BrewDog CEO James Watt admits to being 'too demanding' in workplace

‘I pushed people too far’: BrewDog CEO James Watt admits to being ‘too intense and demanding’ amid workplace culture row at craft brewery after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power

  • James Watt admitted pushing people ‘too far’ but says his intentions were ‘good’
  • He spoke to Steven Bartlett on the Diary of a CEO podcast about his journey
  • Watt is the CEO of craft beer company BrewDog, which is valued at £2billion 
  • The firm is based in Ellon, Scotland and runs 111 bars and has 2,000 staff 
  • Watt, 38, was previously accused of abusing of power in the workplace 

The CEO of craft beer firm BrewDog has admitted to being ‘too intense and demanding’ amid a workplace culture row where he was accused of inappropriate behaviour and abusing his power.

James Watt, 38, the chief executive of Britain’s biggest craft brewer, has been at the centre of a string of misconduct accusations in recent years after being accused of inappropriate behaviour towards women and abuse of power in the workplace.

Speaking with Steven Bartlett on the Diary of a CEO podcast about his leadership at the company, he admitted to previously pushing people ‘too far’ because of his ‘high standards.’

But the CEO said that his actions were done with ‘100% good intentions.’ 

Mr Watt revealed: ‘It’s completely fair to say at times in the journey I have been too intense.

‘I have been too demanding, that I have set standards for the team which I would set for myself, and for a lot of the team members that is unattainable. 

 ‘I just pushed for such high standards, unrealistic deadlines, it’s because I was so focused on “let’s build the thing, let’s create more jobs, let’s deliver more value for our customers.”

‘The intention was 100% good and because I was so bought in and so focused on that, I did push people too far.’

BrewDog CEO James Watt admitted to being ‘too intense and demanding’ after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power in a workplace culture row

The CEO spoke about the issues he has dealt with at the company with Steven Bartlett (right) on his podcast 

This comes after more than 15 ex-staff previously spoke out against Mr Watt with some claiming he made female bartenders feel ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘powerless’.

They were even advised by colleagues on how to avoid unwelcome attention from Mr Watt, 38, according to an investigation by BBC Scotland’s Disclosure programme.

Katelynn Ising, who worked at a BrewDog bar in Ohio, US, said female staff would dress down when they knew Mr Watt would be in their bars.

She said: ‘We would make a point to warn new girls… like, ‘Hey, just so you know, James Watt’s coming to town. Just kind of, like, leave after your shift, don’t really hang around [and] don’t always do your hair and make-up that day, like don’t catch his attention’.’

Other former staff claim Mr Watt was witnessed by staff kissing an intoxicated customer on a roof terrace at another US bar.

Mr Watt has said the allegations are false and denies behaving inappropriately.

Last year, Watts’ disgruntled former employees shared a scathing open letter slamming the company for its ‘toxic attitudes’ and accusing it of fostering a ‘culture of fear’ among staff.

Penned by a group called ‘Punks With Purpose’, the letter featured a list of 63 names of people who used to work for the firm, and takes aim at the Scotland-based brewery’s founders James Watt and Martin Dickie.

James Watt, chief executive of craft beer maker BrewDog, has been accused of ‘making women feel uncomfortable’, according to an investigation by BBC Scotland’s Disclosure programme

James Watt (right) with co-founder Martin Dickie (left). Mr Watt denies all accusations that he acted inappropriately towards women

Writing collectively as a group called ‘Punks With Purpose’, the letter featured a list of names of people who used to work for the firm, and takes aim at the Scotland-based brewery’s founders

It claimed the company is ‘built on a cult of personality’ and alleged that it left some staff feeling ‘burnt out, afraid and miserable’, adding that ‘a significant number of people have admitted they have suffered mental illness’ as a result of working there.

It went so far as to claim being treated like a human being ‘was sadly not always a given’ for those employed by BrewDog – trashing the image of the hipster company which offers ‘pawternity leave’ if a staff member gets a dog and pays employees £500 to quit if they don’t feel they’re a good fit.

At the time, Mr Watt subsequently issued an ‘update’ on the Punks With Purpose open letter, describing it as ‘so upsetting, but so important’. 

He said: ‘Our focus now is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act.’ 

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the BrewDog boss was privately prosecuting a woman he claimed provided false information about people behind ‘malicious’ comments made about him online. 

He accused model Emili Ziem, 29, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court of fraud by false representation.

The charge alleges that she breached the Fraud Act 2006 because she ‘obtained information about people responsible for malicious communications’ about Mr Watt.

Bark & Co, on behalf of its client Ziem, previously said: ‘Emili Ziem is entirely innocent of these charges. 

‘She vehemently denies any wrongdoing and intends to defend these allegations robustly at trial in the crown court.’ 

The case has been brought against her as a private prosecution by Watt as an individual rather than Brewdog as a company, which he co-founded in 2007.

The firm based in Ellon, Scotland – which is valued at about £2billion, runs 111 bars and has 2,000 staff – is said to be currently weighing up a stock market listing.

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