BrewDog- A Stark Reminder

Culture at BrewDog
BrewDog Culture Has Been In The News

Last week a group of former employees at the craft beer firm, BrewDog, accused the organisation of creating a toxic working environment and instilling a culture of fear.

Unfortunately, this a a reminder that cultures across organisations are still not ones which are putting people at the front of their thinking. Instead,looking at what is in it for them, and placing performance at the front to achieve their objectives no matter the cost.

I believe the task gets done through the person. Instead of getting the task done at the expense of the people. We hear with the issues at BrewDog of the latter, which has led to mental health issues for members of staff too

In response to the accusation BrewDog initially thought about producing a counter argument. This involved asking current employees to sign a response letter.

Ego Has no place

That counter argument, would have been the worse possible response, and to understand it even came across their thinking as a viable option is of concern.

It was an insight into the mindsets of those in leadership positions within the business. It came across as competitive, and that they wanted to fight off the accusations. To be able to say ‘there isn’t a problem, look we have evidence’.

In this situation it is even more important to put ego to one side. To use it as an opportunity to learn. When ego is playing a role it will ensure a fixed mindset and find evidence to back up the point the individual(s) are trying to prove. You can find evidence to back up a point for most things.

The Culture of Fear

Imagine going to work, and being in an environment where you were to worried about making a mistake, or speaking up due to the potential repercussions that could come your way. We spend around 70% of our days doing, thinking or travelling relating to work. Living with a dark cloud over you may mean high performance for short period. In the longer term though? One full of burnout, fatigue, exhaustion and poor mental health.

BrewDogs initial thought with the counter argument has fear based undertones. They warned the current employees that the allegations posed a threat to all our livelihoods.

What would the impact of that message have on you? The message communicates that action needs to be taken not because of being positively influenced to do something, but because of fear that if something bad could happen.

NAIVETY is not a defence

BrewDogs HR team said they were “Surprised and sad” that working there had left such a negative impression. Adding that the letter “paints a different picture of what it’s like to work at BrewDog today

Perhaps this should not be surprising, because if they did know then they would be displaying a form of neglect and incompetence. However, they have shown incompetence by not knowing about the problem. Not knowing something exists is not an excuse for doing nothing about it. It just means it wasn’t an area they have not yet looked into, perhaps believing there wasn’t a problem or they didn’t want to be really good at it.

The culture at a company is not just a leaders responsibility, but as with the majority of things in a business it starts and ends with leadership. The key is wanting to develop it. It isn’t enough to talk about it, it must have focus, commitment and congruent actions.

quick success

Quick doesn’t mean things are done properly. There is no doubting BrewDogs success as a business financially. Founded in 2007, they have been on a continued upward trajectory ever since. When in their early stages, businesses main focus is usually ensuring they survive. Therefore areas such as training is usually limited due to the costs involved.

BrewDog may well, have their own learning & development plans, but usually when learning goes ahead at this stage it is for those on the floor, and perhaps not the ones who can have the greatest impact upon their teams.

Can companies do both?

I believe they can. BrewDog is a great example of what can happen when the leaders have passion and are keen to ensure success, however if they lose sight of what is really important – the people – then it won’t be an enjoyable success. There won’t be anyone with them!

Growth is important to BrewDog, but growth isn’t about money it is about far more. Being clearer on values is a critical step, but the step isn’t to talk about them, but to live them. Leaders can talk about value all they want, but if there isn’t congruent behaviour it won’t flow through the company.

what the future holds

This could be a pivotal turning point for BrewDog because they now have an exciting opportunity. It won’t be easy, there will be times they will have to put their pride to one side, but it will be extremely rewarding. Their pride will need to be put aside as they must ensure their current and future employees feel comfortable to positively challenge anything they may not agree with.

They can learn to create a great culture where people and their wellbeing is at the forefront of their thinking and the business can go on even further. It isn’t about how fast a company can travel, but how far they can grow.

One of the key points I note, which I believe, will enable them to pivot and move forward is the news they will seek an independent review of their culture & HR processes.

People can be one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding parts of any organisation. After all we are a complex species. This is why leadership development is critical to any organisation.

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