Whenever International Women’s Day rolls around on 8th March, you can expect at least one pedantic comment asking “When’s International Men’s Day?“, with the response “Isn’t it every day?“. It’s comments like these that can really invalidate men and encourage toxic masculinity. I spoke to the men of Snowplow to find out their thoughts on toxic masculinity and mental health in the workplace.
Why is it important that we talk about men’s mental health, particularly in the workplace?
“When my mental health was at its worst, my workplace was my only safe haven. Once I got there, it became a place where I could talk openly to people because they weren’t family. Social events at work also allowed me to relieve some pressure.”
“I have known too many men who have died by suicide when they have appeared fine from the outside. I have also struggled with debilitating depression and anxiety, which often surprises people when they find out. A significant portion of anybody’s life is spent at work and work can often be a key contributor to burnout and poor mental health.”
“At times, too many men hold back feelings, thoughts, or challenges, fearing that they might be scrutinized or ridiculed for expressing feelings or being emotional. It’s important to express feelings and ensure there is a forum for these feelings to be heard.”
“We’re often told to “get on with it”, which can then lead to us trying to bottle up and compartmentalize our thoughts and feelings rather than try to deal with them in an effective way.”
Do you feel comfortable discussing your own mental health challenges at Snowplow? If so, what has helped you feel comfortable? If not, what’s preventing you from speaking out?
“I’ve never felt so comfortable. I have numerous catch-ups with colleagues where I have spoken openly about my own mental health challenges. Events like our company away week are also an excellent platform for this.”
“I speak openly with my manager but I don’t generally feel like discussing mental health as I worry it would impact the responsibilities I am entrusted with at work.”
“My colleagues are kind and accommodating, however, I do not personally feel comfortable about opening up. This is likely due to a combination of the way I was raised and the experiences I’ve had at previous companies”.
“I want to be able to speak more freely about my mental health as it might help me get through some of the issues I’m facing. My challenges come from my family and cultural upbringing. I feel stuck living in two different worlds: one where I live in a modern society with open thinking, and the other where I’m bound to follow society and cultural norms.”
“I have a small circle of support at Snowplow where I am able to discuss any challenges or stresses that I am dealing with at work. I am grateful to have people who can empathize and offer helpful advice.”
“It has been tremendously helpful that we are encouraged to talk openly about our mental health.”
Have you talked about mental health at Snowplow in the last 6 months?
Why are we asking this question? We try our hardest to cultivate a very open and understanding environment at Snowplow. In fact, one of our 6 values is “Breed trust through transparency” We want to ensure our team feels comfortable enough to speak openly about their mental health.
Do you know what toxic masculinity is?
Why are we asking this question? Whilst the entire focus of this post isn’t just about toxic masculinity, it’s important that people are aware of what toxic masculinity is and how we can avoid it in the workplace.
Toxic masculinity and the perception that it’s weak to talk about the challenges men face contribute to the increased suicide rate in men. (In 2021, the male suicide rate was 15.8 per 100,000, compared to a female suicide rate of 5.5 per 100,000.)
Have you ever felt you had to act a certain way in order to be “more of a man”?
Why are we asking this question? Young women are often told to be “more ladylike”, especially in more formal settings. We wanted to know if men were also faced with similar comments.
“A lot of men tend to brag about how well they can soldier on when they’re not feeling well, often making fun of those who are perceived as weak for having a day off. That’s happened at almost every company I’ve worked at, even the bosses will have a crack at you about taking a day off for illness. “
Do you think certain roles within a company are stereotypically “male roles”?
Why are we asking this question? Historically, women have the nursing and secretarial roles, whilst men have the executive and physically demanding roles. We wanted to know if people still had these perceptions. (And maybe we’ve been binge-watching a bit too much Mad Men lately)
“I think that there is a stereotype that certain roles are male or female-dominated so it appears that these roles are gendered, but I don’t believe this to be the case. Women are not often represented in tech roles but I think the number is rising. We encourage people of all backgrounds to apply for our roles at Snowplow.”
“We tend to see more men in senior leadership roles, which can really have an effect on how the company is run.”
“Nobody should get to do anything someone of another gender is not.”
Do you feel men may not have the same flexibilities in their roles as women do?
Why are we asking this question? Traditionally and stereotypically, it’s always been the men who go out and make the money while the women stay at home and look after the children. We want to know if men believe women have more freedom and flexibility in the workplace because society expects them to be the child’s caregiver.
“I worked term time for over five years (I had school holidays off as needed to look after children) and found that previous employers were very amenable to it. If you don’t ask for something you need help with, then you don’t realize what is available. I often finished at 3 pm to pick them up from school and then worked later in the evening.”
Whilst not everybody is fully comfortable discussing their mental health openly in the workplace, it’s really great to see that so many people are. We want to make sure that everybody in the team feels safe and comfortable enough to be open about anything, not just their mental health.
We’re very pleased to see that the majority of us don’t see certain roles as gender-specific, but it was pretty eye-opening to see that the majority of men had been in at least one situation in their lives where they felt they needed to act in a certain way in order to be “more of a man”.
We hope the honesty in this blog post is enough to start more open conversations, going forward.