Men in Organizations
This moment in Western culture is inherently one of deep change, transition and turmoil. Gender roles continue to be in flux. Women continue to redefine their roles, identities and sense of purpose. What challenges are men experiencing in their professional lives?
Enduring Social Scripts
Many men’s sense of purpose and vital functioning in life is strongly linked to their work. Striving, stoicism, invulnerability, overwork/over identification with work roles are key factors affecting men’s wellbeing. Death by overworking is so common for men in Asian countries that it has names: in Japan - karoshi, in Korea - gwarosa, and in China – guolaosi. In Western society the same trends exist, where men’s sense of self is tied tightly to their profession identity. This linkage, when coupled with enduring male socialization pressures for success and stoicism, make for a troublesome mix that affects men’s physical, mental and relationship health. The expectation to be a provider can be particularly intense for middle-aged men, who are often sandwiched between children who still need financial assistance and aging parents who may also require financial and emotional help.
Emerging 21st Values
As humanity strives to cope with the systemic challenges facing us, there is an undeniable shift happening towards a new set of values: emotional intelligence, cooperation, and intuition. While for Western people on the whole, this re-orientation is difficult, it is especially difficult for men, as the enduring socialization processes for males is diametrically opposed, promoting and rewarding individualism, competition and rationality. Men are increasingly being asked to deliver their professional value in ways that ask them to operate outside of their actual lived experiences. The ways that many men have learned to assess information, communicate, and problem-solve are often questioned, critiqued or seen as out of step with the times.
The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment an abuse has sparked many questions, feelings and changes. The movement has supported and validated the experiences of many women, and some men, as victims of sexual violations, many having occurred in professional settings. The MeToo movement has rightly held many men accountable for their actions and behaviours. Yet other intended consequences in the workplace are being documented. Research by LeanIn.org showed that number of senior men who are "uncomfortable" mentoring women has more than tripled, from 5 to 16 percent of male managers in the US who are now hesitant to mentor a woman. Other trends include men’s increased nervousness about working alone with female colleagues. Some research is showing that companies are now minimizing contact between male executives and female colleagues. Interpersonal workplace tensions, while always being challenging to navigate, are further complicated by these emerging dynamics of hesitation and distance between professional men and women. Research data:
Building Restorative Workplaces
We are in a cultural moment that is demanding new awareness, and higher levels of inclusion and accountability than ever. New ideas about gender are a core aspect this set of changes and are prominent in current organizational policy around gender diversity and inclusion. Simultaneously, age-old expectations about masculinity are still pervasive and powerful, discouraging men from openly sharing their questions or concerns or requesting support to navigate these foundational cultural shifts. This perfect storm of changing social and cultural circumstances is having a dramatic impact on the health and wellbeing of men today.
Like the neuroplasticity of the brain that reorganizes itself by forming new connections, men accelerate their ability to adapt to new circumstances through connection, coaching and facilitation. When men collectively explore shared circumstances, challenges and questions they transcend existing patterns of thought, enabling innovation, better health, wellbeing and leadership in the workplace. Research data:
- Creating male specific approaches helps men engage with social support. Wong, Y.J., Shea, M,, La Follette, J.R., , Hickman, S.J., Cruz. N., and Boghokian, T. The Inventory of Subjective Masculinity Experiences: Development and Psychometric Properties The Journal of Men’s Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, Fall 2011, 236-255.
- In men’s friendships with other men, self-disclosure is linked to experiences of increased closeness. Bowman, J.M., Gender Role Orientation and Relational Closeness: Self-Disclosive Behavior in Male to Male Friendships. The Journal of Men’s Studies, Vol. 16, No. 3, Fall 2008, 316-330.