You can also wonder whether the extreme talent culling is sensible or effective (we’re not even asking about humane). “Rebecca” sums up this point of view:

I see a lot of good things in here however, I wonder at constantly getting rid of good people who’s technical skills fall behind. Whatever happened to developing talent? There’s an acknowledgement that they were good employees who’ve proved their commitment to the company but instead of spending a little time – and some of that money that would’ve gone into severance – on training, the answer seems to be to exit them. How’s that good talent management?

Others seemed to thrive in the free-form environment, such as “Barry:”

As an eleven year former employee at Netflix I can say without a doubt this approach allowed Netflix to scale without bloated headcount. I can’t speak to other areas of the company but in my department, there was no culture of fear. I didn’t have a job. I got to wake up everyday and work on interesting problems with smart people. That’s how I felt. The culture also meant that wasting time on internal politics was at an absolute minimum. Again, I am speaking from my experience but I know a lot of others who feel the same way.

My bottom line?

Apologies in advance to any HR professionals in the audience, but over the course of my career I’ve observed a steady, now slower, now faster, slide in the direction of more rules, more constraints, more paperwork, and more perfunctory but content-free hoops to be jumped through—by HR, by management, by employees, by everyone. Some is no doubt due to increasing regulation (broadening antidiscrimination regulations and cultural expectations, the Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.), admirable to be sure but which must be complied, yet most of it, I believe, is attitudinal.

From the notion of “zero tolerance” in our schools to police defaulting to SWAT teams when one patrol car of backup used to suffice, to cordons sanitaire around every major and many minor public events, the inexorable logic of compliance seems to be that more is better and less is inexcusable, lest something slip through the cracks—and then there will be h*&# to pay.

The problem is that benefits come with costs. Resources are not infinite, and opportunity costs are real.

Enough is often, well, enough.

So I warmly applaud Netflix’s reinventing HR. Don’t worry for a moment that it could be taken too far, because I have news for you: At the moment, we are at undetectable risk of that.


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