Ex-Bud Light employees have accused their previous employer of ‘cowardice’ and lying to staff during the Dylan Mulvaney case, which saw the drinks brand backtrack on their partnership with the trans influencer.
An abbreviated version of the controversial saga includes Bud Light partnering with Mulvaney, a TikTok star with over 10million followers on the platform, to then retract their relationship with the star, and ultimately their alignment with the trans community, after criticism from a vocal part of their anti-trans consumer-base.
The beer brand has seen a 30% drop in their revenue since the partnership in April, but ex-employees are accusing leadership of ‘cowardice’ for not supporting the influencer, and for lying to staff about the diminishing state of the company.
In an insight into the inner workings of the brand during the fiasco, ex-employees spoke to the Guardian anonymously, saying that company bosses were operating from a place of fear and were vetting comments on Instagram to skew public perception.
“There was a lot of panic and a lot of rash decision-making,” said one anonymous employee to the Guardian. “We didn’t hear anything from leadership for over a month, and then after a few weeks, someone high up at Anheuser-Busch released a statement that pretty much said nothing.” A statement where the CEO of Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light’s parent company, told staff the brand never intended to be “a part of a discussion that divides people”.
The employee also spoke of an “incompetence in the leadership on a national level” and that the company’s bosses don’t “really understand a lot of the political battles” in the US today, referencing a proposed campaign to market the Mexican beer Estrella to a Latino audience, which was axed due to fears of retaliation from “conservative wholesalers”.
The former employees also explain how during the fiasco, which saw Mulvaney receiving death threats, workers expressed concerns to their superiors about the TikTok star’s welfare.
In response, management told employees they were “constantly talking to her” despite having had no correspondence with Mulvaney, with one former worker saying there was a pattern of a “a lot of trickled-down lies from leadership”.
Transparency and honesty during difficult times
Leadership transparency and honesty during tough times foster trust, alleviate employee anxiety, and maintain morale. Clear communication allows for collaborative problem-solving, reducing misinformation and rumors.
It also supports employee wellbeing by acknowledging emotional impacts and offering support. Transparent leadership contributes to organisational resilience. Ultimately, underpinning long-term success.
In the case of Bud Light, the comments from former employees show that staff were losing faith in the brand – not only from their backtracking, but from their response to the issue. Suggesting that the way a brand and leadership deal with a PR fiasco is as important as the fiasco itself.