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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick's Letter to Staff Calls Company's Initial Responses "Tone Deaf"

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We have another internal Activision Blizzard letter, as CEO Bobby Kotick sent the following message to all staff, in which he calls the company's initial responses to the lawsuit and employee concerns "tone deaf", explains that a review of internal policies and procedures has been started, as well as enumerates some immediate actions that will be taken.

SANTA MONICA, Calif.--()--Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) CEO Bobby Kotick today sent the following letter to all employees.

July 27, 2021

This has been a difficult and upsetting week.

I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters - and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future.

Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.

It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.

Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from caring so deeply for the Company. That so many people have reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions, and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. Ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my highest priority. The leadership team has heard you loud and clear.

We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.

We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration.

I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.

We encourage anyone with an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use any of our many existing channels for reporting or to reach out to Stephanie. She and her team at WilmerHale will be available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at ATVI@wilmerhale.com or 202-247-2725. Your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.

We are committed to long-lasting change. Effective immediately, we will be taking the following actions:

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. 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.
     
  4. 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.
     
  5. 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.

Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.

You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world.

Yours sincerely,

Bobby

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. We may, in some cases, use terms such as “predicts,” “believes,” “potential,” “proposed,” “continue,” “estimates,” “anticipates,” “expects,” “plans,” “intends,” “may,” “could,” “might,” “will,” “should” or other words that convey uncertainty of future events or outcomes to identify these forward-looking statements. Such statements are subject to numerous important factors, risks and uncertainties that may cause actual events or results to differ materially from the Company’s current expectations. These and other risks are described in the Company’s periodic reports, including the annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K, filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission and available at www.sec.gov. Any forward-looking statements that the Company makes in this press release speak only as of the date of this press release. The Company assumes no obligation to update forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date of this press release.

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It's incredible how this is the first person that give me hope for blizzard's future.. And he was the last person I would imagine doing so 

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37 minutes ago, Frogspoison said:

Could probably get a petition started for him to resign...

At this point it would be easier and more efficient to impeach him. With extreme prejudice.

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There's been way too much crap in the past from Kotick to ever put trust in anything he says is the bottom line.      He is part of the problem that needs fixing and no pre-chewed by lawyers verbage is going to change it.

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I honestly don't think Kotick was involved with the culture (and the intensity of the issue seems to have variety significantly depending on the team; WoW, Battle.net and the QA and CS teams seem to have suffered the most harassment) that much. This is a much more competent response than anything else that has come from corporate (and I include Brack etc. making apologies and offering platitudes). Of course every one of these promises can prove to be empty and the issue is not going to be solved on day one.

I do hope Activision Blizzard focuses more on what their employees are saying rather than a fairly vocal part of the customer base that is already screaming about woke culture. In a pyramid of importance of stakeholders, your employee base is right below shareholders.

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1 hour ago, Migol said:

There's been way too much crap in the past from Kotick to ever put trust in anything he says is the bottom line.      He is part of the problem that needs fixing and no pre-chewed by lawyers verbage is going to change it.

Everything corporate says SHOULD be pre-chewed by lawyers or you get inane statements like what Fran Townsend (spelling?) send.

And nothing will hurt his bottom line worse than an inefficient work force. Effective management walks the balance between keeping employees happy while squeezing every last effort out of them. Kotick now needs to find exactly how much he needs to cede to employees to make them happy. And one of the issues frequently brought up is that upper management stiffled innovation. Which DOES hurt his bottom line.

Blizzard seemed to count too much on employees' passion for gaming and love for the company (and targeted hiring people who already loved the company so they would be more compliant and less likely to leave when abused) instead of actually making any effort to hire effective managers who could make the best use of existing talent.

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5 hours ago, Kakistocrat said:

Wow, that ending. Chilling.

On the other hand, he only uses “will”, not anything uncertain.

Edited by Qisapa

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8 hours ago, Kakistocrat said:

Wow, that ending. Chilling.

It does not have a lot/anything really to do with the case, The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act prevents frivolous securities fraud lawsuits, lots of companies use very similar wording when making forward looking statements. 

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10 hours ago, Resnar said:

It's incredible how this is the first person that give me hope for blizzard's future.. And he was the last person I would imagine doing so 

He's covering his *filtered* after Townsend botched it worse than the missing content from WoD

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14 hours ago, Kakistocrat said:

Wow, that ending. Chilling.

The boilerplate language in his signature?  That's common in any mail sent by executives.  It's not about the case.

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9 hours ago, Nym85 said:

I honestly don't think Kotick was involved with the culture (and the intensity of the issue seems to have variety significantly depending on the team; WoW, Battle.net and the QA and CS teams seem to have suffered the most harassment) that much. This is a much more competent response than anything else that has come from corporate (and I include Brack etc. making apologies and offering platitudes). Of course every one of these promises can prove to be empty and the issue is not going to be solved on day one.

I do hope Activision Blizzard focuses more on what their employees are saying rather than a fairly vocal part of the customer base that is already screaming about woke culture. In a pyramid of importance of stakeholders, your employee base is right below shareholders.

If he was uninvolved in directing the company culture away from a pattern of assault in the office, he wasn't doing his job.  *That's* the problem.

Edited by Quik
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15 hours ago, Starym said:

all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions.

This can be very bad, people should be hired strictly by skill and experience, not of how "diverse" you are

15 hours ago, Starym said:

some of our in-game content is inappropriate

This is also very vague I can also mean removing anything that the West Taiwan Government finds offensive basically censored content that other maybe even most people might enjoy.

What happen was horrible and wrong but I fell this will turn in to something bad where you censor and suppress creativity and hire people based on quota and diversity not on skill and experience.  

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1 hour ago, Antimagic said:

This is also very vague I can also mean removing anything that the West Taiwan Government finds offensive basically censored content that other maybe even most people might enjoy.

By "inappropriate content" he meant references to people accused of harassment (although it sounds weird coming from Kotick, who lost his own case about abuse). They already removed all references to Alex Afrasiabi and there were a lot of them! That guy really must had an overblown ego to put his name (or nicknames in somes cases) over various npcs and items.

Edited by Arcling

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2 hours ago, Antimagic said:

This can be very bad, people should be hired strictly by skill and experience, not of how "diverse" you are

That's not what he's saying. Yes, he's promoting diversity in hiring, but they're also trying to get people who are qualified.  As a manager, I've had training in this: People have a tendency, and this is well documented, to hire people who look like they do, regardless of the qualifications of other candidates.  It's an implicit bias, as opposed to an explicit bias, and one that you have to be trained to recognize and constantly be on the lookout for. 

I've also been harassed at work (and it's NOT fun), and I'm not even a real minority, just a technical one: I'm a straight, white male, in the nursing field. I reported it, and got *filtered* on, sidelined and pushed out of my job. The number of people here who attribute the reactions of Blizzard/its employees to "liberal wokeness" is simply astounding...and disappointing. Proving once again, that empathy is something that's sorely lacking here in the US.  

Edited by Danthalas
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9 hours ago, Danthalas said:

That's not what he's saying. Yes, he's promoting diversity in hiring, but they're also trying to get people who are qualified.  As a manager, I've had training in this: People have a tendency, and this is well documented, to hire people who look like they do, regardless of the qualifications of other candidates.  It's an implicit bias, as opposed to an explicit bias, and one that you have to be trained to recognize and constantly be on the lookout for. 

I've also been harassed at work (and it's NOT fun), and I'm not even a real minority, just a technical one: I'm a straight, white male, in the nursing field. I reported it, and got *filtered* on, sidelined and pushed out of my job. The number of people here who attribute the reactions of Blizzard/its employees to "liberal wokeness" is simply astounding...and disappointing. Proving once again, that empathy is something that's sorely lacking here in the US.  

I think it's often not just a lack of empathy as much as it is privilege and an active effort on their parts to disregard the effects of said privilege. Because really, if someone did not understand the effect of their privilege 20 or even 10 years ago, you could excuse it because the issue was just not a part of the conversation. But nowadays if in a developed country you fail to understand whichever privileges you might hold, then you are doing so willfully

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On 7/28/2021 at 5:23 PM, Quik said:

The boilerplate language in his signature?  That's common in any mail sent by executives.  It's not about the case.

Yeah, but still. Could've removed that part I feel, in this case. I find it chilling he'd not see how it looks.

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