Activision Blizzard Employees Stage Walkout As CEO Bobby Kotick Issues Statement
This past week has seen a major shift happen at Activision Blizzard, as the company has come under major legal scrutiny for years of alleged misconduct and discrimination occurring within the walls of the joint publisher. With reports uncovering an unchecked “frat-boy culture” present in the workplace, many of the company’s employees have begun putting pressure on management for change, with efforts recently manifesting in the form of a stirring, thousands-backed open letter.
On the heels of growing industry-wide support, Activision Blizzard workers have staged a walkout protesting the poor response from leadership and presenting a series of demands to be met by company decision-makers. As communicated by Axios reporter Megan Farokhmanesh, the mass strike necessitated four requirements: the end of mandatory arbitration clauses for employees, more diverse recruiting and promotion policies, publicly disclosing salary and promotion rates for “all genders and ethnicities,” and the hiring of a third-party “Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force.” The full demands can be read below.
- An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
- The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
- Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
- Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.
This walkout came as a response to the very poor messaging put out by higher-ups when these alleged workplace conditions first came to light. Initially defending the company and its “good values,” Activision Blizzard quickly changed its tune as Blizzard president J. Allen Brack and even former CEO Mike Morhaime expressed shame regarding the “extremely troubling” harassment that formed under their watch and offering to assist those affected in their respective capacities.
Shortly after the disclosure of these formal demands, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick finally issued a response of his own (H/T Game Informer), with an internal letter addressing the “difficult and upsetting” past week as well as denouncing the “tone deaf” manner management has handled the situation thus far. “It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way,” Kotick said. “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”
The message marked Kotick’s first public statement on the matter, as the CEO outlined a series of actions the company is taking to foster “the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.” The CEO promised support for employee claims, “listening sessions” directed at improving company culture, personnel changes for “managers and leaders across the company,” diverse hiring practices for “all open positions,” and the removal of in-game content deemed “inappropriate” by members of the community for titles like World of Warcraft. The points are as follows:
- Employee Support. We will continue to investigate each and every 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 team and the Employee Relations team.
- Listening Sessions. We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.
- Personnel Changes. We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the Company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.
- Hiring Practices. Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.
- In-game Changes. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content
Kotick’s letter certainly strikes the proper tone and addresses some of the issues extended by the mass employee walkout. However, the protest’s organizers aren’t wholly satisfied by the Activision Blizzard CEO’s sentiments, remaining critical that all five of the employee demands weren’t addressed. A follow-up statement notes the issues surrounding mandatory arbitration clauses were omitted alongside pay transparency, the hiring of a third-party diversity task force, as well as worker involvement in hiring and promotion policies.
Activision Blizzard walkout organizers just released a statement in response to CEO Bobby Kotick’s email to staff in which he described the company’s response as “tone deaf” pic.twitter.com/64D7w8PhOL
— Megan Farokhmanesh (@Megan_Nicolett) July 28, 2021
Though walkout organizers weren’t entirely enthused by the new Activision Blizzard statement, the response stated how they “look forward to maintaining a constructive dialogue” about building “a better Activision Blizzard for all employees” now that the company has properly expressed an interest in listening. The message also noted this mass demonstration would not be “not a one-time event,” as organizers are looking to create “an enduring movement” dedicated to “better labor conditions” for employees of all races, creeds, and sexual orientations.
“Today’s walkout will demonstrate that this is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore. We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point. This is the beginning of an enduring movement in favor of better labor conditions for all employees, especially women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.”
What do you think? Are you impressed with how much traction the Activision Blizzard walkout has gained, or do you feel things can and will only get more eventful from here on out? Discuss in the comments below and follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter and Facebook to be informed of future gaming and entertainment news.
Eric Hall2688 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his biweekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.