There is certainly a distinction between a company and its employees, but that distinction can become blurred depending on the seniority and public profile of the individual. The more prominent the employee, the more they can be seen to reflect on the public image, culture and brand of the company. Netflix apparently believes this is the case with recently-fired executive Jonathan Hastings.
In an article for Quartz Heather Landy reported on the statement issued by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explaining his decision to fire PR executive Jonathan Friedland for his repeated use of the N-word. Landy writes that Hastings’s statement is a useful example of how companies should handle such situations and points to a number of reasons.
Hastings didn’t brush over or hide details about the two incidents in which Friedland used the slur and described both incidents. He hit the issue head-on.
It’s all too common for leadership in business and government to put a positive or at least neutral spin on a high-profile departure, saying the outgoing individual offered their resignation and was leaving to do reflection, spend more time with family or assess new opportunities, writes Landy. Not so in this case. “He screwed up and he got fired by his CEO, plain and simple.”
Hastings addressed and accepted responsibility for his own shortcomings on racial issues. “I realize that my privilege has made me intellectualize or otherwise minimize race issues like this,” he wrote. “I need to set a better example by learning and listening more so I can be the leader we need.”
It Makes Clear When it’s Acceptable at Netflix for Non-Black People to Use the N-Word
It’s not a complicated formula to determine when it’s okay. It’s never okay, says Hastings.
Moral aversion to racist and culturally incentive behavior aside, there are simple, basic business reasons companies want to distance themselves from such behavior. An increasing percentage of dollars spent in our economy come from non-white pockets. Companies simply can’t afford to allow themselves to be seen as associated with intolerant speech or behavior.
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