BrewDog accused of promoting workplace culture of fear

Pic: Home Bird / Alamy Stock Photo

Craft beer company BrewDog has been accused of toxic employment practices in an open letter from former employees.

Sixty-one former employees, plus “45 (and counting)” others who did not feel safe to include their names or initials, published an open letter on Twitter and other social media platforms claiming BrewDog is built on a “cult of personality”.

They accuse the company of seeking publicity to further its business goals, including claims the founders changed their names to Elvis to support a new product launch, that they publicised ‘pawternity leave’ for staff with pets but never allowing staff to take it, and that they said they sent “protest beer” to Russia but did not.

They add that the company made claims about “wanting to save the planet” but chartered flights across the Atlantic and slashed proceeds from a charity product.

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

It includes claims that working at the company led staff to become mentally ill, and that some felt uneasy when asked to cut corners in terms of health and safety.

“It doesn’t matter which part of the business we worked in… we all felt that in our day-to-day working lives, there were at best hurdles, and at worst genuine safety concerns,” it says.

“So many of us started our jobs there eagerly, already bought into the BrewDog ethos, only to very quickly discover that ‘fast-paced’ meant ‘unmanageable’ and ‘challenging’ meant ‘damaging’.

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

The letter claims that the “responsibility for this rotten culture” lies with BrewDog co-founder James Watt, saying “in the wake of your success are people left burnt out, afraid and miserable”.

Watt responded to the claims with this statement: “At BrewDog our people are our main priority, which is why the open letter we saw on Twitter was so upsetting, but so important. Our focus now is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act.

“At BrewDog we are focused on building the best business we can. 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. 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.”

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