It’s rather obvious that a good working environment is crucial both for the end-results of a business as well as keeping the employees content. However, toxic masculinity is shaping many modern workplaces for the worse, as “work-first” attitudes and aggression is still viewed as a sign of worthy leadership. Toxic masculinity has become a norm throughout working culture and leaders are accidentally promoting it in their working environment, making it very hard to rightly detect. These traditional stereotypes of men at a workplace are not just damaging to women, it’s actually affecting the entire organization, other men, and society overall.
Not all men relate to the testosterone-driven work ethic many feel they have to conform to. The concept of toxic masculinity is not to demonize male attributes, but rather emphasize the negative effects of conformity to certain male behavior idealized by modern society. Not all masculinity is toxic, but some forms are. So, what is toxic masculinity, and can you identify and stop the behavior?
From a young age, boys are polluted into believing that they have to engage in toxic behavior to be viewed as a “real man”. The often violent socialization of boys produces psychological trauma through the promotion of aggression and lack of interpersonal connection, and sadly such trauma is often completely disregarded. Beginning as early as infancy, boys face the encouragement of idealized masculine roles emphasizing toughness, dominance, self-reliance, and the restriction of emotions. Such norms are transmitted by parents, other male figures, and members of the community.
With the current state of women and gender non-conforming men climbing the ladders professionally, heterosexual males experience feelings of powerlessness, and with the feminist movement challenging traditional male authority, they feel obligated to enhance their masculine traits to claim back their power.
But what happens when a female employee demonstrates masculinity the same way as their male colleagues? Commonly, people don’t respond to this, forcing women to conform to a poisonous culture. Even with equal pay and better parental leave programs, women are yet traditionally expected to take a disproportionate amount of caregiving labor, both at home and at work, which means they also lose in the competition of who puts work above all, ultimately creating a testosterone saturated management board.
Detoxifying the work culture can be difficult, and can even need the initiative to replace or rotate parts of the workforce. Since we all contribute to the culture of our working environment, we are responsible for how that culture impacts others. Do you speak over others? Do you make judgments and assumptions based on someone’s gender or sexual orientation? Are you promoting friendly competition and transparency? By creating conversation and spreading awareness about toxic masculinity at work, we help educate each other on how to deal with this question.
In order to create and collaborate in a healthy work environment, one needs to be honest and address these behavioral issues in the workplace. As leaders, one can promote smart working, rather than hard-working individuals, leading to a better work-life balance for all your employees. Additionally, by having a more diverse and inclusive recruitment program, you automatically represent a friendlier and more collaborative work environment, something which in the short and long run is more beneficial for everyone.