Okay, let’s just get this out of the way: the goals of big business are incompatible with keeping employees happy, healthy, and employed.
I state this because every time I write this story — and over the years, it has been pretty damn often with even this specific company — people reply “This is just how business works.” Like, no shit. The problem is that, if this is how business works, business isn’t really working, and it’s time to probably acknowledge that on a wider scale.
On the heels of layoffs yesterday, wherein Activision-Blizzard employees were given Battle.net gift cards as part of their severance package, the corporate-accountability organization CtW Investment Group took a look at how much the safely-seated CEO Bobby Kotick will be making in bonuses this year. According to CtW and reported by Kotaku, based on the stock prices, Kotick will earn a bonus $200 million this year. That’s a lot on its face, but it seems especially absurd in a year where your company has to admit they’re letting a large number of people go. Kotick is largely being rewarded for the increase in share price, which hit around $100 a share at its highpoint over the last year.
“While the increase in Activision’s stock price is somewhat commendable, as we stated last year and continue to assert, this achievement alone does not justify such a substantial pay outcome for the CEO,” says Michael Varner, CtW’s Director of Executive Compensation Research. “There are many factors that may contribute to a rise in this particular company’s stock price that may not be directly attributable to Robert Kotick’s leadership. The use of video games as one of the few entertainment options available amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has been a boon to many companies in the gaming industry irrespective of executive talent or strategic decisions.”
On paper, it’s a success for Activision. When you dive even a little deeper, it becomes clear that laying off a large number of people for COVID-related reasons while simultaneously reaping the rewards of a COVID-boosted industry is at best cynical and at worst amoral. But dissociating companies from morality and looking at them solely as profit-generating monoliths and not, you know, a man that’s making a $200 million bonus because of those people losing their jobs is annoyingly common in this industry.
I get that it’s just business. Business just sucks.