Men’s Health Week (12th-18th June) is an important opportunity to promote mental health and get men talking about the things they don’t want to talk about.
It is much needed because 12.5% of men in the UK are thought to be suffering from a mental health disorder. Around three-quarters of suicides are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 according to the ONS. Men are also nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent. The statistics are shocking but one of the main problems is men still aren’t talking about difficult emotional subjects and how they are feeling, and in the absence of a strong sense of community, the solution may well start in the workplace.
So what can organisations do to get men talking about things they don’t want to talk about?
Leaders need to tackle their too-difficult list.
Start by focusing on the DNA of the business, which is your people. Leaders should support individuals to attain their objectives and feel valued, whilst also contributing to the overall prosperity of the organisation. It is crucial to be truthful with your team and confront any concerns head-on. By being transparent and promoting open communication, the company can experience any needed long-term healing and growth whilst fostering a sense of community amongst team members.
Create and encourage good role models.
Organisations need to improve their work culture so that male leaders are good role models who set and maintain a tone in which sexist and abusive behaviour is considered unacceptable. It is hard to be an empowered bystander, to call out bad or damaging behaviour of one’s friends, peers and co-workers but this is what is needed for real change. Men need to be allies of women and all genders, but also of each other. Role models understand their behaviour will influence others and the messages they convey are critical. For example as a leader, the manner in which you conduct yourself when under stress is essential, because any poor behaviour may inadvertently give permission for others to follow suit.
Emotionally empower men through facilitation.
Offer professionally facilitated opportunities in a psychologically safe environment to explore topics that are normally avoided, miscommunicated or forbidden, such as “Am I wrong to admire Andrew Tate and what he represents?”, “Am I alone in knowing how to be a good man?”, “How do I speak up about my own experiences as a man?” or “If we have gender parity will I lose out?” Workshops need to be focused on listening, rather than talking, and be about developing mental resilience and addressing beliefs, emotions and values. Using language that resonates with men to encourage their engagement requires vision and sensitivity.
Acknowledge that men experience difficulties that are overlooked.
Some men still believe that they need to maintain an appearance of being powerful, in control and authoritative regardless of the impact of their behaviour on others. Others still struggle to express their emotions and fear and worry about being perceived as weak. The lack of supportive communities for young men and unhealthy notions of masculinity can lead to mental health issues and conflict at work. Enable men within the organisation to recognise they have the power to help each other and themselves to overcome issues such as mental health, and tendencies for anger and burnout.
Make men aware that the business values their mental and physical health.
Check in with men to measure the early signs of burnout, whether they could benefit from greater flexibility, and that they are being offered opportunities that focus on empathy and well-being. Take time to actively listen to all of your team members (but don’t let men brush you off with an “I’m fine”).
Remember to take care of yourself. Leaders who prioritise their own self-care will be more effective in taking care of their team members and fostering a healthy work atmosphere. They should encourage open communication of emotions and acknowledge the negative effects of imposter syndrome and toxicity on creativity and productivity.
Know your people and what’s going on in the workplace.
Take the time to walk around the office and listen to colleagues, especially in a hybrid work situation. Encourage face-to-face communication and community building when possible.
Avoid denigrating or emasculating men, or you may discourage their participation.
Whilst it is essential to address the toxicity of patriarchal masculinity, many men feel they are under attack when they are simply unsure of what to do to help. It’s not about undermining men, but about redefining what it means to be a man in the 2020s.
Workplace models must evolve to support the needs of all employees.
Both men and women may want to have a role that enables them to still support their families and have fulfilling personal lives so matters such as flexibility, or access to childcare and time off to care for a sick child are increasingly valued by men. Any employee may be suffering from stress as they attempt to juggle home and work.
Recognise the value of cultural and emotional intelligence.
Prioritise the recruitment of individuals who show cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence, who enjoy collaborating with others, and who show initiative and interest in an inclusive work environment to reduce the chance of conflict and harassment in the workplace.
Encourage communication about shifts in language and behaviour.
Good communication is important particularly across different generations and social groups who may see things differently. Encourage respectful exchanges, mentorships and actions that align with current business values and purpose.
Serenity In Leadership is hosting an executive leadership retreat in Guatemala in late September 2023 aimed at exploring and developing gender roles, leadership skills, engagement, and authenticity through an experiential deep dive.
With an MSc in Change Agent Skills & Strategies, expertise as a Certified Facilitator accredited by the CQ® Center, and an NLP Master Practitioner, 17 years’ experience as an officer in the Royal Marines and having worked extensively around the world, Thom brings all his experience together as a facilitator, speaker, consultant, educator and change agent as CEO of Serenity in Leadership. Thom is passionate about resolving the breadth of issues around good leadership and strives to bring healing and renewal in the face of dysfunction in the workplace.