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Understanding workplace toxicity with Emily Greer - GDC Podcast ep 14

Game industry veteran Emily Greer, co-founder of renowned browser games site Kongregate and more recently founder of mobile studio Double Loop Games, joined Gamasutra on the GDC Podcast to offer a leadership view of toxicity in the workplace and how to better understand it--as to prevent it from happening.

It's an interview that spins off of her talk from GDC Summer, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Practical Tips to Prevent Abuse & Build Team Trust" (you can also get the slides here).

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Emily on power dynamics and workplace toxicity

"The core of the problem comes back to humans' desire for power and desire to push people down to raise themselves up, that's just incredibly universal. So it doesn't matter if you're looking at [the businesses of] movies or high fashion or games or a retail store. A lot of the same things keep coming up."

Greer said even though inappropriate and abusive sexual encounters are typically the focal point of #metoo incidents, a person's desire to exert power over someone else is the impetus behind their actions. The desire to leverage power against another person often manifests itself in sexually inappropriate incidents, she said.

Typically in incidents when men are being abusive toward women, "when you're trying to push a lady down, [the man] will use sexual language," Greer said. "Men-to-men, it will often happen as well, and then it tends to be homophobic slurs and other types of things, often pushing men into female gender as a way to push them down."

"It's always about 'you're less than me, I'm making myself bigger [than you] in relation,'" she said.

Emily on the concept of "one bad apple"

"It can't just be one bad apple if you're seeing it at so many companies of so many different sizes in so many different regions. It's coming up again and again," she said.

She said when you look at situations such as "one bad apple," it gives leadership the opportunity to overlook much of the spectrum of bad behavior--a lot of behavior may be inappropriate, wrong, and toxic, but may not be illegal, or not even quite harassment. With the concept of one bad apple, "it's this easy problem," Greer said. "You get rid of them, you find them, it's over. But when you really look at it, it's this whole spectrum of behavior and a lot of people have behaved [inappropriately] to some degree, then it's just harder to deal with."

In other words, throwing out the "bad apples" isn't dealing with the systemic issues that enable bad behavior in the first place, and reform must take place at a deeper level.

GDC Podcast music by Mike Meehan

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