Why men don’t seek help (until it is a real crisis)

I am going to make a sweeping generalisation (and in my own experience true) – men are not very good at asking for help! The majority of my clients are men, and when we get to work together they really benefit (their words not mine). However, men seem to take a long time getting round to dealing with a problem. Often clients will say that they wish that they had sought help earlier, and if they had known how useful and painless it would be, they would have done so.

So, as HR and Health and Safety professionals, when we are offering support to the men in our workplaces, we need to be aware of what stops men seeking help. Here are a few comments I have come across:-

  • Men aren’t supposed to have problems – it’s a sign of weakness
  • Men are meant to deal with problems themselves
  • Men should appear strong, intelligent and capable
  • Men should take care of others
  • “I don’t want to talk about it – it’s too personal”
  • “I might be laughed at”
  • “I feel so stupid – others don’t feel this way – they don’t have the same problems”
  • “If my mates knew I’d be ridiculed”

My line of work is coaching, and the particular reluctance to seek my help seems to centre on several misconceptions. These include that coaching (especially when it is paid for by the employer) is not really confidential; it’s only for people with serious mental problems; talking about how you feel is a sign of weakness or it’s shameful to talk about problems outside your family.

The challenge for me and the HR and H&S managers who are offering support is to address these fears directly. For example we need to be very clear about confidentiality, to assure the individual that nothing is reported back to anyone without their express permission. We also need to establish coaching as a routine, standard source of support. Coaching is available for everyone who wants to improve their performance at whatever level they are in the organisation.

Talking about feelings and emotions is tough, I am not denying that. However, that is my job to create a safe environment where individuals can explore their thoughts without fear of judgement.

When I have worked with clients, they find that coaching has the following benefits:-

  • relief of getting things off their chest
  • space to think straight
  • fresh perspectives
  • it’s easier to talk to someone they don’t know, outside the organisation
  • helps identify strategies for dealing with problems and feelings
  • feeling more confident in themselves and their decisions
  • things feel more manageable

So, when it comes to offering support to men, we have to emphasis the benefits, and make the process of seeking help easy and non-threatening. It is worth checking your procedures, are they simple and confidential, with as few people involved as possible? If not, how can you make support, which is much needed, as accessible as possible for all your staff, and particularly men?

This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.