Coinbase staff will see what colleagues think of them with new app

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Coinbase employees will soon be rating their co-workers like they would an Uber driver after the exchange revealed plans to roll out a dystopian-sounding app-based feedback system.

According to a report this week by The Information, following interactions like meetings, presentations, or appraisals, employees will be able to judge their colleagues against the company’s 10 core values. These include clear communication, positive energy, and efficient execution.

The app, called Dot Collector, allows users to bestow on their officemates a thumbs up, a neutral rating, or a sort of squiggle, which is the equivalent of negative feedback.

The idea is that the system, which employs billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s radical transparency theory, will give Coinbase’s people real-time feedback on how others think they’re fitting in.

Coinbase has not explained how or if it will use the reporting but Principle Tools, the company that distributes Dot Collector, says that it helps individuals and companies make decisions about employees and teams.

Before they begin rating each other, employees take a personality test. The platform then:

  • Provides a personality dashboard that rates various attributes like creativity or leadership qualities.
  • Allows employees to see co-workers’ results and how they compare.
  • Displays the data in charts that visualize info relating to interpersonal relations and team dynamics.
An example of data visualisation from Dot Collector (via Principle Tools).

While the project sounds interesting, and despite the fact that Dalio runs one of the world’s most successful investment funds, there are still many who question radical transparency theory.

Employees are expected to use the app comprehensively and offer feedback on 75 different attributes. And, as noted by Fortune, Dalio’s firm even has ‘public hanging events’ where staff are openly chastised in front of their colleagues.

“The most important things I want are meaningful work and meaningful relationships. And I believe that the way to get those is through radical truth and radical transparency.”

“In order to be successful, we have to have independent thinkers — so independent that they’ll bet against the consensus. You have to put your honest thoughts on the table,” wrote Dalio in his book Principles (via BBC).  

Coinbase rating app sounds like a Black Mirror episode

Coinbase chief exec Brian Armstrong has previously been very clear about how he wants his workplace to run. This included banning political discussions and salary negotiations — which would appear at odds with some areas of radical transparency theory.

Not to mention, encouraging staff to rate others on their positive energy is reminiscent of Black Mirror’s season three premier Nosedive. The episode follows young professional Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) who battles against a plummeting ‘social score’ after receiving bad reviews from colleagues.

Black Mirror writer Charlie Brooker explains his imagined dystopian future where people rate each other after every interaction.

Read more: We ranked crypto companies with Glassdoor — it opened a rabbit hole

And while the rating system appears to operate on a trust basis, it does seem to be open to abuse which could pose problems for employees already dealing with disadvantages at Coinbase HQ.

A damning Wall Street Journal report from 2020 details how black Coinbase staff felt excluded and were subjected to racial stereotyping. In addition, female employees were paid an average of $13,000 less than men.

A one-star Glassdoor review from a former Coinbase employee reads: “Environment not good, feels like I’m working as a spy,” (our emphasis).

A three-star review from April this year suggests that “some [meetings] feel like popularity contests,” with staff encouraged to share personal details.

“Although some may not take offense, it appears an odd way for leaders to analyze people and not consider those who may find it intrusive since not work-related,” wrote the employee.

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