Did y’all read that crazy-ass story about working at Netflix? It’s in the Wall Street Journal and you’ll need a login to read the whole thing (the fine folks at Gizmodo offer a nice summary), but here’s the gist:
- Netflix instructs each manager to constantly “apply a ‘keeper test’ to their staff,” which the WSJ explains as “asking themselves whether they would fight to keep a given employee.”
- As such, every Netflix employee — even the ones who in the past have been vital to the company — is in danger of being fired at any time.
- If you get fired from Netflix, all of your former coworkers will immediately be informed in excruciating detail about exactly how and why you were not good enough to work at Netflix, occasionally with you present.
- If you fuck up at your job, you are expected to inform as many of your coworkers about your mistake with similarly excruciating detail, in an act called “sunshining.” Also, such ritualistic verbal self-flagellation does not guarantee your immunity from failing the “keep test.”
- Netflix has an executive leadership course that involves “read[ing] about Lee Kuan Yew, a benevolent autocrat who turned Singapore into a developed nation and distrusted some elements of liberal democracies.”
- Lots of other very bad and not-fun things.
These very obvious flaws in Netflix’s dystopian corporate culture, per the WSJ, reminded one Korean former employee of “North Korea, where mothers are forced to criticize their sons in front of the public.”
The cruelty of fostering an environment of bluntness and oversharing is perhaps best exemplified by an incident involving Jonathan Friedland, Netflix’s former chief communications officer. In a meeting, Friedland, who is white, said the n-word while making a point that definitely did not require him to use the n-word. He then used the n-word again in another meeting with a pair of African-American Human Resources representatives, before “sunshining” himself and getting fired. I would like to think that in a normal company, if the chief communications officer used a racial slur, they would get fired immediately. But because Netflix is Netflix, Friedland broadcasted and amplified his racist remark until it permeated the company like a virus, causing more and more employees to be offended in an act of radical shittiness on the part of both Friedland and Netflix itself.
In a truly horrifying post on Netflix’s corporate website, the company addresses its culture by explaining:
We model ourselves on being a team, not a family. A family is about unconditional love, despite your siblings’ unusual behavior. A dream team is about pushing yourself to be the best teammate you can be, caring intensely about your teammates, and knowing that you may not be on the team forever. [...] Being on a dream team is not right for everyone, and that is OK. Many people value job security very highly, and would prefer to work at companies whose orientation is more about stability, seniority, and working around inconsistent employee effectiveness. Our model works best for people who highly value consistent excellence in their colleagues.
What’s scary is that Netflix didn’t create this page in response to the Wall Street Journal piece — a version of the post that’s nearly identical to the current one, save for a different intro, was captured by the Internet Archive in November of last year — which suggests that Netflix legitimately doesn’t see anything wrong with their libertarian-fascist corporate structure.
On October 3, one of Netflix’s Instagram accounts posted the following video series, which seem to address a few of the points raised by the Wall Street Journal’s reporting.* The videos, which feature Netflix employees “debunking Netflix culture myths,” has the distinct vibe of a group of cult members spouting off Orwellian doublespeak, inadvertently strengthening the portrait painted by the Journal of Netflix being a terrible place to work.
“It’s on you as the person who’s looking for growth [at Netflix] to be the leader in that,” says an employee in one clip. In another, a different employee discusses work-life balance, saying, “I think there are ebbs and flows of where work-life balance is great, and then there are are times when you do have to try to balance work and life and it maybe doesn’t work as well.” In a third, an employee addresses the charge that Netflix creates an internal culture of fear by saying, “I look at it less as a culture of fear, personally, and one where maybe I’m just more concerned about performing adequately in the face of just really talented people around me.”
*It’s standard practice in journalism to give the subject of an unflattering story a chance to respond to issues or criticisms in advance of publication.