The Man Code. It’s Real, And It’s Pervasive.

c3a1c75e271ddaa152c7ab7a2baa56e4-originaIs It Affecting Your Culture?
Image courtesy of SHTTEFAN.

By Jeffery Tobias Halter. You know it’s true and pervasive in our culture and organizations. Man up. Suck it up. Be tough. There is a man code that guides men’s actions, both in and out of the office. 
You know what these are. Masculine norms are certain behaviors that boys are taught as children that are reinforced by members of the group. If you want to fit in, you’d better play by the rules! 
Forty years later, the “rules” established on the playground transform into male cultural norms in organizations. By default, they are still the operating norms for most men in companies today. But how does the man code affect your workplace culture and when does it become a barrier to the advancement of women in the workplace?
For the first 20 years of my career, I was often a conscious and unconscious reinforcer of these male cultural norms. I spent 20 years in Field Operations, and I quickly learned that you’d better be tough because your mettle was tested every day. I also worked with some very strong women who had to assimilate to fit in. It’s just what you did. But times have changed, right? Or have they?
I now coach organizations on how to engage men in women’s leadership advancement. One of the highest barriers to advocating for women in the workplace that we discuss is the suspicion that we are somehow violating the tenets of the man code by encouraging men to advocate for women.
Let’s discuss four examples of male behaviors that you’ll recognize from day-to-day office life or life in the field. These male norms, considered a badge of honor in sales, operations, and supply chain, are just a few of the factors that can unintentionally damage your workplace culture or prevent women from advancing.
Man Code 1: Avoid All Things Feminine 
In business, particularly in sales, demeaning phrases such as “grow a pair,” “man up,” or “put a skirt on” can push men to act more aggressively than they are truly feeling. Even engaging in a dialogue about women’s advancement can be perceived as violating the man code. (In fact, I am certain I have lost my man club card just by writing this article.)
Man Code 2: Be a Winner 
This principle is all about the attainment of status and power. Any activity that increases one’s wealth, social prestige, and power over others is viewed as manly. This norm of winning above all is perceived as a revered model of male behavior and contributes to and reinforces common gender gaps in leadership all over the world.
Man Code 3: Show No Chinks in the Armor
In a business setting, showing emotional toughness is often regarded as a key leadership attribute in men. It’s more socially acceptable for men to act detached, confident, certain, and focused, whereas unfortunately the same standards don’t apply to women. While men are perceived as assertive and competent, women showing the same behaviors are labeled cold, aggressive, or a “witch.” Moreover, a corporate culture of supporting—and even encouraging —aggressive male behavior reinforces stereotypical views of women’s leadership attributes.
Man Code 4: Be a Man's Man
By default, men are often expected to seek and enjoy only the company of other men. The stereotypically male activities of grabbing a drink after work, only talking about sports, or even having lunch with the same group of guys every day all fall within the parameters of being a man’s man. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with these activities, we should be mindful that they are very exclusionary of women. 
I know what many men are thinking now. “Hey, this is just guys being guys, and we aren’t going out of our way to scheme against any women in the workplace.” They may also argue there is a certain value to displaying such behaviors. 
However, as male leaders and managers, you must be aware that everything communicates. Do you want your behavior to say to women in your company, “You are not part of the group. Your voice doesn’t matter.”?
It’s time to acknowledge that the man code exists and to discuss how to deal with it in our organizations. The single most powerful thing men (and especially senior leaders) can do is model appropriate behavior and have the courage to say, in a visible, vocal way, that these sophomoric actions will not be tolerated and that they are not conducive to the company we aspire to be. This is what great leaders and what great organizations do. 
Quite frankly, it’s time to rise to the occasion (yes, synonyms for “man up” exist!) and stop the cycle that exists in organizations today.
853f28be06afcda26828e837f1423158-originaJeffery Tobias Halter is a corporate gender strategist. A leading expert on engaging men to advance women, Jeffery is the President of YWomen, a strategic consulting company and creator of the Father of a Daughter Initiative. The former Director of Diversity Strategy of The Coca-Cola Company, Jeffery has worked with leading companies including McDonald’s, Deloitte, Publicis Groupe, GE and more. A highly sought-after thought-leader, he is a TEDx speaker and frequently talks at industry and corporate events.
Posted by MARC Catalyst on Oct 3, 2017 3:48 PM America/New_York

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Excellent post, Jeffrey
  • Posted Thu 05 Oct 2017 03:16 PM EDT


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