Brian Armstrong, the CEO of Silicon Valley-based cryptocurrency exchange and broker Coinbase, told his employees that he won’t stand for politics and the championing of social issues at the office.
Armstrong bluntly said that he’d gladly offer severance packages to employees who aren’t comfortable with the new corporate policy of “political neutrality” in the workplace. The chief executive wrote in a letter to employees, “Life is too short to work at a company that you aren’t excited about. Hopefully, this package helps create a win-win outcome for those who choose to opt out.”
His stance runs counter to the climate of many tech companies. A large percentage of Silicon Valley tech companies tend to lean left and the companies are open with respects to allowing and encouraging their employees to get involved with social, racial and political causes.
Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted his thoughts about the matter, “Me-first capitalists who think you can separate society from business are going to be the first people lined up against the wall and shot in the revolution. I’ll happily provide video commentary.”
Jack Dorsey, the current CEO of Twitter, tweeted, “#Bitcoin (aka ‘crypto’) is direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society. Important to at *least* acknowledge and connect the related societal issues your customers face daily. This leaves people behind…” and quote tweeted Armstrong.
It seems as if Armstrong wants to get ahead of potential unpleasant infighting amongst employees that have challenged other Silicon Valley tech companies, such as Facebook and Google. The two tech giants had to enact policies and procedures to deal with heated conversations on their respective internal message boards.
Reportedly, both the social media company and search engine giant noticed that the debates over politically charged matters took employees away from their jobs and work responsibilities. Google told its employees that the rules state, “While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not.” The company’s guidelines also indicate, “Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.”
Last July, workers at online furniture retailer Wayfair walked off their jobs to protest the company’s decision to sell about $200,000 of bedroom furniture to a government contractor that operates immigration detention centers on the U.S. and Mexico border. When Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah refused to comply with the workers’ demand to cancel the sales, employees protested by staging a walkout. The anger and frustration was captioned by employee Madeline Howard, “We don’t want our company to profit off of children being in concentration camps.”
Employees of Microsoft, Amazon, Bank of America, Disney, Nike, Uber, JPMorgan and other top corporations have railed against certain actions of their companies that conflict with their moral compass and social conscience. Social media amplified these employee protests. At times, this led to boycotts of the companies’ products.
In an open letter on Medium, Armstrong wrote about his thought process and decision, “Everyone is asking the question about how companies should engage in broader societal issues during these difficult times, while keeping their teams united and focused on the mission. Coinbase has had its own challenges here, including employee walkouts. I decided to share publicly how I’m addressing this in case it helps others navigate a path through these challenging times.”
The CEO wanted to make sure that there were no misunderstandings about his message, which is for people to focus on their respective jobs and work toward making Coinbase a great company. “In short, I want Coinbase to be laser focused on achieving its mission, because I believe that this is the way that we can have the biggest impact on the world. We will do this by playing as a championship team, focus on building and being transparent about what our mission is and isn’t.”
According to Armstrong, the list of things that the company won’t allow include, “Debate causes or political candidates internally; expect the company to represent our personal beliefs externally; assume negative intent, or not have each other’s back [and] take on activism outside of our core mission at work.”
“These are difficult times, and every CEO I know is trying to figure out how to lead through it,” said the chief executive. “I recognize that our approach is not for everyone, and may be controversial. I know that many people may not agree, and some employees may resign.”
If an employee no longer wishes to work at the politically agnostic company, Coinbase offers the following separation package:
This decision will be both lauded and lambasted by people. As more Americans get heavily involved with the political process and social causes, corporations will need to confront how they will manage this new and growing trend.
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