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Tremendous is politically neutral

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Tremendous' work culture focuses on the pursuit of our company mission, avoiding things like taking stances on unrelated political or social issues.

This is partially a reflection of the founders - Nick and Kapil aren’t the activist-founder type. But it’s also an emergent property of team culture. There’s never been a top-down directive, and yet hot-button political discussions haven’t taken place here.

In talking with the team, this feels like a feature, not a bug. It’s helped create an inclusive environment for an international team with varied backgrounds and kept our attention on what unites us: our mission and values. We’d like to keep things working this way.

This doc formalizes this practice and explains what it means to be a workplace focused on work (and why). It also explains what's still table stakes: creating a welcoming environment, engaging with issues that have direct relevance to our business, and supporting team members in personal pursuits.

November 8th, 2023

First, a word about our culture and team

Tremendous is filled with people who care. People who deeply care about technology, art, sports, food, travel, Taylor Swift, and much, much more.

This is by design. We (Nick and Kapil) still interview every candidate. We’re rarely evaluating skills — we’re assessing character and values. We look for candidates who believe they can drive change around them, rather than be passive spectators.

Not surprisingly, many folks on our team engage in social and political issues outside work. We wholeheartedly recognize the value of these endeavors and we’re proud to have such engaged teammates. When creating this doc, we feared that it might give the impression that we’re unsupportive of those efforts. Let there be no confusion: we support you!

Our goal with this policy is to make sure that our entire team, with its varied beliefs, can feel accepted.

What does “a workplace focused on work” mean?

1) The company doesn’t take stances on non-work issues

For example, we don’t have a stance on US election results, social issues, or international politics. This includes most of the things you’ll see in a social media feed or the editorial section of a mainstream newspaper.

Our team is large and heterogeneous, and no message, no matter how nuanced, could capture the diverse voices across our team. We do not want to collapse the multitude of opinions into a single company-wide stance, which risks alienating teammates with divergent beliefs.

2) We work with clients with varying political and social beliefs

This includes organizations, political campaigns, and non-profits that do take stances on issues that we remain neutral on, even those that we personally disagree with.

3) Workplace etiquette is to avoid promoting political and social beliefs

For example, we’d discourage posting about hot-button topics in large public Slack channels, or advertising support for a political campaign in your Zoom background.

There are times when this sort of thing is OK:

  • In conversations with your manager
  • In smaller settings where you know the people involved

It’s hard to provide specific definitions — for example, topics that are considered “political.” What’s OK in one situation may not be in another.

We trust your judgment. We've never had an issue here, which means our team is already well-calibrated about what's acceptable.

That's also why this is considered etiquette, not a set of hard-and-fast rules.

4) With gray areas, feel free to ask your manager or leadership

If there’s uncertainty about how this policy may apply, your manager or a member of leadership can provide guidance.

They’re expected to provide a logical and thoughtful response in return (usually by discussing amongst the team and potentially soliciting outside perspectives).

But this does not imply:

For the company:

  • Shying away from challenging issues with direct relevance to our business, like building an inclusive work environment where people can be accepted and welcomed for who they are.
  • Abdicating ethics. Being neutral doesn’t mean we’ll do business with anyone. When there’s a gray area, leadership will make a reasoned judgment call.

For the team:

  • Being unable to bring up personal issues at work. The right place for these is in 1:1s with your manager, not a public Slack channels.
  • Being unable to express your beliefs outside of work (on social media or by attending political events, for example).
  • Being worried about repercussions. When there’s a slip up, the response is just a polite nudge.

FAQs

Why take a neutral approach?

  • Authenticity. It’s consistent with the values of the founders, and the emergent norms of the team. To be quite honest, we wouldn’t know how to run an organization another way.
  • Focus. Startups are hard enough as it is; each additional objective we take on results in a reduced chance of success for our primary.
  • Inclusivity. This is mentioned above, but worth reiterating: we think this approach helps make people with different social and political viewpoints feel welcome at the company.

Why codify this?

The general reason: as we grow, it’s becoming increasingly important to document our unwritten practices, particularly ones that we’d like to preserve.

The specific reason: for transparency to new and prospective hires. We think it’s important to signal how we operate, so that no one is taken by surprise when they join.

Can you share examples of things that are OK / not OK to post?

OK

  • Sharing that you voted in #tremendous-banter. (Participating in the political process isn’t showcasing or evangelizing.)
  • Sharing an article about an initiative within a political party to regulate prepaid cards. (This has direct relevance to our business.)

Avoid the following

  • Posting an article talking about a political or social issue unrelated to our business in #tremendous-banter. (Encouraging debate on an off-topic subject)
  • Sharing pictures in #tremendous-banter of the political demonstration you attended last weekend. (Showcasing your beliefs in a large, unfamiliar group setting.)

Am I allowed to express support for my identity, or allyship for that of others? Yes, of course. It's critical for our team to feel accepted for who they are (see:

). This means that displays of identity, like wearing a pride shirt, are welcome.

Sometimes expressions of identity can cross into the political or social showcasing that we can avoid. It's difficult to point to exactly where that line is. But we trust the team's judgment here. If you're ever unsure, run it by your manager or a colleague first.

I’m unsure if a topic is OK or should be avoided. How might I get clarity?

Check with your manager or a member of leadership.

I’m unhappy about something the company is staying neutral on. What should I do?

Talk to your manager or a member of leadership.