Activision Blizzard Reveals Special “Some-Tolerance” Harassment Policy for CEO

This week has been a whirlwind of events for Activision Blizzard. Here is a rundown as they were reported to the world.

Monday, November 15

  • Activision Blizzard grants employees, temporary workers, and contractors the entire week of (American) Thanksgiving off from work beginning on Monday, November 22.

Tuesday, November 16

  • The Wall Street Journal reported that its investigation concluded CEO Bobby Kotick lied about what he knew regarding allegations, and also ignored or downplayed mistreatment of women at his company. Bobby himself had even been accused a few times in and out of work in the past.
    • Kotick did not inform the Board of Directors of a past incident where a former supervisor was accused of raping one woman and harassing another.
    • In 2018, former Blizzard CEO Michael Morhaime thanked one man for his contributions over the years after the man in question was fired due to multiple allegations of harassment.
    • Jen Oneal, who recently announced she would be stepping down from her position as Co-Leader of Blizzard, is paid less than her male counterpart, and was only offered a raise after she said she was leaving.
    • This summer after the lawsuit was initially revealed, Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend sent out a letter that she was lambasted for by media and criticized by Bobby Kotick himself about. In it were such comments as, “[The] lawsuit presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories…,” and “We work at a company that truly values equality and fairness.” It was revealed that CEO Bobby Kotick wrote this letter and instructed it be sent under Fran’s name. So while Fran has done many terrible things in her past, this one was not her. (Kotaku)
  • Bobby Kotick responds to the Wall Street Journal article, once again saying that the media report presented a misleading view of the company. This is not the first time we’ve heard this line, and last time it was quickly proven false. Kotick added, “…anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.” (Activision Blizzard)
  • The Board of Directors for Activision Blizzard stood in support of Bobby Kotick, releasing a statement saying: “The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”
  • Employees at Activision Blizzard staged an impromptu walk-out, the second for the company, issuing their own Zero-Tolerance Policy saying they will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO. (Twitter)

Wednesday, November 18

  • Activision Blizzard had a livestreamed meeting for employees where leaders answered pre-screened questions. In the stream, leadership once again shared support for Bobby Kotick, and revealed they gave the full week of Thanksgiving off because they knew the Wall Street Journal article was coming out. Leadership also indicated that the company’s Zero-Tolerance policy does not apply to Bobby Kotick because they have no evidence of his past harassment. (Game Developer)

Thursday, November 19

  • Some shareholders of Activision Blizzard called for the resignation of Kotick, saying he lied in past company statements about what he knew regarding allegations throughout the company. They also called for two Board members to resign. “After the new revelations, it’s clear that the current leadership repeatedly failed to uphold a safe workplace — a basic function of their job.” (Washington Post)
  • President of Sony (PlayStation) Jim Ryan wrote an email to employees saying he had contacted Activision Blizzard to express his concern about recent news and asked what they were going to do to address the claims in the Wall Street Journal article. (Eurogamer)
  • Head of Xbox Phil Spencer told employees that he’s evaluating all aspects of his company’s relationship with Activision Blizzard, saying the leadership team at Xbox was “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions,” and “This type of behavior has no place in our industry… [Activision] has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.” (Bloomberg - paywall)
  • In response to the statements from Sony and Microsoft, Activision Blizzard issues its canned response saying they are “committed to the work of ensuring our culture and workplace are safe, diverse, and inclusive.”
  • Over 1000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed a new call for Bobby Kotick to remove himself as CEO, and that shareholders should be allowed to select his replacement without the input of Bobby, who has a substantial portion of voting rights. (ABK Workers Alliance Twitter)
  • Thousands of non-employees have signed a Change.org petition for the removal of Bobby Kotick. (ABK Workers Alliance Twitter)

Friday, November 20

  • TBD! The day is young as I write this.

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Miscellaneous Reveals

Employees shared various reveals this week online about goings-on behind the scenes at Activision Blizzard before and after the lawsuits.

  • “When the Overwatch directors resigned, they pointedly made comments about the company’s ‘cultural issues’ in their goodbye speeches. The subtext was that ABK’s culture is at odds with our team’s culture, and that didn’t think they could fix it with the current leadership.” (Tracy Kennedy - Twitter)
  • “We had to fight to make Latinx Heritage Month happen because we couldn’t come off too ‘celebratory’ in light of the [lawsuit].” (Nancy- Twitter)

Some of the Good

A thread went around asking about some of the good employees have done to make Activision Blizzard a better place or things that made them feel great about working there. Here are a few excerpts:

  • “I can’t talk about the specifics but i’ve done some very fun things that have led to a lot of bad people getting banned from OW >:)” (Ben Trautman (Captain Planet) - Twitter)
  • “Volunteered ~18 months on the LGBT+ Advisory Board as a Communications Officer. Created a style guide on how to write about and interview with LGBT+ with the guidance of my fellow LGBT+ peers & other needs. Launched 4 games during the pandemic and multiple patches for WoW and OW” (KT, formerly Blizzard, now Turtle Rock (Phaerixia) - Twitter)
  • “Encouraged a member of my team to get involved in Girls Who Code. Not only were they selected, but they marked it as one of the highlights of their job.” (Ryan C. Davidson - Twitter)
  • “We launched a heckin GAME this week! Team has been working super hard on providing an amazing experience for the #ClassicWoW community, Season of Mastery has been a lot of fun so far.” (Morgan (Artemishowl) - Twitter)
  • “Pushed for greater diversity of characters in Hearthstone and WoW. Reported harassment where I saw it. Mentored interns and aspiring game devs. Participated in community outreach programs like GRIP. Pushed for diverse applicants to apply for our open positions.” (Chadd Nervig (Celestalon) - Twitter)
  • “I pushed for gender neutral restrooms at BlizzCon and partnered with HR to ensure transgender people transitioning in the workplace had a 1:1 support resource to feel more comfortable during the initial process.” (Emily Knief - Twitter)