Basecamp CEO Jason Fried announced some changes at the remote working platform company on Monday. The most significant change seems to be the one over political speech:
No more societal and political discussions on our company Basecamp account. Today's social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant.
While everyone is talking about the political rule, I think it's essential to look at the memo as a whole. It's not about politics; it's about adulthood. Look at some of the other things Fried changed:
- No more paternalistic benefits. Basecamp has offered things like farmers' market benefits and health clubs. Instead, they now say that they will give employees the extra money these benefits cost and let employees decide for themselves. Of course, there are limits and Basecamp isn't doing away with healthcare benefits--even if they wanted to, the law doesn't allow them to.
- No more lingering or dwelling on past decisions. It's done. Time to move forward -- although you may not learn from your mistakes if you don't spend time thinking about them.
- No more 360 reviews. Managers will be responsible for feedback, not everyone else.
- No forgetting what we do here. The concept of "bring your whole self to work" is changed to "bring your best Basecamp employee self to work. Be yourself at home."
Some may say these things shouldn't have changed--everyone wants more and better benefits, right? But, what Basecamp is doing instead is giving employees the money and letting them choose, rather than having the company choose. See? Adult choices.
The same with not dwelling on past decisions. Instead, do your job, make your decisions, take your consequences, and move on.
A fascinating adult move is the elimination of 360 reviews, which are where your boss, your peers, and your direct reports all review your work. Some people may find it shocking that the complaint is that "peer feedback is often positive and reassuring, which is fun to read but not very useful. Assigning peer surveys started to feel like assigning busy work." So, they banned them because they were too positive?
But, I have the same complaint about 360 surveys. They allow managers to avoid tough conversations, and you don't provide helpful information. Most people don't have 400 direct reports--they have three or so--and it's easy to figure out who said what, even though it's supposed to be anonymous. Peers may not have an accurate idea of your actual work assignments, and again, you only have a few. There's no upside for someone saying something negative in a 360 survey. Instead, managers give feedback as needed--a very responsible decision.
The final one ties back into the first idea of no politics: We're at work to work, not to fret about other things. Everybody behave at work, take responsibility for yourself and your job. Stop worrying about politics at work--you can do that on your own.
There are some negative aspects of this, of course. Any massive change can have a negative impact on a company's culture. People don't like change in general, and this is a lot at once. The policies will undoubtedly change again, as Basecamp tweaks things to make them better. If the employees rebel, they may have to return.
But, overall, it's all about adulting. It's a refreshing change.