Watching for testosterone overload

RESEARCH undertaken by psychologist and socio-analyst Allan Shafer has suggested a clear link between the culture of an organisation and the health of the men who work in it.

Dr Shafer believes the Australian culture corrals men into particular modes of behaviour within the work-place, particularly in their relation-ships with other men.

When men work together, characteristically masculine qualities can develop in the work culture, which varies depending on the work done and the skill levels.

The current economic climate and polices that value profit before people may reduce some of the benefits for men of working together, such as mateship, because of perceived competition for fewer jobs, the research has indicated.

“Corporate life, be it in the boardroom or the footy paddock, provides a sanitised way for men to be together without threat,” Dr Shafer said.

“There are tightly defined rules, which preclude ‘boundary transgression’ or acting in unconventional masculine ways.

“Unfortunately, this also means that men collude in building, servicing and maintaining organisational dynamics which contribute to their own ill health, physical and emotionally.”

Dr Shafer believes that one of the implications in the link between organisational dynamics and health is that, in order to create healthy organisations, significant reorganisation must take place.

“However, it is widely evident how significant organisational change can in itself be related to health problems,” he said.

“Some changes and structures may bring growth in profitability or efficiency, but this may increase health risk for workers.”

In some organisations, alcohol plays a significant role in the life and culture of the organisation, its managers and workers, Dr Shafer said.

He said some organisations encouraged alcohol consumption (to the point of excessive consumption) during work-social occasions because it was hoped this would increase socialisation and communication and, by implication, overcome barriers between managers and their divisions.

However, this environment may be counterproductive for managers because it could create a highly competitive work environment. The consequences of this culture could be the neglect of family responsiblities, family and relationship break ups, personal and professional isolation and employees feeling that they are not acknowledged or valued by the organisation.

A highly political and adversarial environment and changes in organisational structure or management can create difficulties and increase the stress levels of those in the workforce.

These workplaces are oft-en run by men, which further fostered the strong masculine culture.

It may be characterised by coercion, intimidation, divisiveness and political power plays, the research suggests.

The nature of the core work of the organisation or the primary task may also have a bearing on the culture and health of the workforce, according to the research.

“For example, one organisation whose primary task involved the care of dependent animals, had a work culture which seemed to reinforce dependency among the staff too,” Dr Shafer said.

Management styles also could flow through an organisation.

“For example, bullying CEOs tend to encourage or tolerate a bullying or abusive culture,” he said.

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