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Monday, May 03, 2021

CEO takes back control

Once upon a time, IBM required its male workers to wear white shirts (and of course ties) and sport no facial hair because the company did not wish to offend any customers.

60 years later, we mock that corporate groupthink, without acknowledging that we replaced it with another corporate groupthink that is worse.

Many companies no longer accommodate customers, and some go out of their way to offend customers. Coke trained its workers to "try to be less white." I tried that but they called it cultural appropriation. I would boycott Coke, but I never liked it anyway.

Most corporate groupthink today is more subtle and mundane, and therefore even creepier. The people who run Basecamp had an epiphany, and realized how toxic their corporate culture had become.

The company had strayed into social engineering. Instead of simply paying workers, it was also giving them ducats to go to the local gym. Instead of making decisions, it was setting up committees. Instead of focusing on work, employees were arguing over politics.

The company decided to change all that. But while its ban on talking politics in the office drew the attention from political blogs (duh), the ending of committees and the conversion of paternalistic benefits into cash are the real sea-change in the corporation.

First let us look at the re-imposition of the ban on talking abut anything more controversial than whether the local football team should have taken the field goal or gone for it in its latest loss.

The blog called the New York Times said, "About a third of Basecamp’s employees have said they are resigning after the company, which makes productivity software, announced new policies banning workplace conversations about politics.

"Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, detailed the policies in a blog post on Monday, calling 'societal and political discussions' on company messaging tools 'a major distraction.' He wrote that the company would also ban committees, cut benefits such as a fitness allowance (with employees receiving the equivalent cash value) and stop 'lingering and dwelling on past decisions.'

"Basecamp had 57 employees, including Mr. Fried, when the announcement was made, according to a staff list on its website. Since then, at least 20 of them have posted publicly that they intend to resign or have already resigned, according to a tally by The New York Times. Basecamp did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

***

My take is the company jettisoned the least productive people who came to work to argue politics, rather than do the job. I expect productivity to climb as those who actually do the work are liberated from constant harassment by lefty fascists.

The company is taking a Thank God And Greyhound You're Gone approach to the departures, blogging, "Yesterday, 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. 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."

But the real change is in the office politics. Management has caught on to the game played by liberals in which the inmates run the asylum.

The company is ending benefits that please liberals but do nothing for those who aren't into exercise.

In announcing the ban on arguing politics, the company also said, "No more paternalistic benefits. 

"For years we've offered a fitness benefit, a wellness allowance, a farmer's market share, and continuing education allowances. They felt good at the time, but we've had a change of heart. It's none of our business what you do outside of work, and it's not Basecamp's place to encourage certain behaviors — regardless of good intention. 

"By providing funds for certain things, we're getting too deep into nudging people's personal, individual choices. So we've ended these benefits, and, as compensation, paid every employee the full cash value of the benefits for this year. In addition, we recently introduced a 10% profit sharing plan to provide direct compensation that people can spend on whatever they'd like, privately, without company involvement or judgement."

I agree.

If people want to spend their money working out at the gym, let them. Just don't encourage or expect me to. Now give me money. That's what I want. That's what I wa-wa-want. That's what I want.

(The same Beatles who did a cover of that song also recorded Money Can't Buy Me Love.)

But the biggest change was the third thing the company did.

Its memo from its boss said, "No more committees. 

"For nearly all of our 21- year existence, we were proudly committee-free. No big working groups making big decisions, or putting forward formalized, groupthink recommendations. No bureaucracy. But recently, a few sprung up. No longer. We're turning things back over to the person (or people) who were distinctly hired to make those decisions. 

"The responsibility for DEI work returns to Andrea, our head of People Ops. The responsibility for negotiating use restrictions and moral quandaries returns to me and David. A long-standing group of managers called 'Small Council' will disband — when we need advice or counsel we'll ask individuals with direct relevant experience rather than a pre-defined group at large. Back to basics, back to individual responsibility, back to work."

In other words, the employees don't tell the boss what to do; the boss tells the employees.

The company did some other things to end the passive-aggressive takeover by liberals.

Its boss said, "No more 360 reviews. Employee performance reviews used to be straightforward. A meeting with your manager or team lead, direct feedback, and recommendations for improvement. Then a few years ago we made it hard. 

"Worse, really. We introduced 360s, which required peers to provide feedback on peers. The problem is, 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. Manager/employee feedback should be flowing pretty freely back and forth throughout the year. No need to add performative paperwork on top of that natural interaction. So we're done with 360s, too."

The message from management is clear: We're in charge, not a bunch of passive-aggressive liberals who were hired to work but instead waste all their time kibbitzing. 

Now to bring back white shirts and black ties.

30 comments:

  1. Excellent piece. Thanks for writing it.
    These guys have been trend setters for a while now. Let's hope they are setting a new trend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean, the boss doesn't tell me what I should think, and I don't tell him how the company should be run? And all I have to do is . . . my job? Hm. This just might work.

      Delete
  2. This is the common sense approach to EVERYTHING that is needed right now. I would love to work at a place like this instead of being subjected to constant wokeism.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Now they need to come up with some songs that praise the company and individual corporate officers, like IBM did in the 40s and 50s.
    https://www.digibarn.com/collections/songs/ibm-songs/

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yep my old airfrieght outfit was uniform shirt and tie.loved that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yep my old airfrieght outfit was uniform shirt and tie.loved that.

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  7. The CEO is a genius at getting rid of all the Biden bots in one fell swoop. This worked better than a walk through the employee parking lot to see whose cars were sporting bumper stickers promoting Biden, BLM, green energy, etc., then sadly informing each one that they were being laid off “due to a business slowdown.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also by the employees resigning and getting a severance package, they won't be able to collect unemployment, saving the company on their unemployment insurance.

      Delete
  8. Israel is famous for letting the employee with the greatest expertise in an area make the decision, regardless of position in the hierarchy. That should be their next reform.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Before I went out on my own, I worked for IBM during the white shirt era, to where we could wear colored shirts and then business casual. The people weren’t near as straight laced as our wardrobes. What amazing, smart, funny and creative people I was lucky to work with. There were a few that weren’t.

    Out of college, I also interviewed with Ross Perot’s EDS. They required long sleeved white shirts and you had to wear a jacket if in the presence of a customer. I don’t think they had anyone working there with personality or a sense of humor. I am glad I didn’t work for them.

    Bravo for Basecamp for bringing sanity to their offices and driving out the losers.

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  10. How many of those ex-employees were conservatives? Never mind. Rhetorical.

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  11. We had an employee who felt free to spout off against Trump and for Hillary. But if anyone voiced the opposite opinion, they were suddenly "invited" for "counseling" with HR. He's gone now and the air just seems to breathe that much more freely.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I laughed at the 360 peer reviews. Back in the day, we had a yearly proficiency report given by our immediate supervisor. It then went up the chain of command to get signed off on or corrected by the next highest supervisor.

    In my last job, we weren't allowed to talk politics or comment on social issues because there was too much chance that customers of our client might overhear us and make complaints. Getting caught was grounds for immediate dismissal.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The dropkicks who left sure got a great addition to the resumes.

    “Why did you leave your last job?”

    “They wouldn’t let me trash-talk politicians, goof off on committees, or pump iron on the company’s dime.

    ReplyDelete
  14. The dropkicks who left sure got a great addition to the resumes.

    “Why did you leave your last job?”

    “They wouldn’t let me trash-talk politicians, goof off on committees, or pump iron on the company’s dime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In all fairness, working out can be a good thing. A fit employee is less likely to miss work. You are, however, expected to take it out of your lunch hour.

      If they were busy talking, rather than sweating, I can see why it may have been dropped.

      Delete
    2. It 'can be a good thing', but on the other hand, it's none of the company's business.

      Delete
  15. Blogger HATES me, Don. Defenestrated my comments.

    Take 2:

    Talking politics at work should be a firing offense.

    "The company is ending benefits that please liberals but do nothing for" needs more words to complete this sentence.

    "Here, here." Should be "Hear. hear"; or, as John Wayne would say, "Listen up, and listen tight!"

    Committees...should never be more than 3 people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's this 1st Amendment thingy you may not have heard about...

      Delete
    2. So a McDonald's employee tells every customer they're going to hell if they voted for Trump (or Biden). Can McDonalds fire employee? Or is that 1st Amendment protected?
      1st Amendment is to protect our speech against government censorship or punishment
      A private business is not subject to this.

      Delete
  16. Sounds like the last place I worked. A lot of that stuff was SOP although politics was your own business.

    My guess is so much time was being taken up by politics, nothing was getting done and programming is a very labor-intensive business (many's the time I saw a bunch of guys squinting at one PC, scratching their heads).

    continuing education allowances aren't a Lefty thing, however. It's just an investment in the employee. Lots of places do it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. PS Once upon a time, IBM required its male workers to wear white shirts (and of course ties) and sport no facial hair because the company did not wish to offend any customers.

    Sure about that motivation?

    The corporate ethos was conform, but I doubt many people would have freaked at a beard or mustache in the 50s.

    More like that was the sober, clean-cut image they wanted to present. Chase Manhattan Bank and a lot of other big outfits did the same.

    A lot of groupthink back then, not all of it bad.

    ReplyDelete
  18. At my grandson's high school (rural and kids parents are hard-working and God fearing), the Coke thing is "if you can't be less white, use less or no Coke." Coca-cola is unAmerican now.

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  19. Isn't common sense terrific?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Imagine that. Come to work and WORK. I own a construction company with about 30 employees. I am fortunate the employees come to work to work. That's my culture and for 20 some-odd years, working has worked. It's too bad there are companies where the employees come to work to woke. Guess I'm old school.

    ReplyDelete
  21. AMAZING. There is a cure for insanity. AMAZING.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surber: "The blog called the New York Times" --- !!!

      What nearly destroyed Basecamp HAS destroyed what used to be a reputable newspaper, the New York Times.

      Every single thing that has been identified as toxic for Basecamp is what has contributed to the death of a formerly reputable newspaper and the substitution of something with the same name that, for hypocrisy and maniacal ideology, puts the old Soviet Pravda to shame.

      Delete
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