The information that has entered the realm of public knowledge due to the tandem of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s (DFEH) lawsuit against Blizzard Entertainment, which is currently a part of the Activision Blizzard entity, and the sharing of harmful or traumatic experiences across social media platforms by individuals who survived an incredibly toxic work culture has been eye-opening on multiple fronts. The enablement of this toxicity is not acceptable at any level or at any point in time. Nobody should ever have to endure what countless employees experienced related to inappropriate contact, hostile or derogatory comments of a sexual nature, or continued persistence of such behaviors by leadership and Human Resources within ANY company.
Many of the details that have been shared outside of the shocking information included within the lawsuit have come from individuals that have had to relive the disgusting and unacceptable experiences incurred during employment with Blizzard Entertainment. This would be an exceptionally painful process by itself, yet some of the former parties involved in this toxic behavior have re-engaged with the people they harassed. Lessons were not learned, the probability of the offenders continuing to repeat their indefensible behavior at another employer will places others in harm’s way, and the only way to correct this long-standing problem at Activision Blizzard and within the industry will requires years of effort and subsequent consequences to improve safety within the workplace.
Having worked for companies that have acquired competitors or producers of products that complement an existing portfolio, there’s an extensive and rigorous amount of due diligence and investigation which occurs within ethical companies that have mature risk management practices. The potential for improved profitability or increased market share have to be carefully weighed against known liabilities and risks. The systemic failure by the overcompensated leadership at Activision to identify these risks is inexcusable. Fans of previously popular franchises within the company’s product portfolio have witnessed the “cash grab over quality at all costs exercise” manifest in a continuous cycle. A healthy and inclusive culture that recognizes its employees as valuable resources which help drive the associated company to new levels of success will invest in correcting deficiencies that may negatively impact the value of the company’s brand.
Instead of making the necessary and ethical adjustments, Activision Blizzard allowed this cancerous behavior to persist. Enabled by greed and profitability from associated franchises, the CEO felt his performance (which included turning a blind eye to all of this and not taking any type of corrective action) was worth a reward of over $154,000,000 USD in 2020. Process that number for a moment. Recognize that this disgusting downstream behavior continued to persist without corrective action for years. Instead of investing in the business, launching a formal investigation prior to the lawsuit, implementing corrective actions or new policies that would improve the workplace, or doing ANYTHING of value to right the wrongs of a broken culture, the senior leadership were grossly overcompensated for not doing a damn thing.
The harm that has been done cannot be undone. There’s no easy fix. This is a systemic problem that persists. “Leaked” tone-deaf memos from prior and current leadership have done more to provide proof of the problem rather than accept responsibility while truly committing to change. The community that still plays titles such as World of Warcraft are protesting or are organizing fundraising efforts to enable opportunities for allowing greater inclusion or diversity within the development space. However, there is still much more that has to be done to improve safety and equality within Activision Blizzard as well as at other employers that may have an equivalently toxic culture.