Video Games

Just Cause Studio Employees Call for Change Amid Year-Long Battle Over Controversial Hire

After months of back-and-forth between employees and management, Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios (not to be confused with Hogwarts Legacy developer Avalanche Software) has filed a controversial hiring misconduct. We have issued a formal apology to our employees for the handling.

of You can read the full statement here It’s under the section titled “Our Journey” and includes:

I have learned more than I thought I would, but looking back is an important part of moving forward.

Sorry if it doesn’t work out every time.

During that time, Avalancher’s tireless dedication to devoting attention and effort to improving the company has been invaluable.

The progress we can celebrate today is thanks to the compassion and belief of our employees. To Avalancher, we would like to say:

Thank you for your contribution. I would like to express my sincere respect and gratitude.

Avalanche didn’t say specifically why it added the apology to its website, but IGN has spoken to a number of sources familiar with the company’s situation over the past few weeks, and Avalanche is here. We share details about how we got to this point. According to their account, Avalanche’s apology comes more than a year after the company hired a senior official who had been publicly accused of inappropriate workplace behavior towards female employees at his previous company. . IGN has confirmed public allegations against the employee in question, but chooses not to identify him here.

However, while our sources say the hiring of this person was the catalyst for their frustration, their real conflict ultimately ended up not with the individual in question. Bigger than the company itself. Avalanche’s management and Human Resources have repeatedly avoided engaging in concerns about the company’s hiring process, ignored the discomfort of people at the company who experienced workplace harassment in past jobs, and determined that Avalanche would They say they ignored requests for transparency about how they planned to keep them safe. from now on.

Now, more than a year later, our sources say Avalanche’s willingness to acknowledge the issue was a response to an attempt to downplay a situation that many felt internally dangerous and unheard of. This is due to an overwhelming internal backlash.

rumbling avalanche

According to our sources, the person in question has been hired in 2021 as a project lead within Avalanche Studios, a Nordisk Film subsidiary with offices in Stockholm, New York, Malmö and Liverpool.

Almost immediately, multiple employees raised concerns about the hiring to studio leadership and HR, but those concerns were not addressed, according to sources. The leader reportedly reassured him that he did not need to work directly with this individual due to remote work and his status as a contractor. However, our sources say those promises were broken in 2022 when she began working in the office, including hosting one-on-one meetings with female employees and attending company events. The person was eventually promoted, sparking another wave of frustration from employees who felt their concerns weren’t being heard by management and HR.

The individual eventually resigned in mid-2022, but sources say the lack of transparency about his employment and the company’s reluctance to acknowledge employees’ concerns were the cause of the turmoil within the studio. In October, one employee contacted Avalanche management on behalf of a group of employees to request an apology from the company, but no action was taken.

On Nov. 9, an Avalanche employee posted a message on his work Slack channel, saying, “I am no longer satisfied with the ethical implications of selling my workforce to Avalanche Studios Group.” Then the question came to mind. The message, confirmed by IGN, specifically said that he, the CEO of Avalanche, tagged Pim Hofve and called on employees to email the poster in a personal email with details of the situation.

This led to a company-wide email from Holfve later that day, highlighting the company’s “zero tolerance” policy, stating that Avalanche would actually conduct an employee background check after the issue was raised internally. I have proven that I did. In an email seen by IGN, he said the background check included the results of a third-party investigation at his previous workplace.

“The person then left his contractual position with us, but decided to do so solely for project reasons,” the email continues. “Their decision had nothing to do with accusations from previous workplaces.

There was no allegation or suspicion of wrongdoing by that person while working for Avalanche Studios Group.” [Emphasis Holfve’s]

The email promises to launch an investigation into Avalanche’s employment practices led by a third-party legal firm, and encourages employees to continue raising concerns with Human Resources and Holf himself through existing internal channels. It concludes with

On November 14th, Avalanche management held a town hall meeting to encourage employees to submit questions. Instead of answering live, we promised to deliver a Q&A with answers to selected questions in a few days. IGN has seen his Q&A that sheds light on the nature of many employee concerns. So are our sources. In particular, employees often complained about the lack of rigor in the hiring process that led to this person being hired in the first place, why so many complaints of discomfort didn’t result in action or even acknowledgment, and a general lack of transparency. I asked about Consistently from management. As one of Avalanche’s vetted Q&A questions reads: “experience?”

IGN also read daily emails following City Hall from Holchwe and Chief Human Resources Officer Signe Svensson. Many of Hofve’s emails repeat Q&A and points from his previous emails, but the overall tone is more mortified.

“Yesterday evening, several Avalanche reached out to me and Signe to share their experiences over the past year. These descriptions made me sad, no one should have to feel, about their place of work, especially Avalanche.

“Honestly, your concerns have not reached me for the past year. If I had known about it, I would have immediately apologized in the email – of course.”

In a second email from Horfub sent a few days later, Horfub said that “his own understanding of the event has also evolved over the last few days and new facts have surfaced,” adding that “concerns have been raised. I know it has been filed,” he added.about it [the employee’s] A leadership style that goes against our values ​​and code of conduct.”

I said it to everyone, and I still say it today.

“All of this highlights a lot of flaws in our process. It was a mess.”

Hofve also reiterates the notes he maintained through past emails urging employees to use internal channels such as Avalanche’s whistleblowing system or by approaching him or the CPO directly. He also urges employees not to speak to the media about the situation, saying “outside attention won’t speed things up.”

Svensson email notifies employees that Avalanche has contracted with independent DEI research group gender balance We will investigate the process that led to this situation and help the company make changes to avoid it in the future. According to the employee’s Q&A, Gender Balance’s engagement is a direct result of employee feedback. Avalanche initially started a deal with a law firm, but employees objected and asked the company to work with an organization focused on building good practices to prevent harassment and discrimination. . The company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee specifically advocates gender balance, and its Gender Balance website not only investigates reports of harassment, but recommends measures that “look beyond the legal side.” claims to be The investigation he launched on November 21st.

In the Q&A, Microsoft Who Avalanche has partnered with on its next cooperative open world game, Contraband, was informed of the situation. “They have not expressed any concerns about how we are dealing with the revelation on our part.”

IGN reached out to Xbox for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

wind change

Over the course of the dispute, multiple Avalanche employees of 500 have expressed dissatisfaction with Avalanche’s handling of the situation, according to multiple sources. The same source added that they had each heard from others in the company that they were very offended, but that they could not safely speak out against management.

UPDATE November 28, 2022 at 10:08 AM PT: Avalanche responded to IGN’s request for comment shortly after this article was published. The company declined to answer our specific questions, but a spokesperson pointed to a statement on its website, pointing to Holfve’s email regarding the background checks of the individual in question and noting that it failed to take action sooner. I repeated my apologies for what happened.

“We are committed to learning from our mistakes and doing better in the future,” the response read. “To this end, we are taking concrete steps to review and improve our processes. Including formal investigations led by us, ensuring that our values ​​and code of conduct are reflected in our daily interactions and ensuring that we have meaningful dialogue with our employees. , to ensure we create a truly inclusive, sustainable and welcoming workplace that all avalanches deserve.”

The original story continues below.

Several people we spoke to expressed frustration that it took Avalanche so much time and effort to act. A source IGN spoke to again this morning called the official statement “overwhelming” and said they were expecting more.

Others told IGN they hope some kind of public acknowledgment will set an example for the industry as a whole. feels optimistic, and hopes that this and other actions the company has taken in recent weeks will eventually spill over into the culture of other game studios in the region.

“They say a rising tide can lift all boats,” they concluded. “This looks like a sea change to me.”

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. you can find her on her twitter @duck valentine.

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