BrewDog boss responds to ‘culture of fear’ claims

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

BrewDog has been criticised for fostering a 'culture of fear' among the workforce
BrewDog has been criticised for fostering a 'culture of fear' among the workforce

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BrewDog co-founder James Watt has promised to do better after ex-employees accused the company of fostering a 'culture of fear' among staff.

An open letter signed by more than 100 former BrewDog employees accused the brewer of toxic attitudes toward staff and a “damaging”​ and “unmanageable​” workflow that lead to members being exploited, belittled and pressured into working beyond their capacity.  

“Put bluntly, the single biggest shared experience of former staff is a residual feeling of fear​,” read the letter. “Fear to speak out about the atmosphere we were immersed in and fear of repercussions even after we have left.

‘Felt unsafe’

“Some of us remain in the industry, some have moved on to pastures new. Some of us were made redundant, some left voluntarily because we felt it was time to get out before we could be pushed out. Regardless of where we are now, or what we are doing, there is not one amongst us who feels entirely safe signing this letter.”

The letter laid the blame on Watt, whose attitude and actions it claimed were at the heart of the way BrewDog was perceived, valuing growth at the expense of employees.

Responding to the letter, Watt said the brewer’s focus was not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act.

‘Do the best by our team’

“We have always tried to do the best by our team — we do have many thousands of employees with positive stories to tell as a result,”​ he continued. “But 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 present to learn more. But most of all, right now, we are sorry.”

In light of the comments, Watt said that the company would start to deliver change to honour the effort and courage of those who had spoken out against BrewDog.

“We aren’t going to make excuses, we’re going to take action,”​ he added. “From our commitment to sustainability to our passion for beer, BrewDog has always been defined by taking responsibility and continually improving. This is no exception.”

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