PC Culture

Report: Netflix Bans Employees from Looking at Each Other for More Than Five Seconds

(Mike Blake/Reuters)
This is completely ridiculous and could end up hurting more than it helps.

Netflix has reportedly banned workers from looking at each other for more than five seconds as part of its new anti-harassment rules.

The new policy also bans the company’s film crews from asking their colleagues for their phone numbers, according to an article in the Sun.

“Senior staff went to a harassment meeting to learn what is and isn’t appropriate,” an on-set runner told the Sun. “Looking at anyone longer than five seconds is considered creepy.”

“You mustn’t ask for someone’s number unless they have given permission for it to be distributed,” the source continued. “And if you see any unwanted behaviour, report it immediately.”

Other new rules include: “Don’t give lingering hugs or touch anyone for a lengthy period of time,” “Don’t ask out a colleague more than once if they have said no,” “Steer clear of a colleague once they have said they are not interested in you,” and “Don’t flirt.” The rules also encourage employees to “Shout ‘Stop, don’t do that again!’ if a colleague has been inappropriate.”

The on-set runner told the Sun that employees are already poking fun at the new rules: “It has sparked jokes, with people looking at each other, counting to five, then diverting their eyes.”

Netflix hasn’t confirmed or denied the new rules, but did release a statement to the Independent, saying: “We’re proud of the anti-harassment training we offer to our productions. We want every Netflix production to be a safe and respectful working environment. We believe the resources we offer empower people on our sets to speak up, and shouldn’t be trivialized.”

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m all for “a safe and respectful working environment.” Everyone should feel comfortable in the workplace, and harassment of any kind has absolutely no place there. This, however, is completely ridiculous and could end up hurting more than it helps.

First of all, that ridiculous five-second rule. Of course, staring is kind of rude, but it’s also something that just happens sometimes. It’s certainly not always a form of harassment. I don’t know about everybody else, but there have definitely been times where I’ve spaced out and found myself happening to stare in the same direction where there happens to be another person. When this has happened, I’ve just said, “Whoops, sorry — I’m spacing out!” and both of us have gotten on with our days. With a policy like this, I could potentially be subject to some sort of disciplinary action over something that no one thinks is a big deal. Of course, there’s no word on what kind of action Netflix is actually planning to take against violators of the five-second staring rule, but the fact that it even exists is absurd enough.

The no-asking-for-phone-numbers rule is equally bizarre. I don’t think this should be news to anyone, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to have a person’s phone number that have absolutely nothing to do with dating or sex. Not to brag, but I have tons of phone contacts — yes, including co-workers — with whom I communicate on a completely platonic basis. In fact, I’m pretty sure that everyone does. Personally, I actually prefer that my co-workers be able contact me with work information via text, because that means I have to worry less about checking my email. A co-worker wanting my number wouldn’t for a second strike me as flirting; it would strike me as someone initiating a convenient method of communication. Asking for the phone numbers of those with whom you need to communicate regularly is a normal, practical part of life, and Netflix is wrong to sexualize it.

Calling an innocent six-second glance ‘harassment’ trivializes the very real struggles of those who are actually harassed.

Harassment in the workplace is a serious and pervasive problem, and I am very glad that the #MeToo movement has done so much to bring this issue to the surface so that we can work on combating it. Ridiculous policies like these, however, do nothing to solve these problems — and can actually create new ones. Calling an innocent six-second glance “harassment” trivializes the very real struggles of those who are actually harassed, and a no-phone-numbers rule is going to make it more difficult for employees to communicate. If Netflix really wants to make the workplace as comfortable a place as it can be for its employees, then it should really consider reversing these rules.

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