There are moments in history where people will remember exactly how they felt and where they were. The pandemic will be one of those times in history that will be remembered as a time of panic, social unrest, fear, and, well, a rollercoaster of emotions. You found yourself either watching the news non-stop or ditching social media and television altogether. With the combination of businesses having to figure out remote work overnight, followed by a downpour of employee resignations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.5 million workers quit for reasons other than retirement. The companies that survived the pandemic couldn’t hire quickly enough or handle the influx of demand. These years have challenged businesses and managers in ways they never had to deal with before. Some articles would claim high turnover and maintaining culture have been among the most complex challenges that HR teams have been experiencing at an increasing rate. HR and Management were also faced with serious political or covid-related debates within work communication channels. A survey released by SHRM last year discovered that 42% of employees had had a “political disagreement” at work, and 12% had experienced political affiliation bias. Companies like Coinbase saw these disagreements and conversations happening in their workplace and saw a need to take action and help steer the talks to be around the company’s mission.
The Day Coinbase Announced New Employee Policy
In 2020, CEO Brian Armstrong decided to announce the new workplace policy in the midst of social unrest. In a statement he released on Coinbase Blog, he stated the following,
“At Coinbase, we say that we are focused on building. What does this mean? It means we are going to focus on being the best company we can be, and making progress toward our mission, as compared to broader societal issues.”
In addition, the blog outlines in a series of bullets a new direction for Coinbase to align around being a mission-first company, as cited below.
Broader societal issues: We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus.
Political causes: We don’t advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction from our mission. Even if we all agree something is a problem, we may not all agree on the solution.
The day this announcement was made caused controversy and opened a wide discussion on how companies should handle political topics within the workforce. Former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo was quoted saying in the LA Times,
“This isn’t great leadership. It’s the abdication of leadership,” Costolo said. “It’s the equivalent of telling your employees to ‘shut up and dribble.’”
Brian mentioned the company having issues with political debates including employee walkouts and felt the need to set policies in place to help navigate how the company will handle these situations moving forward.
Given the amount of backlash Coinbase received for taking a bold stance on a single mission and leaving the politics at home policy, it left many wondering is this the right path for businesses? Coinbase served as a case study for every to watch and see if this would ultimately kill their culture or make it better. Brian Armstrong took a strong bet and ran with it in time that was wildly unpopular. The announcement of Coinbase’s new policy resulted in about 8% of their workforce quitting, in which they offered employees a severance to quit.
How is Coinbase Culture Today
Since making the announcement, Coinbase policy has proven to be a success for the company’s culture and growth. Brian Armstrong went on to All In Podcast to discuss the success of making this change within the company and stated if he were to start a company over he would have started this policy sooner. It allowed the company to focus on its mission and attract the type of talent that was passionate about the problems they are solving.