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Over masculine cultures killing our organisations?

I love elephants, they are hardy creatures who are respected the world over, but this elephant in the room (overtly masculine cultures) needs to be brought out more into the open and discussed fully.

Ken Blanchard in his situational leadership model discuses them, they appear in Ted Talks...so do we need to really re-think this issue? Understand it as a possible cause for conflict, disputes and low productivity in organisations?

The question posed is... are gender value clashes at the root cause of some many problems in the workplace? For example, are over zealous masculine values a brick wall for Diversity, Well Being and even Productivity? Do they result in undesirable behaviours that are created by leadership role models that are simply 'Bad for Business' (and bad for people).

We explore these in detail in our City Think Bite but let's touch the surface and consider 7 main areas of Business Strategic Impact where you might see the effects.

Competencies, Strategy and Performance Processes
If we consider some masculine values such as strong competitiveness, winner gets all, that killer instinct, survival of the fittest...we see how that permeates how we construct our performance targets, what shapes our strategy and what we state as being important values.

This cascades down into HR frameworks such as competency documents and performance management policies and reward decisions, all centered around such highly competitive commercial values - these are spreading into many different sectors and championed as the ultimate goal in making EVERYTHING work.

Aren't they useful I hear you ask?
Yes, they can be, at the right level and in the right situation, but getting the 'dosage' right is a careful balance between both sets of values, both masculine and feminine.

Usually in the workplace feminine values (and behaviour) is viewed as weak compared to strong, overly masculine value champions but is often seen as the smart way by intelligent (and balanced) leaders. This can be seen in the struggle for LGBT rights and the 'boys club' mentality in certain sectors and organisations. The battle to get gender parity in the boardroom could be the flag that sets this issue alight. Masculine values seen in women can be as off putting as feminine values seen in men, is getting the a balance the answer?

The global picture
Our national economy and the global dominating forces often trumpet competitive and masculine values in their cultures (e.g. USA, Central Europe) as their directness and constant strive towards targets and goal setting processes are almost in direct contrast to the practices seen in the East.

Western business philosophy seems to be built on ever increasing GROWTH no matter what the environmental conditions, but Eastern philosophy is at peace with the ups and downs of economic turbulence, sees it as a natural course of how things are.

The UK national GDP is dominated by Banking and Finance, so is it any wonder we promote a culture of competitive, winner takes all (at any cost) values? Is our society, education systems and media promoting such values..go to the gym everyday, get lean, mean and fit for the war that is the work environment. Don't be a wimp.

Productivity, our competitors and a HERO complex
How come with technology and these great masculine values, we still are pretty poor at productivity improvements in the past decade. We don't seem to be getting very far by working all hours and driving ourselves into the ground in a HERO complex. Are these particular values literally killing our workforce or driving them mentally and physically into a state of complete burnout?

Engagement and the state of Well Being
Whilst great strides have been made in certain organisations and we only just beginning to understand what engagement means for our millennials and the changing workforce that says, we are so afraid of looking stupid we don't cough up those ideas that are burning away in our brains. We can't be seen to fail or make a mistake. Are overly masculine values making the workplace like a war zone? Where no one wants to be seen as a casualty of poor performance? We see people avoid taking holiday and paternity leave or refuse to ask for flexible working simply because they are a man. How sad is that?

Does a masculine culture block innovation?
If you are too afraid to experiment, too afraid to try, then yes. Look at the numbers of people becoming self employed and setting up their own business, is it because they have had great freedom in their jobs to 'try' different things and express their creativity? I don't think so.

Does change become a 'suck it up' and get on with it scenario? Rather be an engaging process that involves great communication and involvement from staff it affects. Usually it's top down, you WILL DO, style which is about as motivating as hit over the head with a hammer.

Does this affect how we develop people?
If our strategy, goals and targets are shaped heavily on overly masculine values, then naturally the inclination is to replicate those values in training needs analysis and training strategy. Programs like resilience, time management and stress all end up with a flavour of 'GET TOUGHER', learn how to contribute more so we win more, rarely with the intention of helping our employees manage themselves through tough times or handle the challenges of the workplace or the demands technology puts on them. We then try to repair the damage with a few programmes on coaching or how to be a better leader or manager, but it all flies in the face of a culture of 'chin up', 'pull yourself together' and win no matter what.

A Leadership culture which drives the right values
As leadership quality improves, a better balance is seen in use of the both sets of values. Supportive coaching, career development, mentoring, all of these activities happen when both sets of values are applied. Stretch and challenge come in positive forms of masculine values as does risk taking. So it's a great balance when all these things come together. Together they create an amazing platform for individuals and teams to succeed.

Getting results
Getting results is often about working smarter not harder as the saying goes. Hard work can pay off when counterbalanced by sensitivity and supportive relationships and work environments. It combines the best of both worlds (and both value sets). Long term and short terms goals and actions can be directed by both sets of values which creates a better impact both internally and externally.

Understanding the impact of excessive values
When we look the picture of HSE stress statistics, the tribunal numbers for employer/employee disputes, the take up/implementation of flexible working and paternity benefits, diversity numbers, we can begin to see a thread of a link that says overly masculine values are a problem. Perhaps the answer lies in re-addressing the balance of OTT masculine values running riot in the workplace with the acceptance and recognition of the usefulness of feminine values. As well as promoting feminine value led role models, these values should be used as a focus for ensuring key policies, processes and strategic models create a balance that supports, not discriminates in the workplace and in fact creates better results when combined in a neatly bound up package.

JOHN | THINKING HR