Imagine your excitement. You've just landed your dream job. You're a star in your field, and now you're working at Netflix, one of the most sought-after technology companies on Earth.

But then, maybe things aren't quite what you hoped. It's the culture, you think. "The Netflix Way."

You drive on. They say they insist on hiring and holding only the best at Netflix, both in skills and cultural fit. If this is what it took for a scrappy little DVD by mail startup to perhaps the most powerful entertainment company on the planet, you think, so be it.

But then, if your experience is anything like what some current and former employees told The Wall Street Journal this week, it gets to be a little weird. Cutthroat, even. 

Let's quote them exactly: "[R]uthless, demoralizing and transparent to the point of dysfunctional."

'Awkward and theatrical'

As the Journal describes, it's a place where roughly 500 top employees know what every other person in the 6,000-employee company makes. But it's also a place where new employees sometimes double their previous pay, and high performers to get raises of $100,000 a year or more.

You learn quickly about the "keeper test," encouraging managers to assess constantly whether they'd fight to keep each of their direct-reports, and supposedly to get rid of the ones who don't pass the test.

You hear about the "awkward and theatrical" justification emails that supervisors send after they've fired employees to hundreds of Netflix insiders, with "painfully specific" details, according to the Journal.

People talk about the company meeting at which an executive confessed that he worried every day if he'll be fired, only to be supposedly told by a vice-president: "Good, because fear drives you."

You see that she denied actually saying that, but then you hear about other employees who say their firings came out-of-the-blue. 

And you hear about the former vice-president who was forced out, but who stuck around for a post-mortem meeting in which his boss explained in front of him to his former direct-reports why their soon-to-be-former boss was no longer a good fit for his own job.

'No longer a star performer'

Maybe, like your colleague in the meeting, you start worrying each morning if you're doing enough, if you're still perceived as an "A player" within the company. What if you're only just "adequate?"

Uh oh. That word is the kiss of death at Netflix. And one day it happens, much like it's described in the Journal

"You're no longer a star performer," a company official tells you. Minutes later you're talking about your severance package (generous), and turning in your company laptop.

Or else, maybe you're like another former employee described in the Journal, called in while you're on the road to meet with your boss's boss in a hotel room.

You're not "a cultural fit," the boss's boss says curtly, and then walks out.

'An Olympic team?'

It's traumatizing. It's disconcerting. But it's not a big deal for your career, Netflix maintains.

That's because working for Netflix, in the eyes of Netflix, "is like being part of an Olympic team," the company told the Journal. "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."

You pack your things, sign your papers, take your severance (again, generous), and head home. You have a few months now to reflect, wonder what happened, plan your next step.

You find yourself hoping that the company that just let you go is correct in its grandiose self-assessment. 

Maybe Netflix truly is so far above every other company, that even its cast-offs can easily get hired at its competitors.

Maybe your professional life isn't over. Maybe Netflix's trash truly is another company's treasure. Maybe you're grateful that your dream ended before it turned into a total nightmare.

Or maybe you snap out of it. And you realize that maybe it's not you. Maybe it's Netflix that needs to learn to chill.

Published on: Oct 27, 2018
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