Corporate America has embraced working from home for the foreseeable future. Some companies are allowing their people to work remotely indefinitely. There’s even a new emerging trend of employees working remotely in states far away from their home office or in other countries. There’s a feeling that once a vaccine is discovered and distributed, we’ll see a hybrid situation of both working at the office and remotely.
One of the biggest holdouts to this mindset is Netflix. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Netflix cofounder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said, “No. I don’t see any positives.” Hastings added, “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative,” when asked about the benefits of working from home.
The chief executive said that he’d expect his 8,600 employees to return to the office “12 hours after a vaccine is approved.” He then tempered his remark saying, “It’s probably six months after a vaccine. Once we can get a majority of people vaccinated, then it’s probably back in the office.”
His straightforward and blunt answers are consistent with the manner in which Netflix is managed. The “Netflix way” is a unique corporate culture where “radical candor” and transparency are promoted. Open and transparent conversations over whether a person should be fired or not are commonplace and encouraged. Netflix is not a warm and fuzzy place and embraces straight-forward feedback, even if it’s uncomfortable and hard-hitting.
The company acts as if its employees are sports stars. If someone delivers, they can be promoted. If they drop the ball, they could be traded out for someone new and better. When a person is asked to leave, “Getting cut is disappointing, but carries no shame,” as it’s just part of the game. Hastings says, “We want to have the absolute best players and compensation is one part of that. We’d rather have three outstanding people than four OK people.” Some managers have said that they felt pressure to fire people or risk looking ineffective—possibly getting fired themselves.
Hastings admits, “Netflix is not for everyone.” He is upfront about the company’s culture, “Netflix is for people who are learning machines. They just love absorbing new ideas and new experiences and are willing to make mistakes to figure things out. And it’s those kind of self-motivated learners that do so well at Netflix.”
Given the culture of radical candor, the easy manner in which nonperformers are asked to leave the company, it’s understandable that Hastings wants people at the office. Working closely together, employees could be more easily monitored and judged on their performance. It seems harsh, but the results speak for itself. Netflix started out as a mail-order DVD rental shop, in the shadows of Blockbuster Videos and rose to become a hugely successful global media company.
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