Blizzard’s HR boss is the latest exec to say goodbye

Image: Getty

Following the news that Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack has left the company, Bloomberg News reported that a top-level human resources employee is out, too.

Jesse Meschuk, whose title was SVP and senior people officer for Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Blizzard, left “this week,” Activision Blizzard confirmed to Bloomberg News. No further details were given regarding Meschuk’s departure, but it comes after California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit on July 22 that said Activision Blizzard’s female employees were subject to “constant sexual harassment” at the company, alongside other allegations. Thousands of employees have since signed an open letter supporting the lawsuit before walking out of work in protest last week.

Activision Blizzard executives have sent out mixed messages about the lawsuit, some of which inspired outrage from current and former employees. That group of employees said Activision Blizzard’s response to the lawsuit — particularly that of Fran Townsend — was “abhorrent and insulting.”

In the time since the initial filing, current and former employees have continued to speak out about the toxic culture they say they’ve experienced at Activision Blizzard since its founding. Axios reporter Megan Farokhmanesh published a report Tuesday exposing how the company’s HR department “failed” its workers. The report describes widespread problems within the HR department, which led to employee experiences being “undermined and discounted.”

The Axios report said that employees often faced skepticism over claims. Several former employees described similar experiences in interviews with Polygon, with one source specifically calling out the high turnover rate mentioned in Axios’ report. “It was a rotating door,” they said.

Comments

Do Kotick next!

Oh hey, Megan Farokhmanesh! Didn’t know she’d moved over to Axios. Glad to see she’s still getting steady journalism work.

Yeah she and Totillo are running that Axios Games thing. I actually really enjoy their daily digest email with the biggest stories of the day.

Wow what a flurry of moves. If they’re not careful they’ll cause an avalanche!

It’s what they deserve.

I have zero faith this will be a black mark for him of any kind honestly. He’ll find another job at another studio probably.

You notice all these people leaving but noone’s talking about Kotick or Townsend leaving. You know, the person ultimately in charge with the ridiculously bad reputation, and the biggest denier of the problem up till a few days ago respectively?

Sacrificial lambs. That’s what all these other names are.

And even the people who left are likely to bounce back with relative ease.

This stuff makes for good PR, but I doubt things will change much once the story dies down. Just like Ubisoft…

Axios reporter Megan Farokhmanesh published a report Tuesday exposing how the company’s HR department "failed" its workers.

This is a bit odd to me, since the HR department’s job is to protect the company, not the workers. Protecting the workers is simply an inconvenient but necessary means to protect the company from lawsuits like this one.

…so they failed the company, by failing the workers. I get the point you’re trying to make, but they’re not wrong to state it like this.

It’s also worth pointing out that HR departments are staffed by human beings, who can be said to have failed to defend their fellow co-workers, regardless of the overall policies or goals of the HR department.

you could say that but youd be wrong a lot of the time. HR does distasteful shit that fails workers every day regardless of the good intentions of those staffed there, acti-blizz is just one example of many

…so they failed the company, by failing the workers. I get the point you’re trying to make, but they’re not wrong to state it like this.

I disagree with this, but I feel like it’s my fault you’re saying it because I didn’t phrase my initial comment well enough.

I should have said that protecting workers is one possible way that the HR department can protect the company. Because there are plenty of other less savory ways for them to fulfill their goals that are unfortunately commonplace. Shutting down complaints, gaslighting, starting the process of collecting data that would support the termination of complaining employees…there are so many ways that HR departments can protect the company without protecting employees. Proving anything in court against a company as powerful as Activision-Blizzard is one hell of an uphill battle that most people aren’t going to embark on. In my opinion, what makes the Activision-Blizzard lawsuit so newsworthy isn’t that they were doing any of what they were doing, but rather that they were doing it at such a scale and so sloppily that they are being taken to court by a powerful entity that stands a good chance of winning.

It’s also worth pointing out that HR departments are staffed by human beings, who can be said to have failed to defend their fellow co-workers, regardless of the overall policies or goals of the HR department.

I do agree with this, but I would also be obnoxious and insist on drawing a firm line between the human beings staffing the HR department and the HR department itself. Did the employees in the HR department fail to protect their fellow employees? Absolutely, because that’s what human decency calls for. Did the HR department fail to protect the company’s employees? I would say no, it didn’t, because again their job is to protect the company. If the HR department had managed to sweep everything under the rug without making any of the employees any safer, it would have fulfilled its job to the company just as well as if it had actually created a safe workplace.

Treating your workers so terrifically poorly and in such a way that the state you operate in has grounds to initiate a lawsuit against you is inarguably failing to protect the company. I know it’s fun to be cynical and glib about HR and at the end of the day it’s true that they exist to protect the company, but it’s protecting the company by protecting the company against actionable lawsuits that employees could bring because of the conduct of certain other employees, i.e. exactly this situation. You remove abusers from their jobs or separate certain folks in a way that protects the victims because those victims are going to sue. They have a responsibility to take employee claims seriously because these things can easily escalate, and they need to proscribe protective remedies for those employees to prevent them from escalating.

I know it’s fun to be cynical and glib about HR and at the end of the day it’s true that they exist to protect the company

I am all but sure you didn’t intend your statement this way, but I find it really upsetting that you would suggest any of this is in any way fun to me. I can’t describe how incredibly distressing it is to work in a company where if your well-being or the well-being of a coworker is compromised, it’s a gamble whether going to HR will alleviate the problem or make you a target. I find absolutely nothing about this to be fun, there is no joy to be had here, just ugly truths to be shared.

Treating your workers so terrifically poorly and in such a way that the state you operate in has grounds to initiate a lawsuit against you is inarguably failing to protect the company.

To be clear, I agree with this.

it’s protecting the company by protecting the company against actionable lawsuits that employees could bring because of the conduct of certain other employees

Again, I agree with this. You go on to mention several possible ways to protect the company from such lawsuits, all of which are reasonable methods. But what I want to make clear is that they are not the only methods, and that companies can and do achieve the same results in less savory ways. Sometimes companies are caught, like in Blizzard’s case, but many are not.

Blizzard’s female employees were subject to "constant sexual harassment"

I’m recapping some bad stuff to give background to my next point.

signed an open letter supporting the lawsuit before walking out of work in protest last week.

But you know who’s expressing the opposite of support? The games media who keep doing free marketing for Blizzard like it’s business as usual. The current article is fine but there’s a Polygon article right next to this one that copy-pastes a press release about Diablo Immortal product development. There’d be more of a reckoning if Activision was hit by a media boycott and if outlets stopped doing free marketing like usual.

As Jim Sterling recently said: "After so many stories of abuse in this industry, after watching Ubisoft [different but same] get away with years of covering for abusers while the press ignores it [video montage shows a Polygon article that’s a copy-paste of official corporate games PR and marketing] and the fanbase tells anyone speaking to shut up, I can only pray more people with the power to hold these companies to account do so. Even if it’s something as small as refusing to cover their games as a press outlet […]"

Call me when Fran Townsend gets the boot. Anything less than that is a smokescreen.

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