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Our experience when we issued our "No Politics / No Religion" policy at work was very positive. The few people who had an issue with it, subsequently quit or were terminated, and many of their co-workers actually thanked us afterwards for it.

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.

Why not just... manage people well?

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.

The problem with managing people, is that they are managed by people.

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.

Overall this is the sticking point to the argument that being a better manager will solve it.

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.

I've worked in a number of industries, and ALL of them have poor or non-existent management/leadership training programs.

Even full MBA programs do a poor job at this.

Yeah agreed. High payoff area to invest I think but it takes like, a lot of planning. It’s almost a full new department for a company.

You would think a company that's been in business for two decades would have a rather robust ethics guide to working with corporate and enterprise customers. It seems to be part and parcel for almost all large SaaS companies. How in the world did they let their culture get bad enough for political rants?

> You would think a company that's been in business for two decades would have a rather robust ethics guide to working with corporate and enterprise customers

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.

What job can you go on on political rants at? If you can get away with that then this means

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.

#3 AKA The most toxic person at the workplace


>3. You are so damn good at what you do that people have to put up with you

I've seen that one before. It usually seems to involve throwing chairs.

Good stuff.

>Managing people is hard to do well. It's like writing code.

I'll say.

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 is different than BeachBody talk because it is moralistic in nature. Politics turns people's brains off much better than other forms of discussion because it combines in-group out-group bias with moral righteousness. Same thing with religion, but religion is brought up much less frequently at work.

BeachBody talk can however goes towards the other third rail in a business/corporate environment - sex.

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.

Politics and religion comes up most of the times, never heard people discussing sex.

Then you’ve been in some decently professional places! I definitely have, and have had people try to start conversations on the topic many times at one of the FAANGS when I worked there, and other places too.

There may have been more opportunity for subtle management beyond a dictated top down policy of no politcs/religion at work, but at the end of the day it is clear that the two employees being described by OP needed to go.

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.

I think what basecamp is experiencing is what can still happen even though you as a manager believed you managed it well. If you don't let "A misgender B" then you might get hit as DHH did. Because one way to read the affair is that one person got upset that DHH as the manager didn't let that person pull a holocaust reference into a debate.

(not saying at all if this was appropriate or not)

> Because one way to read the affair is that one person got upset that DHH as the manager didn't let that person pull a holocaust reference into a debate.

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."

My impression was that it was the employees who wouldn't let it go, not DHH. And one employee in particular wouldn't let it go, so DHH helpfully pointed out that at some point they too had participated in joking about a customer name, so who exactly were they trying to persecute here?

I saw that too, and that I think was such a crucial mistake. Discretion, as they say, is the better part of valor. Is it fun to point out someone's hypocrisy? Probably. Is it going to be productive, especially to do so in a public manner? Absolutely, absolutely not. You're embarrassing them, to what, teach them a lesson? Well, lesson learned, but not the one you intended -- they'll learn that the boss is not above a little public humiliation to score a point. Trust gone. I'd sure start looking for other places if my manager, or the CTO, started doing that, severance or no.

I mean I don't trust hypocrites in the first place, so I'm not sure it's the boss that broke the trust.

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.

I get your argument, but "oh, sure, you're calling me out, but you did this similar thing earlier, hah!" is not going to de-escalate conflict. Isn't part of being a manager in a prickly situation learning to choose your battles? If he'd just dropped it at that point, would there have really been any harm done to the company? Would that harm have been greater than the end result we've arrived at instead?

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?

I get you, but I think you're assuming the point was to point out hypocrisy for the sake of hypocrisy, when the actual point of pointing out hypocrisy in this case was to ask the question: "What exactly is your goal here? Do you want me to fire everyone who made fun of customer names? Because if so that means I'm firing you too. Any response to this situation will involve disciplining you too, so what are you trying to accomplish?"

This was my reading as well - from the post that DHH shared.

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).

> I think what basecamp is experiencing is what can still happen even though you as a manager believed you managed it well.

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.

> Why not just... manage people well?

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?

I think ya'll are both right. On the one hand, you're right because "just manage better" is a silly assertion. As you say it is like "just don't be poor", or the one I think is more relevant to this conversation: "coal miners should just learn to code".

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.

So, how does this address anything the parent comment has talked about?

> 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.

I've noticed an overlap between activist personalities and attention seeking personalities. Some people, either consciously or subconsciously, enjoy the dopamine hit from anger and confrontation and they will seek it out at work.

There is probably an overlap between attention seeking personalities and every group from which you hear individual voices.

Those attention seeking personalities are just the ones who get your attention and stand out.

Perhaps the perceived overlap is due to the fact that you end up perceiving people who have attention-seeking personalities more than people who do not, especially in places (like social media) that are designed to reward and amplify attention seeking.

I think there is a difference between an activist personality and somebody leaching off those groups for their own means. Perhaps certain personality types are drawn to those activist circles because they sense an opportunity to acquire some sense of power over other people. Like a parasite. Saying they are parasitic sounds somewhat accurate.

> I've noticed an overlap between activist personalities and attention seeking personalities

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”.

you mean.... twitter? ;-)

Can someone fund a study where they measure cortisol levels before and after test subjects turn off Twitter notifications?

My assumption is that levels plummet

I've found this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5610684/

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!

Well, if the studies are anything like FDA approve pharmaceuticals, the studies will be funded by twitter, no raw data will be made available, no attempts to replicate the studies by 3rd parties will even be allowed, much less made, and the FDA will approve the results.


It's the exact same behavior, but bred in a different environment.

You were the one that is adding partisanship to the observation. "Activist" is a non-partisan term and thus the statement should be read as applying equally to pro-life activists as pro-choice activists.

I'm sorry...what fantasy land do you have to live in where you think it's ok to use a company social media account to promote your own politics not only without permission from the company, but an explicit denial.

By "your own politics" are we still referring to things like "hey it's not okay that you're making fun of people and their different-sounding names"?

Even if we're referring to this case. What right do you think you have to use company name to push your agenda? Even if you're morally right about the matter, you're morally wrong to use company entity to push your opinion. If you're uncomfortable with the company then go to management. If it doesn't work with management then leave and try to get your retribution or whatever bullcrap using your name.

It was with the best intentions to improve the world! ;)

There is nothing you can tweet that will improve the world. Lol

Tweeting nothing will improve the world.

I have two separate mega huge employers and they both have similar approaches on this matter.

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.

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.

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.

Did you invent a field of psychology to be able to decide if people need counseling based on what is happening online? For all I know, outrage culture is mainly happening through bots of foreign enemies intent on destabilizing the anglophone world.

outrage culture is out of control all over. If it's happening through foreign enemies too that doesn't change the media coverage etc.

This has been coming for a while.

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.

I'm hoping the company I work for will follow suit and ban discussions about this stuff in the workplace.

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.

I don't think he's considered by very many to be a neo-racist. Only in right wing circles and few of them would even know who he is anyway.

It seems like the term neoracist has been promoted by John McWhorter more than any other public intellectual and you can hardly call him right wing unless your vision of the political spectrum is severely warped.

McWhorter recently wrote an entire Atlantic column about the actual word "racism" without once using the neologism for which you've blamed him. So, maybe he has reconsidered?


I’m referring to his use of the word in his new book (which he is serializing for free on his substack), “The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and Their Threat to a Progressive America”. [1] The first place I saw the term used (he has also used it on the Glenn Show podcast).

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.

[1] https://johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p/the-elect-neoracists-po...

Thanks for the link! I wonder if you've read the whole thing? Several chapters in [0], we find:

...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.

[0] https://johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p/can-black-people-be-rac...

Aha, thank you! I am actually quite behind on it, and also hadn’t read that post, which I largely agree with. I can see how the term has escaped his ability to define it in the context of his argument.

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.

What's a 'neo racist'? Where are these odd labels coming from?

Is it racist subculture or something? It just sounds absurd compared to saying 'racist'.

It is used to point out the perpetuation and reification of race as a concept by people who call themselves antiracist. There are many liberal thinkers who have not given up on the notion that race is a fiction, and that the best way to be not racist is to understand this.

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.

By who?

> he's now considered by many to be a "neo racist".

I'm sorry, what!? The author of "How to be Antiracist" is considered a "neo racist" by how many?

Also the Democratic People's Republic of Korea isn't actually a democracy?!

Do you actually have any evidence of the author, Kendi, being a neo racist or is this more right wing trash?

I'm just pointing out that someone saying they're not something doesn't mean they actually aren't, as you implied.

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.

To me, that doesn’t look like a strong defense of the “no politics/religion” policy, because the actual reasons those people were fired seem mostly unrelated and obvious grounds to fire someone, regardless of any particular workplace discussion policy. Deliberate unauthorized usage of the company Twitter account is certainly grounds for firing, as is using company time and resources for a plan to report the company to authorities (assuming the report was frivolous and the employee knew it). I honestly don’t see where the policy about political discussions is relevant here at all.

> 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

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.

Was a weird trend? They've doubled-down. There are now Chief Diversity Officers.

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'

Was a weird trend? They've doubled-down. There are now Chief Diversity Officers.

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.

I have been gone through numerous diversity coaching at numerous big tech companies. Comparing diversity coaches to vampires is absurd and alarmist. All they did was demonstrate some biases in a way where I became more aware of my own biases, and educated us how everyone has biases and they can sometimes be good biases and sometimes be bad biases.

Comparing diversity coaches to vampires is absurd and alarmist.

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.

That's where it starts, 'biases.' Then 'recognizing biases' turns into 'defeating white supremacy' and 'silence is violence' and 'everything is political, so we have to talk about this.'

Reminds me of a training I once attended --probably the most participatory and positive energy session ever. It basically had one point: "Don't be a dick".

"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.

Where I'm from, dick refers to a penis. So saying someone is a 'dick' is sexist and derogatory towards people with penises. Would you be allowed to tell someone not to be another set of genitals in a vulgar manner? Of course not.

Words can have different meanings. Dick is a first name where I'm from. Maybe take a break from being difficult and try following the rule.

The evidence suggests this nonsense doesn't work and is even harmful. Check out the literature review on the Heterodox Academy website.

The trend was taking social media influencers that were hijacking social justice issues on Twitter, and other social media, who were already creating toxic environments there, hiring them, and thinking something other than creating a toxic environment at work was going to happen.

Tail end of an age. But yes, we are in a new age now.

> Can't recall the name of the person GitHub miss-hired

Coraline Ada Ehmke?


I'm confused. Aren't such discussions banned by social norms everywhere for a very long time? I can't recall any public political or religious discussions at any place I've worked in decades.

A few years ago I worked with someone who would constantly complain about a certain politician. Honestly the unending onslaught of negativity was the problem for me. They could have been complaining about a toaster over’s inability to bake both sides of a sandwich and I still would have gotten sick of it if they kept saying it. I’m at work to make money, not to be subjected to endless banter about anything at all.

I see you don’t work with very many American fresh college graduates.

This may be the answer. Some useful traditions are not being passed down, especially at startup-type places which don’t allow older employees.

I think this is more of the issue. Young startups and management are much more lax with this type of thing and let it fester and become a bigger issue than it ever should have been. I’ve worked at fortune 10 companies and smaller startups founded by older folks and there has never been any overt sexual innuendo or politics talk which would be obviously divisive. Most everyone has enough emotional intelligence to know these things should be left at home since there’s no reason to bring them up at work.

Once I was hired at a company founded and run by boomers, and on the first day noticed several stacks of magazines like "Hustler" etc. just sitting on the floor in a manager's office, while we conversed with other colleagues some of whom were women. This was probably 15 years ago, and I didn't quit or anything, but let's not exaggerate the virtues of old people.

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?

I'm not arguing either way, but both are extremes in decorum. Most companies run by generic middle of the road boring folks adhere to general decorum overall vs explicitly offensive behavior. This isn't because they're more virtuous IMO from my experience, just because they like most folks want to work 9-5, collect a paycheck and go home and not rock the boat.

> This was probably 15 years ago, and I didn't quit or anything, but let's not exaggerate the virtues of old people.

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.

We're not talking about the French Revolution here. This is a small-to-medium (or, recently, perhaps "medium-to-small") privately-held SaaS firm. For its entire existence, this firm's marketing has taken the form of checks written against a hypothetical account of expertise in business organization and cultural transformation. This week most of those checks have bounced, but that is because of the particular properties of this organization, not "kids these days".

That you can find an exception from the bad old days, where a company was run like a <80s mechanic shop, doesn't negate that experience dealing with people is useful.

Chesterson’s fence comes to mind.

I love that observation by G.K. about the fence you find and thinking through why it was erected.

I don't think a political discussion now and then at work is an issue per se. As long as you remember you're talking with colleagues, and you have to keep a respectful tone and be friendly and collaborative with them all the same one minute after the conversation is over. And insulting your colleagues (for example suggesting that they're racist, or homophobic, or otherwise a problem at work or in the society) is of course unacceptable.

I don't think a political discussion now and then at work is an issue per se. As long as you remember you're talking with colleagues, and you have to keep a respectful tone and be friendly and collaborative with them all the same one minute after the conversation is over. And insulting your colleagues (for example suggesting that they're racist, or homophobic, or otherwise a problem at work or in the society) is of course unacceptable.

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.

I suppose it depends on what you consider public. I once worked on a team at a Fortune 500 company where the majority of team members were Catholic. They’d often bring up religious topics while chit chatting before meetings started. I’m not Catholic, but I didn’t care. It’s not like they were ever trying to convert me or anything. I treated it like they all belonged to the same book club.

I think what folks mean by R&P is ugly R&P.

Yeah, anybody who quits over a no politics policy is probably someone you don't want in the first place.

How did Basecamp fill 1/3 of the company with people they didn't want. That is something they should try to have a lot of introspection on.

Seen the generous buyouts offered, it's probable that several of them left just because they liked the offer.

Not sure why you're downvoted. I'm mulling over an employer change right now for pure career progression / compensation reasons. I have a few good options lined up. If I were offered a generous buyout tomorrow for some random stupid reason, I would probably take it, even without first deciding exactly where I'm going to be next and without any regard to the underlying reason for the buyout. Wikipedia says they only have 57 employees (???). If so, that's less than 20 people jumping from a company with bad PR anyways and during a time when tech hiring is actually quite hot.

Just to be clear, they banned "politics" after people complained about what they considered to be racism and cultural belittlement. This is the inherent problem with people wanting to avoid politics when what they really want is to avoid difficult topics. Topics that aren't just ballot issues but may be palpably real for actual people you work with.

This is a point which I think is really tough for people to come to grips with. If you're in the majority, if you're what's considered "normal," then a whole lot of things aren't "political" for you but become political when someone else starts talking about them. When Bob talks about his wife, he's just making small talk; when Fred talks about his husband, he's "a gay activist." And god forbid one of your employees be transgender or nonbinary: requesting that they be acknowledged as such can be interpreted as an overtly political statement. Look at how many people get super, super angry with anyone who voluntarily lists their pronouns somewhere.

Straw man. If a gay guy talks about his husband, and someone calls him a gay activist for it, he's the political guy who needs to go.

I agree with your conclusion, but I don't agree that it's a straw man. There remains a fairly large subset of people who are "fine" with having LGBTQ coworkers, but if those coworkers regularly talk about their personal lives to the same degree that non-LGBTQ coworkers regularly talk about theirs, it's seen as "pushing it in our faces."

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.)

In this example, the accuser isn't accusing the gay man. He'd be complaining to HR about politics at work. It was legal to fire someone for being gay up last year.


A glimmer of hope. Thank you for writing this. Feels like most of the companies gone insane, where vocal minority controls everything.

"The way to keep politics out of work is to keep your work environment professional."

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.

> not allow employees to submit invoices for meat

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.

I think it’ll be good for them in the long run too (if they don’t go under in the short term)

It's the season of ramadan, how would you support muslims that are fasting now or need to take off time to pray or go to their mosque on Fridays?

What's the problem? Workplaces are required to allow for "reasonable flexibility" in the practice of religion. An employee may need to take some PTO for certain types of jobs, but every job I've worked has a decent amount of leeway.

This is all covered under US employment law.

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