Crowd activism

Keep business and politics, and social activities separate

This post is a wrap-up of several excerpts from recent issues of my newsletter. I included articles and reactions to a post that asked to keep business and politics, and social activities separate.

It all started some weeks ago, ending September, when Brian Armstrong, Coinbase co-founder and CEO, published an article at the Coinbase blog about its mission.

As I mentioned in the newsletter, I saw are some similarities with Frank Slootman’s LinkedIn post that I shared in another newsletter.

A mission-focused company statement from Coinbase

The post aims to share the company mission: create an open financial system for the world and achieve success, focusing on that mission, on what unites and not divides, on building a high-performance team.

Brian defends that while most social-related activism or activities are well-intentioned, they distract from the company focus and divide people. And that, in the end, they could destroy the value of the company.

The company is first, and individuals are second. Even if they agree that something is a problem, they don’t agree on how to solve it.

Different opinions and reactions

This “leave politics at the door” or “no-politics rule” has been received with diverse opinions and reactions. While many people agree, several voices appoint that this raises diversity and equality issues.

Coinbase’s investor Paul Graham also applauded it and predicted that most successful companies would follow Coinbase’s lead. You could find some Twitter threads about it, like the one I share below.

It was also a topic for the All-In podcast with Jason Calacanis, Chamath Palihapitiya, David Friedberg, and David Sacks.

You could find a recap of reactions in this Bloomberg article. You could also easily find Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Dick Costolo public reactions, like the one below.

Coinbase policy follow-up and exits

If you have read the post, they prepared a generous exit package for the people willing to go. The following week, there was an update from Coinbase’s CEO.

In this new post, Brian shares that the number of people who left the company was 60, 5% of the total employees. There have been voices defending that 5% is a low rate.

Armstrong also noted how some people worried his stance would push out people of color and other underrepresented minorities. But in his blog post, he said those folks “have not taken the exit package in numbers disproportionate to the overall population.”

As Case Newton tweeted, it is good to see numbers in perspective.

Another different example of political interference

If you thought this post would be monographic about Coinbase’s CEO delirium, you were completely wrong!

The following case is the opposite example, a company explaining its employees who they should vote for.

We went from the “leave out politics at the door” to “vote for Biden”. Independently of your political preferences, this isn’t good. The arguments remain the same as for Coinbase.

You could also find below an answer via email from Daniel Rothschild, directly addressed to the Expensify CEO, warning him and asking him to avoid politicization. Your email contributes to this breakdown in social trust.

Leaving social activism and politics out

I like the opinion of leaving most of the activism and politics at the door and agree that companies should stay away from politics and focus on their mission and purpose.

But when we talk about individuals, I also understand people who can’t stay away and empathize with them. We aren’t ruled by machines yet, so we are humans, and I am closer to an “Individuals first” position. So returning to the previous paragraph, companies should focus on achieving their mission through their people.

The interesting point is that statistically, the primary demographic for who “doesn’t care about politics or socials”, which means a conformist or favorable position regarding a situation or topic, are straight white males.

This brings us to the next topic: again, we have to remember and understand privileges. If you usually read my newsletter, don’t you remember from past issues? Privilege is the absence of inconvenience, impediment, or challenge. People directly affected by an unfair situation can’t avoid it.

Don’t be cruel and don’t stigmatize people

Before leaving the topic, I wanted to share an article published in medium by Laszlo Bock, named The Fallacy of the Politics-Free Office.

As the article explains, in a year with lockdowns, a year with several life restrictions, high unemployment, exposed racial injustices, the year of a deadly world pandemic, everyone is processing social and economic turmoil. Ignoring emotions is impossible. Considering all, asking employees to suppress them at work is somehow cruel.

An also, telling them who to vote, even if you see it as an argued suggestion, stigmatizes those who don’t. We could agree or disagree about the candidate, but everybody should be free to vote who they want without any external pressure.

The positive part, if any, is that these posts or statements generated an exciting debate. I don’t think this discussion will end up with a consensus or will change anything.

People who agree and people who don’t will probably remain the same. But these questions usually help us to remember which are our priorities and goals.

How about you? Did you read about it? What are your thoughts about it? Don’t feel pressured to share my thoughts and opinions :-)

I hope you liked it. If so, please share it! Do not hesitate to add your comments. And, if you want to stay up to date, don’t miss my free newsletter.

As always, thanks for reading.

Also published on Medium.

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Also published on Medium.

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