A lesson from Brendan Eich: Keep your personal beliefs out of work

Ex-Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s reign was pretty short-lived. Only two weeks after being appointed as CEO on March 24, he was forced
to 
hand in his resignation.

The brevity of his tenure wasn’t due to concerns of overworking employees, failing to communicate with colleagues, or anything of that nature. This man is no slouch — hell, he created Javascript. In defense of his appointment, he stated, “I think I’m the best person for the job and I’m doing the job.”

The demise of his career at Mozilla had its makings in Eich’s 2008 contribution to a campaign for the passage of Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition to make gay marriage illegal in the Golden State.

 

 

There are some who feel that the backlash from his contribution is excessive. After all, being an opponent of gay marriage does not necessitate that somebody has hateful views towards gay people.

In fact, Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker is quoted as responding to his views with, “That was shocking to me, because I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness.”

People are entitled to their own opinions as long as they don’t force them on others, and, by all available accounts, Eich never spread a homophobic environment around Mozilla or even let people know about his views on gay marriage.

But his contribution was not anonymous. He admits, “I agree with people who say it wasn’t private, but it was personal, but the principle that I have operated by, that is formalized in our code of conduct at Mozilla, is it’s really about keeping anything that’s not central to our mission out of our office.”

It is remarkably bizarre that the man who completely ignored the real issue at hand was the one to bring it up in all the chaos. You absolutely cannot bring your personal life or beliefs to work. If you do, you should be fired or forced out as ruthlessly as Eich was.

When Eich made that contribution for Proposition 8, he should have known that he could never be the figurehead of a company from that moment on. When you are appointed as CEO, you are no longer just an employee of your firm. You represent it more than any other person, and therefore, new rules apply.

It doesn’t matter that he kept it out of work, because he did not keep it out of the public eye. As a CEO, you need to be completely apolitical. What Eich believes is not the issue.

The issue is that he did not have the maturity to keep it to himself.

Some may call this a restriction of freedom of expression on behalf of Mozilla. I would be inclined to agree, but the fact of the matter is that Eich’s expression via donation caused employees to feel uncomfortable working for him.

His actions caused a rift in the company where there didn’t need to be one, and Mozilla had every right to put the issue to rest.

Reach the columnist at bjmurph2@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @MurphJamin

Editor’s note: The opinion presented in this column is the author’s and does not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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