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VIDEO: It's Hard to Fire Someone for Being Insensitive When Your Ads Are Insensitive (Right?)

If you read this blog, you probably get the feel that I'm all for disruption of the normal status-quo when it comes to HR.   Mix it up and shake it up - I love it.

But - there's a line that even I won't cross.  About 2 months ago, there was a recruiting video that I thought was brilliant in some ways and scary in others(still do), but at the end, it got so ugly that even I wouldn't share it here.  Now, it's part of a bigger story, so I think it warrants sharing.

Backstory - there's a game company (Kixeye) that launched a recruiting video in the summer that took direct aim at competitors like Zynga, Electronic Arts, etc.  If you count the ways that you could be offended by this video, you run out of fingers.  Language, age/gender themes, etc.  It's all there.  I was going to share it here when it came out, but blinked because at the end the CEO waves what look to be bedroom toys in the air as part of his promotion.  That's traditionally a line that causes me to say, "check please" and not share it for consideration.  

But now, Kixeye is in the news for firing some folks for allegedly racist behavior.  So I think the video comes into play.  Here's the video if you're interested.  WARNING:  This is big-time NSFW (put on headphones) and if you're easily offended, don't watch.  Don't send me emails or unsubscribe because you've been warned:

So - that's the video.  Some brilliant things in there, and they're clearly targeting the people they want at their company - not you and I.

But wait!  Here's the details of the recent firings at Kixeye from Business Insider:

"Kixeye has fired a manager and three other employees after investigating claims of racist behavior, CEO Will Harbin said in a blog post.The comp any is also instituting sensitivity training, Harbin wrote.

Kixeye is known for its take-no-prisoners attitude towards competitors like Zynga and EA, and a recruiting video which mocked FarmVille players was viewed by some as sexist.

"I am doing my best to create a company where our employees love to work, with a culture of openness and tolerance to different points of view, styles, races, gender, orientation, religion and cultures," Harbin wrote. "It turns out that a few bad apples weren't living up to the standards that the rest of us have set for our company." 

The question that's fascinating to me is if you can separate the way you market from the values you have as a company related to culture, people, etc.  

What do you think?  I think if he needed to fire people, he did the right thing.  But the marketing platform suggests that the company doesn't exactly reinforce treating others with respect.

Rock - meet hard place.  Pot - meet Kettle.  Interesting stuff from the field.  



Absolutely frightening. I understand what they were trying to accomplish with the video (I think) but your recruiting brand really needs to represent you as a company / employer. I definately did not get "...a company where our employees love to work, with a culture of openness and tolerance to different points of view, styles, races, gender, orientation, religion and cultures," from the video!!!

Makes me wonder where HR was?


I definitely got the impression that if they 'blessed' this thoroughly obnoxious and very offensive video as their culture, that I don't think I would want to work there for fear that I'd be bull-dozed over quickly with the offensive (obviously tolerated and encouraged) language and attitudes that they are better than my opinions and viewpoints. WOW - and they are on the hot stove for firing someone for being racially offensive? I'd bring this video to the courtroom to show how 'tolerant' they were of the insensitive culture they built! WOW...

Joshua Westbrook

There are a few remarks that I'd say were intended for an adult audience, but as long as that is made clear before watching, I'm not sure it offends me. To answer the question, I don't think this video weakens Kixeye's stance on racism. I wouldn't necessarily put racism and everything in this video into one bucket. The reality is they had to act on the racism issue, assuming it was legitimate, but the video is strategic, and I support their ability to define their uniqueness in the free market. I can see how you can advertise yourself as not making games for kids, the atari generation or the status quo, but then uphold the company as one that respects different viewpoints, cultures, etc...


I frankly found the video hilarious, though I also have a high tolerance for vulgarity. I wonder what the kid's parents think about the video though.

Frankly, being crass is different from being insensitive or hateful. A relaxed, vulgar workplace can be a very fun place to work, but when racism enters the picture, it can make the environment uncomfortable or even caustic for certain employees. I think they made the right call.

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