3 Signs That Your Are Losing Employees’ Trust

Warner Bros’s decision to put all their new blockbuster movies to HBO Max has created huge conflicts among each other.

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Photo by Faizan Rao on Unsplash

Warner Bros seems to be in huge trouble for a while since the last year 2020, and it seems that their fellow employees are losing their faith in the studio itself.

Recently, Wall Street Journal announced that the legendary director, Christopher Nolan may not work with Warner Bros again after the HBO Max deals.

This pandemic has clearly derailed the entertainment business to this kind of a mess.

I understand that they have been in deep trouble since the start of Covid-19, believe me, I know since I work in the cinema industry. But their decision to release ALL their blockbuster films on HBO Max and theaters altogether was a huge concern to us.

The same goes for their filmmakers. They too were concerned that their movies were brought to HBO Max without consulting them, and their partner studio Legendary who invested a lot in two movies with Warner Bros, Dune, and Godzilla Vs Kong have legal rights to sue them because of this lack of communication.

Following their news, there seem to be symptoms of mistrust in the company between the top management and their employees in the studio.

Here is why:

(Note: I don’t work at Warner Bros, I work in the Cinema Industry, so these are my speculation as someone who’s in the business and information gathered from the news.)

1) Lack of Authenticity

The case with Snyder’s Cut.
The Snyder’s cut has been very popular lately and Warner Bros planned to finally release it this year in 2021.

It’s great that the studio finally appreciates their main director of the DC universe after scraping off about 90% of Snyder’s original shoots before the film's release. Warner Bros hired their competitor’s writer, Joss Whedon who previously worked on the first two Avengers instead of trusting on Snyder himself to get the series going.

It turns out, Warner Bros wasn’t happy with Snyder’s direction on making Batman v Superman because the story was criticized to be too dark by critics.

For people who have been keeping up with the comic book world, they will know that DC tends to have a darker tone than Marvel (more than just their color). We’ve seen how twisted their villains are such as Joker and you don’t find those kinds of villains in the Marvel universe.

But because they didn’t stick to their core franchise, the movie became a flop. Not long after the Justice League’s release, Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck quit the franchise.

As a result, fans and casts were spreading the hashtag#ReleaseTheSnydercut.

According to Frances Frei, a former SVP of Leadership and Strategy at Uber, and Harvard Business School professor, not being authentic will risk trust between employers and employees. It’s actually riskier than being firm with your belief around people who doubt you.

At the moment, the studio managed to fix this problem by finally deciding to release the Snyder’s cut this 2021. However, this wasn’t the only problem in the studio that led to massive mistrust.

2) Lack of Empathy

Johnny Depp’s forced exit from Warner Bros
Back in early November 2020, Johnny Depp was fired from the Fantastic Beast franchise and was replaced by Mads Mikkelson. They fire him due to his lost court trial and ended up with the status of ‘wife-beater’.

And not long after, Ray Fisher was removed from the Flash series. He announced this in his Instagram account on 14 January 2021 saying that he can’t stand to work with someone who abuses their leadership power. This means that their leader may lack empathy for their own staff.

As you can see here, there seems to be mistrust between the employees and the company itself. Warner Bros was either laying off or forcing their own star to exit their franchise.

According to Careers in Government, a company can lose employee’s trust if they are:

  1. Not treating their staffs fairly
  2. Not investing in their staffs, making them feel undermined
  3. Not having effective leadership (bad management skill).
  4. Lack of empathy

Sadly, this was what seems to be happening in Warner Bros itself, based on the news. There was no trust between parties to do their job, which is not what a company must do.

Filmmaking is a collaboration, reliant on the mutual trust of team work and Warner Bros. has declared they are no longer on the same team. — Denis Villeneuve, director of Dune.

This leads to my next point…

3) Lack of Communication

The announcement of putting ALL 17 blockbuster movies on both HBO Max and theaters on the same day has shocked many of Warner Bros’s filmmakers.

Many of their filmmakers were mad, namely Christopher Nolan. Apparently, the top management of Warner Bros did not consult nor discuss this with their filmmakers about this decision, they didn’t even tell their partner studio Legendary.

According to INC, trust can be broken when there is poor communication. Failure to communicate between parties will lead to a lack of trust as they won’t even want to listen to the other anymore. There must be collaborations with everyone if they are going to carry out tasks.

However, because Warner Bros didn’t do this, they get what’s coming when directors began criticizing their decision.

“They did not consult them about what their plans were for their work. And I felt that somebody needed to point out that that wasn’t the right way to treat those filmmakers.” — Christopher Nolan, director of Tenet.

“It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion.” — Denis Villeneuve, director of Dune.

Then, on 22 January 2021, it was reported that Christopher Nolan will not be working with the studio itself after he learned that they are cannibalizing their own business model.

Their Stakeholders Weren’t Informed As Well.

As I said, since I work in the cinema industry, their news on releasing all their blockbuster movies on HBO Max also shocked us. We were concerned because if it’s out on HBO Max, there are chances of piracy, which hurts both the studio and the cinema. Plus, the option of going to the theaters will decrease.

“Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max startup,” — Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Entertainment.

And apparently, Legendary, who invested 75% in the Godzilla Vs Kong film wasn’t aware of this decision until it was out on the news. They are quite upset about this decision to the point they can sue the studio.

Right now, they are still in discussion on how to compensate for this matter because clearly, with this hybrid strategy, the profit split between studios is quite questionable.

We don’t know yet how it’ll turn out, but at the moment, they are in discussion.

In Defense Of Warner Bros

At this point, I may be a little too critical of the company. So, if we look at the scope of corporate managers, there may be a good reason for doing this hybrid strategy and these concerning decisions.

Firstly, we still do not know when will this pandemic end. Their revenues are slowly drying up with cinemas closed and they were desperate. Perhaps if they have talked to their filmmakers and stakeholders about this decision and resolve the release problems, this could’ve gone smoothly.

Secondly, Warner Bros was acquired by AT&T. They bought the studio in 2018, so they must still be in the process of a change in the management systems.

I am currently working in a business where it was acquired by another brand, and the change was drastic that it was hard for us to keep up. It was messy, hard, and very busy to get its transitions run smoothly. I can imagine it’s the same for the studio now.

Lastly, since AT&T is a telecommunication company, I doubt that they have any experience in the film business. It may take some time for the company to adjust to the film industry, which is very different than any other business.

In the film industry, whatever activity or complaints you have about the studio, it’ll be up on the news. This is why actors must keep their public image good because it affects the film they make as well.

All In All, Warner Bros Needs To Repair Trust

Based on all the news provided, it’s clear that Warner Bros has a lot to repair.

The decisions to: scrape 90% of hard work and replace it with someone else’s, withholding information, and the constant firing that has nothing to do with layoffs, are quite unprofessional.

They are risking their internal and external trust due to:

  1. Lack of Authenticity
  2. Lack of Empathy
  3. Lack of Communication

At the moment, Warner Bros has a lot to amend with their employees and stakeholders.

Right now they seem to be in a discussion with Legendary studio, they may need to speak with their own filmmakers as well because even Patty Jenkin, director of Wonder Woman, was always in conflict due to mistrust and considered leaving the studio:

“They (Warner Bros) wanted me to walk around on set as a woman, but it was their story and their vision.

And my ideas? They didn’t even want to read my script! There was such mistrust of a different way of doing things and a different point of view.” — Patty Jenkins telling her internal wars with WB, 2021.

I do hope Warner Bros will come around and repair each other’s trust because if they want to be on par with Marvels, they must all work together. And that requires a lot of trust among each other.

Working in film biz. Writing Entertainment Business Case Studies from Indonesia 🇮🇩 | Find me here: https://linktr.ee/nicolesudjono

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