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Fredrik Wester, the CEO of Paradox Interactive, has publicly expressed regret for “inappropriate behaviour” towards an employee at a company event in 2018. This comes shortly after someone leaked the results of a union survey which revealed many employees felt they’d been mistreated at the company behind games including Crusader Kings and Hearts Of Iron. “Accountability starts from the top,” said Wester.
“In the wake of the recently leaked survey to the press, there have been rumors and discussions about my role in this environment, citing a specific incident in 2018,” begins Wester’s Twitter thread today. He says that at a company-wide conference in 2018, “a Paradox employee was subject to inappropriate behavior from me personally”.
Wester says he apologised for his behaviour the following Monday “in a process reviewed by HR”. He does not say if he suffered any professional consequences, only that he began working with his coach and mentor “to understand the impact of my behavior better, and to better myself.”
Wester was CEO of Paradox for 15 years before ascending to the board in 2018. He became CEO again earlier this month after his replacement, Ebba Ljungeru quit—in Paradox’s words—”due to differing views on the company’s strategy going forward”. Wester says that “contrary to what people may suggest”, his move was unconnected to his behaviour towards the employee, and that the change had been planned for months by then.
The survey leaked to press earlier this month was held by the company’s unions. Almost half of respondees (an incomplete picture of the company) reported being mistreated, with women in particular reporting having suffered. In response, Paradox told us that they are “in the process of bringing in an external, neutral firm to conduct a thorough audit of our processes and a comprehensive employee survey.” Having your CEO in this situation a week later isn’t a great look.
“I understand that this makes my cause less credible when it comes to handling these issues internally,” Wester said, so he won’t be “involved directly”. It’ll be handled by Paradox HR “with external help”, he says. It’s always worth remembering that external firms aren’t necessarily neutral, though we don’t know who’s involved here.
“I sincerely regret making a person in my proximity uncomfortable and for the damage this caused,” Wester concluded. “I will continue to work to not only improve myself but also improve the work environment around both Paradox and the industry as a whole.”
Whole lot of work to be done in the games industry.