October 2015 ~ A Man and His Work
October 2015 ~ A Man and His Work
An excerpt from Chapter Three: A Man and His Work from The High Price of Manhood by Michael Anthony
Why do we have this connection to work? In our culture, work ties us to our world, a world that tells us whether our ideas, visions, talents and contributions make sense. It demands that we discipline our thoughts and impulses.
A job is two things at once. It is a set of tasks to be performed and it is a position of importance in the community.
The world of work gives you a sense of value in relation to your society, family and friends. To be a success, you must focus your potential for work in a way that relates to the larger human community. As a man, you must feel a sense of membership in the community of work. Quite often, men who lose their membership in the community of work experience severe distress. This distress may be accompanied by stress and depression, which inevitably affects their physical health and mental state.
A man who is without work for long is likely to lose a good deal of the standing within his family. In contrast, a man who loses his family through divorce will lose little in the workplace.
To feel needed and valued, you must be valued by the working society to which you belong. A manís sense of value, dignity and self-worth depends on being recognized by others through his work. We all need work. Without work, a man deteriorates.
Through your work, you express yourself and practice commitment. In America, we often differentiate between work that expresses ourselves ó the work we love to do ó from work we agree to do as a means of making money and having status. As employed men, we pay our dues so that we can "do the work we love."
I know people who work at jobs they dislike just so they feel okay about working part time at something they love. A friend of mine is a good example. In addition to being a stockbroker, he is a part-time ski instructor, a job that is his preference. This man feels he cannot succeed at being a ski instructor full-time because it does not fit the image he holds as being successful in the work community.
Another friend showed me the value of a work change that finally brought him deep satisfaction. As a school teacher, he enjoyed his work. Yet, he gave it up to seek the external accomplishments of business and industry. Rising through the ranks of a well-known highly respected company, he met with the unsettling revelation that the money and prestige was not what he valued. At fifty years of age, he discovered his own personal sense of value was where he started ó in teaching. He realized that he really loved teaching and the self-respect he found in it. "It gave him back his soul" in his words. He played out the fantasy that he himself created.
Children often give us introspection. Youngsters play as if it were their work. That is their "job." Likewise, adults play in the business world. That is their game, a form of acting.
Work is a superior form of play, of acting out. Work is really about hope, fantasy, appreciation, expression and fear. To men, it is a symbol of character.
Victor Hugo once said, "Man lives by his affirmation of hope, more than he does by bread." Men hope their work will bring money, pleasure, fame, power, knowledge, independence, satisfaction and the inner security of life fulfillment. When we investigate men, most describe stories and pictures that enhance their own worth. Somehow, through their work, they fend off a threat, come through against all odds or perform some extraordinary feat of skill. Other men bring fantasies of high adventure in feats that test their courage or determination.
Likewise, we see that having a place of importance in the community of work is vitally important. Having a sense of belonging assures us that we are "good enough" for membership in the community, based on our individual production and contribution.
The other side of hope, fantasy, appreciation and expression is the fear of not reaching your goals, not measuring up to your own expectation or the expectations of others. The fear of losing that membership in the work community. To most men, work is an emotional bond ó it is a necessity directed by our values and opportunities.
It is curious to note that when first meeting a man, if one asks, "Who are you?" he will most often respond with what he does for work. He will tell what he does for achievement in the work world. He will say something like, "Iím Bill Sellers, Vice President of Operations for ABC Chemicals." This clearly establishes his position in the work community. He has also established his role in the community of manhood.
Women, when asked the same question in the same setting, first refer to the things that interest them or events they are proud of ó not necessarily work accomplishments or achievements, but their interests and events.
When asked, "Who are you?" a woman might answer, "Iím Karen Nieman, the mother of two children; I like music, spirituality, horses and, by the way, Iím also a dentist." As if to say, "I am a person who likes music, spirituality, horses and being the mother of two children."
Men, on the other hand, answer as if to say, "I am what I do for work"
Furthermore, when asked the next question, men most frequently responded like this:
Mr. Sellersí response was tied to his performance.
When asked the same question, the female response might be considerably different.
Can you recognize and describe the difference?
For men, our success in the community is often tied to our standing in our job, our promotability, our awards and our recognition. The desire of other employees to be known as an associate of ours is an informal form of recognition. Title and income are the most significant icons of worth in the male work community.
Recognition is a positive evaluation and often made widely known to the work community. However, recognition is inherently in limited supply. To recognize everyone is to recognize no one as special.
Recognition is highly sought because it enhances our reputation, enhances our sense of security, and further establishes and supports our position in our work community and our social community.
As Change Comes to All
What happens when you lose your work or change direction to accommodate your own lifeís vision? What happens to you as a person from the inside out?
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Page updated: October 16, 2023
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