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BrewDog CEO apologises and vows reform after accusations of 'culture of fear'

·Contributor
·3-min read
The Scottish brewer will be subject to an independent review and an anonymous staff survey will be conducted to 'paint a comprehensive picture of the Brewdog culture at every level'. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters
The Scottish brewer will be subject to an independent review and an anonymous staff survey will be conducted to 'paint a comprehensive picture of the Brewdog culture at every level'. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

The chief executive of BrewDog has issued an apology and vowed to reform the company after accusations of ‘culture of fear’ from more than 100 former staff members.

In a message on professional networking platform LinkedIn, James Watt said he was sorry for “neglecting many important people elements” of the business, and apologised to all of the signatories, the BrewDog team and any community members that were affected.

“This week has been tough for everyone at BrewDog. I know the events from the last few days have caused a lot of pain for all of our team members and our community and I can only apologise for that,” he said.

“I am ultimately responsible for the culture of our business. The letter that ex-colleagues wrote to us is 100% my fault.”

He added that the Scottish brewer would be subject to an independent review and that an anonymous staff survey will be conducted to “paint a comprehensive picture of the Brewdog culture at every level”.

The findings of the review will be shared both internally and externally before the end of the year, he said.

Earlier this week, former BrewDog workers posted an open letter to the company on Twitter, accusing the company of being “a cult of personality” and detailing an alleged toxic environment.

The letter, posted on Twitter on Wednesday, said “being treated like a human being” at the firm “was sadly not always a given”. It claimed employees were harassed, assaulted, belittled, insulted and gaslighted.

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Watt was called out by name: “It is with you that the responsibility for this rotten culture lies.”

Among other things, the letter alleged that BrewDog, which has been valued at about $2bn (£1.4bn), has a “toxic attitude towards junior staff” that “trickled down throughout the business from day one, until they were simply an intrinsic part of the company".

“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 have left.”

Earlier this year, several publications said the company was under fire for allegedly firing female and LGBTQ employees.

The letter also said Mr Watt and co-founder Martin Dickie had exploited publicity, "both good and bad", to further their own business goals and chased "growth, at all costs".

Read more: BrewDog announces plans for a 'beer hotel' in Edinburgh

On Friday Watt said: “I want to be very candid about some mistakes that I have made that have detrimentally impacted our culture.

“Despite surviving COVID-19 due to a phenomenal effort from our amazing team I had to make some very hard decisions to ensure our survival and these decisions have taken a considerable human toll on our business and had a negative impact.

“Additionally, some PR mistakes that I have made in our past have also had a detrimental impact on culture. I can promise that I will not make these mistakes again.”

Watts confirmed that exit interviews will be sent to everyone in the next two weeks who's left the company in the last year.

He also promised a salary review from 1 July, which was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watch: BrewDog accused of 'Me Too' behaviour

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