Recently, there has been a good deal of buzz around Thinx, the company that brought us the moisture-wicking, absorbent underwear for women on their periods. Whether or not you’re of the menstruating gender, Thinx is providing a beautiful case study for what can happen in an organization when your brand does not match the internal culture. Leaders, take note.
Along with bringing us the period-taboo-busting products, Thinx has brought us a loud feminist voice. They advocate for women’s health and education, both at home and abroad, their blog talks about attending the Women’s March on Washington and standing with Planned Parenthood. This voice is the evidence of the “espoused values” of Thinx – what they profess to be important and claim about who they are.
Yet, when we go internally and look at the actual company culture at Thinx, we see a different story – one at odds with their projected image. Thinx employees described the culture as erratic, disempowering, petty, and a middle school environment. They reported being underpaid, with the two men at the company paid more than the women, and there were three allegations of sexual harassment. As one employee said, “Creating safe spaces for girls when none of us feel safe in our own company? That’s absurd. That’s an oxymoron.”
So what has all of this led to? Well, 10 of Thinx’s 35 employees have left the company since January.
And there has certainly been a lot of press and, now, a lot of clean up. In an email to their mailing list they said, “We know, talkin’ the talk only means something if we can walk the walk.” And they are responding to “walk the walk.” The CEO has stepped down, they are hiring for HR roles, replacing senior management, and aiming to address the issues head on.
As leaders, we can all take a lesson from Thinx. They’ve provided us with an extreme example of what can happen when there is a clear disconnect between your brand and portrayal of the company and the internal company culture. People will often be drawn to work for your company because they believe in what you do and who you say you are, but if they arrive and find out that the internal culture is at odds with the vision, they won’t be there long. So let’s all thank Thinx for their public education and learn from their mistakes. And ask yourself – Is our company’s culture and internal behavior aligned with our brand? Do we treat people in a way we want to show the world? Do the outsides match the insides?
If your company inspires and engages with people, make sure you are beginning with your people. As leaders, you have the opportunity to make an impact in the world and it can be great and powerful if you approach your own company culture with the same resilience and enthusiasm.