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The Toxic Culture Brewing inside BrewDog - Liberty Mind

The Toxic Culture Brewing inside BrewDog

The Toxic Culture Brewing inside BrewDog

We are often intrigued when new and interesting companies emerge, especially when they are mixing things up and claiming to change the norm.  

Our biggest mission when we set up BrewDog was to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. 

But at what cost?

Often portrayed as a company with edge and character soon turned to one accused of creating a toxic culture.

On the 9th of June this year, Craft Brewing company ‘BrewDog’ faced a major employee comms crisis, when a letter of complaint involving comments from 61+ former employees became prominent on twitter. This letter included stories of lies, hypocrisy and deceit from within the company.

BrewDog spent years claiming that they wanted to be the best employer in the world and recruit top talent, with press campaigns around the fun culture and many quirky benefits such as ‘Pawternity’ leave which entitled employees to take a week of paid leave when adopting or buying a new pup.

But the shiny PR appeared to be a cover up for the internal problems.

When 'fast-paced' really means 'unmanageable'...

From HR to bartending, staff members claimed that they weren’t being treated fairly and that Brewdog often cut corners on health and safety and created a toxic culture that left staff suffering from mental illness. 

It was apparent that the ethos was soon being scrutinised with ‘fast-paced’ meaning ‘unmanageable’, and ‘challenging’ meaning ‘damaging’.

From entrepreneurs that started selling small batches of beer out of the back of their van at local markets, to a successful company in just one year. Sadly, we could see that these allegations were probably quite true. 

The personalities at the centre of their marketing messaging, fostered a culture that defined founders, and gave weight to sexist and misogynistic brewers who claimed to be standing up for free speech. 

There were also concerns around BrewDog’s sustainability pledge as the letter pointed out that over the years several flights were taken across the Atlantic, and an “eco-friendly” saison beer brewed with glacier water was actually a process that didn’t seem sustainable at all. 

Another one of those We are sustainable when we need to be moments.

The letter includes a direct message to Founder, James Watts, stating – 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.

Leaving us with the impression that things at BrewDog must have got really bad to drive such a big statement. 

Read the full letter: https://twitter.com/PunksWPurpose/status/1402724680637747200

Punks with Purpose...

With determination for change, former employees set up the twitter handle Punks with purpose to continue with their mission to tackle toxic workplace culture full force, by promoting positive action. Members also took to Instagram to continue telling their stories of discrimination to highlight the hazards that women and non-binary people face, working in the beer industry.

Punks with Purpose recently tweeted that they didn’t receive a public apology from BrewDog and that sexism and misogyny in craft brewing still remains. But this initiative has created a shift in general, with others in the industry feeling like they can call out some of the ways they have been treated. 

Women working in different parts of the drinks industry have been sharing their stories and experiences to try to change the way women are treated across the board. Jaega Wise, head brewer at Wild Card Brewery recently spoke out on a podcast for BBC sounds about sexism in the alcohol industry. 

You can listen to it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000xsk4

It’s refreshing to see employees speaking so openly about these issues and at the risk of possibly losing their jobs. 

A recent study by Speakout Revolution highlighted the following shocking facts:

  • It’s 3 x more likely a person’s experience of workplace harassment or bullying becomes worse from reporting to their organisation.
  • 68% of people who experience workplace harassment or bullying will not report to their organisations.
  • 22% of people who report workplace harassment or bullying are silenced via a Non-Disclosure Agreement, limiting their freedom to speak out.

But it shouldn’t come to this and more work needs to be done in organisations where this negative culture starts to form. People need to feel valued and supported from the start, regardless of background, race or gender. 

It doesn’t look like BrewDog have taken note or care to respond as they recently launched a new marketing campaign called ‘Beer for all’ which appears to skim over the issues raised and distract us in an attempt to move forward. 

Even if they have regrets on the way things have turned out, they are starting to look like a company that have become greedy and purely customer centric. 

What are your thoughts on the way that BrewDog handled the situation? 

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    About The Author

    Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.