist" by how many?
Kinda like how you will see a pastor rail against homosexuality, and then it turns out they have a boyfriend on the side...
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks" and all that.
Wow, and I thought the HR complaint against David was nuts. Sounds like basecamp was infiltrated by Ben Kuchera's or Randi Harpers. Can't recall the name of the person GitHub miss-hired.. Recall a few years back seemed like everyone was hiring "diversity consultants" or something only to find out they were creating toxic environments by seizing political power via threatening to "cancel" anyone that didn't think and say the right things. This set them up as a type of "thought leader", or perhaps even a cult type leader, where they controlled things..
That was a weird trend and perhaps the tail end of an age in the post-gamergate era.
Duties typically consist of 1) Being a white woman 2) Sending out the monthly 'diverity of the month' celebration/awareness email 3) Rubber stamping the 'gender pay equality assessment' annual report 4) Using the word 'empathy'
Yep. Most companies were hiring 'Chief Diversity Officer' types to inoculate themselves from the mob. Instead, the people they hired are leading the mob.
They basically let the vampire in.
That was a sentence I thought I'd never see written.
To your point, I'm glad you found that training to be helpful. The times I've been subjected to similar, I found it wasteful, condescending, and presumptive. So perhaps your mileage will vary.
"Don't be one to your friends, family, coworkers, or especially to our customers". The word is hard to define, but easy to recognize. And you kinda always know when you're being one.
Everyone has been one, and no one feels singled out or blamed. Doesn't let anybody leave feeling like a victim or a victor. Yet left people feeling powerful to call other people out for being one, without resorting to stronger language. That company had comradery; it's too bad it takes more than that.
Tail end of an age. But yes, we are in a new age now.
Coraline Ada Ehmke?
If anything this C-suite freakout seems like a result of too much Covid isolation. Lots of executives are hyper-extroverts who need lots of coddling from people they've hired for that task. Some needs just aren't fulfilled over Zoom. This last year set these super entrepreneur dudes [and, to be fair, their top-percentile coding-god employees too] on tilt, and they're lashing out trying to get back on track. It's their company; if they want to sacrifice some jobs and profits on the altar of their warped personalities how can we blame them?
That’s true, but every time we humans have tried “let’s throw everything out and start over” it’s ended in tears. And that’s the prevailing vibe I get right now.
Discussing is one thing, and advocating is another, and it should be obvious which is which but some people don't know and many don't care, in fact advocacy was their goal all along.
On an earlier thread about Basecamp, I suggested that if the real goal is to keep conversations in the office civil and focused on work, the policy should be "keep conversations in the office civil and focused on work." You can politely shut down acrimonious debate in your Slack not because it's "political," but because it's acrimonious, and you're not sending a message that "political" discussions that really do have a bearing on your workplace culture are off-limits even if they're conducted respectfully. That's where Basecamp dropped the ball. (And let the ball roll under the couch and then set the couch on fire.)
Both yours and the OP are side-stepping the main issue which is 'Identity Politics' -> it cannot be avoided.
It's 'very easy' frankly, to avoid 'Politics and Religion' at the office, frankly, it's normal.
Also fairly easy to avoid 'abortion and gun control'.
But - 'the companies position on BLM' for example, is something that basically hardly be avoided.
An initiative by a few staffers to create a 'Diversity Council' which they control ... well that's not technically political but that's effectively the same thing - it will happen, the company has to take a position.
And of course 'making fun of people's' names' isn't political either. Obviously, it shouldn't be done in a formal setting, but for god's sake if people can't have fun then the world is over. If a bunch of low-level customer service reps are having beers and laughing / venting about a bunch of stuff then obviously nobody should care. (Not that I think they would for the most part).
Companies are now teaching 'diversity sensitivity' and they have to decide whether to go the classical route, or to go with 'CRT' which uses some really inflammatory language about how all White people are guilty of upholding White Supremacy, literally for issues like 'Thanksgiving', 'Focusing on Correct Answers', 'Objectivity' (and I'm not remotely aggrandizing or being hyperbolic here - this is the extent of some of that training). This training in some form has to be given and it reaches beyond just the '2 hours' you get when you start.
So aside from the possibly bone-headed / lack-of-self-awarness moves by the leadership here, the issues cannot be swept under the rug.
Finally, even though 1/3 did take the money, and that is is probably an unhealthy number, it's possible that it's a 'accidentally smart move' by leadership to just avoid the types of people he doesn't want.
I utterly loathe the WeWork leadership - but I have to admit, when they signalled that they will not allow employees to submit invoices for meat - I thought it was brilliant. Machiavellian, unfair, yes - but it was a really smart way to define 'culture', even if they were effectively turning away a large group of people (and quietly suppressing others).
So in the end, 1) we have to navigate the 'politics of diversity' there's no avoiding it and 2) from a Realpolitik perspective, this may not be so completely bad for the company.
Companies that make you submit receipts for food are negative in my view and affect whether I want to work there. Simply set a per diem for food and leave it there. Trying to examine receipts for meat or not meat (or alcohol or salt or whatever) reflects a non-flexible mentality and likely makes other aspects of a company unpleasant and ineffective.
WeWork seemed batshit crazy this seems like one of the many signs of a dumb leadership style.
This is all covered under US employment law.
> they were complicit in allowing this dumb-ass list to be circulated around the company for years, and when it became an issue, they refused to take any action on it.
That's not really what happened, and is a part of this story that hasn't entirely been made clear. The list was, if I remember correctly, about 10 to 20 names long and was tucked away in the company Backpack account. I found it in ~2010 when I first started and thought little of it.
As far as I know it didn't get added to after that, perhaps it did. It certainly wasn't "passed around". Backpack was closed to new users in ~2014, but we'd stopped using it at that point and some time I think before then someone had found the list, brought it up with the rest of the company as a problem. I seem to recall the phrase "How would you feel if you discovered your name was on this list" was mentioed, but it was a long time ago. Anyway, my recollection was that it was "deleted" (I guess it was a "soft" delete) with no dissent.
This wasn't about DHH or Jason letting a list be passed around, or defending it. No-one was tittering about "Incontinentia Buttocks" in 2021. Basecamp while I was there (2010 to 2016) became incredibly good at customer privacy and security, and I would trust them with my data, and this just wouldn't happen.
The list is not the issue here.
In an ideal world, the list would be seen as an innocent inside joke, and be totally not newsworthy. But millenials (not all: some, enough to change the culture around this) don't know how to take a joke. Like the children of hippies turned yuppies, Gen X successors turned prudes.
If you have a name like Jonathan Lovesturds, sorry, but the name is funny, and you should be expect people to ocassionally make fun about it, including in companies you deal with. It is what it is, and it's not the end of the world, nor some huge abuse (my surname had pun potential, so I got some of this as a kid, big effin' deal).
The "politics at work" thing would be relevant and legit if it was for e.g. unionizing, abuse of power from some higher up, the company doing shady business (e.g. Google and military deals, Facebook etc.) etc.
But in 2021 this more often than not degenerates in people making a power-play, abusing identity politics and other fashionable talking points, to increase their influence in the company, attack others they don't like, and so on.
Pretending the list was about "racism" (when it had absolutely nothing to do with that, aside from: "also contains a small percentage of foreign names that sound funny on top of the anglosaxon such") is also in this very vein.
Pretending this list and subsequent lack of discipline isn’t about the founders vanity is very ignorant
This isn't accurate. DHH openly admitted that the list circulating was a big failure that fell on the founders and the company, an admission that was positively received by most employees. The explosive part of the scandal starts when some employees insisted that the list contributed to genocidal attitudes and DHH rather aggressively pushed back on this point, saying that this is an unproductive escalation of the discussion (and then DHH himself ironically escalated the discussion even further).
> He told me today that attempting to link the list of customer names to potential genocide represented a case of “catastrophizing” — one that made it impossible for any good-faith discussions to follow. Presumably, any employees who are found contributing to genocidal attitudes should be fired on the spot — and yet nobody involved seemed to think that contributing to or viewing the list was a fireable offense. If that’s the case, Hansson said, then the pyramid of hate had no place in the discussion. To him, it escalated employees’ emotions past the point of being productive.
Pointing out the problematic nature of the list was not the trigger for this. The trigger was a specific accusation made about the political impact of the list. The founders were clearly trying not to be a company that maintains a list of customer names to laugh at.
In particular he wrote:
> We have to be careful to celebrate that progress proportionally, though. I was dismayed to see the argument advanced in text and graphics on [Employee 1’s] post that this list should be considered part of a regime that eventually could lead to genocide. That's just not an appropriate or proportionate comparison to draw.
> And further more, I think it makes us less able to admit mistakes and accept embarrassment, without being tempted to hide transgressions in the past. If the stakes for any kind of bad judgement in this area is a potential link to a ladder that ends in genocide, we're off on a wrong turn.
And in another post:
> I can appreciate how those examples raise the sensitivity of anything related to names, minorities, and power dynamics.
> Still, I don't think we serve the cause of opposing colonial regimes or racist ideology by connecting their abusive acts around names to this incident. And I don't think we serve an evaluation of you and others making fun of names in a Campfire session by drawing that connection either.
> We can recognize that forceful renaming by a colonial regime is racist and wrong while also recognizing that having a laugh at customer names behind their back is inappropriate and wrong without equating or linking the two.
I certainly wouldn't call that "aggressive"; it reads as polite, reasoned and measured to me, and even if DHH is wrong (I don't think he is) I fail to see how this is outside the bounds of what it should be acceptable for a leader to say to an employee.
> Hansson’s response to this employee took aback many of the workers I spoke with. He dug through old chat logs to find a time when the employee in question participated in a discussion about a customer with a funny-sounding name. Hansson posted the message — visible to the entire company — and dismissed the substance of the employee’s complaint.
> And if you did and someone pointed out how it can become problematic to have foreign names in the list and they tell you why, you don’t self-immolate.
No, whatever self-immolation that occurred didn't happen because someone pointed out how it can become problematic to have foreign names in the list. They acknowledged that it was hugely problematic and wanted to correct the mistake and move on, which is a pretty normal response. The problem occurred when some employees clashed with the founder over acknowledging a specific political accusation.
I find it uncharitable & inaccurate to portray this as evidence of the founders' vanity because they shutdown when someone criticises the list, because that's not what happened. A heated political clash happened, and losing your cool over a deeply political issue is not surprising or a demonstration of vanity, it is exactly why many people don't discuss that kind of thing.
The kind of backstabbing people to jump at the chance to make a grand-standing against a good employer and get a buyout bonus at a time the company is in the spotlight for BS reasons...
But at the first chance of them proving otherwise, money (the buyout) and the faux-hero points ("principled" exit), won for many.
Notice how for ~20 years we haven't heard any pain stories or exposes from there, until this BS story of the "name list" (which is an inside joke blown out of proportion), and the "intolerable" pain of employees told not to discuss politics at work...
Oh, the humanity...
1. I've heard vague hearsay that it's hard to get a job there and they don't hire that often, they're not a big company with a big revolving door. Hiring new employees may be a less frequent and less consequential problem than avoiding workplace issues that affect existing employees.
2. This has apparently enhanced the company's image amongst some people, just read over this HN thread. It's not clear that this will damage their hiring appeal and overall ability to competently fill positions.
And to many people, this is going to make Basecamp appear more attractive not less. They won't have a hard time filling seats.
It just takes a crisis to find out...
And has little to do with failure in personal relationships or management. Many people are inherently shitty.
It just works.
Hey customers might notice a difference.
In an ideal world, that would be the very bottom of bad things in the world, well below "annoying ringtones".
>They made it clear they don't want employee input, criticism.
No, they just made clear they don't employees diverting the discussion to BS arguments such as that "a list of funny names" is in any way similar to endorsing genocide. If that's the kind of "ideas" people would bring in, then they prefered to keep it to work talk. Who wouldn't?
It's like many people today were pampered children throwing tantrums, and don't know the basics of logic, what's relevant and what's not, how to not slippery-slope things to death, how to deal with their "feelings", and so on.
Or, that would be the case, if it was legit rage, but a lot of it is fashion, hypocrisy and power-plays.
On top of that there are people jealous at DHH and co, who can't stand their success and advocacy, and will rejoice at the first chance to turn them into scapegoats.
You're right but I think that's kind of beside the point -- they didn't have to use that power.
>"a list of funny names" is in any way similar to endorsing genocide.
I would say they are similar, the chart is to demonstrate that they're two ends of the spectrum of dehumanising and hatred. I think it's mistaken to fixate on the "genocide" bit, there are a lot of other things in the middle of the chart also, but it all starts with subtle things like mocking other people for having names that would be totally normal in their home culture. It's a very light form of dehumanising and it may not even be intended that way but it still is one nonetheless.
In the sense that moisture in the air is the other end of the spectrum of waterboarding.
See paragraphs below "So I replied:" ...
But I guess that it reveals what probably should have been clear about Basecamp - it's a vehicle for the expression / gratification of the founders - financially, emotionally and intellectually.
And the loss of staff / possible impact on the company (and customers) was a price they were prepared to pay.
However, losing 1/3 of your staff overnight over an issue like this does somewhat undermine the JF / DHH narrative of extreme managerial competence.
Not sure that comparing 15 or so talented and apparently hard working staff to gangrene is really the most appropriate comparison.
"..looking to get rid of them". Hmmm.
what the sentence you quoted is saying is that its not based on political viewpoints, but based on behaviour, 1/3 of the company would not accept only occasionally being out of bounds enough to stick around. those 1/3 were likely undermining the actual effectiveness of the company for their political causes.
> Remarkable how when 1/3 of the company resigns in one go - many of whom have great and longstanding professional reputations with no history of political activism and including head of marketing, design, customer support, iOS etc. - following fundamental changes they read about in a blog post, it's because _they_ were all intolerable, proselytizing activists who all had to go for the good of the company.
> Absolutely nothing to do with the two leaders who spend a good chunk of time on social media telling the rest of the world how to run their business in the most in your face way possible.
1/3 of their workforce couldn't accept that and took the buyout instead. That's why it was important to do it - they valued their politics over their continued employment. It wasn't to purge people based on their politics, it was to purge people who couldn't limit themselves to 'occasionally straying out of bounds' - 1/3 of the company undermining the other 2/3 to push their politics.
They can afford to make it a non-issue for themselves. And so they have. An empathetic option was available to them (own up to the stupid silly names list) but they cast it aside.
As a consequence, they've lost a lot of respect both in their workforce and in the court of public opinion. I don't intend to put much stock in whatever else they have to say now.
And for me it's not about the politics at work bit. It's the rest of it that is getting less attention. Cringeworthy Huxley quotes, paternalistic benefits, etc. etc.
As a customer why would I even care if someone on the other end thought my name was funny as long as my shipment arrived? This generation truly is absurdly sensitive.
You can go ahead and jump right in to not tolerating wars while not caring about things that literally do not matter at all like some people chuckling at a name.
Indeed, the fact that so many people want to waste their time arguing about nonsense like this makes it much easier for the people who profit off wars to keep starting wars.
People have different needs that are at odds with one another. Compromising on what's bad for me but good for you (and vice versa) while doing what's good for both is how the world functions.
There aren't universal 'bad things' of varying sizes that we just need to get rid of. That's the sort of thinking that gets you Nazi Germany cleansing the earth of 'bad' people to bring about paradise - be very careful.
Is this true? My understanding is they said this was unacceptable and apologized for not stopping their employees from disseminating this list earlier. I guess people wanted a stronger disciplinary response to people who contributed the list and they refused?
Pessimistically, I’ve witnessed similar exchanges that didn’t seem plausible to me, but yet were very real to the people making the claim. I remember a friend who was convinced that their trans friends lives were in danger after the 2016 election and claimed that management not denouncing the election and allowing friends to work from home for safety was “literally the same” as attacking them. It was so weird having them walk through the logic I thought they were joking. Fortunately, everyone lived despite continuing to come into the office (until covid of course).
The argument here is that treating this kind of mockery as acceptable is part of what enables gradually more serious hateful behavior in a society at large. I don’t really think this is that controversial.
Whether it’s appropriate to bring it up in a work context to explain why something is racist, I’m not sure. I probably wouldn’t do it myself. But I do find it weird that DHH acknowledged the list was bad but doesn’t seem to believe there was anything ethnically or racially prejudiced about it. Children are excused occasional meanness without explanation, but adults generally aren’t.
Even if it was specifically offensive, bringing up a diagram like that in a specific instance as a path to genocide is such overkill it kind of kills the discussion.
While I think that system racism and casual denegration is bad and society needs to work to eliminate it, putting it on the same spectrum as genocide is like showing a chart that includes a light bulb and the sun as part of a discussion on luminosity. Yes, it’s technically correct but not useful for conversation. Making fun of foreign peoples’ names and genocide are both racist. But the odds of such an act leading to genocide is googol:1 given that there are billions of acts of this type of name racism daily vs rare instances of genocide.
Choosing to not discuss politics is fine. But if you do that, you’re making a choice: you’re choosing to take the side of those who prefer political decisions to be made by a small elite, without feedback from people like us. You’re choosing not to weigh in.
People who are criticizing Basecamp want their politics in workplace. Every single one of them knows they won't be in the minority. They won't have to be one of the few opposing voices in a sea of anti-abortion, pro-gun-rights, anti-gay-marriage, anti-immigration coworkers.
I've never had a discussion about abortion or guns-rights or whatever in the general workplace - maybe I've had social conversations amongst work friends - but really the "political" conversations I've had at work are mostly focus on building diverse teams to build better products or calling out and addressing bad behaviour.
Absolutely. The US government considered the entire civil rights movement to serve the Communist agenda. Read about J. Edgar Hoover's enemies list or COINTELPRO. The FBI believed MLK was a Communist agent. Any anti-war or Black activist group was portrayed as enemies of the state and left-wing extremists.
You can see the same playbook being used against BLM today. No one on the right will fail to refer to them as anything but a "Marxist terrorist group" that "burns entire cities to the ground" and "murders innocents with impunity."
Work is not a politically/religiously clean room environment whether we like it or not.
Compared to the US population, white people are significantly underrepresented  in US software development jobs and overrepresented by Asians. "Most" is technically true at > 50% but it is hardly reflective of US racial demographics.
: as are black and hispanic people
This is exactly true; I really don't understand the opposite point of view (and I'm happy if anyone can enlighten me; I'm happy for good-faith discussion). It's not hard for anyone to admit that our society, the very organization of people along economic, class, race, and gender lines is 'biased' in some way, that the equality of the law does not reflect in how people are treated. Why do people think that the door to the lobby of your workplace is like a magical portal into another dimension, where these influences/biases/perceptions no longer hold any sway?
I understand that this argument can be extended - for instance, we might say that the public/private distinction is just as arbitrary, but we have good reasons to respect, say, sexual autonomy in the private realm. Do we have similarly good reasons, speaking in terms of what a well-meaning person in society might be concerned about for why 'politics' (speaking broadly as issues from 'the outside' that manifest within the company and issues of the company itself) should enjoy a similar distinction?
We spend one third of our adult lives at work. Much of that time is spent on interacting with others in some way. Should that really be closed off to 'politics'? Is man a political animal (Aristotle's words, not mine!) or not?
Work is a third of your life, but it's the third of your life that is about doing what somebody else wants you to do in exchange for funding the other two thirds. That's not true for everybody, but it's a rule of thumb.
The other week I moved houses. I hired some movers who charged by the hour. If, instead of moving my furniture, they'd stood around talking about politics, and said "how can you tell us to get back to work instead of talking politics, when labor is an inherently political subject!" I would have been angry. Most people would, I think.
That being said, there's no clear no line, I agree with you. Some political issues are related to the work place - unions come to mind - and those should not be excluded. Disallowing those is probably illegal in most places anyway and Basecamp, by the way, did explicitly exclude issues which are related to work.
But I think the general idea is that yes, you should keep politics (and religion) separated from work, as far as possible. That does not mean that you can not talk about it on your lunch break or after work or that you're not allowed to unionize. But you should not make your coworker uncomfortable because she/he likes guns and you think only maniacs do so.
It's exactly because everyone else must spend time with other people at work that they should keep their politics out of it - their right to work without being harassed for political causes is greater than someone's wish to discuss it at work. That's not why people were hired for the job, its not related to the job, leave it at home.
The main point of my comment is that saying politics is "not related to the job" is both ahistorical and incorrect, very much in the same way that ethical concerns relating to building bomb is just as "related to the job" as what material the bomb's shell ought to be made of.
Let's take a step back; are ethical concerns part of "the job"? Why or why not?
Yes, you pulled a word game to justify your position from the outset and are restating it. I disagree. Just because you consider it important to every part of your life, doesn't mean you need to bring it up in your job. It's not an overriding thing for everyone else who doesn't share your level of alarmism and the outlook that economic, gender, racial, sexual issues define every part of your existence. I'm at work - I don't want to care about any of your racial, sexual, etc issues. I will treat you professionally and I want you to do the same.
>The main point of my comment is that saying politics is "not related to the job" is both ahistorical and incorrect, very much in the same way that ethical concerns relating to building bomb is just as "related to the job" as what material the bomb's shell ought to be made of.
Then find a different job. Maybe with an NGO who shares your causes.
>Let's take a step back; are ethical concerns part of "the job"? Why or why not?
Ethical concerns are part of my profession, but they don't define my life and my ethical concerns don't define other people's ethical or professional concerns.
Just treat people professionally and don't bring identity politics into the workplace.
All companies want as many customers as possible. It would not be hard to make a case for something that would create more customers.
Or talk to management (this is not a moratorium on bringing up what employees see as issues with management, this is obviously about communications between employees which is tangentially work related at best.
It doesn't need to be a clean room, but a lot of people have been treating it like the equivalent of a polling place/church (more the former, I think most businesses and employees still know enough to avoid the latter unless they are explicit about it). I don't need to know your political leanings at work, I don't need to know your religious beliefs, and for the same reason I don't need to know your sexual orientation, preferences or kinks. You can make it obvious to me, and I don't care, but work is not the appropriate place for a discussion of any of those things unless the discussion is management or HR telling you that a) none of that matters for your job so you shouldn't care about other people's details with respect to that, b) to stop if you're making it an issue with people, and c) if you don't like that, take a hike. The only other case is when you're telling them someone else won't follow those rules.
my experience is that most workplaces and social spaces I'm in are systemically liberal, "reality has a liberal bias" abounds
What kind of implicit bias do you mean?
Seriously, I get it, being ranted at sucks, but your a human, they’re a human, just say “I’m not really interested” and walk away.
Relying on company policy for this is a strange offloading of your personal social responsibility and relationships.
I understand and appreciate some work cultures are toxic, but I think it’s fair to expect people to taking a bit of personal responsibility for interacting like a normal person too.
There’s an old saying in the south: “never talk politics or religion around the supper table.” I think that it’s generally a good rule of thumb to avoid those topics when in a situation where you have a captive audience.
Or maybe people keep their friend groups so tightly curated by ideology these days that the only chance they have to argue about politics is at work?
They said employees are not expected to curtail political speech in personal contexts or using personal accounts, just for official work accounts, where work communication is done.
That was explicitly stated, and it was also stated that employees are encouraged to speak their mind politically on their personal accounts.
This is a company setting expectations about what work time and work resources should be used for, with that explicitly not including political discussions. I think that's entirely within the expectations of most employers and employees.
Except for those of us outside the US, who have no interest in US politics are often been told if you don't pick a side you are siding with evil.
Secondly, that statement is basically public cohersion. If you are told, you have to pick - victim or oppressor - absolutely noone is going to publicly pick oppressor. Its kafaesque in its simiplicity.
2. You discussing politics with your colleague has 0 effect on political decisions.
And I'm saying this as somebody who's very critical of how Basecamp has handled this situation.
If the trouble with the world is too much polarisation, perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to take a side.
If you're talking about life in general, yes, but "don't talk politics at work" is very different from "leaving all politics to a small elite because they never get feedback from people like us"
For example, you go to work and some of your more braindead colleagues are earnestly insisting that keeping a list of amusing customer names is the first step on the road to genocide.
Do you: (a) get involved in this nonsense, knowing from past experience how furious they'll get if you disagree, or (b) ignore this stupidity and get on with your job?
Personally, I'd pick the latter.
After reading the article linked here in the comments a few times - "What really happened at BaseCamp" - I actually think that people who make a fuss about the list are dumb-ass. I mean, it's a list of funny names! Put mine on it, if you want! Anyone who takes offence to it, needs to chill out, forget about woke Pyramid of Hate and stop bothering other people
(for the record, pre-Nazi Germany had hate speech laws, and Hitler did write strong anti-semitic messages in his first book long before coming to power - this idea that "jokes will escalate to genocide" is pure woke fantasy & narrative that they use to promote their cause and bully other people into submission)
> In fact, reviewing the original list in question, the vast majority of names on it fall into the category of the two specific examples above. It's not a list of, say, primarily Asian names. Out of the 78 names listed on the last version we were able to recover, just 6 names appear to be Asian.
> So connecting this to the shootings in Atlanta, because the Asian victims of that atrocity had their names misspelled in news reports, is exactly the kind of linkage I'd like us to avoid when we analyze our mistakes together at work.
The Verge is lying about things as usual, painting an inaccurate picture of interracial conflict.
> "lol Bigbuttson is a funny name", and it's deplorable.
Hyperbole. One European making fun of another European is hardly deplorable.
You just have to have that mindset. Make fun of yourself instead of others, for instance.
They were amused by a double meaning found in an arrangement of alphabetic characters.
It's really not a big deal.
Inevitably that sort of thing gets out, and insulting your customers' names is not really a great business strategy.
Beyond that, I wouldn't like working with people who are so clearly children. And not even good children.
Source: I was actually bullied as a kid. I couldn't care less if people are making fun of my name (or anything else about me) without me knowing about it.
If I was working with someone with that last name I definitely wouldn’t bring it up.
The idea that it's racist is that the names were only funny to English speakers, because they sounded like English words they consider funny, from the reporting I'd guess things like butt, dick or fart. That feels really condescending and exclusionary if you're on the receiving end of it.
This makes no sense to me: aren't native English-speakers of many races? Aren't there non-English speakers of many races also? Moreover, this happens with any pair of languages. I'm not a native English speaker and there are some English names that sound extremely hilarious in my language. I see myself compiling such a list just for fun. I wouldn't expect English people to be offended by this silly thing, which is inevitable: when there are different languages, there are word collisions and some of them are funny.
> people's names - from the Basecamp client list.
Ouch, this is different, then! I did not pay attention to this detail. Now I understand why the list of names does not circulate (but still, I don't get what could be so bad about it).
Making fun of people in a way that isn’t offensive is a tight line to walk interpersonally and best avoided altogether in professional circumstances. This is particularly true if you’re making fun of people for fundamental aspects of their identity, like names. How would you feel if your name was on a list somewhere and people were laughing at it and cracking jokes about it regularly? Some people might be okay with this, but I think others might be rather offended by it.
I imagine it depends to a large extent on whether you've heard the same shitty joke about your name - hur dur your name sounds like butt! - from far too many people in your professional life. Remember, this is a list of client names that was created solely for the purposes of ridicule while being passed around internal Basecamp networks. In terms of racism, I'm white and British, and it definitely has a flavour of the cultural racism that was prevalent during the British Empire which, for all its differences, America inherited.
I'd love to hear some, that sounds great.
The fact is we don’t know what actual behaviour this is about. I can imagine circumstances where circulating such a list was questionable but harmless fun. I can imagine circumstances in which it involved egregious and tasteless taunting and offensively derogatory behaviour. I just don’t know.
Well I imagine the list had a lot of people from certain ethnicities...
> Out of the 78 names listed on the last version we were able to recover, just 6 names appear to be Asian.