‘Toxic culture letter 100% my fault’ says BrewDog’s James Watt

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Social update: BrewDog co-founder James Watt has shared a statement on LinkedIn, laying out the proposed changes the company is looking to make
Social update: BrewDog co-founder James Watt has shared a statement on LinkedIn, laying out the proposed changes the company is looking to make

Related tags Brewdog James watt Beer Craft beer Scotland

BrewDog co-founder James Watt has taken responsibility for the company’s culture and stated the letter, claiming the business had a “toxic culture” was his fault.

In a LinkedIn post, Watt apologised to his team and those who were affected by the letter before promising not to make the mistakes he has made again.

The open letter​, which was posted on social media by Punks With Purpose and signed by more than 60 ex-team members, made claims employees were “left burnt out, afraid and miserable” and said the biggest experience shared by former staff  was “a residual feeling of fear”.

It went on to say being treated like a human being was not always a given for employees of the Scottish operators and brewer before addressing Watt personally, saying “it is with you the responsibility for this rotten culture lies”.

Watt originally responded to the letter​, apologising and stating the company wouldn’t make excuses but take action.

He has now posted a lengthy statement on LinkedIn titled ‘The Road Ahead For BrewDog, outlining how the company is planning to make these changes.

Planned measures

This included an independent review, which Watt said would start by “listening to everybody” via an anonymous staff survey.

He went on to say the company was “very close to appointing an independent agency to conduct a review of our culture and people practices to ensure we can make positive and inclusive change at all levels of our business” and reaching out to those who signed the letter “to give them a voice”. The findings will be shared internally and externally before the end of this year.

Furthermore, he stated there would also be a review with each head of department across the firm to “identify key pinch points” and put a plan together, aiming to resource these areas.

All former employees who have left BrewDog in the past 12 months will be sent exit interviews in the next two weeks and exit interviews will be conducted with everyone who leaves the company moving forward.

The company’s annual salary review in January was postponed due to the pandemic and it is now scheduling this to take place, aiming for changes to be in place for the beginning of July.

Catalyst to become better

It is also putting together a plan to form an employee representative group “designed to ensure moving forward, our employees have a clear voice, and a connection directly to those in the business, making strategic decisions about the future direction of BrewDog”.

In a bid to ensure it has the right resource and guidance for career development and training, the company is looking to lay out a clear leaning and development strategy for the future and has begun recruitment for someone to head up this area within the beer headquarters arm. Alongside this, BrewDog has also appointed a head of training for the bars arm.

Looking ahead in the LinkedIn post, Watt stated these were just the first steps and the company will update with further actions resulting from this phase.

He added: “The correct way to approach this situation is to focus all our energy on how we can use this platform to think differently, challenging ourselves to build a team and company we can all continue to be very proud to be a part of. Although this situation hurts a lot, I am determined to ensure we use it as a catalyst to become a better business.”

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