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Men at Work

From the November Zeitgeist…

Men at Work

In this workaday world, Zeitgeist thought it would be helpful to examine just what is going on in the workplace, and how our behaviour and attitudes toward work can be leveraged for a successful marketing proposition.

Earlier this year, Dr. Burchell of the University of Cambridge discussed the gender gap, which in some respects is still prominent at work. Men have suffered particularly in this recession, as the past year has seen the  consolidation and closure of many manufacturing plants, leading to the loss of skilled labourers, most of whom are men. An initial poll at the beginning of the year showed that women were more worried about the possibility of losing their jobs than men. This, combined with the sharper decline in women’s jobs than men’s, led some to posit that women would be the principle victims of the recession. What Dr. Burchell’s new report revealed, however, was that men were simply “putting on a braver face”, and that job insecurity causes “more symptoms of anxiety and depression in men” than women. If men were to move from being unemployed to having an “insecure” job, their  psychological health would not improve, whereas for a woman it would. This is surely part of the reason why more women than men find work enjoyable.

In a somewhat generic and ribald statement, Dr Burchell says men “have few positive ways of defining themselves outside of the workplace between when they leave school and when they retire.” Quite what this actually means is beyond Zeitgeist’s understanding, but if true, it complements the breadwinner mentality that men feel they not only need to be providing the majority of a household income, they also need to be seen to be doing this and performing well. Knowledge of the arts, prowess at sport and the disposition of offspring clearly not mattering too much in Dr. Burchell’s opinion.

In March of this year, the Bureau of Labor [sic] Statistics in the US reported that 1,162,000 women and 1,238,000 men had shifted from “looking” to “stopped looking” for employment in the preceding month. Such relative parity in numbers are very rare, and emphasise the toll on men’s confidence the crisis is taking.

The difficulty for marketers will be in what to do with this knowledge? Play on it, satirise it, ignore it? Escapism is the order of the day for Hollywood, as the studios shift their focus firmly on to the type of childlike fantasy fare of Transformers 2, whose global reaping of $830m at the box office clearly showed it was not just kids who were going to watch it. Disney clearly felt they were lacking in testosterone until their purchase of Marvel comics in August. Perhaps other attitudes, such as confronting men and empathising with their increasingly stressful lives, might be as successful? In purchasing your product, a man could reinforce his slighted standing, reinvigorate his self‐perception and re‐Alphabetise his Alpha male status.

  1. March 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Great post, thanks. I really love it!

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