Skip to content
Subscriber Only

How to Set Your Employees Free: Reed Hastings

How to Set Your Employees Free: Reed Hastings
Photograph by Charlie Engman for Bloomberg Businessweek; Stylist and Grooming: Marco Testa

We call Netflix’s corporate culture the “freedom and responsibility culture.” We want responsible people who are self-motivating and self-disciplined, and we reward them with freedom. The best example is our vacation policy. It’s simple and understandable: We don’t have one. We focus on what people get done, not on how many days they worked. Prior to 2004 we had the standard vacation model, until we realized no one was tracking how many hours in a day they worked. Why were we tracking whether someone takes two weeks or four weeks of vacation? It was an industrial era habit. I make sure to take lots of vacation to set a good example, and I do some of my creative thinking on vacation.

My first company, Pure Software, was exciting and innovative in the first few years and bureaucratic and painful in the last few before it got acquired. The problem was we tried to systemize everything and set up perfect procedures. We thought that was a good thing, but it killed freedom and responsibility. After the company was acquired, I reflected on what went wrong.