Netflix Is an Example of What’s Right and What’s Wrong in Corporate Culture Today

An internal company document first created in 2009, the Netflix Culture Deck, has been viewed at least 17 million times since being leaked, probably much more. The now famous Culture Deck is a slide presentation about what employee behaviors and attitudes are valued, and how the company’s decisions about hiring, firing, and promoting demonstrate its commitment to these values. I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked in an office and I can’t imagine any of our slide presentations going viral the way this one did.

The company, of course, has absolutely exploded in the near-decade since†this document was first produced, which†raises an important question: Is the company’s culture responsible for its enormous success? In an era where companies try to cut pay and benefit packages to the bone and the disparity between CEOs and average workers is only increasing, Netflix commits to paying top of market for each position. The opposite approach, negotiating to find out the lowest pay an employee is willing to accept, tends to undervalue women and people of color whom have been historically punished for and discouraged from negotiating hard.

Despite its premium on having “stars” in every position and providing generous severance packages to the merely adequate, Netflix also promises to show†”brilliant jerks” the door, as the team is more important than any one harassing individual, however talented. Again, compare this to companies that protect higher-ups from harassment claims.

Given a prevailing corporate culture that chews people up and spits them out, where real incomes for employees are dropping relative to CEOs and top executives, where workplace harassment has been tolerated for decades, is Netflix the answer to the Peter principle, the Dilbert principle, and†toxic, racist, sexist workplaces? Last year’s updated version of this document, while much slimmer, included something new: a commitment to inclusion.

Yet there may be some things amiss†in this tech company shangri-la. The woman who made Netflix’s culture what it is is Patty McCord, the company’s “Chief Talent Officer”, a.k.a., head of human resources. The company†let her go in 2012, after 14 years. It’s been suggested that McCord worked herself out of a job but there are unanswered questions, like why a company that has only been growing would suddenly be less in need of an HR superstar.

And despite the new inclusion mandate on the technology side, in its new role as a production company Netflix has been less consistent in its company vision. CEO Reed Hastings, the man who fired McCord (though she has stated publicly that there are no hard feelings), declined to sign on for inclusion riders promising cast and crew hired for Netflix productions will include diverse representation. To be fair, this is in keeping with the new culture document, which is not that into specific rules and more about general goals and priorities. But is inclusion (which Hastings prefers to “diversity”) actually a goal on the production side? And what does inclusion mean?

It should probably include paying women and people of color what their track record dictates, and not what they may have been paid in the past relative to white men as a result of historically endemic sexism. It’s not always easy to compare something as complex and even volatile as two different people’s unique careers in the creative arts, but efforts can be made to do so, and any television or film production company should err on the side of no gender or racial disparity. Recent reports indicate that Netflix may still be well short of that goal.

And if the difference in pay between Hollywood millionaires is not at the top of your important causes list, I get it, really I do. But these prominent examples of pay disparity help to set and maintain a society-wide tone that taking individuals of similar skills, experience, and value and paying them in tiers that rank white men at the top, men of color and white women in the middle, and women of color at the bottom, is still business as usual. So what happens in Hollywood matters elsewhere, which means Netflix, if they really believe in the things they say they do, has to be a leader there in the same way they have also been a leader (if imperfectly), in Silicon Valley.

Ex-Netflixxer McCord seemed to understand that anyone can have a mission statement that sounds good. A company needs to live it in all aspects of its operations if it’s not to become a sad joke. It’s apparent Netflix†still has a gap to close between what it believes and what it is actually doing.†Actually, McCord probably could have been a lot of help with this.

Photo credit: James Davidson

59 comments

Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a month ago

Thank you for posting.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Thanks.

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Danuta W
Danuta Watola2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Noted

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson3 months ago

ty

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R3 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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Danuta W
Danuta Watola3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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