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Paradox publish report on workplace discrimination and HR failures

Outlines changes to improve culture

Paradox Interactive have released a report into the company's culture which outlines issues of "discrimination, bullying and victimization" at the Swedish developer. The report, commissioned by Paradox and conducted by Gender Balance, an external firm recommended by Paradox's employee union, outlines several proposals for how Paradox can create a better working environment for staff. Paradox say they intend to implement all of them.

Much of the report deals with "grey zone abusive behaviour, which may defy clear legal definitions but nevertheless impacts the victim". This behaviour can 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."

All genders reported experiencing these behaviours, but the incidences were substantially higher for women. Women also reported experiencing more overt behaviour, including "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." 21% of women within the company said they had reported an incident to HR, a manager, or both.

Many women said that they did not report incidences of abuse because they didn't believe the issue would be taken seriously or because they were worried about retaliation. Of men and women who reported issues to HR, 50% said they were unsatisfied with the response.

"Many we have talked to express a low confidence in HR, most commonly citing other’s experiences but sometimes also based on their own," says the report. "Confidence in managers are very mixed, many expressing that they trust and feel supported by their manager but do not believe in their ability to affect meaningful change due to company policy, while some describing their manager as part of or even aggravating the problem.

"A number of employees express that managers higher up in the hierarchy are virtually protected from any complaints and that there is no point in trying to change problematic behavior that they are complicit in, and that trying to do so would only result in reprisals and the complainant being labeled as disloyal or a trouble maker. A few describe having been labeled as such by managers or colleagues," the report continues.

"Several people we have talked to, mostly women, have stated that they have decided to talk to us or file complaints only because they have decided to quit their jobs at Paradox now or in the near future, citing lack of confidence that they would still be welcome at their work place if it got out that they had made any type of complaints."

Many of these conclusions mirror details shared in a union survey last year, or in our own reporting in 2020.

What's new is that Gender Balance's report includes recommendations for what to change to address these issues. Those recommendations include increasing training for employees and management, strengthening HR's processes for dealing with complaints, regularly surveying the prevalence of misconduct, updating guidelines for internal and external events "specifically around alcohol", and more. Paradox CEO admitted "inappropriate behaviour" with an employee at a company event in 2018.

Gender Balance, who were enlisted to carry out the report in October 2021, will also remain on a temporary basis as "an additional resource to use for employees who may have experienced discrimination or other misconduct."

"The report is a first step for us to really address these issues and bridge the trust gap that exists," Paradox chief of staff Mattias Lilja told Swedish news agency Direkt after the report was published. "Everyone should feel safe at Paradox and thrive, that is our responsibility to ensure."

"As representatives for Unionen and the SACO unions at Paradox, we are very satisfied with the work conducted by Gender Balance," said union representative Zack Holmgren, in a statement released alongside the report. "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."

You can read Gender Balance's report online in full.

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Graham Smith

Deputy Editorial Director

Rock Paper Shotgun's former editor-in-chief and current corporate dad. Also, he continues to write evening news posts for some reason.