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Netflix sackings shine light on ‘derogatory’ bullying

After three execs were sacked at the firm for posting comments about employees on Slack, a legal expert has shared how employers can deal with acts of bullying.


With the increasing use of technology in the workplace, notably due to the move to remote working amid the coronavirus pandemic, employees have been given more ways to communicate with one another.


For example, instant messaging services like Slack and Teams allow staff to send casual messages to colleagues, while video calls lets them quickly interact.


However with this means allegations of bullying, harassment or discrimination may rise.


This is something Netflix has had to recently deal with, after the content platform discovered that three senior marketing employees had posted derogatory comments about fellow staff members in a public Slack channel.


Responding to the news, co-chief exec of Netflix Ted Sarandos, said: “What happened here was not simply venting on Slack or a single conversation. These were critical, personal comments made over several months about their peers,” reported The Drum.


Sarandos took action against the employees, by removing them from the business, after he cited Netflix standards of conduct, which do not allow personal comments to be made against colleagues in the workplace to counter bullying.


The exec pointed out that the messages were freely available to see on a public channel for all to see.


Tackling bullying in a virtual world

Speaking to Reward Strategy Charlie Wood, associate in the employment team at SAS Daniels, shared that “everyone should be careful” particularly when posting comments online on platforms such as Slack, Twitter or Facebook.


He said: “It may sound obvious, but people should remember the golden rule when posting comments about others – ask yourself whether what you are about to post could cause offence to anyone. If the answer is yes, or you are not sure, then do not post.”


While this is a rule that any employee should follow, how can employers tackle bullying, particularly as employees continue to work remotely in some form.


Wood stated that for action to be taken when an allegation is made, whether the incident has taken place virtually or face-to-face, “employers should deal with any issues promptly and in a fair and consistent manner”.


In addition, staff members should be aware that their employer will take any matter regarding bullying seriously. Equally it is just as important for employees to be aware of the repercussions of behaviour considered to be bullying.


Wood concluded: “Employers should have clear bullying and harassment policies in place, which are actively enforced and clear procedures in place for someone to be able to raise their concerns, such as a formal grievance procedure.”

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