Activision-Blizzard Presidents Don’t Deny Hostile Work Environment in Private Emails

The company publicly denied claims made in a lawsuit regarding its workplace culture.

Activision-Blizzard is facing a lawsuit regarding its workplace culture, specifically for discrimination and harassment toward its women employees. Following the publicity of the lawsuit earlier this week, the higher-ups at the company are in damage control mode, and that means sending emails to employees asserting that the company is better than this and trying to find a way forward. Which is interesting, considering the company’s public statement on the matter was that lawsuit was “distorted, and in many cases false.”

First up, we have Activision President Rob Kostich, who emailed employees Thursday claiming the company has a zero-tolerance policy on the types of behavior described in the lawsuit. The email was posted on Twitter by Polygon senior reporter Nicole Carpenter.

“Team,

Some of you may have seen allegations reported by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in California (DFEH). These allegations are deeply disturbing.

Let me be clear. There is zero tolerance for this type of behavior in our workplace or frankly, in our society.

We, as a company, take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. When wrongdoing is found, those responsible are held accountable. And we will continue to do so. Each of you deserves to be treated with dignity, equality, and respect at all times.

The behaviors described are not reflective of our Activision company values especially Champion DE&I and It’s the People. Our values are not just words on a page — they are at the core of who we are day-to-day and who we aspire to be for years to come.

As per always, if you need to talk to anyone, please reach out to your manager, HR partner (you can find this information by looking yourself up on the People Finder here), a trusted leader, or me. You can also check the Way2Play portal on The Hub for more resources.

Please join me in ensuring that we continue to consistently cultivate an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected, safe and valued. Anything less than that is unacceptable to me.

Second is Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who emailed employees at the company last night as well, which was published on Twitter by Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier this morning.

Hello Blizzard –

I personally have a lot of emotions coming out of yesterday, and I know you do, too. The allegations and the hurt of current and former employees are extremely troubling.

I know many of you would like to receive more clarity. While I can’t comment on the specifics of the case as it’s an open investigation, what I can say is that the behavior detailed in the allegations is completely unacceptable.

  • It goes – with saying – it is completely unacceptable for anyone in the company to face discrimination or harassment.
  • It goes – with saying – that everyone should feel safe working here, whether we are on a campus, at BlizzCon, or working from home.
  • It goes – with saying – it takes courage to come forward, and all claims brought to the company are investigated by internal and (when needed) external investigators. We take these claims very seriously. Claims can be made without fear of retaliation, and many times, I attend to them personally, along with our other leaders.

Stepping back – when I talked with Bobby about taking this job, one of the first things I mentioned was a revered saint of the Brack household – Gloria Steinem. Growing up, the value of women as equals, understanding the work that had been done for equal treatment, and the fact that there was still much to do, were common themes. This is just one of the reasons why the fight for equality is incredibly important to me. People with different backgrounds, views, and experiences are essential for Blizzard, our teams, and our player community. I disdain “bro culture,” and have spent my career fighting against it.

Iterating on our culture with the same intensity that we bring to our games is imperative, with our values acting as our north star. This is some of the most important work we do, both as professionals and human beings.

A company is more than a legal construct that exists as a piece of paper in a filing cabinet in Delaware. The people that work at the company make it what it is, through their actions and creations. Each of us plays a role in maintaining a place of safety for one other. And it is also up to each of us to continue to craft the Blizzard we want – and commit to doing our part in keeping Blizzard great but always aspiring for more.

The leadership team and I will be meeting with many of you to answer questions and discuss how we can move forward. In the meantime, I want you to know that you can talk to any manager, any HR partner, any member of the legal team, or to any one on the executive team [including, Hey J]. If you feel more comfortable talking to someone outside of Blizzard, or prefer to be anonymous, you can contact the Way2Play Integrity Line [redacted].

I feel angry, sad, and a host of other emotions, but I also feel grateful to work alongside a set of leaders and thousands of employees who join me in their commitment to continuous improvement.

Thank you Blizzard.

So publicly, Activision-Blizzard wants to deny that the behavior and treatment laid out in the lawsuit is representative of the company, but privately, these emails paint it in a much different light. One that recognizes it’s been caught and changes need to be made. Just because the lawsuit doesn’t illustrate something you want your company to be doesn’t mean it’s not what it is right now.

This has been a big week for public discussions about the state of video game industry workplace culture, as Ubisoft has been under similar scrutiny after the company became the subject of a French court complaint regarding its ongoing saga of workplace harassment and mistreatment. While it would be nice to believe that these words about changing the culture within Activision-Blizzard are genuine, it’s hard to feel optimistic when Ubisoft made similar public statements regarding its own issues, but reports have made it clear employees haven’t been satisfied with the action taken.

The news has had fans and industry folks discussing how they can help when these issues appear systemic in big developers. Some are boycotting games from the company entirely, while others have been staging in-game protests in games like World of Warcraft. While those actions are admirable, as some have pointed out, much of this can only be addressed through pro-worker actions like unionization, which the games industry is severely lacking in. But the dismantling of bro culture also requires that men also do their part in calling it out and not allowing it to fester as the lawsuit illustrates for Activision-Blizzard.

Update: While Brack and Kostich sent their emails to employees, Frances Townsend, the company’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, sent out her own email that was published by Axios reporter Megan Farokhmanesh on Twitter. Unlike the presidents of Activision and Blizzard, Townsend doubled down on the narrative that the lawsuit presents an inaccurate picture of the company as it exists today.

As the Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network and our Chief Compliance Officer, I wanted to reach out to you. I know this has been difficult for many of us. A recently filed lawsuit presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories – some from more than a decade ago.

The Activision companies of today, the Activision companies that I know, are great companies with good values. When I joined the Executive Leadership Team, I was certain that I was joining a company where I would be valued, treated with respect, and provided opportunities equal to those afforded to the men of the company. For me, this has been true during my time. As a leader, I am committed to making sure that the experience I have is the same as the rest of the organization. We have a leadership that is committed to these principles in every way.

We work at a company that truly values equality and fairness. Rest assured that leadership is committed to continuing to maintain a safe, fair, and inclusive workplace. We cannot let egregious actions of others, and a truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit, damage our culture of respect and equal opportunity for all employees. We aspire in our company to do great things: in our games, in our impact on society, and in our work environment. We continue to hold firm to our principles and invest, as we have in the past, the resources to ensure quality opportunities for all employees. We remain committed as a leadership team to doing what is right.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Staff Writer at Fanbyte. He still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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