40 BUSINESS DAY C002D5556 Monday 09April 2018 MondayMorning In association with Harvard Business Review Emergency responders and the dangers of ‘masculinity contests’ OLIVIA A. O’NEILL AND NATALYA ALONSO During the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, one of the sheriff’s deputies on the scene did not enter the building to confront the attacker. The deputy was criticized by his boss for his supposed inaction and called a coward by the president of the United States. The use of this specific word was not accidental. More than just failing to act as a first responder, “coward” implies a much greater transgression: failing to act as a man. Masculinity, we should note, has many manifestations in organizations. One of us (Olivia) has investigated a side of masculine organizational culture known for what psychologists call “companionate love.” It involves fondness, affection, caring, compassion and tenderness — or, as first responders would say, “camaraderie” or “brotherly love.” For the past two and half years, a working group of gender scholars (including us) led by Jennifer Berdahl, Joan Williams, Peter Glick and Marianne Cooper have been working to understand what happens in organizational cultures that conflate masculinity with performance, or what the working group refers to as “masculinity contest cultures.” To maintain status, such cultures require workers (both men and women) to “prove” their masculinity by engaging in behaviors we categorize into four groups: “dog-eat-dog,” “strength and stamina,” “put work first” and “show no weakness.” Our initial analysis indicates that masculinity contest cultures are associated with numerous harmful workplace outcomes such as bullying, increased sexual harassment, burnout and decreased employee wellbeing. These outcomes are exacerbated when threats to masculinity are made public. All of this said, first responders must make quick decisions in life-or-death situations. Those involved must deal with these situations in a professional manner while simultaneously negotiating the painful emotions that go along with them. None of this is easy. But it can be done. How? In a now-classic study of offshore oil workers, for example, Robin Ely and Debra Meyerson examined one approach. The company at the center of their research implemented an organizational culture change initiative that decoupled stereotypically masculine traits prominent in the organization (like reckless bravado, emotionlessness and never admitting failure) in favor of competencies aligned with better performance (like willingness to admit failure, relying on and learning from others and expressing vulnerability and concern). This move not only drastically improved productivity and safety; it also helped men realize they could “behave in ways that conventional masculine norms would have precluded.” Another antidote to the pernicious effects of masculinity contest cultures is to prioritize the aforementioned brighter side of masculinity: companionate love. Rather than publicly shaming an emergency responder, as we saw after the shooting, this kind of masculine culture encourages perspectivetaking and caring. To be clear: Traits associated with masculinity — heroism included — in and of themselves, are not the problem. The problem is when masculine traits like heroism and emotional stoicism are taken to the extreme, leaving no room for vulnerability or mistakes. (Olivia A. O’Neill is an assistant professor At George Mason University. Natalya Alonso is a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business.) Two techniques for helping employees change ingrained habits JOEL CONSTABLE I first met Eric (not his real name) in a new manager training group I was facilitating. He had recently become a manager and was excited to learn more about his new role. Throughout the next two days Eric fully immersed himself, engaging with other participants and actively practicing new concepts. At the end of the training, Eric committed to letting go of more of the tactical work he had been doing and opening up his time to strategic thinking. Research by psychologists Gabrielle Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer has found that doing two things significantly increases the likelihood of goal achievement in virtually every context. The first step is considering your ideal future state, and the obstacles you expect to face on the way to achieving that state. Most of us do great on the first part. But we rarely complete the second part: thoughtfully considering all the obstacles we’ll face. Oettingen calls this exercise “mental contrasting” and has found that it increases the likelihood that we will stick with our goals. Anticipating obstacles and deciding to pursue the goal anyway increases our commitment. And considering obstacles allows us to plan for them. The second step here, built on mental contrasting, involves framing goals as an “if-then” statement. The “if” is a goal-relevant situational cue, and the “then” is your goal behavior. Gollwitzer calls these “implementation intentions.” Eric would think about what time, situation, or circumstance would help prompt or remind him to focus more on big picture work. A few examples: — If Eric’s main obstacle was not making time, or forgetting: “If it’s 9 a.m. on a Friday, then I will spend 60 minutes focused on our team’s strategy and vision for the future.” — If Eric’s main barrier was his satisfaction in completing tactical work: “If I’m doing work that a member of my team could do, then I’ll ask her if she can take over the work in our next one-onone.” — If Eric’s main barrier was letting go of control: “If I start to feel uncomfortable about not completing the work myself, then I’ll ask for updates on the work in our next team meeting.” Gurus and coaches often tell people to “visualize success,” but that’s not enough. To really achieve your goals, don’t stop there. Think through what will get in your way, and make a plan for overcoming it. (Joel Constable is a Director of Talent Development at Intuit. ) (C) (2017) Harvard Business Review. Distributed by New York Times Syndicate
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