How 1 memo lead to an exodus at software firm Basecamp

Following an internal disagreement, Basecamp’s CEO released a “no politics” policy. It backfired and a third of the company resigned.

May 3, 2021

Basecamp was a hot topic in tech last week.

And the chatter had nothing to do with the company’s project management software: It was the result of a controversial memo from CEO Jason Fried that banned “societal and political discussions” from internal work messaging apps.

Why was the memo written in the first place?

Over the years, Basecamp employees kept a list of customers — largely of Asian or African origin — with “funny names,” according to The Verge.

Management knew about the list but failed to take action.

To quell anger over the memo and its handling of the controversy, Basecamp offered buyouts…

… to any employee that wants to leave

The exit packages are quite generous: 6 months pay for employees with 3+ years of service (3 months severance if you were there for less than 3 years).

So far, ~⅓ of the company’s 57 employees have taken the offer, including Basecamp’s heads of design, marketing, and customer support.

In the original memo, Fried writes that politics and social discussions have become a “major distraction” for the company.

Whether or not Fried is right, Basecamp now has a much bigger problem to deal with.

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