Netflix has revised its culture memo that tells employees what is expected of them. It now seeks the loyalty of its employees to “protect confidential company information, whether or not it is marked ‘confidential’.” These changes appear to be aimed at the issues that Netflix has been facing over the past year.
While core principles such as “empowering employee decision-making, requiring candid feedback and terminating staffers who aren’t up to ‘dream team’ snuff” have been retained from earlier memos, new additions have been made on ethical lines.
A new section titled ‘Ethical Expectations’ reads, “Beyond candour in our day-to-day interactions, we act honourably, even when no one is looking. One test we use is to ask whether we would be ashamed if our actions were made public—and avoid doing anything where the answer would be yes.”
In addition to this, the memo also contains statements like, “You seek what is best for Netflix, not yourself or your team” and “You care deeply about Netflix‘s success.”
According to Variety, the separate section highlighting ethical expectations appears to be a result of the company’s experience with its former employees releasing sensitive information to the media. In October 2021, Netflix had suspended an employee for sharing “commercially sensitive information” with someone outside the company. The data consisted of Netflix’s financial figures, which proved that the streaming platform paid more for Dave Chappelle’s controversial stand-up special The Closer than for its biggest non-English language show, Squid Game.
Another new addition to the memo is the section titled ‘Artistic Expression’, which reads, “As employees we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity of stories, even if we find some titles counter to our own personal values. Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful.”
This is significant in view of the backlash that Netflix faced from within the company after Chappelle was called out for making homophobic and anti-trans remarks in his stand-up special for the platform. Several trans employees at Netflix, and their allies, planned a walkout and demanded investment into non-binary content.
Netflix suspended three employees who had expressed their disappointment with Chappelle’s conduct and the company’s inaction over the same. However, they were later reinstated. The streaming platform maintained that the three employees were not suspended for their criticism, but rather for attending a high-level meeting without authorisation.
And while Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-Chief Executive Officer and Chief Content Officer, later admitted that they had “screwed up” their handling of the backlash, he reiterated the company’s view that Chappelle’s special did not cross the line on hate.
The new Artistic Expression section in the culture memo is similar to the memo that Sarandos sent to his staff in October 2021, which said, “As with our other talents, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.” Sarandos also noted that Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and that Netflix has a long-standing deal with him.
The addition to the culture memo, which seems aimed at forestalling similar situations in the future, says, “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”
Employees’ Fiscal Responsibility
Netflix announced that it lost over 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022, and forecast an additional loss of 2 million paid users in the upcoming quarters. The resulting financial crunch is reflected in its revised culture memo.
Netflix asks its employees to spend “members’ money wisely.” According to Variety, while such an addition is in line with the company’s objective to make the most out of its users’ expenditure, the memo has eliminated previous provisions that allowed employees more leeway in terms of spending on content.
During its most recent quarterly call, Netflix executives highlighted that the company will reduce its spending on content, owing to losses in revenue. Shortly after, Netflix slashed its content slate and laid-off employees in the animation segment as well as the editorial team of the fan-focused platform TUDUM.