Talking Smack on Slack? You Can Get Fired for That. (Plus 3 Lessons for HR)

Talking Smack on Slack? You Can Get Fired for That. (Plus 3 Lessons for HR)

The great reshuffling just gained a few more participants. Last week, a number of Netflix employees were fired for violating the company’s values by talking poorly about their peers on Slack.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the events:
  • Three Netflix employees send Slack messages (in what they thought was a private channel) “venting” about their colleagues.
  • Other employees see the not-so-private conversation and speak up.
  • Netflix fires the employees that misbehaved.
  • The Hollywood Reporter runs a story about the firings.
  • Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos responds to the story, standing by the decision and citing the company’s value: “You only say things about fellow employees you say to their face."
  • The story trends on LinkedIn (see below).
As more details have emerged, we’ve learned that this wasn’t a one-time incident, the now-former employees were doing more than venting, and indeed the channel was not private. But even if it was, would Netflix have been in the wrong to fire employees who were creating a toxic work environment; one where workplace digital communication platforms are used to speak badly about colleagues? We don’t think so.
In our ever-changing digital world of work, HR professionals continually face new challenges and opportunities to shape the culture of their organization. Netflix’s swift action is a case study in how to preserve your workplace culture when employees’ behaviors veer off course.
Here are three learnings HR pros can take away from Netflix’s zero-tolerance policy.

1. Manage Digital Communications in the Remote and Hybrid Workplace

In today’s workplace, employees have access to a myriad of tools to keep in touch with colleagues, liaise with clients, find new business prospects, and so on.
And while digital communication tools enable employees to work from almost anywhere, there can be negative effects if they’re not used and managed properly.
As an HR professional, you’re responsible for communicating and managing your company’s digital communications policy. Not sure how to get started implementing a policy? Consider the employee lifecycle:
  • Onboarding: Include the policy in the paperwork you require new employees to review and sign.
  • Promotion: Adapt your policy (if needed) for different levels of employees, e.g. managers may need access to employees’ Slack or email in the case of misbehavior or termination. Be sure to also train leaders about the policy and its application.
  • Exit: Ensure the necessary paperwork is completed by employees leaving the organization. This is also a good opportunity to collect exit survey data and understand why an employee is (voluntarily) leaving your company. Hint: Are there clues to your workplace culture that you might not have been aware of?

2. Foster a Safe and Inclusive Workplace (With Policies That Back It Up)

You want your company to be a place where employees feel like they can be their authentic selves. This helps with productivity and engagement.
If you haven’t done so already, put your commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive workplace in writing. Outline how the company defines inclusion in your corporate values, as well as the behaviors that back up that commitment. For example, encourage employees to speak up against microaggressions and to feel free to voice their thoughts and concerns.

3. Hold Employees Accountable

As Sarandos pointed out in his LinkedIn comment on the story, the employees’ behavior was “entirely inconsistent with [Netflix] values” and that’s why they were let go.
As an HR professional, you should understand and play a key role in maintaining digital accountability to make sure employers aren’t crossing any legal lines, as well as not behaving in a way that violates the company’s ethics and values.
Holding employees accountable for their actions on digital communication platforms helps sustain the integrity of your workplace culture.
As Sarandos concluded, “... having a healthy culture requires hard decisions, which is why managers don’t shy away from them at Netflix.”

Seeing the Bigger Picture (We’re Here to Help)

We know staying on top of today’s ever-changing workplace can be a lot for a small HR team, especially if you’re running the show on your own. At Eddy, we help take the administrative tasks off your plate, so you can focus on the bigger picture—like building a culture of open communication and accountability.
We also help you stay on top of the trends shaping the HR industry. We see it as one less thing on your to-do list.
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