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5 Great Ideas To Identify And Manage Bro Culture At Work

8 min read   |  
Last Updated on
bro-culture-at-work

Since the 20th century, the word bro began to gain a non-familial connotation. In the 1970s the word bro started being referred to as a male friend rather than just another man. Gradually this word has become synonymous with the subculture related to young men partying with other like-minded individuals. The typical male-dominated culture based on exclusion can be identified as bro culture.

There is a clear gender pay gap in the workplace, with women earning less than men. Sexual harassment is also a common problem, with women facing more harassment than men. Power and authority are mostly concentrated in the hands of men. All of these signs point towards a prevailing bro culture.

Let’s learn more about bro culture and what it entails. Is bro culture fueled toxicity that extreme in your workplace?

Defining Bro Culture At Work

Defining-Bro-Culture-At-Work

Bro culture is a subculture that promotes misogyny and segregation. In male-dominated industries like the tech industry, we find this culture to be more prevalent.

Bro culture promotes exclusivity and seclusion. In workplaces, it is akin to an elite men’s club that backs the competitive guy who prioritizes winning. Companies with a strong bro culture frequently employ partying as a motivational technique.

This kind of workplace culture sees men working as expected whereas working women are out of the ordinary, which leads to highly misogynistic and discriminatory behavior.

But how can you identify if your workplace glorifies the bro culture? Let's find out.

Signs Of Bro Culture At Work

Signs-Of-Bro-Culture-At-Work

Bro culture has always been a part of the corporate world. It is especially prevalent in Silicon Valley which is the hub for tech companies. It was not until the famous blog “Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber” by Susan Fowler, former engineer of Uber, that the ugly side of the subculture came into focus.

However, we should not wait until another such event occurs and check for signs of bro culture before it becomes toxic. Here are a few signs that may help identify bro culture at work.

1. A clear preference for “the good old boys” club at meetings

Men predominantly lead discussions in your company. Women are rarely allowed to voice their opinions in meetings or discussions. Exclusive preference for men can be seen in their rapid promotion as compared to women who are rarely or almost never promoted.

All of these are a clear sign of bro culture at work.

2. Unclear maternity/paternity leave policies

Unclear-maternity-paternity-leave-policies

Policies that are out of step with balanced parental roles point to a toxic culture. Most businesses either do not provide maternity leave at all or provide maternity leave but consider paternity leaves to be unimportant. If your organization does this, it sends the message that women are the sole caregivers for the children.

3. Inconsistency in the pay gap

In recent years the gender pay gap has declined. According to this study, in 2016 women still received the equivalent of 76.5% of men's earnings. This is mostly due to the unequal representation of women in managerial positions (37.8%) in 2016.

As of 2020, Belgium is the country with the most equal pay between the genders among OECD countries. The gender pay gap was at 3.79%. Korea on the other hand is the country with the highest gender pay gap of the OECD countries with a 31.5% difference between the genders.

4. Inappropriate comments are explained away, not reprimanded.

Inappropriate-comments-are-explained-away--not-reprimanded

Flirting with rookies is the norm. Inappropriate comments or flirting is ‘just the way it is around here.’

Not only is such behavior unbecoming, and is considered sexual harassment but it also leads to a very uncomfortable work environment for employees.

5. Inaction or delayed response to concerns

Reports of harassment or discrimination by women about a colleague or manager's behavior are often ignored or given delayed responses.

6. Congratulating male colleagues for their work while female colleagues for their appearance.

Congratulating-male-colleagues-on-their-work-while-female-colleagues-on-their-appearance

There is a clear distinction in the compliments received by male and female colleagues. Men are often praised for their work, whereas the work done by women is often dismissed or unrecognized. However, their appearance and mode of dressing are on focus.

Certain countries like Japan have in fact mandated the appropriate workwear for women which includes heels and no specs.

7. Gender-specific adjective for performance review

Pronouns used for men and women differ. While men are called “passionate” and “motivated,” women are called “aggressive” and “bossy” for the same behavior.

8. More male-friendly team-building activities

More-male-friendly-team-building-activities

Team building activities are often more male-centric. Male employees will generally enjoy going to a baseball game or playing golf with other men, while female employees will rarely participate in these activities.

9. The presence of female employees is only to fill a ‘quota.’

Female employees are regarded as useful only to make your company look diversified. The talent and potential of the female employees are not taken into consideration.

Toxic Bro Culture In The Workplace

Toxic-Bro-Culture-In-The-Workplace

Since the Great Resignation, there has been a rise in the focus on an inclusive work environment. A culture that actively promotes exclusion in the workplace does not fit into a healthier workplace culture.

Active marginalization of a group of employees based on their gender or other differences is never good for morale. Today, men and women work side by side in many industries. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

This goes to show that marginalizing women be it in the workplace or offsite only works in preventing a cohesive work environment. Overall, bro culture does not help either gender in the long run.

The question now is, how do we tackle this problem?

How To Manage The Effects Of Bro Culture

How-To-Manage-The-Effects-Of-Bro-Culture

Bro culture is a real threat to a harmonious work environment. Oftentimes what men consider harmless locker room banter is actually harassment. And it is no laughing matter.

Managing the effects of such a culture is necessary. Let's look at ways to help manage bro culture's negative impact.

1. Start at onboarding

Start-at-onboarding

During the onboarding process, the employees are informed about not only their work but also the company culture. This is the optimal time to snip any toxic behavior in the bud.

The policies and behavior expected from the employees should be made clear from the get-go. The onboarding process is the perfect time to lay down the foundation for a healthy work culture devoid of toxic subcultures like bro culture.

2. Strong HR policies

Strong-HR-policies

Usually, with start-ups, the HR department is often neglected. The company is more focused on high performance and rewards than maintaining a high moral ground. By the time a proper HR department is set up, it is often too difficult to change the Initial culture to be more inclusive.

The solution to this is a strong HR department from the very beginning. Need to set the right precedent to maintain the right work environment. HRs that do not sweep complaints under the rug and actively work to maintain a harmonious work environment is an integral part of any organization.

3. Do not conform

Do-not-conform

Before I could change the world, I had to change myself. Each time I held myself accountable, I took a small part of myself out of the hands of others and put it back under my control.
~ Susan Fowler, New York Times

Just because things have been working a certain way does not mean it has to remain so.

The world is constantly changing, this includes the workplace. The employment of women was something that could not be imagined until a few decades ago. However, it is now common to see women in top leadership roles and excelling in their corporate jobs.

These changes have come only because a few stood up and decided to embrace change with open arms.

4. Do not accept excuses

Do-not-accept-excuses

“Boys will be boys”, is the most common phrase we hear to excuse any misbehavior by men. This excuse acts as an umbrella of protection for young men to act recklessly, undermine women, and use any underhand method to achieve their goals.

Frankly, this excuse is overused and played out. It is time to hold everyone to the same standards regardless of gender or ethnicity. Quality of work is the only benchmark that should matter in a workplace.

5. Say NO

Say-NO

An Hr should remember the importance of the word “no”. They should make sure to keep an eye on situations where employees are being coerced into doing work that they are uncomfortable with. Employees should be encouraged to-

  • Say ‘no’ to volunteer roles that do not help your career.
  • Say ‘no’ to taking jobs that undermine your authority just because of your gender.
  • Say ‘no’ to being silenced when you have the ability and experience to back up your words.

One person saying no of course will not make any difference. But if it is hundreds and thousands saying no to being treated unfairly we can surely make a difference.

Managing the effects of bro culture is not hard, as long as you pay attention to your surroundings and take the necessary steps to correct it immediately.

In Closing

Giving importance to one particular group goes against every notion of equality. In a workplace, it creates an unhealthy divide between the genders. It is high time to take away the exclusivity that has been enjoyed by a specific group particularly white men over the years as it is not conducive to growth.

Moreover, with the rise in diversity in the workforce, be it in terms of gender or ethnicity, it is no longer a viable option to maintain such an exclusive status quo.

Bro culture is best left in the past as the world is moving towards a more inclusive and balanced society, which also applies to the workforce.

A dreamer and an idealist in a long-term relationship with food and sleep, Lopamudra is more than thrilled to be part of the marketing team at Vantage Circle. When she is not in the vicinity or thinking about food, you can find her curled up in a corner with a good book and music. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com.