Reports say one-third of Basecamp employees exit in the wake of new company etiquette

Less than a week after Basecamp published a 'new etiquette regarding societal politics', which included a ban on staff talking politics on work platforms, The Verge confirmed 18 of the company's 57 employees accepted the six-month severance offer.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor on

Last Monday, Chicago-based software firm Basecamp issued a statement that said it was making a number of changes, including a ban on political discussions on its 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," the company said. "You shouldn't have to wonder if staying out of it means you're complicit, or wading into it means you're a target."

The changes were touted as a "new etiquette regarding societal politics" by company co-founder and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson. They did not prevent employees from having such conversations in a personal capacity.

But the internal reception to the more inclusive guidelines was not overly welcome, with reports coming in that a third of the company's employee base had walked out, accepting severance packages.

Heinemeier Hansson had offered the buyout packages as a "no questions asked" option for those not willing to accept the changes.

"We offered everyone at Basecamp an option of a severance package worth up to six months salary for those who've been with the company over three years, and three months salary for those at the company less than that," he explained. "No hard feelings, no questions asked. For those who cannot see a future at Basecamp under this new direction, we'll help them in every which way we can to land somewhere else."

The Verge reported around 18 of the company's 57 employees were out.

Heinemeier Hansson referred to the publication as airing its dirty laundry in previous reporting. As he confirmed, the initial motivation for the letter stemmed from internal disagreement over a controversial "Best Names List" of Basecamp customers.

"The long-running existence of the 'Best Names Ever' list that [employee 1] described yesterday represents a serious, collective, and repeated failure at Basecamp. One that we need to learn from together by transparently tracing its origin and history," Heinemeier Hansson said.

"Not only was it disrespectful to our customers, and a breach of basic privacy expectations, but it was also counter to creating an inclusive workplace. Nobody should think that maintaining such a list is okay or sanctioned behavior here."

The Verge said several of the names on the list, which resurfaced several times over the years and of which management was well aware, were of Asian or African origin.

Further changes the company announced as part of its refresh were: No more paternalistic benefits, a pledge to be committee-free, the promise to stop lingering on past decisions, no more 360 employee reviews, and "no forgetting what we do here".

The company is yet to comment on the aftermath of its attempt at a cultural refresh.


Editorial standards