Paradox to implement changes after external investigation into studio culture and harassment


Paradox Interactive has published an external report by Gender Balance into the company’s workplace culture and allegations of harassment that emerged last year. Thankfully the number of severe cases found were relatively few through the Swedish company, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement and Paradox will be implementing changes based on Gender Balance’s recommendations.

Openly publishing the report into their workplace – you can find it linked here – Chief of Staff Mattias Lilja explained what it showed and the steps that Paradox will now be taking. Lilja explained that given the initial report and the allegations made in October 2020, which included CEO Fredrik Wester’s own inappropriate behaviour, “Gender Balance expected a larger number of serious cases given Paradox size but found fewer than expected. However, they found a more widespread behavior of the lower degree, such as master suppression techniques and inappropriate/nasty jargon. And it affects women to a greater degree than men, which is completely unacceptable.”

The report details what this “suppression” and “nasty jargon” entails:

The behaviours include using harsh and demeaning language, ridicule, recurring mean-spirited criticism, unfairly questioning competence, interrupting or speaking over someone in meetings, and blaming and shaming. While single incidents may not always cross the line into harassment or bullying, when the behaviour is recurring it forms a pattern of behaviour or jargon which becomes abusive. Perpetrators are most commonly male employees or managers, although the survey shows that female managers occur somewhat frequently as perpetrators of certain suppression techniques as well.

A number of women have also reported more overt behaviour, such as unsolicited compliments or comments about their appearance, having their competency questioned in a way that does not happen for male colleagues, or seeing the recurring use of gendered and negative stereotypes. Many have reported that this has created an atmosphere and a culture in which they do not feel welcome, and which they perceive as being open mainly to men. Key positions in the company are described as belonging to men who are not held accountable in cases of misconduct. Bringing up issues related to the work environment or inclusion is frequently berated in this environment, both by managers and colleagues. Several women have reported employing various coping strategies, such as avoiding working with or minimising their contact with certain persons, putting up a harsh façade, or having to advertise that they are in a relationship in order to not receive unwanted advances from male colleagues.

There were also a smaller number of more severe cases, down to specific behaviours, extended abuse, and because of dependency or special vulnerability, but these were thankfully minimal. In general, women were more likely to find themselves receiving toxic behaviour, and that obviously needs to change.

Lilja outlines the steps that are already being put into action, following recommendations by Gender Balance:

  • Review and update of our harassment and victimization policies, and case management processes.
  • Increase training for all employees, and conduct dedicated training for both management and human resources.
  • Reinforce managers’ support structure to handle potential harassment cases.
  • Take regular measurements of the prevalence and forms of misconduct through organization surveys (next iteration planned in Fall 2022).
  • Gender Balance will remain an additional case management support while we rebuild trust in our internal processes.
  • Update our guidelines for both internal & external events, specifically around alcohol availability and consumption.
  • Follow-up and evaluation on our action plan with an anti-discrimination council internally, constituted of members of human resources, management, safety officers, and union representatives.

Gender Balance was chosen to conduct their investigation after consulting with the SACO and Unionen clubs at Paradox. Speaking about the report, Zack Holmgren, Technical Lead & Union Representative, said, “we are very satisfied with the work conducted by Gender Balance. Having recommended them to the company for this audit, we had high trust in their ability from the very start. This has only been reinforced by the quality and thoroughness of their investigation as well as their individual case handling in the past months.”

Now, wouldn’t it be nice for companies like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft to be as transparent and willing to openly work with unionised employees?

Source: Paradox Interactive

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