Mozilla Gets a Lesson in (Really) Open Source Communication
Mozilla employees took to Twitter to voice their dismay about the anti-gay politics of the foundation's new chief executive, Brendan Eich. In return, they got everyone talking--and that's a good thing.
You may not know it, but your politics are critical to the organization you lead.
Your employees have a voice too, and sometimes a very powerful one. So whether you're devoutly religious, libidinously left, rapaciously right, or somewhere in between, what you say and do in your public life matters to your customers and to the people who help make your company what it is.
Just this week, justices weighed the religious values of company leaders, as the Hobby Lobby case came before the Supreme Court. Similarly, personal beliefs are the subject of numerous nascent state laws that would allow business owners to discriminate against customers or employees they don't approve of.
The latest manifestation of all this is the Mozilla Foundation, creator of the Web browser Firefox, which promoted Brendan Eich earlier this week as its corporate subsidiary's new CEO. Mozilla's workers perhaps never doubted that he was a competent chief technology officer, a role he held previously. It's his political donations that have angered employees.
It turns out that Eich contributed $1,000 to California's controversial Proposition 8, an anti-same-sex marriage bill that passed with broad voter support in 2008, and which became the basis for one of the gay marriage cases argued before the Supreme Court in 2013.
Eich wrote an extensive post on his personal blog, attempting to exonerate himself. Here's an excerpt:
"I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results.
A number of Mozillians, including LGBT individuals and allies, have stepped forward to offer guidance and assistance in this. I cannot thank you enough, and I ask for your ongoing help to make Mozilla a place of equality and welcome for all. Here are my commitments, and here’s what you can expect:
- Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building.
- Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn’t make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.
- My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.
- My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. More on this last item below.
I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to “show, not tell”; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain."
In response, many of Mozilla's workers took to Twitter to ask Eich to relinquish his post.
"I'm an employee of @mozilla and I'm asking @brendaneich to step down as CEO," Chris McAvoy, head of Mozilla's Open Badges project, wrote Thursday, along with similar posts from numerous other workers.
The Twitter outpouring has turned into a dialogue of sorts, driven by social media. And it seems to be working for some Mozilla employees, who also took to Twitter to express their satisfaction with the process.
"I love @mozilla because we're big, open, and messy. And that's what makes us strong," Geoffrey MacDougall, Mozilla's head of development said in a Tweet. "We'll figure this out."
Clarification: An earlier version of this story misstated the timing of events. Eich wrote his blog post before employees took to Twitter to voice their dissatisfaction, not after.