Tails can wag dogs

Trouble is brewing in the corporate corridors of power. Societal expectations on the role of business to do the right thing have risen dramatically of late — perhaps even more so during the pandemic — yet employees are making it clear that those expectations must be met in the right way.

There are signs that business has at last started to take its role in society seriously. Positive statements around social purpose, renewable energy and generally making the world a better place are now fairly commonplace — and rightly applauded.

Not so for the recent employee revolt at Scottish craft beer supplier, BrewDog. Media reports illustrate that warm words on well-being and eco-jargon will no longer be tolerated by a new breed of activist employees. In fact, they’re ready and willing to call out inconsistencies between empty rhetoric and reality.

As regular Bullogers know, I believe that this is merely a symptom of a much wider shift in culture and power within business — from traditional leadership hierarchies to more socially engaged, vocal and, dare I say, democratic workforces.

From the outside looking in, the phenomenal success of BrewDog has made it the envy of its competitors. For many prospective employees, it’s been seen as a highly desirable place to work. But, according to “Punks with Purpose” — a group of current and former disgruntled employees who signed an open letter to air their grievances to the world — it hides a toxic culture.

Criticism ranges from citing a “cult of personality” at the top through to a “growth at all costs” culture and bullying which has led to many suffering anxiety and poor mental health.

James Watt, co-founder and subject of the scathing attack is clearly a lightning rod for their criticism. It would seem that Watt suppressed his initial instincts to crush the rebellion with a counteroffensive (I’ll resist the temptation to make a dad joke about James Watt letting off steam) and instead opted for a more contrite and empathetic response, claiming to be listening.

And in many ways, it would seem, the tail can indeed wag the dog. Through collective, focused and often brave action, employee activists in BrewDog — and many other corporates such as Microsoft and Amazon — are able to have a significant impact on business ethics from the bottom up.

Is the BrewDog story merely the tip of the iceberg?

Well, you can get my thoughts on that by reading the full blog I wrote on the topic for Speakerbuzz, the Scottish purpose centric Speakers’ Bureau which I’m registered with.

This article is an extract from the June edition of The Bullog*, my monthly blog. To read the full blog or to sign up to receive The Bullog directly each month visit………www.gibbulloch.com/bullog

* The Bullog = Bulloch + Blog

Make sense? Not bulldog, nor is it bulls**t although I’ll let you be the judge of that! It’s a brief synopsis on recent articles, events and opinions from my world and the things that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.

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Gib Bulloch is an award-winning social intrapreneur who consults, writes and speaks on topics relating to the role of business in society. www.gibbulloch.com

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Gib Bulloch

Gib Bulloch

Gib Bulloch is an award-winning social intrapreneur who consults, writes and speaks on topics relating to the role of business in society. www.gibbulloch.com

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