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How To Cope And Thrive In A Challenging Corporate Culture, Like Netflix

How To Cope And Thrive In A Challenging Corporate Culture, Like Netflix

Aside from its vast catalog of bingeable television shows and movies, Netflix is known for its unique and distinctive corporate culture that centers around high performance and the hiring and retaining of top talent. The streaming giant updated its culture memo on Monday, addressing the company’s “keeper test.”

To ensure that its leaders are “strong developers of talent,” the keeper test requires managers to ask themselves two questions: “if X wanted to leave, would I fight to keep them?” and “knowing everything I know today, would I hire X again?” If the answer is “no,” the streaming platform suggests everyone part ways.

“In the abstract, the keeper test can sound scary,” the memo stated. “In reality, we encourage everyone to speak to their managers about what’s going well and what’s not on a regular basis. This helps avoid surprises.”

The company reassured its 13,000 employees that they will be evaluated based on their overall performance, as opposed to “short-term bumps.”

Core Principles
Netflix’s “focus on values and performance over rules and controls” is what has enabled the company to adapt and grow, said Sergio Ezama, chief talent officer at Netflix, in a statement.

The organization aspires to field a “Dream Team,” which entails having the highest performers, modeling itself after a professional sports team—not a family.

“Families are about unconditional love. They can also be dysfunctional, as anyone who’s watched Ozark or Wednesday knows. Professional sports teams, on the other hand, focus on performance and picking the right person for every position, even when that means swapping out someone they love for a better player,” the company stated.

Netflix aims to inspire and empower more than manage. Employees have more impact when they’re free to make decisions about their own work. The company has a reputation for providing its workforce autonomy and decision-making power.

“You might think that this kind of freedom leads to chaos. While we’ve had our fair share of failures—and a few people have taken advantage of our culture—our emphasis on individual autonomy has created a very successful business. This is because in our industry, the biggest threats are a lack of creativity and innovation. And we’ve found that giving people the freedom to use their judgment is the best way to succeed long term,” Ezama said.

Netflix honors the practice of extraordinary candor—being open, honest and candid with regards to communicating with others. The company encourages direct and honest communication at all levels, and feedback is given regardless of where you stand within the internal hierarchy of the firm.

Although Netflix has come a long way, the streaming giant said it is “nowhere close” to where it wants to be. “It’s why we care so much about the Dream Team, putting people over process and creating an environment where everyone feels a sense of responsibility to make us better. We believe this approach is the surest path to excellence and long term success. It’s also why we constantly seek to improve our culture, not preserve it.”

A Former Executive’s Perspective
In April, I conducted a Q&A with Marta Munk de Alba, a former top executive recruiter for Netflix, who placed top talent in countries around the world. Munk de Alba openly shared her experience working at Netflix, and offered insights into the infamous culture, characterized by a sports team mentality and extraordinary candor.

She likened the company’s sports analogy to that of a jazz band, which she felt was “energizing and motivating, as it represents a dynamic and goal-oriented environment.” Munk de Alba said the Dream Team approach was also a “more honest and authentic analogy for a working environment than a ‘family.’”

“Teamwork is at the core of everything. There is close collaboration, leveraging each other’s strengths to achieve common objectives. There is a strong sense of personal responsibility to deliver results, which are generally thanks to a collective effort versus individual,” she said.

“Like in any team or music band, there is an aim for continuous improvement. Feedback is frequent and constructive, allowing to make rapid adjustments and continually enhance the groups’ skills,” Munk de Alba added.

While she believes extraordinary candor fosters a culture of openness and trust and leads to faster individual and team growth, Munk de Alba acknowledges that it could be challenging for professionals who are not accustomed to this direct communication style, stating, “It requires a certain level of emotional maturity to receive constructive criticism without taking it personally. Some might find it uncomfortable or even confrontational initially.”

A Shift In Power Dynamics
Netflix may be a tough place to work, but it’s not an anomaly. The post-Great Resignation work landscape has shown the cracks in today’s workplace.

The balance of power between employees and bosses has shifted over the past few years. During the pandemic, workers largely had the upper hand due to a favorable job market and the ability to work remotely. The Great Resignation had companies scrambling to hire workers to keep up with demand. However, with regards to white-collar professionals, as the economy weakened and the labor market cooled, employers began to regain the upper hand.

The post-pandemic labor market saw job cuts of over half a million tech positions from 2022 to 2024, according to, as companies tightened their belts and appeased shareholders.

CEOs in BigTech cracked down on their employees, in an effort to drive efficiency, with some implementing performance improvement plans and threatening to show workers the door. Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg urged their respective staff to fill productivity gaps at the onset of the layoffs in 2022.

In a December 2023 memo, Wayfair’s chief executive told employees, “Working long hours, being responsive, blending work and life, is not anything to shy away from. There is not a lot of history of laziness being rewarded with success.” The company’s cofounder and co-chair Steve Conine echoed similar sentiments, stating, “If bankruptcy is inevitable then shame on all of us for not working harder,” according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal.

What You Can Do About It
Not every company operates like Netflix, holding people to the highest standards and rewarding them commensurately. Most people work to earn a living and are not looking to become the next superstar CEO of the company.

While highly compensated executives at major tech companies tolerate tough times because they enjoy the rush of winning and being on the cutting edge of innovation, there are many more people feeling stuck in a dead-end job at mediocre companies, going nowhere, and coping with a toxic culture ruining their self-confidence.

If you find yourself feeling miserable and worn down, you need to advocate for yourself. Request a conversation with your immediate supervisor to share your concerns. Don’t just complain, offer ways that you feel could reinspire your former enthusiasm for the job. It will be helpful in the conversation to provide examples and evidence of a hostile environment.

If your manager doesn’t offer any solutions, go to the human resources department. If this conversation goes nowhere, it’s time to start looking for another job. The longer you stay, the more your self-esteem and morale will be wounded. The result will be you becoming jaded, bitter, angry and resentful.

See Also

Navigating A Difficult White-Collar Job Market
Since the white collar job market isn’t too robust at the moment, it will be difficult to find a new job elsewhere. Since you may need to stay at the organization for a long while until you find a new opportunity, keep track of any and all instances in which you feel that you were unjustly treated.

You’ll bring home with you all the pent-up feelings of frustration. It’s unfortunately too common for the worker to lash out at their loved ones. Your family will be empathetic and understanding at first. Then, if this aggressive attitude continues, you may need to seek out professional help.

Although the job market is tight, for the sake of your mental health and the well-being of loved ones around you, it might make sense to take a break from work. It could be using up all your paid time off or resigning.

After feeling beaten down, you must find ways to rebuild your confidence. Seek out small wins. Engage in sports, hobbies or activities that you enjoy and excel at.

After a period of reflection, relaxation and self-care, start seeking out a new job. When interviewing, armed with prior knowledge of how bad things can get, ask tough questions and investigate the company’s culture, ethics and business style. You want to avoid joining another team that places too much pressure and stress on you.




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