In “Meditations”, Marcus Aurelius writes, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
I have been reading a lot lately about the cultural perceptions that impact how we think about ourselves and others. There are too many to address in a simple musing, so I will limit my ramblings to a particular gender perception and a corresponding work culture.
While the following is slowly changing, these perceptions remain true for many people currently in the work place:
Men are physically tough and don’t show pain; Men are emotionally tough and not controlled by their emotions; Men are hyper masculine and sexually dominant; Men are decisive and never ask for help; Men are providers and economically secure.
Women lack physical and mental toughness; Women are emotional and intuitive but less analytical and intelligent; Women are not leaders and can’t lead men; Women need help and are more suited to assisting roles; Women are care givers, not providers.
These misconceptions are damaging enough in general, but when they are overlaid on the workplace, they create a culture that is toxic to both men and women. We could talk for days about the damage that has and continues to be done to women by these myths and misconceptions. I tend to think we should listen to women’s voices about that though. There is plenty of really thoughtful writing and speaking being done about this. We should pay attention to it.
However, in some ways these perceptions impact all of us in the workplace by creating cultures where people feel they must work more hours and take their work home with them in order to compete for value within the organization.
These prevalent myths goad both men and women into thinking they are “less than” if they don’t work longer and harder. Men are struggling to measure up to the Man Myth that they don’t feel pain, don’t need help, and don’t have to rest. In addition, they are afraid to relax at all lest they be overtaken by their peers. Women are running a race with their legs tied together and starting several times the race distance behind their male counterparts. For them, they believe that to have any chance of “success” they must sacrifice everything and work twice as hard as the man for the same recognition and advancement.
Unfortunately, this is often true.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can acknowledge that men and women have some fundamental differences. Those differences aren’t better or worse, but rather provide a range of capabilities and influences that make our community stronger and more resilient if we include them all. We can decide to dispel the myth that you are what you do and agree that we will all work very hard during business hours and then go home and leave the work behind. Moreover, we can all encourage and support each other through all the things that inevitably happen in our lives and temporarily interfere with our ability to be on our best game at work. At Kimray, I want the norm to be “Leave on time and don’t take your work home.”
We don’t need additional education or degrees. We don’t need training or certifications. We don’t need equipment or supplies. We just need to change our minds. We need to adjust our way of thinking. As Marcus said, all you need for a happy life is the right way of thinking.
We weren’t born believing these myths. We were taught them. Over time, they have been reinforced a thousand times over by the things people around us have said and done. Now it is our turn to be influencers and thought leaders. Our actions and our words could impact people for generations to come.
At Kimray you are not what you do. Your value is not tied to how many hours you occupy your spot, nor is it tied to your output. Our expectation of one another is that we will work hard, quit on time, and not take our work home. Our expectation is that working at Kimray makes it easier to make a happy life because that is the Kimray Way.