Jesse Powell, the CEO of Kraken who attracted media attention, including an investigation by the New York Timesfor its unorthodox approach to corporate culture, sets the record straight.
The head of one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges released “Kraken Culture Explained”, a note saying in part that Krakenites should be “radically transparent and authentic”. On Twitter, Powell dismissed criticism of his management style: “People get tripped up by everything and can’t conform to the ground rules of honest debate. Back to dictatorship.
Powell told the technology news site Protocol that all this radical transparency aside, professional figures are not the same as private figures. Comparing employees in the workplace to Disneyland mascots, he suggested they shouldn’t take off their proverbial Mickey Mouse heads and adopt what he calls a work persona.
“Some people think they should be able to be whatever they want to be in the workplace. But there is a line,” he explained.
The truth, he told Protocol, is that he doesn’t regret offending his employees and wants to be able to share his thoughts with the company.
“I wouldn’t come back and I wouldn’t change my attitude about it,” Powell said. “I don’t want to be totally censored.”
In the Time’ internal investigation, Powell was quoted as saying, “Most American women are brainwashed in modern times,” while asking his employees a question: “If you can identify as a gender, can you do you identify as a race or ethnicity?”
In his investigation, the Time had access to the company’s Slack channels, one of which was called “debating pronouns”, where Powell suggested people use pronouns based on their sex at birth rather than their gender identity.
“Some people think they should be able to be whatever they want to be in the workplace. But there’s a line. We all play some kind of act in the workplace,” Powell told Protocol.
A Kraken spokesperson said Fortune that Powell gave this interview following an announcement of hiring plans made in June. She did not comment on how employees reacted to Powell’s statements, or whether Powell will continue to promote this work culture.
The job ad and previous memo both emphasized that “the ideal Krakenite is thick-skinned and well-meaning” and “if no one is ever offended, we either don’t have enough diversity of thought or we don’t have enough transparency in communication.”
Employees who disagreed with company values were encouraged to leave. They were offered two weeks to make their exit and four months of salary – the Jet Ski program, as the company calls it.
To which, Powell confirmed that less than 5% of employees chose to park, and of those, 1% said they took it for mission or culture differences.
Kraken, founded in 2011, is one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world and has over 3,000 employees. Powell is not alone in trying to limit politicization within the corporate world.
However, he sees the value in acknowledging and discussing cultural differences, as it is a great opportunity to learn from others within the company, with employees located in over 70 countries around the world. .
He calls on employees to put the user experience first. And while he thinks there are social issues outside of work that people should worry about, that’s a different story once inside.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com