The streaming services platform, Netflix, has fired three senior executives of the company for criticizing their bosses, including Bozoma Saint John, the company’s first Black top executive.
The executives, who make up half of the company’s staff at its film marketing team, were fired for airing complaints on Slack about company leadership, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The executives in question thought the message was private but an employee who saw the messages, spanning months, reported it.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, VP original films marketing Jonathan Helfgot, who was one of the bosses criticized, was reluctant to fire the three unnamed executives but he succumbed to pressure from higher-ups the company.
Helfgot initially argued that the three employees complained against their bosses as a matter of course, adding that such dire consequences were not warranted. Netflix has a unique culture that is outlined in a 127-slide deck in 2009, which calls for radical transparency. On its job website, Netflix says, “You only say things about fellow employees that you say to their face.”
“This attribute is one of the hardest for new people to believe — and to learn to practice. In most situations, both social and work, those who consistently say what they really think about people are quickly isolated and banished,” the company says on its site. “We work hard to get people to give each other professional, constructive feedback – up, down and across the organization – on a continual basis.”
Netflix viewed the conversation by the executives to be inconsistent with its core values. “Their culture is all about transparency and giving feedback,” The Hollywood Reporter quoted a source who has inside knowledge about the situation. “It would make sense that there should be no need for a private conversation.”
Also, another source the company cited who is very familiar with the thinking of co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the executive should have spoken out more publicly instead of complaining in private. “If you vent [there], you do it very publicly,” this source said. “Ted told me it’s a firing offense because it’s destructive to the fabric of the company.”
Chief marketing officer Saint John, who was one of the persons the three executives complained about, first joined Netflix from Endeavor in 2020.
Saint John was born in Connecticut, U.S., but was raised in Ghana. She became a marketing star since she started as a temp with Spike Lee’s advertisement agency in the early 2000s. She became the “Head of Marketing” for Dr. Dre’s startup firm, Beats. She had worked at Apple and Uber in high-profile roles prior to joining Endeavor in 2018 and Netflix.
She has given Ted Talks and speeches and has gained a reputation for her links to political leaders like the Obamas and fashion icons like Anna Wintour. She is also known for being outspoken on racial issues.