Coinbase Announces ‘Company-First’ Policy Banning Controversial Workplace Discussions

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In Brief
  • Coinbase has announced that it will not engage in social activism and is discouraging discussions of politics at work.

  • In a blog post, Coinbase's CEO explained that the company intends to be solely "mission-focused"

  • Some view the announcement as antithetical to decentralization while others predict that many other companies will follow suit.

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In a blog post published on Sept 27, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong announced that his company would strive for a neutral or apolitical workplace.



The post started off noting that it’s been a “difficult year,” a nod to the global pandemic, shelter in place policies, social unrest, and the west coast wildfires. In response to all that, Armstrong, never one to shy away from making a public stance, decided to share his plan for leading one of crypto’s legacy companies during such times.

This plan includes “playing like a championship team,” corporate shorthand for things like sustaining high performance, engendering trust, being “company-first,” and collectively sacrificing to achieve an objective.



The other main thrust of Armstrong’s plan is to double down on building great products — focusing on sourcing top talent, using fair talent practices, and enabling belonging for everyone.

But the core of Armstrong’s plan can be boiled down to two points, “broader societal issues: we don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission” and, “political causes: we don’t advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission.”

Source: Coinbase

In being obsessively “mission-focused,” Coinbase is aiming to avoid distractions and anything that might contribute to internal strife.

As Armstrong put it,

“While I think these efforts [activism] are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction and by creating internal division.”

Such statements are opposed to what many companies in the U.S. have done in response to, for example, the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Coinbase’s announcement was all but guaranteed to be controversial, and it was, unsurprisingly, met with polarized opinions:

Venture capitalist Chris Burniske also weighed in tweeting a thread voicing the opinion that Coinbase’s policy is against the spirit of decentralization and concluding, “2020 is too important to say nothing. Talk politics. Vote. Govern the #USA.”

So there you have it, two sides of the divide. While opinions on Coinbase’s policy update differ, one thing is clear: implementing a policy that discourages people from expressing views on issues core to their identities could prove to be a difficult balancing act.

As one respondent to the blog post put it, “working at a software company, especially a crypto one, is inherently political, no matter how hard you try to do the mental gymnastics around that.”


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Colin is a writer, researcher, and content marketer with a keen interest in the future of money. His writing has been featured in numerous cryptocurrency publications, and his holdings don't amount to more than a handful of BAT.

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