“I don’t need help”: the cultural difficulty of the male in asking for help at work
Although the gender differences related to the western cultural system are slowly leaving room for a progressive process of social equality, certain psychosocial systems tend to resist tirelessly. One of these systems is that relating to the resistance of men to admit a need for help, especially when they are in the workplace; a psychological and cultural analysis follows.
Advertising message As Alina Tugend writes in her New York Times article (2007), one of the most difficult actions to do in the workplace and in private life is to ask for help.
In continuing her piece, the journalist describes how often people do not ask for immediate help from others and how this tendency leads them to a frustrating state of stasis or to a worsening of their situation. The main reasons for this resistance are mainly due to giving the idea of being in a situation of weakness, of not being able to regardless of playing one’s role and, finally, of being able to be a burden for others, thus disqualifying consequently .
This vision is above all found in men, especially those belonging to western cultures subject to patriarchy: in fact, in these cultures there is a vision of willpower as the main force of success, of one’s own resilience as the main factor of success, of qualification through scrupulously following the cultural script of origin and considering fragility as a sign of weakness (Seidman, 2010).
The thesis is confirmed by David M. Mayer on the Harvard Business Review (2018), where it indicates how western education (in this case the US one) initiates children to take a stoic and emotionally closed attitude, thus producing a negative and of diffidence towards positive interpersonal attitudes, openly empathizing, showing sadness, being modest and implementing attitudes considered feminine or marrying the feminist cause.
This leads to the analysis made, again in the Harvard Business Review, by Jennifer L. Berdahl, Peter Glick and Marianne Cooper (2018), where the researchers just mentioned contextualized the concept of Masculinity Context Culture, determined by the following four rules: show insecurities, possess strength and endurance, work first of all and take on a “dog eat dog” mentality.
Advertising message As it turns out, these processes disqualify all those who do not follow these rules, making those who follow them appear as a masculine subject in all respects. At small costs. In fact, always in the same article by Berdahl et al., In the working societies where the concept of Masculinity Context Culture is strong, these phenomena are statistically more present: toxic leadership; low psychological security; low work / family balance; frequent episodes of sexism; bullying and interpersonal attitudes of a sexual nature that do not comply with the norms; episodic burnout; great percentage of physical and mental malaise.
On the contrary, asking for help or simply asking for something that is justified in the context sends messages of responsible openness, of having good interpersonal skills and finally low probability of having an egocentric personality (Huang et al., 2017).
Summing up, the question of being qualified as masculine is still a fundamental element of Western patriarchal societies, thus giving value to cultural belonging at the cost of sacrificing any other social or cultural element, even those concerning a fundamental environment such as that of the place of work.
Thus ignoring the fundamentally human essence of asking for help, showing that many times the real strength is to accept one’s own frailties and ask for a hand to face them (Crepet, 2018).