Studies on male psychology and counseling have shown important distinctions between male and female responses to stress. Regardless of age, country of origin, or racial or cultural background, males are less likely to seek assistance for mental health issues. In most cases, discrimination or bias based on a person’s gender is the root cause of their lack of motivation.
When it comes to discussing feelings like worry, poor mood, and tension, men experience self-stigma as well as societal stigma. As a result of being taught and culturally conditioned to uphold standards of masculinity, these guys frequently internalize stigma against themselves without realizing it. Many cultures’ conventional portrayal of males holds that they should be leaders, achievers, protectors, providers, protectors, protectors, protectors, protectors, protectors, protectors, protectors, protectors, and protectors.
Men are driven to succeed because of the pressure to conform to notions of masculinity that emphasize physical prowess, independence, decisiveness, and emotional resiliency above any of these qualities (vs. lacking influence on their own life). The result may be a diminished ability to identify and name sad emotions.
Therefore, males typically experience anxiety when they give themselves time to reflect on their emotions, since this might reveal that they are not currently functioning in accordance with their own or society’s standards of masculinity. Indeed, doing so may cause you disgrace and embarrassment.
Men may feel less inclined to seek professional mental health treatments or to discuss their mental suffering with close relatives, coworkers, and friends for similar reasons. Twenty-five percent of Australian males continue to show signs that are consistent with a clinical mental health issue, according to a new survey. But barely one-quarter of males reported ever seeing a mental health professional for assistance. The suicide rate among American males is 3.6 times higher than among American women, yet men are less likely to seek care for mental health issues.
Problems Facing Men’s Mental Health in the Workplace
An individual’s mental health has far-reaching implications, both in their personal life and in the workplace. Productivity, performance, and employee motivation are all influenced. Although there are several individual aspects that might affect one’s mental health, the workplace can be a particularly stressful setting for certain people. Poor mental health is frequent in both sexes, and it is often the result of a combination of factors, including exposure to high-stress environments and a lack of resources (time, money, autonomy, flexibility, support). However, a significant predictor of poor mental health in males is occupational instability (low job security; part-time, shorter employment contracts) and career stagnation (not being promoted or receiving a lesser pay than peers).
Distress in males typically manifests itself in the following ways, whether at work or elsewhere:
- Poor productivity, inability to focus, and late or incomplete work are all symptoms of distraction, as can behaviors like binge-watching TV programs or playing video games for long periods of time or spending too much time at work.
Avoidance strategies include increased instances of heavy drinking (often when one is alone), binge eating, and excessive investment in self-indulgent pursuits.
Isolation: not dining with coworkers at lunch or after hours, avoiding eye contact at the table, and using an abnormally high number of sick days are all signs of withdrawal.
Extreme irritability, short temper, frequent outbursts of rage, and a general lack of self-control all fall under the category of externalization, as do frequent incidents of snapping at and becoming upset with coworkers.
Strategies for Managers to Take Charge
The first step in encouraging employees of both sexes to open up about their mental health on the job is creating an environment where it is safe to do so. Given that males are often less comfortable discussing their feelings, this is of paramount importance.
To help you achieve that feeling of ease, consider these suggestions:
Exhibit your own frailty in private.
When meeting with a male employee one-on-one, it’s important to provide space for an honest exchange of ideas. As an example, you can remark, “The last several weeks have been incredibly stressful for me. I had to deal with a sick family member while still meeting the requirements of a new project. There has been so much going on, and I just need some time to relax and regroup. I’m doing OK, how about you? It is especially crucial for a male boss to serve as a role model for his female employees. Display humility and openness by discussing how your own personal and professional difficulties have affected your mood.
Sharing your experiences of reaching out for assistance from friends, family, or professionals helps to destigmatize the practice, which in turn encourages other team members to do the same.
Note that I suggest avoiding formal settings like meeting rooms and conference halls in favor of more relaxed settings like coffee shops or restaurants for these sorts of discussions. Consider doing so instead on the way to your favorite coffee house or during a lunch meeting at a local café. The tension of a discussion might be eased by moving it to a less formal location.
Encourage people to see asking for assistance as a sign of resilience and resolve.
Flip your perspective on asking for assistance and view it as a mark of will, determination, and leadership chops. Explain to your staff member that asking for assistance is a sign of strength and a commitment to developing oneself so that one may serve as a better leader to one’s followers and contribute to the company to the best of one’s abilities.
It’s a show of maturity when leaders take care of themselves so they can contribute and assist others, which is why I wasn’t first comfortable talking up about my challenges at work. It took a lot of guts to approach my mentor for guidance and encouragement. I can already see that this is making me a kinder, gentler boss.
Pay attention to the meanings.
We know that anxiety may emerge when someone’s feeling of belonging to a certain ideal (masculine identity in this example) is threatened via discussion or the usage of words. Men, for instance, may feel more apprehensive and avoid talks when they hear phrases like despair and melancholy cited to characterize their state at work. The socially aware manager knows to avoid using identity-threatening words like “depression” and “sadness,” particularly when speaking with males.
It is more accurate to talk about “recovering from burnout” or “building mental fitness, resilience, and strength” than it is to talk about “managing despair and melancholy” or “dealing with stress.” But it doesn’t mean we may or should use the older words when talking to female coworkers or friends. Changing our vocabulary and semantics to have a more upbeat tone is always a good idea.
If you follow these suggestions and wait for a miracle to occur, you will be very disappointed. This is an emotional issue, and lasting transformation won’t happen overnight. Keep in mind that discussing mental health is difficult for anybody, not just males. However, as a manager, you have the power to open the door and provide the space your team members need to begin having genuine, honest discussions and seek the assistance they need.