Netflix tells employees who find content offensive to quit and it’s pretty brilliant

Netflix has had a rough few months, to be sure. Last month, the company reported its first subscriber decline in more than a decade. Since the beginning of the year, the share price has been almost 70 percent down

That’s after the company faced fierce criticism from employees over its decision to assist David Chappelle’s recent stand-up special. Employees went on strike, claiming the special was transphobic. Netflix’s co-CEO, Ted Sarandos, defended the specialand the company fired an employee accused it of leaking confidential information.

Now the company update her culture memo, which sets out a set of operating principles and core values. It is intended to help employees make decisions and it also gives potential employees insight into the company culture.

When updating, Netflix added a section on “Artistic Expression”, which says in part:

Not everyone will like or agree with everything about our service. While every title is different, we approach them based on the same set of principles: we support the artistic expression of the creators we want to work with; we program for a diversity of target groups and tastes; and we let viewers decide what’s right for them, rather than Netflix censoring specific artists or voices.

As contributors, we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity of stories, even if we find some titles to be contrary to our own personal values. Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles that you consider harmful. If you’re having a hard time supporting our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.

In fact, Netflix tells employees to quit if they’re not comfortable with the content the streaming service produces. It says that while it knows some people will disagree with the decisions it makes, this principle is important enough that it is willing to lose employees. More directly, it tells anyone who might think they want to work at Netflix to look elsewhere if they aren’t willing to work on projects they might find objectionable.

You could argue that this is not a very employee-friendly policy. Telling employees to stop if they have a problem with David Chappelle, or any content on Netflix, seems a little, well, harsh. That’s all true.

However, this is the point. I actually think it’s quite brilliant.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that employees should not hold or express an opinion. Employees are people and people have opinions. They also have values ​​and beliefs and principles.

When employees feel they have to compromise those principles because of the decisions their employer makes, they will often let you know. That in itself is not a bad thing. Employers absolutely need to consider their employees when making important decisions.

At the same time, it can get messy here. If something like artistic expression is an important tenet to Netflix, there will definitely be people who will disagree with a particular piece of content. Many of them will feel strong enough to express those feelings. The solution in that case is not to have no values ​​or principles, the solution is to be clear beforehand about what they are.

By the way, I am not suggesting that companies should not listen to employees and make changes. Nor am I suggesting that the Netflix employees are wrong about how they feel. On that note, I’m not even suggesting that Netflix is ​​right.

My argument is not that Netflix should produce what it wants. My point is that if Netflix is ​​going to produce content that might divide some people, it needs to be clear about that.

It’s incredibly important to be clear about the values ​​that underlie your decisions. The people who work for you deserve to know your values. They deserve to know what you stand for. Some of them will disagree with you – that’s inevitable in any group of people.

It’s your job to make sure everyone understands the principles you use to make decisions and what to expect. That way they can decide for themselves what is best for them. That’s exactly what Netflix does: it makes clear how it will act, in unambiguous terms, and gives employees (and prospective employees) the information they need to do the same.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not’s.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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