There’s no need for embellishment: the recent revelations at Activision Blizzard are heartbreaking and unfortunately not uncommon in the tech industry. But there are questions from those on the outside about the best way to support employees. Moments like these can serve as a wake-up call for others in the tech industry.
For those not aware, Activision was hit with a lawsuit in late July by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The suit alleges that Activision had a created an environment that bred rampant sexual harassment and discrimination spanning many years, and that leadership largely downplayed or ignored employee complaints. Over 3,000 Activision employees signed a letter supporting a work stoppage, due to what they felt was a lacking response to the allegations, and days later, CEO Bobby Kotick resigned.
If you feel this is a time to engage in conversation about what’s happened at Activision Blizzard—or whether there might be underlying challenges in your own company.
What are your blind spots? Before starting a dialogue with colleagues, take some time to consider your own strengths and weaknesses as it comes to DEI. We all have weak spots – including myself. Two essential elements to bring into these conversations are humility and empathy. Expressing that level of vulnerability can be scary, but it’s important to understand that effective conversation is based on shared vulnerability. You won’t be the only one concerned about the balance of authentic expression and offending others.
Bring in an outside expert. Even if you have facilitated diversity and inclusion dialogues in the past, the presence of a neutral party can ensure the dialogue is given equal footing. An outside expert can also compensate for some of the blind spots you discovered during self-reflection.
Prepare to act… When specific recommendations are raised, such as the removal of discriminatory employment practices, creation of a diversity and inclusion committee or the request to disclose pay rates, understand that the clock has started. Building trust on sensitive issues related to DEI means responding to requests in a complete manner as soon as possible.
…but ensure that your response is measured. Overreactions to requests can also be alarming to staff. Stick to the tangible requests that are made and work to correct them. Remember that some requests are not related to the company but may address the behavior of individuals.
Invest in empathy. As mentioned before, empathy is a critical element to successfully having sensitive conversations. Do your best to understand where a colleague is coming from. What emotions are they expressing in telling their story, and how can you relate to feeling those emotions? How would you feel if you were experiencing the same emotions they are going through?
Above all, don’t deflect your responsibility for things that are in front of you. The events at Activision Blizzard present an opportunity to “dogpile” onto a company that happens to be in the spotlight. But challenges that exist in companies —whether you currently know them or they reveal themselves in a dialogue—need to be addressed.
What are some of the tips that you must follow to successfully set up a dialogue on sensitive topics? Let me know your thoughts via Twitter.