Say What You Really Think (with Positive Intent)

Offer feedback anytime, anywhere.

Most people are reluctant to give constructive criticism to their colleagues — especially their bosses. Even if their feedback is well-intentioned, people worry about coming across as harsh. Netflix thinks about this differently. Here’s an example from the book "No Rules Rules":

Rose, a VP on Netflix’s global communications team, met with her colleagues to present her publicity plan for the launch of the second season of 13 Reasons Why. She proposed Netflix fund an independent study with researchers to look at the impact the series has on teenage viewers, which could help better position the show at launch.

During the presentation, colleagues pushed back on Rose’s idea. As more objections were raised, Rose talked faster. Everyone felt the frustration in the room rising. Rose rushed through her slides even more. Finally, Rose’s colleague Bianca waved her arms and said, “Rose, this isn’t working!”

Bianca told Rose she sounded defensive, and that she needed to slow down and address concerns in order to win back the room. Rose suddenly became aware of how ruffled she sounded, so she thanked Bianca for the feedback, recalibrated her tone, and started taking questions. The room’s energy changed completely.

Netflix welcomes this sort of exchange. And so do we.

At Netflix, *it is tantamount to being disloyal to the company if you fail to speak up when you disagree with a colleague or have feedback that could be helpful. —*Erin Meyer, No Rules Rules.

As long as feedback is given with positive intent (aiming to help the recipient) and provides an alternative solution (focusing on what the recipient can do differently), feedback can — and should — be given anytime, anywhere.

In return, the recipient needs only to show appreciation for the feedback; they aren’t required to apply it.

In the story, Bianca saw how Rose could succeed and gave her actionable feedback. Rose showed appreciation and changed course for the better. If Bianca had simply criticized Rose, this interaction would have been seen very differently.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admits that, to promote an environment with this much candor, “you have to get rid of the jerks.”

Feedback Guidelines

Giving Feedback

1. Aim to assist.

Feedback must be given with positive intent. Giving feedback in order to get frustration off your chest, intentionally hurting the other person, or furthering your political agenda is not tolerated. Clearly explain how a specific behavior change will help the individual or the company, not how it will help you. “The way you pick your teeth in meetings with external partners is irritating” is wrong feedback. Right feedback would be, "If you stop picking your teeth in external partner meetings, the partners are more likely to see you as professional, and we're more likely to build a strong relationship."

2. Actionable