How to tackle toxic masculinity at work

They say treat others as you’d like to be treated. Ray Arata, CEO of the Better Man Movement, believes this is the first step to improving workers’ experience around toxic masculinity

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Management Today

Toxic masculinity isn’t always explicit – problematic behaviour can be nuanced and hard to spot, though equally as concerning. So how do we beat it?

Ray Arata warns toxic masculinity can be as discrete as men dominating the conversation, interrupting or even asking a woman for a coffee. 

It’s an issue experienced by many females at work – but are their male counterparts be aware of it? “Most men are unaware of how society’s playbook of what it means to be a man drives their behaviour,” he says. He suggests companies should shift their focus to ‘healthy masculinity’ in order to improve how male workers behave, and female workers feel, in the workplace.

Setting an example

Many people connect masculinity to dominance, competitiveness and a lack of emotion, though these cultural norms are outdated and, in the modern day, toxic. In order to change this we need to change the culture around challenging these subtle – and not so subtle – signs of toxic behavior. Calling out so-called ‘banter’, and male leaders setting an example for others, is a great place to start.

Arata encourages male CEOs to show their human side; he calls this ‘strategic vulnerability’, where male leaders tell their teams when they struggle or feel unsure.

Opening up

The answer is not labeling all men as bad; pointing the finger and shaming people doesn’t work. Instead, Arata recommends sharing a survey with your staff. Ask everyone to answer the questions anonymously, before presenting the results on a slide. This will demonstrate the differing beliefs and experiences of males and females at work and should evoke an empathetic reaction. “When you put this in front of men – without blame – you hear ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea! What can I do?’” he says.

Another method is storytelling. If women feel safe to reveal their feelings, female workers could share their experiences and the men may feel as though they can be open about times they might have behaved in a toxic way. “This way it is educational, it is human, and there is space for men to contribute,” Arata believes.

Be honest with yourself

Self-awareness is, perhaps, most important. “For men to raise their behaviour, they must first raise their awareness as to how they’re being experienced – even by other men,” Arata insists. Be honest with yourself and ask ‘How do I want to be experienced by other people?’

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