John Downer is a forty five year old professional who is quite competent in his field. He is quiet, soft spoken and said by his colleagues to be too laid back. His wife Janice is quite the opposite as she is outspoken, confrontational and according to her, passionate about justice and fairplay.
One Friday evening after work, John and some of his colleagues were playing a game of dominoes. Janice turned up at John’s workplace in a fit. She marched over to the table John was and proceeded to throw the contents of beer bottle in his face. She accused him of cheating on her and began slapping him in the face. John obviously embarrassed, hung his head in shame and walked away while his wife shouted and continued her physical and verbal assault on him.
The above scenario, though fictitious, can be one that some men can identify with. The truth is even though there is a low incidence of domestic violence meted out to men; the fact is that it does exist.
Like John, some men will never raise their hand to hit a woman. They have been socialized to respect and protect women and not harm them. In their families of origin it was the responsibility of the male members of the family to ensure the safety and security of the women folk.
Let’s revisit John at the workplace after that shameful incident. John is a manager at the manufacturing company where he has worked for over fifteen years. In his department he has ten persons reporting to him. On that fateful Friday evening half of the workforce witnessed the incident and yes most of them found the fiasco quite amusing and entertaining.
Can you imagine how difficult it would be for Mr. Downer to effectively manage his staff having been emasculated in their presence?
There are men at the workplace whose bosses (females and males) possess strong personalities similar to Janice Downer. They intimidate and humiliate their supervisees causing much emotional and psychological pain.
The man whose ego is severely impaired, whether from home or from the workplace, will experience serious self-esteem issues which will affect his performance at the workplace.
The truth is, men are also victims of emotional abuse whether it generates from home or the workplace. In a male dominated society, a man is considered less of a man if he is allows himself to be dominated by a woman. In Jamaican parlance he is referred to as a “sissy” or “ma –ma man” a term that some men resist stoutly to the extent of becoming violent.
A man with a bruised ego is likened unto a child whose favourite toy has been taken away from him. He will demonstrate a fight or flight response.
Let us look the emotional/psychological impact of domestic abuse on the male victim at the workplace.
- He may take out his frustration on his co-workers
- He may become quite withdrawn and avoids socializing with his co-workers
- He is fearful of taking on challenging assignments
- He lacks self confidence and motivation
- He displays anger to other females at work who reminds him of his abusive spouse or boss
- He may become verbally or physically abusive in a bid to protect his fragile ego
- He may become depressed as he feels a sense of helplessness
- He avoids confrontation at all cost
- He will not look forward to going to work or home
- His level of productivity may be severely affected
The Human Resource professional must be cognisant of this reality and not be drawn in by the stereotypical view that soft spoken men are weak. He/she must make every effort to ensure that all staff members are accorded the respect due, regardless of gender.
The same attention and care that is paid to the female victim of spousal abuse must be given to the male as well. The truth is the emotional/psychological pain may be much more devastating than the physical pain.