Why men struggle to open up in the workplace

Doing well at work is a goal for many men, no matter what their profession might be. But while they may be unapologetic about their ambitions, they’re likely to be quieter about how they’re feeling in the workplace.

Here, we talk through some of the reasons men struggle to open up.

They’re taught to keep their emotions hidden

While they’re growing up (and beyond), men receive many messages about how they should behave, both directly and indirectly. We’ve all heard phrases like “man up” and “be a real man”, but the stiff-upper-lip attitude also gets across through the expectations placed on men and boys – to be strong, active, maybe even a little aggressive. “Boys will be boys” is often used as an excuse for rough behaviour.

With common expressions like these doing the rounds, it’s no wonder lots of men grow up to feel guilty or embarrassed about expressing their feelings. Maybe they tried to and were shut down? A response like that can have a significant impact on the way they communicate, even years later.

Unfortunately, bottling up emotions in this way can lead to poor mental health, which is something men can often find hard to address.

However, research also suggests men will seek help when the available support is easy to access and engage with. Employers can assist with this by supplying information about mental health services in the area and providing coaching sessions for their employees.

They can’t open up to friends and family, let alone their colleagues

Men are less likely to talk about their feelings or disclose their mental health issues with family or friends. Some may feel like they should be the “strong” one in the group, or they may struggle to articulate how they’re feeling or what the problem is.

They may also feel like they don’t want to place a burden on their loved ones, who might have their own issues to deal with. This attitude can extend to the workplace, especially during difficult times such as the current pandemic. Men don’t want to be seen as another problem.

They want to appear professional

Traditionally, male identity has revolved around work. The focus is on tackling the challenges that come their way and rising up the ranks. Men are also more likely to work in jobs that could harm their safety, which has its own impact on mental health. Research found that 200,000 men a year report feeling stressed, anxious or depressed because of work.

An additional survey by the Men’s Health Forum found that men feared the reaction of their managers if they showed what they (the respondents) perceived to be weakness by opening up. They believed their managers would view them less favourably than before, and were less likely to take time off for their mental health than their physical health.

Employers can do their part to address this by ensuring their sickness policies cover mental as well as physical health, and making it clear that taking time off for mental health reasons is both acceptable and encouraged.

They might be going through the male menopause

The female menopause is talked about a lot. But did you know there’s also such a thing as the male menopause? Up to 30% of men can experience physical changes and there can also be mental ones, such as memory loss, lower concentration and productivity levels, and irrationality. All these combined can make things difficult at work, so it’s easy to see why someone might be reluctant to open up in the office.

These are only a few of the possible reasons why men might struggle to open up in the workplace. It’s a complicated issue, and there may be many other individual factors involved. But with mental health issues and work-related stress more prevalent than ever before, we should be doing all we can to ensure that men feel comfortable opening up and sharing their troubles – both at home and in a professional setting.

Your Employee Wellbeing helps support wellbeing in the workplace.

Our programmes for businesses of all sizes can be tailored to fit all budgets, but are designed to support employees through issues they are facing, which may affect their productivity in the workplace.

Men’s health and wellbeing is a topic we cover in our virtual presentations.

Get in touch to see how we can help your business thrive by supporting your employees.

info@youremployeewellbeing.co.uk  |  020 8979 6453

© Working Life Solutions | Website by WebWorks Design

Registered in England & Wales company No. 07656195