“Man up” – “Don’t be such a pussy” – “Emotions are a weakness”…. The chances are that if you’re a man, then these are the attitudes that have surrounded you from a very young age, probably starting with “Boys don’t cry”.
The sad reality is that these attitudes are far more damaging than helpful – damaging to mental and emotional health, and ultimately can be the root cause of relationship breakdowns in both work and home life. Instead of openly talking about how they feel, men are encouraged to “get on with it” and “power through”, and that taking your foot of the pedal of pressure demonstrates a lack of commitment – which creates a culture of competitiveness and aggression that does far more harm than good.
This problem needs to be addressed in all areas of society, from workplaces to home life. It’s a fact that if you allow people the space to explore, name and address their emotions, they are far more easily able to manage them, and those of others – which means better conflict resolution, better communication, and ultimately happier people who feel heard and understood. Something has got to change to make this a possibility for men, just as much as it is for women.
I wanted to find out what kind of support is out there already, so I did a Google search using the term “support for men in business”. This is what I got back…..
This painted a seriously worrying picture for me. Already the resources out there are being so heavily focused towards women – which, don’t get me wrong, is extremely important – but where is the help for men? Google searching is already biased against it. Where’s the support for men who want things to be different? Because there are lots of them out there – I know, because I’ve asked them.
I recently carried out a survey to find out whether men feel they are able to express their emotions and speak honestly in their workplaces. Over 95% of respondents agreed that there is a need to coach male leaders on how to support both men and women emotionally, and how to spot the signs of somebody’s problems – but only 12% said that their organisation always supports men who seek emotional support. Over half said there was no opportunity or “safe space” to talk openly about how they feel at work.
This is all fed by the culture that showing emotion and vulnerability equates to weakness and ineffectiveness – and no one wants to be the employee who is seen in this light. It could mean missing out on that promotion, being passed over for the exciting, challenging projects, or even being top of the list for redundancy, simply because you expressed your feelings.
We know that providing that safe space, and approaching conflict situations with empathy and understanding is so beneficial for everyone. So how do we fix it?
The responses to my survey were very interesting in that respect. The clear messages coming through were that men are looking for ways to make other men understand the power of empathy, and being vulnerable and authentic; they want a change in our culture to give men permission to feel upset, depressed or uncertain; that it’s OK to seek support, and that it will be given with understanding and respect. They also recognise that having the tools to manage emotional situations at home are just as valuable as they are in the workplace, and that work-life balance is vital, but often neglected.
This incredible valuable intelligence is helping me to form my brand new Men’s Programme, which will outline the importance of emotional health for men at home and in the workplace, and extending that space for others; because when male leaders recognise that showing empathy and being kind is not a weakness, then they encourage those around them to be their true selves as well, and the stress of repressing those feelings of doubt and uncertainty – which so often leads to aggression – is replaced with trusting co-operation. It’s the answer to a happier, more supportive and productive way of life at home and at work.
Find out more about the Men’s Programme here: Men’s Programme