The night before a proposed strike by employees at Activision Blizzard, one that at least part of the company is now actively encouraging by offering paid time off, company CEO Bobby Kotick sent a letter to all employees: and investors, and public — who now see the company grappling with allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
At the last count, nearly a third of the company’s employees have signed an open letter condemning Activision Blizzard’s initial response to those allegations, and Kotick’s letter addresses that directly: “Our initial responses to the issues facing we faced together, and at your concerns, were, frankly, tone deaf,” he writes.
Kotick says a law firm, WilmerHale, will immediately review the company’s policies “to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace,” that Activision Blizzard “will continue to investigate any claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action,” that it will fire anyone who has “impeded the integrity of our claims evaluation processes” and will cause hiring managers to consider different lists of candidates for open positions.
Also, the company plans to change its games. “We’ve heard input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content,” Kotick wrote. Blizzard announced earlier today that World of Warcraft would remove “references not suitable for our world” without specifying specific ones.
The whole situation is very reminiscent of Ubisoft, whose CEO Yves Guillemot also announced that the company would be cleaning the house after failing to respond to initial allegations of sexual misconduct.
You can read the full letter below:
July 27, 2021
This has been a difficult and disturbing week.
I want to acknowledge and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters – and we will be able to listen better now and in the future.
Our initial reactions to the problems we face together, and to your concerns, were, frankly, tone-deaf.
It is imperative that we recognize all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I’m sorry we didn’t provide the proper empathy and understanding.
Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from such a deep concern for the company. That so many people reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. Making sure we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my top priority. The leadership team heard you loud and clear.
We take swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you have come to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place within our company for discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind.
We will do everything we can to ensure that together we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to fuel creativity and inspiration.
I have asked the law firm of WilmerHale to review our policies and procedures to ensure we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the WilmerHale management team and most recently the director of the enforcement division of the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
We encourage anyone with an experience that you believe violates our policies or has in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use one of our many existing channels for reporting or contacting Stephanie . She and her team at WilmerHale are available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at ATVI@wilmerhale.com or 202-247-2725. Your outreach will be treated confidentially. Of course NO retaliation will be tolerated.
We are committed to long-term change. With immediate effect, we are taking the following measures:
Employee support. We will continue to investigate any claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area, we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance and Employee Relations teams.
listening sessions. We know that many of you have inspired ideas to improve our culture. We will create safe spaces, moderated by third parties, where you can voice your opinion and share points for improvement.
Personnel changes. We immediately evaluate managers and leaders across the company. Anyone found to have compromised the integrity of our claims review and appropriate enforcement processes will be terminated.
Hiring practices. Earlier this year, I sent an email asking all hiring managers to make sure they have different lists of candidates for all open positions. We will add compliance tools to ensure that our hiring managers actually adhere to this guideline.
Changes in the game. We’ve heard input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We will remove that content.
Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resources to ensure that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable and safe culture possible.
You have my unwavering commitment that together we will improve our business and be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world.