How toxic ideas about masculinity corrode the workplace

Toxic masculinity has shaped many modern-day workplaces for the worse.In some offices, "dog eat dog" ...

Posted: Dec 13, 2018 8:26 AM
Updated: Dec 13, 2018 8:26 AM

Toxic masculinity has shaped many modern-day workplaces for the worse.

In some offices, "dog eat dog" and "work-first" attitudes are heralded and rewarded, and aggression is still viewed as a sign of worthy leadership.

Labor and employment

Human resources and personnel management

Workplace diversity

Health and medical

Health and health care (by demographic group)

Women's health

Society

Sex and gender issues

Gender equality

Feminism

Population and demographics

Demographic groups

Females (demographic group)

Minority and ethnic groups

African Americans

Workplace behavior

Accidents, disasters and safety

Safety issues and practices

Workplace health and safety

Workplace morale

Compensation and benefits

Workplace programs

Continents and regions

The Americas

North America

United States

Southwestern United States

California

Silicon Valley

Business, economy and trade

Company activities and management

Animals

Dogs

Life forms

Mammals

Workers and professionals

These are vestiges of a bygone era when men dominated the workforce. But this kind of masculinity contest isn't good for anyone.

"It's not about succeeding at whatever the work mission is, it's about me winning and me proving I'm the winner by showing these dominant traits," says Peter Glick, professor of psychology at Lawrence University. "It becomes so much a part of proving you're the 'man.' That becomes the central thing."

Workplaces that promote "show no weakness" attitudes are usually the ones most susceptible to a culture of competition among its employees, Glick says.

Who wins and who loses

Very few people benefit from these toxic systems, says Glick.

Research shows women are set up to "lose" in these scenarios. Women may attempt to compete in the "put work first" contest at the office, but those efforts are often undermined since they are also typically responsible for a disproportionate amount of caregiving and emotional labor, both at work and home.

Even if a woman can attempt to compete, however, by either undercutting male colleagues or demonstrating masculinity in the same ways they do, colleagues often don't respond well. They might applaud a more aggressive man as a leader, but view her in a negative light.

"Women are forced to conform as well, but they get this mixed message, the backlash for doing it," Glick says. "They're in the gladiatorial arena and you have to pick up a weapon, but you're hamstrung from the start, so you're hobbled."

But men struggle, too.

"Not everyone is just really testosterone-driven and has that style," says Janine Yancey, CEO of Emtrain, a workplace training company. "If there's no path to take a different, more collaborative style, then that's exclusive for men, too. If they feel like they can't succeed unless they're president of the frat house, pretty much, then what opportunities does that present for them?"

In these kinds of offices, men who are perceived as more masculine will target other men, even mocking them if they take parental leave or ridiculing actions they perceive as "weak" behavior, says Jennifer Berdahl, professor of leadership studies at the University of British Columbia.

"Men were saying they did not feel like they were 'man enough' if they took care of their kids or left work early to go to the doctor, or showed other physical signs of 'non-manhood,' like long hair or wearing an earring," Berdahl says.

Glick says workplaces where employees compete to see who works the most hours are a particular problem.

Ultimately, he points out, no one is the "winner" in a company where everyone stays at work longer than they realistically should. But in that kind of culture, where the person staying latest is seen as the one working hardest, people do it as a show of strength. Leaving before someone else would be calculated as a sign of weakness, one that could ultimately cost you a promotion or other reward.

Detoxifying the culture

Competing against other employees within the company also distracts from a more important goal: surpassing competitors in the industry.

"Business is tough and if you have 'dog eat dog' competition going on in the organization, that 'I'm the winner,' that zero-sum game — that's the core of the contest, rather than committing to competition in the marketplace," Glick says.

But a culture built on "precarious masculinity," as Berdahl calls it, can't be corrected with a temporary fix.

"When you've got these 'bro cultures' you'll see it takes a change in management," Yancey says. "We're seeing some organizations try to change their culture now and it's really difficult, because once a culture is in place, then you're stuck. Then you've got this whole new initiative to basically change a culture, and unfortunately it takes transitioning out a big section of the workforce and the people in the workforce to really start changing."

What companies instead have to do is take a hard look at their rewards systems, Glick says. In a system that rains accolades on very specific things — say, the person who stayed the latest versus the person who submitted the best work — people learn to value what wins them acclaim.

"You can't drop a diversity training into 'Game of Thrones' and expect it's going to get better," Glick says. "That's not going to happen. You need to address the underlying, fundamental culture and expose it."

West Lafayette
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 80°
Kokomo
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 75°
Rensselaer
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 73°
Fowler
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 73°
Williamsport
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 79°
Crawfordsville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 73°
Frankfort
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 71°
Delphi
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 78°
Monticello
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 78°
Logansport
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 73°
Hotter & turning much more humid for the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events