essay is due at 11:59pm tonight.
Read attached article carefully, and then write an essay in response to the question below. Be sure that your essay reacts to the ideas and/or evidence presented in the article, but remember that you are explaining your own point of view, not the author’s.
Is there a problem with a company having a harsh work environment if the company is successful?
Your essay should:
- Support a clear thesis statement
- Be organized into well-developed paragraphs
- Refer to the attached article at least once
The article below is the only source you should read for this essay.
Note: Use of any other source in your essay will be considered plagiarism and will lead to your essay receiving a zero.
Working at Netflix Sounds Absolutely Terrifying
By Maya Kosoff
Fourteen years ago, Netflix published a 124-slide deck outlining its corporate culture, as conceived by C.E.O. Reed Hastings and H.R. chief Patty McCord. The slideshow, which calls for radical “freedom and responsibility” at Netflix, has since attained cult status (Sheryl Sandberg has called it “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley”). An updated version of the presentation remains available online, for any aspiring start-ups that might seek to emulate the Netflix Way. Perhaps the most consequential rule devised by Hastings and McCord is that Netflix should “keep only our highly effective people.” As the Netflix Culture document explains, “Succeeding on a dream team is about being effective, not about working hard. Sustained ‘B’ performance, despite an ‘A’ for effort, gets a respectful severance package.” For those who don’t want to be part of a “dream team”—those who value “job security very highly, and would prefer to work at companies whose orientation is more about stability”—Netflix suggests finding another vocation.
Those expectations came back to bite McCord, who was herself fired in 2012 when Hastings reviewed her performance. McCord had taught him a simple method to re-evaluate executives: would you hire them again today? When it came to McCord, the answer to that question was no.
Six years later, Netflix stock is up about 2,500 percent, has roughly 137 million streaming customers, and has expanded to more than 190 countries around the world. Instead of a scrappy start-up fighting to carve out a niche in a world of ruthless telecoms, Netflix is now the indisputable leader in the entertainment industry, with AT&T and Disney racing to keep up. Yet Netflix still maintains its harsh, hyper-competitive office culture, according to a lengthy profile in The Wall Street Journal. The story—which was significant enough to warrant its own NBC News report previewing the Journal investigation—describes several startling anecdotes. When someone is fired, for example, Netflix executives will sometimes e-mail hundreds of employees to explain why that person got the ax; in rare instances, a meeting to discuss an employee’s ouster will include the employee, themselves. Karen Barragan, Netflix’s V.P. of publicity for original series, allegedly told a group of company P.R. executives that it was “good” to come into work every day fearing they’d be fired, “Because fear drives you.” (Barragan told the paper she didn’t make the remark.)
Other anecdotes suggest a cult-like mentality. According to some sources, more than 100 top Netflix executives took a leadership course in which they read about Singapore’s onetime autocratic leader, Lee Kuan Yew, and acted out the Greek tragedy Antigone, in which the eponymous protagonist faces the repercussions of her act of civil disobedience. (“Being part of Netflix is like being part of an Olympic team,” Netflix told the Journal in a written statement. “Getting cut, when it happens, is very disappointing but there is no shame at all. Our former employees get a generous severance and they generally get snapped up by another company.”)
Some of Netflix’s culture reportedly failed to translate when the streaming giant set up offices abroad. After Netflix opened a Singapore bureau in 2016, the Journal reports, the frequency of firings shocked some employees. One South Korean hire, who left the Singapore office earlier in 2018, said that the harsh feedback was reminiscent of North Korea, where mothers publicly criticize their sons. In some instances, Netflix employees appear to be disincentivized from trying to assist or being empathetic toward coworkers who are let go. One former Netflix employee recalled seeing a fired worker cry while packing up her belongings. The rest of her team didn’t help or offer support because they feared “helping her would put a target on their back,” the former employee said. Another Netflix insider, a former public-relations manager in Singapore, had asked her coworkers to chip in for a receptionist fired during Chinese New Year without severance pay because she had been on contract. Human resources officials told her it wasn’t the “Netflix way,” and that it was “not in the best interest of the business.”
Still, Netflix’s firings, as outlined in the Journal story, don’t ever appear to be unfair or malicious. The rate of turnover, according to a report published by the Society for Human Resource Management last year, shows that the percentage of Netflix workers who leave their jobs voluntarily each year (8 percent) is only slightly higher than the national average (6 percent). Nor is the Journal exposé likely to prompt calls for change. Netflix, after all, has generated $14.9 billion in revenue in the last 12 months, and is on track to become massively profitable once its cash flow exceeds its extensive outlays on new content. Earlier this month, Netflix shares soared after the company beat earnings estimates across the board, posting $4 billion in quarterly revenue and adding almost seven million new subscribers, even as it reduced its marketing spend by 17 percent. A ruthless culture, in other words, appears to be producing results—at least for now.