Men And Our Work – Wrestling With How We See Ourselves
Men know and understand there is a continuing gender-based wage gap. But men at work are also feeling a self-esteem gap which isn’t shared to the same degree by women. Men have been conditioned for ages to be hunters, gatherers and breadwinners. Not every man has done a particularly good job in those roles, but those expectations have shaped their sense of self-worth — with risks attached.
The fields most dominated by men, including the heavy manufacturing industries, the mines and foundries, as well as the refineries and shipyards, have closed their doors leaving behind a host of terminated men. The financial implications are obvious, but that’s only scratching the surface.
When men can’t do the tasks the world expects of them, when they fear losing the ability to do the work or when they fear the work will be taken away, they may suffer significant mental and emotional pain. Women share some of these concerns, too, but men are programmed differently, vulnerable in ways that tend to worsen with suppression.
It’s all about relevance and, as men, if we don’t feel relevant in the world we don’t believe we have much worth or value. And a man who believes he has no worth or value is a man in serious pain.
Men Often Need Help to Relieve Their Pain
- Disappointment: A study reported in The Wall Street Journal found, “Men are more likely than women to feel confident they are en route to an executive role, and feel more strongly that their employer rewards merit.” This can create unrealized and sometimes even unrealistic expectations. The best way to offset those expectations and the confidence gap is for men to work on creating relationships that encourage competition with collaboration. Doing so will help them better understand a coworker’s specific skill set and why they may be better suited for a promotion. After all, most men have moral principles that promote fair play and mutual respect, especially in an environment of psychological safety.
If rejection is the issue, men oftentimes do not have a graceful way out. They see and feel rejection in big terms. They may even externalize it with anger, mood swings and, in rare cases, violence.
- Discouragement: For 50 years, men have been losing some of their mastery of the workforce. Jobs they did well have left the economy, positions they’ve traditionally held have been claimed by women and they have been wiped out by economic swings like The Great Recession. And, men generally lack the emotional depth and predisposition of women, so they have less to fall back on.
Still, men can seek mentors and success or business coaches to help them better focus on what’s important, set more realistic goals and to develop paths and strategies that will guide them through inevitable crises. Guidance can be particularly helpful through these periods as discouragement can often result in poor health and fatigue. It feeds on itself, lowering expectations and aspirations.
- Despair: Depression affects many men. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Because men who are depressed may appear to be angry or aggressive instead of sad, their families, friends, and even their doctors may not always recognize the anger or aggression as depression symptoms. In addition, men are less likely than women to recognize, talk about, and seek treatment for depression.”
Fear of being terminated or laid off is enough to send men into deep depression. Even the potential of retirement will disarm them with the recognition they’ll no longer be needed or wanted. Despair sets in when a man realizes that he is no longer wanted or valued for the work or identity that once gave him status and recognition. Despair leading to Depression does not get better with time. It needs treatment, therapy and consultation from the first signs.
There’s Help Available
Regardless of the career path or job level, men can turn things around. They should determine if they live to work or work to live. They must take an inventory of their personal values and assess how those values serve their work and vice versa.
From their earliest work, men should picture an achievable future and coordinate the strategies and tactics to actualize their aspirations. The need for planning applies to factory workers as well as their managers, and where they feel ill-prepared or endangered, they should seek the support of a business coach, professional counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.