BrewDog 'committed to doing better' after former staff allege 'culture of fear'

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

BrewDog 'committed to doing better' after former staff allege 'culture of fear'

Related tags Brewdog Staff mental health

BrewDog co-founder James Watt has promised to 'listen, learn and act' after former employees alleged the craft beer company fostered a 'culture of fear' among staff.

In an open letter​ published yesterday (9 June) by a group calling itself ‘Punks without Purpose’, it is claimed that a 'significant number' of former staff had 'suffered mental illness as a result of working at BrewDog'.

More than 100 former BrewDog staff have signed the letter, including at least 45 'who did not feel safe to include either their names or initials'.

Addressing the company directly, the letter said: "You spent years claiming you wanted to be the best employer in the world, presumably to help you to recruit top talent, but ask former staff what they think of those claims, and you'll most likely be laughed at.

"Being treated like a human being was sadly not always a given for those working at BrewDog."

According to the letter, toxic attitudes towards junior staff had 'trickled down' throughout the business 'until they were simply an intrinsic part of the company'.

"Put bluntly, the single biggest shared experience of former staff is a residual feeling of fear," it added.

"Fear to speak out about the atmosphere we were immersed in, and fear of repercussions even after we have left."

Responding to the letter earlier today (10 June), Watt said he would not seek to contradict or contest the claims, but will 'listen, learn and act'. “At BrewDog we are focussed on building the best business we can, which is why the open letter we saw on Twitter was so upsetting, but so important," he said. "Our focus now is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act."

The letter sets out that BrewDog has been built on a 'cult of personality', which has relentlessly sought publicity 'both good and bad' to further its business goals.

It accuses Watt and and fellow co-founder Martin Dickie of pursuing a 'growth at all costs' approach, fuelled by stoking controversy.

“By placing personalities at the centre of your messaging, you have inflated egos and fostered a culture within craft beer that deifies founders, and gives weight to sexist and misogynistic brewers who claim to be standing for free speech," it reads.

"You have become a lightning rod for some of the worst attitudes present on both the internet and real life.”

Targeting Watt directly, the letter says it is with him that 'the responsibility for this rotten culture lies'.

"Your attitude and actions are at the heart of the way BrewDog is perceived, from both inside and out.

"By valuing growth, speed and action above all else, your company has achieved incredible things, but at the expense of those who delivered your dreams.

"In the wake of your success are people left burnt out, afraid and miserable. The true culture of BrewDog is, and seemingly always has been, fear." 

In his response, posted on Twitter​, Watt added: “As a fast-growing business, we have always tried to do the best by our team - we do have thousands of employees with positive stories to tell as a result.

“The tweet we saw last night proves that on many occasions we haven’t got it right. We are committed to doing better, not just as a reaction to this, but always; and we are going to reach out to our entire team past and sent to learn more.

“But most of all, right now, we are sorry.

“It’s hard to hear those comments, but it must have been even harder to say them. We appreciate that and we will endeavour to honour that effort and courage with the real change it deserves. We aren’t going to make excuses, we’re going to take action. From our commitment to sustainability and our passion for beer, BrewDog has always been defined by taking responsibility and continually improving. This is no exception.”

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