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Thom Dennis

Serenity in Leadership Ltd

CEO

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Why getting to the top means challenging bad behaviour

The perception of mens’ roles in the workplace and society at large is changing in light of female empowerment. 
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My last article opened the discussion about how the perception of mens’ roles in the workplace and society at large is changing in light of female empowerment. 

I argued that in order for men to bring their best selves to work, organisations needed to create an atmosphere of psychological safety.

In this article I’ll discuss how we can open up those safe spaces for men and, in turn, how this will create a healthy culture between all genders in the workplace. 

To dig deeper into this discussion, tune into my upcoming virtual discussion on the topic of male leadership on 24 th August 11am BST.

How can men become the change they want to see?

In order to become the change they want to see, men need people to lead the way. We need far more role models for young men and given the time we spend at work, many of these role models, for good or for bad, are found in the workplace.

This is why we are running men’s groups alongside those already in existence for all the marginalised groupings if they’re going to be a part of a change towards greater diversity and inclusion, they need to be mentored and supported too. 

The quality of role-modelling needs to improve, and as it does, men can learn to be more vulnerable with each other. This takes courage, but the current expression of ‘patriarchy’ needs to be overturned, because it is harmful not just to women but also to men.

Safe and inclusive spaces for all

For organisations to begin creating these safe spaces, senior leaders have to lead. It has to be clear that in order to get to the top, you have to demonstrate behaviours that are inclusive and challenge bad behaviour. 

Most leaders may well need help to understand this fully, but there are good culture change specialists out there who can do this important work. 

The guiding principle should be that safe spaces need to be developed because the end goal must be a safe, and therefore fully inclusive, space for all.

The quality of role-modelling needs to improve, and as it does, men can learn to be more vulnerable with each other

Allowing inner allyship to flourish

We all need to be ourselves. This may sound trite, but most of us wear a mask of some sort. 

We carry a selection around with us and instead of just being ourselves, we expend energy being someone else, what a parent wanted, or an early teacher demanded, or indeed a character we believe will be acceptable in order for us to belong, or the character needed to get a job done. 

Most people are inherently good, and allyship will naturally emerge if men are being their real selves. We need to find ways to encourage this.

Let’s work together not against one another

A healthy culture is one that’s collaborative, fun, inclusive, characterised by mutual support and a challenge of what is ‘normal’. People compete more with themselves, to be the best they can be rather than against other people.

The whole culture should seek to play to each person’s strengths and their needs; thus for instance a pregnant woman’s needs will be acknowledged and catered for, as will a man’s who is caring for an elderly parent. Pay for doing the same work is the same, regardless of who is doing it. 

Full inclusivity and equity will take time to bring into being, and right now many people do not wish to bring their full selves to work. 

This concept is not fully embraced, I have noticed, particularly amongst women because they wish a clear delineation between home and office circumstances, and they are willing to suppress parts of themselves in order to fit in and to do what is required. 

The difficulty is that suppression is not healthy and takes an energetic toll, which is both tiring and deceptive.

For organisations to begin creating these safe spaces, senior leaders have to lead. It has to be clear that in order to get to the top, you have to demonstrate behaviours that are inclusive and challenge bad behaviour

The importance of celebrating differences

Let’s celebrate the difference! In most sectors there’s a male dominated environment that has defined a way to be in order to be ‘successful’, and the need to be accepted and to belong has forced people to conform. 

To get beyond this means that men in particular have to face their fears and heedlessness, and learn about the differences. 

We all have to learn about, and leadership programmes need to integrate, the positive aspects of difference in spite of the fact that a norm in our society is to fear and shun difference.

Men must help push for change

Where there is psychological safety, things change. Make meetings short and unscripted. If the message can be passed separately but effectively, then clean up that time from the gathering. 

If you have hybrid meetings, give constructive thought as to how to include those who are not there in person, and for those who are in the office physically, ensure they are doing much more than just sitting doing emails. 

Self-reflection can be cultivated by holding reflective sessions using methodologies like bohmian dialogue.

In short, the rise of women doesn’t mean the fall of men; it’s not an either/or situation. What we should be working towards is a situation where all individuals are equally valued and listened to. This can only happen with the active participation of men, so organisations need to open that line of communication.

If you enjoyed this, read: Diversity, inclusion and Kenergy: the role of men in today’s workplace culture


 

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