“While I think these efforts are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value in most businesses, both by being a distraction and creating an internal division,” Armstrong wrote in a blog post. . “We’ve seen what internal strife at companies like Google and Facebook can do for productivity. I think most employees don’t want to work in these divisive environments. ”
Armstrong’s post drew a range of responses from commentators online. Some important figures from Silicon Valley rented it, while the critics argued it was “absolutely laughable” to believe that a company could keep politics out of the workplace.
In an internal email to employees, Armstrong doubled down on the company’s new position, giving any employee who “doesn’t feel comfortable with this new direction” a four to six month layoff to leave the company. company, according to The Block.
“It’s always sad to see teammates go, but it can also be what’s best for them and for the company,” Armstrong wrote. “Life is too short to work in a company that you are not passionate about. “
Why Coinbase could be different
This summer, Armstrong reportedly faced an employee revolt after refusing to publicly say “black lives matter.” According to Erica Joy and of the insiders who spoke to Casey Newton from The Verge, Armstrong finally gave in and tweeted the phrase – but only after some engineers at Coinbase staged a strike. Some critics believe Coinbase’s new policy could be an effort to ensure Armstrong doesn’t face this type of revolt in the future.
This type of employee activism is effective because there is intense competition for talent in Silicon Valley. The Bay Area programmers tend to lean left on issues of race and gender, and they have increasingly used their power to pressure their employers to do more to promote causes. anti-racist.
But while Silicon Valley engineers can lean to the left on average, the culture is far from monolithic. Silicon Valley also has a subculture of libertarian-inclined engineers who are unenthusiastic about the increasingly awakened politics of the Bay Area. James Damore, an engineer licensed from Google for writing a controversial memo on gender diversity, has become one of the best-known examples.
Coinbase is effectively making an offer for this slice of Silicon Valley workforce. Society is well positioned to do so because the cryptocurrency world has a long history of anti-government ethics that appeals to libertarians. As a result, Coinbase employees are likely to lean more to the right on issues of race and gender than Silicon Valley engineers as a whole. The same is probably true for Coinbase customers.
Armstrong is therefore likely to face less backlash from his employees and customers than other tech CEOs would face for taking the same stance. His position is and will be controversial in some corners of the Internet. But he will find support from others – and those supporters might ultimately be more important to Coinbase’s long-term success.