Dream job? Netflix’s harsh work rules include brutal honesty

Working for Netflix may seem like a dream job but founder Reed Hastings has revealed the brutal rules employees need to follow if they want to succeed.

Hastings’ unusual approach was developed after he was forced to fire 40 employees, a third of his staff in the wake of the dotcom bubble burst, according to Good Weekend magazine.

It led him to develop the “Keeper Test”, which requires all managers to ask: Which of my people, if they told me were leaving for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep?

Those who didn’t make the cut were fired.

This approach formed the beginnings of the now infamous Netflix culture deck, a 126-slide presentation that was published online in 2009.

Employees are expected to be brutally honest as part of a directive known as “radical candour”. However, workers can only say something about someone if they were willing to say it to their face.

Each individual is also expected to go through Live 360 sessions, during which they are given personal feedback and constructive criticism.

“There’s definitely a tension between kindness and honesty,” Hastings told Good Weekend.

“We humans want both to be kind and to be honest, and you try to do the best job of being both, but it’s hard … But I don’t want to soften a message so much that it’s not heard accurately.”

Hastings says the feedback is bottom-up and top-down and must be met with immediate thanks, adding that it gets easier to handle the more often you do it.

Another Netflix mantra is that if someone disagrees with an idea and they do not tell anyone, that is disloyal to the company. People are encouraged to gather feedback through casual socialising and actively asking people’s opinions.

If a mistake is made, they go through the process of sunshining, which involves explaining the mistake so everyone learns from it.

The brutal honesty even extends to people who are fired. They can’t tell people they quit and other staff are told if there were performance issues, although personal problems such as alcoholism aren’t revealed.

Hastings has written a new book, No Rules Rules, about Netflix’s workplace culture, which is governed by slogans such as “Adequate performance gets a generous severance package” and “Fire loudly, and with clarity”.

However, there are other rewards for those working the world’s most successful TV streaming service, including a time-off policy that allows workers to take as much annual leave as they want.

Days off are not tracked, as employees are encouraged to work smarter, not harder.



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