The Open Office

The open office has gone from the dominant workplace layout to cultural pariah, with these environments seeming to produce more interruptions than collaboration. We’ve even railed against open offices right here on this very blog!

But the open office itself isn’t entirely to blame for the distractions that plague office workers. In this episode, two tech workers share their experiences in open offices—with some surprising findings. 

The value of conflicting advice: How great leaders think

Here’s one way to create more mental wriggle room for yourself in tough situations as a leader.

Before you figure out what to do, you must first figure out how to think as a leader. 

But what if you’re not even sure what to think?

A direct report who’s well-liked by the team is underperforming, yet you can’t get a good read on the severity of it because this person is so popular. How do you figure out what’s truly going on? What do you tell your direct report? Should you consider finding someone else to fill the role?

Someone recently joined the leadership team who you’re pretty sure is going to be the downfall of the company, but no one else quite sees it yet. Are you even correct to think this? Do you say something if you are correct? If so, how exactly? 

What to make of situations like these? It’s like someone put you in a box that you didn’t choose to be put in. You don’t have any wriggle room. Every option seems no-win.

Keep reading “The value of conflicting advice: How great leaders think”

When did work-life balance become such a bad thing?

The term work-life balance has taken a beating lately. It seems to be a favorite punching bag for grandstanding about what you really need is integration or that balance is a mirage anyway. Wat?

Balance simple means that each portion of the system has a sustainable weight which keeps the composition in harmony. Going down a pedantic, semantic rabbit hole of “well, actually, work is part of life, ergo seeking balance is wrong” is some perfidy circular logic.

It’s possible to enjoy, like, or even love work, and yet also appreciate life away from work. Appreciate the breaks and the distance from work that rewards us with perspective. Scheduling such regular breaks by limiting the hours spent working during a normal week, and taking plenty of vacation away from it entirely, is not some exotic, impossible arrangement. It’s the pursuit of just that balance.

So let’s take a break from worksplaining the concept of work-life balance into a negation. Balance is neither bad nor impossible. It’s the cornerstone of a healthy, productive, and sustainable state of being.

Fuck hard work

If I have to listen to one more banal ode to “hard work”, I’m going to puke. It’s such a trite tribute that keeps getting heaped on anyone who’s ever become even mildly successful, as though it was somehow this unique aspect of their achievement.

The first rebuke to this reflexive compliment should always be to point out the survivorship bias. The world is full of people who work very hard, in that literal, long-hours sort of way, and yet only a tiny minority of those end up with fawning fans celebrating that oh-so-hard work.

But, I think, more interesting is that the world is also full of successful people who don’t work very hard at all, again, in that literal, long-hours, no-vacations, self-flagellation sort of way everyone is so eager to cheer for (at least in the US).

Yet even most of those, who might commonly “just” log 40 hours a week – putting in quality hours to make quality work – seem commonly obligated to celebrate “hard work”. You know what? Fuck hard work.

Effort is not accomplishment. If you repeat the same lesson a hundred times over, you’ll be left behind on the path to insight by the person who advances through a hundred different lessons.

This obsession with “hard work” is founded in a pessimistic view of natural state of humanity being lazy loafers. That unless we constantly reinforce the virtue of “hard work”, we’re all just going to slouch on the couch. Nonsense. The drive for creativity and creation is innate.

The virtuous label of “hard work” is only necessary when you seek to cajole people into doing a lot of what they intrinsically do not want to do. Like exploiting others, hoarding endlessly, growing aimlessly. Chasing alienating goals in service of someone else.

So please, for fuck’s sake, the next time you reach for that tired “hard work” compliment, just stop and think: Why am I celebrating mere effort? Celebrate creativity, insights, breakthroughs, rebellions, anything but mere effort. Effort has gotten enough praise to last a century or two without another serving.

Your leadership weakness is being “too controlling.” What to do?

17 phrases and suggestions to avoid the common leadership weakness of coming across as too controlling as a manager.

Recently, a manager told me how he’d received feedback from his team about his greatest leadership weakness. “I come across as too intense or controlling,” he admitted. 

Genuinely concerned, he then asked me, “What can I do to not be that way?”

Among all the feedback we receive as managers about our leadership weaknesses, coming across as “too controlling” might be one of the most difficult to swallow.

You get that stuck feeling in your throat because, well, frankly, you feel like you need to be controlling, at times. You feel justified. After all, you just want the thing to get done! And record goes to show, sometimes it doesn’t get done. So how else are you supposed to communicate the urgency and significance of a deliverable, without coming across as “intense” and “controlling”? And who said “intense” and “controlling” should be perceived as a negative thing, in the first place?

Keep reading “Your leadership weakness is being “too controlling.” What to do?”

Taking risk without risking everything

Sometimes it’s really fucking hard to trust yourself. Especially when you’re likely to be wrong about some part of the decision. Question becomes which part, and to what degree. I’m in the middle of a number of these types of decisions right now. It can be quite disorienting. While it’s not life and death, I imagine it’s a lot like a non-instrument rated pilot who finds themselves in the fog, unsure where the horizon is, when up feels like down and everything’s a guess. When faced with these situations in the business world, I try to take the most risk without putting everything at risk.

Don’t buy the hiring lottery

It’s never easy looking for a job. Trotting through shitty, vague, unrealistic openings that are frequently been written by people thrice removed from those you’ll eventually be working with. Then hoping to hear back from the black hole that is the application process at many companies. Ugh. No wonder many applicants end up jaded, if stuck in that process for too long.

But sitting on the other side of the process can certainly also make you jaded. Reading through hundreds of applications from people who aren’t even trying. Trying to understand the role or trying to express why they’d be a good hire.

I think part of the problem is the idea that “if you don’t apply, you can’t get it!”, which sorta sounds like a “if you don’t play, you can’t win” slogan for a lottery. That’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion from someone who has gone through one too many black-hole application processes, but it’s also wrong.

Sure, you can’t hit if you don’t swing, but it doesn’t matter how many times I swing, I’m not going to hit a homerun against a Yankees pitcher. Not one in a hundred, not one in a thousand. Yes, step one of being in the game is showing up. But unless step two is being somewhat qualified for that game, you’re still going to lose.

This doesn’t invalidate the idea that there are perfectly qualified candidates who hold themselves back from applying due to imposter syndrome or anxiety or other reasons stemming from a lack of confidence. Boosting that confidence amongst the qualified with encouragement is ace. Let’s keep doing that.

But let’s stop pretending that the hiring process is a lottery. That sending out the most resumes is how you win it. That you should apply to positions no matter how remote of a stretch it is, because, hey, they gotta hire someone, and that might as well be you!

Applying for a job is hard. Every time you don’t hear back, you can lose a tiny little something of yourself. You thus might try just that little bit less next time. So if you keep applying for unlikely-to-get jobs, you might eventually water yourself down, and dilute your application, until it’s a very thin cup of tea indeed.

Don’t do that. Apply when you have a real shot. Stretch a little, but not too much. Save yourself and your ego from the lottery trap.

The 4 essential questions to ask yourself as a leader

Instead of seeking answers, becoming a better leader starts with asking ourselves the right questions.

You want the answer. The silver bullet, the trick, the hack, the leadership best practice, the new manager checklist. There’s got to be some secret point of leverage that you don’t yet know about to becoming a better leader… It has to be out there, right?

We’re obsessed with wanting to know the answer. The 1-2-3 steps to follow so we can right our wrongs and make progress faster.

Yet when it comes to becoming a better leader, I’m not convinced there’s is one. Scholars can hardly agree on the definition of leadership, alone. As Ralph Stogdill famously wrote in 1974, “there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.”

Keep reading “The 4 essential questions to ask yourself as a leader”

We Love the Subs

THEY GOT A PEPPER BAR

In 2004, fast food company Quiznos launched a national advertising campaign featuring animated rodent-like creatures screech-singing an ode to the chain’s toasted sub sandwiches. The TV commercials were instantly polarizing and lodged themselves in many viewers’ brains like a recurring fever dream. In the latest episode of the Rework podcast, the people behind the campaign share the story of how an early Internet meme got turned into an unforgettable ad campaign.. Take a trip down memory lane and relive the moment when a weird, experimental corner of the Internet briefly crossed into mainstream culture. The real treasure is the spongmonkey friends you made along the way!

Basecamp is hiring Customer Support Representatives

Basecamp is looking for two Support Representatives to join our team in providing the best customer support around. 

About the Job
You’ll be responsible for providing tremendous customer service and support via email for all versions of Basecamp and our other apps. You’ll help us answer questions via Twitter, make some customer calls, create and edit help documentation, run personalized demos, and teach some online classes. You’ll also have ample opportunities to carve out your own passion projects related to supporting our customers.

Deep technical knowledge of computer programming is not a prerequisite, however you should be well-versed in basic troubleshooting techniques to solve issues caused by most Internet Gremlins. The ability to think beyond clearing cache and cookies in order to troubleshoot the specific issue that’s reported is essential.

During training, you’ll be expected to be proactive in your process and learn quickly. Once fully up-to-speed (2-3 months), you’ll write about 100 emails per day. This is a significant volume, so be sure that you’re ready and able to deal with that kind of daily load — you’ll get all the support and guidance you need along the way!

About You
We’re looking for some great writers who love helping people, so you should enjoy making complicated situations simple and painless. This means being a great problem-solver with the ability to process and resolve issues quickly. You should be a stellar communicator, even when you have to communicate less-than-stellar news. You should have highly tuned senses of compassion and empathy and a drive to constantly help others.

We have a rhythm to our work and a low turnover rate — more than half of the team has been at Basecamp for over five years. But, your voice matters to us. We make change from fresh perspectives and appreciate new viewpoints, so you should feel comfortable speaking up about your values.

You love supporting people. This isn’t a springboard into another area at Basecamp. You want to be part of our support team for a while, and you’re excited to contribute to making Basecamp the best product for our customers.

A big part of the role itself is supporting each other, so you should understand the value in prioritizing relationships with your colleagues.

We strongly encourage candidates of all different backgrounds and identities to apply. Each new hire is an opportunity for us to bring in a different perspective, and we are always eager to further diversify our company. Basecamp is committed to building an inclusive, supportive place for you to do the best and most rewarding work of your career.


About Our Pay and Benefits
Our pay is within the top 10% of the industry, for the matched role and experience, based on San Francisco rates. We also believe in fair, living wages at Basecamp no matter where you live. For a Junior Customer Support Representative, this starts at $70,000.

Our benefits are all aimed at supporting a life well lived away from work. None are about trapping people at the office or cajoling them into endless overtime. Just the opposite. We’re all about reasonable working hours, ample vacation time, summer hours, fitness, wellness, food, education, and charity. See the full list.

If you want to join Ashley, Chase, Chris, Elizabeth, Jabari, James, Jayne, Jim, Joan, Kristin, Lexi, Merissa, Shanae, Sylvia, and Tony in making our customers happy, please apply!

How to Apply
Introduce yourself to us as a colleague. Show us your future here! We value great writers, so be yourself, be creative, and take your time with the application. There’s no prize for being the first to submit! Stock cover letters won’t do. Tell us why you want this job. Tell us about:

  • why you want to work in customer support.
  • why you want to work at Basecamp and not somewhere else.
  • a description of a great customer service/support experience you had recently, and what made it great.
  • a time you taught yourself a new skill to complete a job or project.
  • a guide to making your favorite meal.

Then, pick three of the customer questions below and answer them like you would if you worked here (hint: at this point, we value tone and style over correctness):

  • Does Basecamp 3 offer time tracking?
  • Can I create recurring events in the Basecamp calendar? What about recurring todo items?
  • Do you offer 2fa for signing in?
  • How do I work with clients in Basecamp 3?

Click here to apply. We’re accepting applications for this position until July 5. We’ll let you know that we’ve received your application. After that, you probably shouldn’t expect to hear back from us until after the application deadline has passed. We want to give everyone a fair chance to apply and be evaluated.

We’re seeking fluent English speakers/writers to work with us to answer customer inquiries via email and phone during these hours:

  1. Monday through Friday 9am-6pm CST
  2. Tuesday-Saturday 10am-7pm CST


We’re a remote company, so your location isn’t as important as your fit to the role. That said, we do prefer that your daytime hours coincide with your working hours so as to avoid night shift burnout. Don’t forget to tell us where you’re located!

We look forward to hearing from you!