Wired magazine recently outlined the internal turmoil at cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase following CEO Brian Armstrong’s declaration that political discussions were to be kept outside of the office, giving employees a week to agree or leave. His direct refutation of the tech industry’s woke capitalism left his employees in an uproar.
In a recent article titled “The Turmoil Over ‘Black Lives Matter’ and Political Speech at Coinbase,” Wired outlines the internal reaction to CEO Brian Armstrong telling employees to keep social justice and political issues out of the office, giving them the option of leaving the company if they disagree.
Breitbart News recently reported that former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo took issue with Armstrong’s decision to not promote political activism and social justice within the company. Armstrong’s comments fly in the face of ultra-progressive tech firms such as Facebook and Google.
In a blog post to Medium.com, Armstrong stated that the company would not focus on things such as broader societal issues, stating: “We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus.” Discussing politics, Armstrong said: “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.”
Costolo commented on Armstrong’s approach stating: “This isn’t great leadership. It’s the abdication of leadership. It’s the equivalent of telling your employees to ‘shut up and dribble.’”
When one Twitter user took issue with Costolo’s argument, Costolo replied that “me-first capitalists” will be the “first people lined up against the wall and shot in the revolution.” Costolo, whose personal fortune is estimated at $300 million, added that he would “happily provide video commentary.”
Now, Wired has outlined the reaction to Armstrong’s decision by Coinbase employees, some of whom support Armstrong’s move against wokeness:
On Tuesday, Armstrong further upped the ante, offering severance packages for any employees who disagreed with the company’s “new direction.” (The email was first published by The Block.) Staff were given one week to either jump ship or get on board with the vision, however they interpreted it.
Those actions—taken, in large part, with public flourish—have made Armstrong a lightning rod in a Silicon Valley culture war, set against a broader American one. Ironically, they’ve put Coinbase and its employees in the thick of a political debate far outside the bounds of the company’s core mission—precisely what Armstrong said he hoped to avoid.
Within the company, the lines are more blurred. Some workers have cheered Armstrong’s decision, often quietly for fear of pushback from colleagues. (The “silent majority,” Armstrong called them at a company all-hands Thursday, according to an attendee.) Others have taken Armstrong’s offer and quit, or are actively discussing whether to do so with their colleagues.