Disclaimer: The following article was translated via Google Translate. All information laid down in the article was taken from French newspaper Liberation’s investigative piece – Sexual harassment at Ubisoft: “We knew” (the article is in French, and it is behind a paywall. We have a subscription for the Liberation and used the same to extract the information). Spiel Times hasn’t invented or doctored any piece of information presented below. Many pieces of translations confused us. If there’s a mistake, feel free to mail us at [email protected] to make this article more comprehensive and accurate. We apologize in advance.
Ubisoft has been a pinnacle of interest recently. Not just amongst gamers, but mainstream newspapers, investigators, and journalists. Even after multiple sexual harassment allegations, and stepping down of numerous company personnel, the situation hasn’t slowed down. In fact, it has only multiplied. This time, it’s about the Chief Creative Officer Serge Hascoet.
A source at Ubisoft’s head office HR tells them that Serge “has the most toxic behavior in the whole company. He is smart because he sails on a ridgeline. Everyone knows it, [and they] know him for that. He is even valued for its toxicity.”
An unclear translation also points out that Cecile Cornet, Chief Talent & Communications Officer at Ubisoft had something to say in a meeting. In Ubisoft’s crisis unit, there was a meeting where all the departments were present whose functions were to guarantee a safe working environment, diversity, and inclusion. Romane (the first name changed as requested) believes that Ubisoft will punish some people, the most visible, just to look good on the outside. But the company will protect all the toxic people whose names have not come out with as much strength.
A boys’ club was formed around one if Ubisoft’s “emblematic” vice-presidents, Tommy Francois. For each victim who reported the HR against them, they were greeted with “these are creative, that’s how they work” or “if you can’t work with him, maybe it’s time for you to leave”. Francois has been placed on administrative leave as part of a corporate investigation along with Maxime Beland, another vice president at Ubisoft.
Liberation’s investigation points out that HR has heard of over a hundred reports and cases so far. The discovery and reporting of toxic behavior were welcomed in two ways. One, hostility, as women who have worked at Ubisoft for a long time, tells Liberation, “Since your revelations, the situation here has gotten worse. The reactions in the production studios are extreme. All the chiefs were instructed to speak to the employees, but they did so only by obligation. They remain convinced that this affects their freedom. They call it “a witch hunt”. In addition to the rest, as a woman, we have become a threat. It’s far from pleasant to live.”
Roughly translated –
On the other, employees who do not believe in the veracity of the clean hands operation in progress and dare to say it on the company’s social network, Mana. One of them fumed in his own name: “After reading these articles, I expect nothing less than the resignation or the dismissal of Serge Hascoët and [the HRD] Cécile Cornet. I really don’t see any other morally sustainable option. ” Another: “Faced with a tragedy, Ubisoft fails to react humanely. […] I expected more than a generic and impersonal response to all the pain, anger, and fear that we have expressed in recent weeks. ”
During a video conference with the HR departments of the different entities present in more than 30 countries with more than 18,000 employees, the 90 human resources managers attended a speech, which was described as “ubuesque” (“ludicrous”) as one of Liberation’s witnesses.
Romane adds to this by saying, “The head of HR of Ubisoft Montreal intervenes and says, ‘These articles are unfair, and if Yves [Guillemot, the CEO,] does not make a public statement to exonerate HR, it’s simple, I leave Ubisoft with half of my team.'”
All his associates followed in agreement. The Montreal studio is also at the center of allegations of sexual harassment, which were reported on by the Quebec newspaper, La Presse.
“It was insane,” adds Romane. “Our discussions were taking a strange turn, many HR placed themselves in the position of a victim. While it may well be understood that not all HR departments are guilty of concealing toxic behavior, it is still a collective failure.”
In a letter to the employees, Guillemot promised to review the composition of the editorial department and transform the HR processes. The first concrete element to emerge from this crisis management was the adoption of an anonymous testimony feedback system for cases of harassment and assault.
“This tool, Whispli, has existed at Ubisoft since 2018 to denounce corruption,” explains Eve, a former employee. “At the time, we had already recommended integrating the themes of harassment and discrimination, but the Human Resources Department [Cécile Cornet] had expressly refused, fearing a big unpacking.”
Whispli is coupled with an email alert system to the crisis cell called “Respect at Ubisoft”. More than a hundred cases are ebbing today, from reported situations ranging from psychological harassment to rape.
Rough translation –
Others believe that the cell uses the term “harassment of the environment”, which at first glance may seem suspicious. “This is not a term which we use to cover or conceal the facts,” on the contrary, explains Catherine, a member of the Respect at Ubisoft cell. “We were overwhelmed by alerts of single women in teams of guys posting photos or watching porn videos. Without specifically targeting a person, this culture of male domination de facto harasses them. We needed this term harassment of the atmosphere so as not to minimize these situations.”
Tatiana, an HR member who was able to consult the testimonies that go back through the different channels, explains that almost half of the cases were already reported to Human Resources before. “It just goes to show that HR is Ubisoft’s organ of silence,” she adds. A quarter of the reports are reportedly targeting Ubisoft’s Creative chief, Serge Hascoet, or the [Creative] Department he oversees.
A source at Headquarters HR [unclear] tells Liberation that Serge did not commit a sexual assault. But he is the one who made this toxicity possible in the corporation. Everyone knows him, and they know him for that. He is even valued for his misogyny, homophobia, and his method of managing the crushing of others. Even for his permanent libidinous behavior. And that, some people are still understanding that he is a Creative Person.
Romane, worried that Serge has not yet been the subject of an investigation, protested, “We knew about Serge. The story of a Christmas Eve when Tommy Francois tried to forcibly kiss a young woman came back to HR via a survey that we do every two years. Serge witnessed the scene and it made him laugh.”
Rough translation –
Often, in testimony, the question of his very personal use of illicit substances also comes up: “Serge would have unwittingly drugged employees, including top management, by passing them space cakes.”
Liberation collected an anonymous testimony that says –
Serge, surrounded by his vice-presidents, said that this “bad kiss” hampered his creativity and that he needed to enlarge his mind “with big dicks in the behind” and “rotate it until it understands”.
Tatiana explains how at a working dinner, Serge pushes creative directors to drink until they get sick and then asks the waitress to bring back all the bottles of alcohol from the restaurant – on the company’s funds, of course- and yells, “You’re a pedal if you don’t drink!”
A dozen alerts confirmed this. “He allegedly blocked a woman in the elevator and stuck to her, growling and staring at her. Other editorial [creative] associates would have done the same, to the point that it became a trademark, “added Tatiana.
Rough translation –
A sense of priorities that we find more violently in the words of one of Liberaton’s sources, who report that the head of HR, Cecile Cornet, would have explained in early 2019 that “Yves is OK with toxic management, as long as the results of these managers exceed their level of toxicity”. Questioned in January by her teams, Cécile Cornet also said that Ubisoft “is a company that gives a second chance, a third or more if necessary to its key employees, those who have proven themselves.” The impunity that may be coming to an end. If officially Ubisoft has only taken three sanctions against its senior officers implicated in cases of harassment and sexual assault (including Tommy François laid off), Catherine assures us that at least twenty people would subject to investigations by external law firms. “Many of these investigations should lead to layoffs,” she said, “because they are only launched when the case is considered to be very strong.” Contacted, Ubisoft, Serge Hascoët, and Cécile Cornet did not answer Liberation’s questions.
Liberation’s conclusion (untouched translation) –
Another of our witnesses who is very knowledgeable about crisis management talks about an electric shock. “Yves said to his teams” don’t hold back any file, I want to be aware of all cases “, when CEOs generally say the opposite,” especially do not inform me, because if there is a thing, I don’t want to jump. ” There is a real awareness. For many management, it is also a loss of bearings. They are so disconnected from the base that for them, all of the ideological markers changed overnight. It’s really a #MeToo moment because it’s not just a sum of individual revelations, but a change of marker of what’s acceptable and what’s no longer. ”