Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has claimed the company has never had ‘a systemic issue with harassment’ in a new interview with Variety, where he instead laid the blame on an ‘aggressive’ labour movement with nefarious goals, and a media that indulged in ‘mischaracterisation’.
‘We’ve had every possible form of investigation done. And we did not have a systemic issue with harassment – ever,’ Kotick said. ‘We didn’t have any of what were mischaracterisations reported in the media but what we did have was a very aggressive labour movement working hard to try and destabilise the company.’
Speaking to the outlet, Kotick said ‘outside forces’ had contributed to conversations around Activision Blizzard in recent years, with the company’s ‘image problem’ derived from the voices of the labour movement, and an overblown cultural narrative.
‘I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you if any of what you read in the inflammatory narrative was truthful,’ Kotick told Variety. The piece described Kotick as a ‘handy villain’ as the head of Activision Blizzard, while Kotick claimed online hatred had been driven by antisemitism.
It is important to note, however, that the Variety interview also spotlights allegations that Kotick was responsible for cultural problems at Activision Blizzard that ‘allowed to thrive a culture of male dominance’. Kotick is accused of ‘[presiding] over a culture that was toxic at times’.
In late 2021, a report from The Wall Street Journal alleged Kotick knew about sexual harassment happening at the company and worked to hide it. These allegations led to walkouts at Activision Blizzard, and the establishment of a new Workplace Responsibility Committee with a zero tolerance approach to harassment in the workplace.
Activision Blizzard seemingly committed to a more positive, open workplace with better protections for employees in the wake of these allegations. Per Axios, this led to greater scrutiny for individual employee issues – and a subsequent uptick in reports of misconduct at the company.
In a recent investor report based on transparency and its commitment to change, Activision Blizzard revealed 29 reports of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation at the company that had been substantiated and addressed by investigators in the last year.
‘Even one instance of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation is one too many,’ the report states. ‘We have robust procedures in place to resolve workplace concerns in a neutral and fair manner and to take appropriate corrective action.’
The board labelled this transparent communication as ‘a sign of a healthy reporting culture and effective training.’ Without open, blame-free dialogue, issues are allowed to fester. Activision Blizzard sharing its transparency reports publicly is a positive step towards a better workplace for everyone.