Today’s news is littered with scandals, new allegations of sexual assault, and tragedy. Since 2017 and the #metoo movement, stemming from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, more and more public figures have been put into the spotlight to defend themselves against allegations from women around the globe.
Not only publicly, but privately in companies around the world, there have been firings and investigations into misconduct from coworkers, managers, and CEOs. It is a relevant topic that is getting long-overdue publicity and encouraging more men and women to come forward to discuss openly rather than hide the events and injustices of the past. Other events showcase the tumultuous and on-edge society we are living in, such as the Charlottesville, VA, attack that left one dead and 19 injured when a person drove a car through a crowd of protestors during a white nationalist gathering.
With unanticipated events on a daily business, it is important for companies to take a stand against racial hatred and harassment of any kind, and to have firm policies when such events occur. Take Netflix, for example, who in July 2018 fired their chief communications officer for saying the “N-word” in full form. This event occurred during an internal meeting in which the speaker was not directing the slur at anyone specific, but claimed it was being made as an emphatic point about offensive words in comedy programming. The “Netflix way,” the culture that is built around radical candor and transparency, was put to the test during this occurrence.
The offender, Jonathan Friedland, attempted to apologize for his misdeed, hoping it would fade away and his apology would be accepted. However, it didn’t work that way; instead, the anger was palpable between coworkers and eventually led to the firing of Friedland after a few months of inaction.
Netflixers are given a high level of freedom and responsibility within their “Netflix way” culture. Blunt feedback is encouraged, and trust and discretion are the ultimate gatekeeper, as employees have access to sensitive information and are ultimately trusted for how they expense items and take vacation time.
In the insanely fast-paced streaming-services industry, it is hard to keep this culture at a premium, but it is imperative for the success of the company overall. “As you scale a company to become bigger and bigger, how do you scale that kind of culture?” said Colin Estep, a former senior engineer who left voluntarily in 2016. “I don’t know that we ever had a good answer.”
In order to keep up, sometimes the company is seen as harsh in their tactics to keep the best of the best. “I think we’re transparent to a fault in our culture and that can come across as cutthroat,” said Walta Nemariam, an employee in talent acquisition at Netflix.
Netflix has stayed true to their cultural values despite the pressures and sometimes negative connotations associated with this “cutthroat” environment. Their ability to remain agile, while displaying no tolerance for societal injustices, puts them at the forefront of new-age companies. It is a difficult pace to stay in line with, but it seems that they are keeping in stride and remaining true to who they are, for now.
Sources: B. Stelter, “The Weinstein Effect: Harvey Weinstein scandal sparks movements in Hollywood and beyond,” CNN Business, October 20, 2017, https://money.cnn.com/2017/10/20/media/weinstein-effect-harvey-weinstein/; L. Hertzler, “Talking #MeToo, one year after bombshell Weinstein allegations,” Penn Today, October 30, 2018, https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/talking-me-too-one-year-later; S. Ramachandaran and J. Flint, “At Netflix, Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks,” Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/at-netflix-radical-transparency-and-blunt-firings-unsettle-the-ranks-1540497174.