The evening before a proposed employee walkout at Activision Blizzard, one that at least part of the company is now actively encouraging by providing paid time off, company CEO Bobby Kotick has issued a letter to all employees — and investors, and the public — who are watching the company struggle with allegations of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination now.
At last count, nearly one-third of the company’s employees signed an open letter condemning Activision Blizzard’s initial response to those allegations, and Kotick’s letter addresses that head-on: “Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite 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 each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action,” that it will fire anyone “found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims,” and that it will ensure hiring managers are considering diverse slates of candidates for open jobs.
The company also plans to modify its games. “We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content,” writes Kotick. Blizzard earlier today announced that World of Warcraft would remove “references that are not appropriate for our world,” without specifying any particular ones.
This situation strongly recalls Ubisoft’s CEO Yves Guillemot, who also announced that Ubisoft would be cleaning up after failing to respond to initial allegations of sexual misconduct.
Below is the complete letter.
July 27, 2021
This week has been difficult and upsetting.
I want to thank everyone who has stepped forward in the recent past and present. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters. We will listen more now and in future.
Our initial responses to issues we faced together, and to your concerns, was tone deaf.
It is crucial that we accept all perspectives and experiences, and that we respect the feelings of anyone who has been mistreated in any manner. I am sorry we didn’t show empathy or understanding.
Many of you have said that active outreach comes from caring deeply for the Company. That so many people have 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. My top priority is to create a safe and welcoming workplace. Your concerns have been heard by the leadership team.
We are taking immediate action to be the kind of company you want to work for. Our Company is free from discrimination, harassment, and unequal treatment of any type.
We will do our best to ensure that together we create an inclusive workplace that fosters creativity and inspires.
I have asked WilmerHale to review our policies and procedures in order to ensure we are following best practices and promoting a respectful and inclusive work environment. This work will start immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.
If you have had an unpleasant experience at work, or believe it violates our policies, please use any of the channels to report it or reach out to Stephanie. WilmerHale’s Atvi@wilmerhale.com can be reached at 202-247-2275 or ATVI@wilmerhale.com to speak confidentially with you. Your contact will remain confidential. No retaliation will be tolerated,
We are committed to lasting change. We will immediately take the following actions:
Employee Support. We will continue to investigate all claims and will not hesitate in taking decisive action. To increase our capabilities in this field, we have added senior staff and other resources to both Compliance and Employee Relations.
Listening Sessions. Many of you have provided ideas and inspiration for us to improve our culture. We will create safe spaces for you to share your ideas and speak up, moderated by third-party experts.
Personnel Changes. We are currently evaluating all managers and leaders in the Company. Anybody found to have obstructed our processes for evaluating claims or imposing the appropriate consequences will be fired.
How to Hire. I sent an email earlier this year asking all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidates for all open jobs. We will be adding compliance tools to ensure that our hiring mangers are following this directive.
In-game changes. We have received feedback from players and employees that some of the in-game content is inappropriate. We are working to remove that content.
Your well-being is my number one priority. I will do everything in my power to ensure that our company has a safe, secure, and comfortable environment.
You can trust me to keep my unwavering promise that we will all improve our company together and make us the best entertainment company in this world.
Thank you very much.