Ubisoft employees call for removal of 'role model' evaluation goal over concerns of misuse
Group claims it could favour abusers, but publisher maintains it is part of changes for "safe, respectful and inclusive workplace"
A group of Ubisoft workers has demanded that the publisher remove a proposed new attribute from its performance evaluation process, claiming the change could end up favouring abusive individuals rather than the people it is meant to protect.
According to the statement by an unknown number of French Ubisoft employees -- including workers at the Paris, Montpellier and Annecy studios who are members of the union STJV -- Ubisoft plans to add a sixth evaluation attribute alongside the current five: "Act as a role model."
This goal would apply to all employees and affect the remuneration allocated as part of the regular evaluation process. It is also expected to work as a multiplier for the production bonus around game releases.
However, STVJ and the group of Ubisoft employees claim the language -- said to include phrases such as "showing empathy", "being inclusive", and "having a constructive approach" -- is "extremely vague" and does not improve what they say is an "already deeply flawed" evaluation system.
"This addition is purely about communication," the group said in a statement shared with GamesIndustry.biz. "It will allow management to boast that it is fighting against harassment via a salary impact, while completely ignoring the fact that it is a tool that only intervenes after the fact (since it is used at the time of the evaluation), and that it is riddled with critical flaws: the predominant role of the manager in a situation where problems often come from these hierarchical superiors, possible discrimination against people who do not 'fit in,' etc.
"Therefore, this attribute could effectively become another harassment and discrimination tool available to the group's management, rather than one used to fight against it."
The group offered scenarios in which it might be misused; for example, a person defending themselves from inappropriate remarks or behaviour could be "evaluated negatively for their 'non-constructive' approach or 'difficulty in integrating with the team' even more than at present."
The statement continued: "People with neuroatypical empathic functioning could be blamed and punished in the name of this supposedly inclusive attribute."
There were also concerns that the evaluations will now highlight marginalisation, with the group claiming: "In the event of a positive evaluation, the person will be considered 'privileged' by nature, reinforcing potential accusations of favouritism, or of being a 'token'."
The group also argued that this new attribute does not improve the evaluation process, that it will not help reveal or regulate harassment problems within teams, and that marginalised people are already most often penalised with lower salaries, therefore are "particularly likely to be harmed if their manager abuses this sixth attribute."
"The STJV, on behalf of its members working in the Ubisoft group, is therefore demanding that the sixth attribute draft proposition be withdrawn altogether," the statement concludes, "as well as the integration of workers at all levels of the harassment reporting process, and not just downstream, after management has been able to water down or even cover up certain cases."
GamesIndustry.biz reached out to Ubisoft and received a statement from chief people officer Anika Grant, who confirmed plans for the sixth attribute and assured it is intended as a positive addition to the process.
"The sixth attribute is being implemented as part of Ubisoft's overall performance evaluation process and is one of the many meaningful and positive changes we've been making in the past year to ensure we have a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace culture for everyone," she said.
"The design and implementation is taking into account feedback from employees and employee representatives. At its core, the sixth attribute is about ensuring we compensate people not just on what they accomplish, but also how they accomplish it."
Elsewhere in the statement, the group claimed the situation at Ubisoft has changed very little since the allegations of a toxic workplace and abusive individuals among management first emerged last year.
It also claims its work trying to drive positive change at the company is "now blocked by a brutal and completely out-of-touch response from... management, which outright refuses our demands."
The comments echo a report by French publication Le Télégramme earlier this year, which also claimed the publisher had made minimal changes in the wake of abuse allegations.
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot responded to this report, claiming that "considerable progress has been made" and shared details on the work that went into more than 14,000 employee assessments and the creation of a new code of conduct.
In the past year, Ubisoft has also made several executive appointments, including Grant as chief people officer, Lidwine Sauer as head of workplace culture, and Raashi Sikka as vice president of global diversity and inclusion.
Following the initial allegations, several named individuals -- including editorial VP Tommy François, chief creative officer Serge Hascoët, Canadian studios head Yannis Mallat and global head of HR Cécile Cornet -- all left the company.
Two employees -- creative director Ashraf Ismail and PR director Stone Chin -- were fired after allegations of sexual misconduct. However, STJV accused Ubisoft of attempting to "[wipe] the slate clean by replacing only one or two well-known 'figureheads' in order to conjure up a cleaner image."
An independent report by analysts at financial services firm Jefferies last month claimed it found "significant improvements" at Ubisoft.
"Changes in policy/training and in leadership (both out and in), lack of major recurrences and recognition that zero tolerance for misconduct can have costs all support our view that [Ubisoft's] actions are real and having an effect," the company wrote.