Big-name companies are coming out hard against what they describe as “toxic” behavior among their employees, especially those in a leadership position. The public statements reflect shifting cultural norms and expectations that all brands should keep in mind when setting and communicating perimeters for workplace behavior.
One of the most recent companies to make a public statement related to this issue is French game maker Ubisoft. In a recent statement, the company revealed it had said goodbye to three executives, including the company’s creative director, in the wake of an internal investigation that uncovered allegations, according to media reports, of “sexual harassment and other abuse.”
In a prepared statement, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said his company had “fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees…” Guillemot said this was “unacceptable,” before adding, “Toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised and never will…”
In the same statement, the company announced that Chief Creative Officer Serge Hascoet would be resigning, effective immediately, along with Ubisoft’s Canadian studio’s director, Yannis Mallat, and global head of human resources, Cecile Cornet. Speaking of Mallat, the company statement read, “Recent allegations have come to light against multiple employees that make it impossible for him to continue in this position…”
Hascoet had been with the company since 1987, the year after it had been founded. He had been described as a “creative leader” who maintained a “unique vision” that “infused every game released by the company…”
Some of those games included hugely popular products such as the Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Tom Clancy series. The company’s high-profile in the industry comes with a de facto voice in the ongoing controversy in the gaming subculture, that has been criticized for being degrading to or dismissive of women and female fans. Game developers in this space should be cognizant of and sensitive to issues related to these topics, and this appears to be the mindset within which Ubisoft decision-makers acted. Further underscoring this takeaway, Guillemot’s statement included language describing “profound changes” that would be made “across the company to improve and strengthen our workplace culture.” The company added a unilateral apology to “every affected by this” situation, including the alleged harassment.
“We must do better,” Guillemot concluded.
Critics all the layoffs a start, but they are looking for more concrete evidence of cultural change at the company, as well as similar shifts at other game creators and distributors. The industry continues to face questions related to these issues as the customer demographic for games continues to grow and shift, becoming more inclusive of others who did not fit the traditional target market in the early decades of game production and marketing. Developers are still learning how to manage these shifts, both inside their companies and when communicating with customers. This situation offers another opportunity to review, grow, and communicate those efforts to an audience that is looking for them.