Relationships and Masculinity in the Workplace

It’s OK to ask for help. It does not make you weaker, in fact it takes more courage to ask for help, and a heck of a lot healthier.

I want to speak to masculinity because the good ole boys network is alive and thriving in business today. The male boss selects his best male producer as the team leader and he caters to all of his male buddies,  Women that are just as productive or, even more productive than their male counterparts get pushed to the side. The male team leader does not provide the space or the environment for female team members to share their expertise with the team.

Then, the women ask the male team leader for that opportunity to express themselves, contribute more and play a bigger role on the team, but most of the time they are rejected. The female team member then has a choice to make. Does she stay in the background, unable to contribute her maximum effort to the team? Does she file a complaint with HR? That could be risky in many ways. Or does she just quit her job and seek a company that will provide her the space and environment for her maximum contributions where gender is not an issue and the entire team works together with great results?

This is today’s conundrum that faces and affects all parties. The good ole boys network can have their way and not achieve the revenue and profits that is potentially available to the organization. The male boss would rather have the good ole boys do their thing and think everything is just fine. That’s a risk that a good ole boy leader takes and it may or may not be successful at reaching or exceeding the organization’s intended results. Is the trade-off worth it? Holding on to the good ole boys network or healthy productive relationships between all men and women on the team in order to meet and exceed the company’s intended results?

Most of the feedback I receive from my social media sites, my website and my podcast, “Time Out For Mental Health”, are from women showing their appreciation for the work I am doing. They live within the confines of the toxic masculinity/good ole boys network either at work or at home or both! They want change.

At home, toxic masculinity affects relationships with spouses and children. Most men do not communicate much at home. Emotions and feelings are self-regulated because that’s what they experienced growing up. No love, no hugs and no discussion about what it is to be a man or masculinity, with their Dad. Thus, the head of the household comes home, wants his dinner and passes out on the couch with the football game playing on the TV.

The woman of the house is upset because she must talk with her husband. She wants to tell him about her day, her roadblocks and what’s going on with the children, and oh, by the way, the toilet is stopped up!

But, all she hears is snoring from the couch, when she wants her partner to listen to what she is dealing with, She gets frustrated and either shuts down or starts an argument with the unmovable carcass on the couch.

What to do? (what men must do to be a real man). A real man takes on the challenge of difficult meetings with family, friends or co-workers. A man can listen to his wife without fixing her, He can listen, let his wife express herself so that she knows that her husband cares about her, loves her and will be there to protect her when necessary. He can demonstrate empathy to show his support without fixing and downplaying the wives’ issues. Just like at the office, where a male leader or employee must allow a woman the space and environment to contribute to the team’s effort, he must also create the environment for his wife to share her contributions and challenges on the home front. That’s an example of healthy masculinity.

I believe that there are three different traits of a man, that if mastered, he demonstrates a firm grip on what it is to be masculine. First, a man must take on and accomplish the hard tasks that every man is faced with and really does not want to do. It could be some heavy lifting of pianos and refrigerators when moving out of your place, but it could also include having a serious, honest discussion with your family, your boss, or your girlfriend or wife, that is delicate. It’s a challenge but a real man takes on the challenge and walks through his fears.

Having a sense of humor is another quality that every man should master. If you are not laughing at some time during the course of your day, week, month or your life, it’s not going to be any fun. In fact, life will become dull and you’ll feel very unhappy. Life is experience. It’s not about what happens but how you handle it. Not everything is to be taken so seriously. We learn and grow from our mistakes. Mistakes are the seeds of greatness!

And finally, a man needs to practice some type of spirituality. It can be whatever makes him comfortable, but it must create an opportunity for self-reflection. Ghandi or Martin Luther King were great examples of men with spirituality. It does not mean you have to be a bible thumper but, a man needs a belief in God, or however he wants to relate to the creator. After all, we did not create the planet that we live on, nor the practice of conception of human beings. It has to have been accomplished by a power greater than ourselves. Working with that higher power as opposed to imposing your own will on others and the world will create a much smoother path of life. We cannot control other people, other things, but we can take proactive action related to life’s occurrences. It serves as a firm platform to live a full life from. If a man can perfect those three traits or qualities, he’ll be in the game of life as a man, a real man that is masculine. A real man realizes that he cannot accomplish everything he wants to in life through his own actions. It’s the wise man that asks for help in the areas of life that he is not familiar or experienced in. And the wiser man shares his knowledge and experience by giving to others as others gave to him. That is the formula to receive blessings from that greater power who created the world we live in.

One of the main barriers for men is that they fear that they will be labeled as “weak” if they share their negative emotions and feelings that drive their depression. Men hear whispers in the back of their head that say “you throw a ball like a girl” or “man up will you?” or “I don’t want to hear your whining, be a man”. Masculinity norms in the past and even today, unfortunately are flawed and need to be corrected immediately.

Most men do not trust other men with their personal and confidential information. They fear that the man they share this with, will tell everyone else in his circle, both men and women. He could be ridiculed in front of his peers and feel defective as well as embarrassment, adding to his depression. Maybe it’s time to get new friends. The “good ole’ boys” mentality is not healthy. In fact it’s extremely damaging. Men would rather “play it safe” as opposed to taking responsibility for their behavior and asking for help and starting in on self-discovery.

Most men think that if they have negative feelings and emotions that could lead to depressive feelings, that it will just go away, or they will just “work around it”. To these men, it is easier to hug their chaos in isolation or with food or drink or drugs, some lack of self-care than asking for help.

These bottled up emotions that cause pain and suffering often drive addictive behavior, whether it be alcohol abuse, drug and pill abuse, or risky behavior such as sexual battery, including rape or domestic violence.

It really takes more courage to ask for help when depression sets in for a few months or more. Most men do not even realize that they are depressed, if they are not engaged in some form of self-discovery. Their ego becomes too big to realize what happy and healthy living really are and the next thing you know is that death by suicide becomes an option.

I’m not intimidated by my peers or society that may criticize my masculinity. I know what it takes to be a man and to practice healthy masculinity. I can be strong and take on the challenges in my life, I acknowledge that I have feelings and emotions and that it is OK to feel and express them at the appropriate time and place, After all, I am human. I know when it’s an appropriate time to display humor and not take life so seriously and when it is not. And most importantly, my ego is not too big to understand that I cannot do life alone, that my spirituality will get me through the challenges of life, if I make the effort to connect with it on a regular basis. I’m not Superman, nor do I have to prove to anyone that I can drink more than them, have more money or a bigger car than they have, etc. That is NOT healthy masculinity.