Expect to read more about this issue in the coming years. Sam Harris talked to Jason Fried on his podcast about this. All-In has talked about it. Coinbase is making its own media house to get around the traditional media. A16Z, a venture capital company is doing the same.
The message is clear – we are here to work on our mission nothing else and we cant have others speaking for us. The Guardian’s Jonathan Liew touched on the same issue when Osaka boycotted the French Open press conference. “Athletes now have their own direct line to the public, and spoiler: it’s not us”. Companies are doing the same.
At cryptocurrency firm Coinbase, employees demanded that CEO Brian Armstrong make a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. Armstrong, for a while, demurred. Then some employees and executives began what Wired called a “virtual walkout,” in which “senior engineers encouraged junior staff to close their laptops in solidarity.”
Armstrong quickly got religion, or so it seemed. He went on Twitter to announce, “I want to unequivocally say that Black Lives Matter.” Then, within weeks, Armstrong and Coinbase leadership flipped completely, announcing that the firm would no longer engage in “social activism,” and any employee who didn’t like the new policy could get the fuck out.
Coinbase offered 4-6 months of severance (depending on service time) and six months of COBRA, in a statement saying — in the thickest corporate sarcasm — that the arrangement could be a “win-win” for the politically minded, as “life is too short to work at a company you’re not excited about.” Only about 60 of the company’s 1,200 employees took the buyout.
At another tech firm, Basecamp, CEO Jason Fried — long the owner of a rep as a progressive corporate leader, as his company has published five books on workplace culture — put the kibosh on controversial talk at work, banning “societal and political discussions.” Shopify, an e-commerce firm that broke ground after the January 6th riots by closing online stores tied to Trump or MAGA merchandise, has now become a symbol of corporate pushback. CEO Tobi Lütke just sent an email to employees explaining that work is not life and life is not work, and employee demands should be adjusted accordingly:
Shopify, like any other for-profit company, is not a family. The very idea is preposterous. You are born into a family. You never choose it, and they can’t un-family you. It should be massively obvious that Shopify is not a family but I see people, even leaders, casually use terms like “Shopifam” which will cause the members of our teams (especially junior ones that have never worked anywhere else) to get the wrong impression. The dangers of “family thinking” are that it becomes incredibly hard to let poor performers go. Shopify is a team, not a family…
Shopify is also not the government. We cannot solve every societal problem here.