top of page

Am I Kindwashing? A Business Owner’s Guide to Defining & Ditching

So it turns out we’re all a bunch of quitters.

In what is being referred to as The Great Resignation, more of us are prioritising our happiness and mental wellbeing by resigning from unfulfilling job roles, leaving behind toxic and un-kind workplaces for good. Whether through responses to the pandemic, or the social injustices we’ve witnessed over the last two years, employees are paying more attention to the bearing of their employer’s moral compass. And if that’s not the direction they want to go in, people aren’t afraid to 180 and quit over it.

Deutsche Bank’s Chief UK Economist has revealed that the UK’s quit rate is higher than it’s been in the last 10 years, with the most common reasons for this being toxic company culture, and poor company response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are looking to employers and organisations to react to the changing world we’re living in, to adapt their policies and procedures so that their people feel supported. Some organisations are stepping up to the challenge, committing the time and resources to make real change, making employee wellbeing a real priority.

Unfortunately, there are others choosing instead to commit the time and resources to making it look like they’re getting it right, posting a virtue-signalling insta pic, and leaving it at that.

This is what we call kindwashing.

What is kindwashing?

Much like greenwashing, kindwashing is the process of giving a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s impact and procedures prioritise people’s wellbeing and happiness above all else, regardless of the reality.

One of the reasons why kindwashing is so widespread is because of how difficult kindness is to quantify, and therefore hold businesses accountable against. Carbon footprints can be measured, and numerically based promises and pledges can be made to counteract this. But for a more elusive concept like kindness, organisations think they can get away with hiding in the grey area of subjectivity.

According to the 2020 Business Solver report, 91% of CEOs said that their organisations are empathetic. Whilst only 68% of their employees agreed.

So, either employees are missing the memo, or there’s a widespread inconsistency between what organisations say they’re doing to support their people and what they’re actually doing.

Wait…am I kindwashing?

While kindness might be more difficult to define, kindwashing it actually pretty easy to spot. We’ve all seen the job adverts and LinkedIn posts that celebrate free fruit in the break room, a subsidised gym membership or monthly pizza party, but no mention of any flexible approaches to productivity or company-wide respect of work-life boundaries.

The biggest telltale sign is where companies are choosing to allocate your time and resources.

Organisations that kindwash spend far more time on making themselves LOOK like a kind and empathetic employer, rather than doing the things that would make them such. Worried you might be a kindwash-er?

Take a look at the following aspects of your organisation and ask yourself about the policies and practices that support them.

  • Employee retention

  • How many people have you hired in the last year?

  • How many of those people still work for you now?

  • Are there any recurring themes or issues in your exit interview?

  • Constructive Criticism and feedback

  • Do you provide your employees with opportunities to give feedback to upper management?

  • What action do you take to remedy any negative feedback you receive and reassure your people that they’re being listened to?

  • Employee benefits and wellbeing

  • What’s your leave allowance like?

  • Do people take all of their leave?

  • Are your employees showing common symptoms of stress and burnout?

  • Workplace culture

  • Would you say you have a presenteeism culture in your working environment?

  • Do you send Whatsapp or text messages when you know your employees have finished for the day?

  • Do you respect people’s working hours and work-life boundaries?

If your answers aren’t something you’d be comfortable putting in an insta caption, you might be a kindwash-er.

Want to ditch kindwashing? The power is in your hands

All is not lost. There’s still time to create REAL action to protect the wellbeing of your people, and not just for the ‘gram.

We’ve already talked about how difficult it can be to quantify kindness in an organisation. So, one thing you can do today to make it right is book a meeting with your team. Right now.

Dedicate that time to defining, as a group, what empathy and kindness means specifically to your team. Create tangible and measurable goals and indicators to ensure that you’re staying on track. Encourage your team to hold you accountable against these indicators.

From there you can work towards creating an organisational culture based on authentic empathy, active listening, and true kindness.



bottom of page