Everywhere you look, men are making ends meet—even thriving—in unexpected places.
HUGO SCHWYZER: THE MYTH OF MALE INFLEXIBILITY
We’ve let go of the silly notion that all women are hardwired to nurture rather than compete. What some of us are still not seeing is that men are every bit as adaptable.
Pundits have labeled it the “mancession,” as manufacturing jobs in male-dominated industries disappear across the country. Articles in national magazines predict the “end of men.” Conservatives and men’s rights activists worry that boys and men are unable to connect with an educational curriculum aimed at encouraging girls, and are falling even further behind in the battle to develop the skills needed to succeed in the new economy.
To believe the media, men are floundering in this confusing and unstable new era. While the effects of the worst economy in 80 years have impacted all of us, the consensus is that men have been hit harder and will have a harder time recovering from that hit. But is that really true?
MARK OPPENHEIMER: LIFE LESSONS FROM MY ALCOHOLIC BOSS
I quit the best job of my young life because my new boss was an unbearable drunk.
I am not sure what kind of reply I expected, but I know what I wanted: something very harsh, intemperate, alcohol-fueled. Something that would be difficult to read at first—I would have to look away, so sharp would be the recriminations—but then would justify all my worst feelings about the man, and so retroactively absolve me of my crime. If I apologized, and he responded with a tirade, then I would be the better man.
But when Mr. Niederhoffer wrote back, within minutes, his reply was gentlemanly, dignified, gallant. “Thank you, Mark,” he said. “I really appreciate it.”
MORRA AARONS-MELE: HOW TO WORK FROM HOME
When you’ve forgone the traditional nine-to-five, how do you create a semblance of a workday?
It’s true some managers don’t believe their people really work when they are at home, but the research shows the other extreme: people overwork. Ironically, in the digital age, many remote workers report they can’t shut off. They may feel a need to prove they’re actually working when they are home; they might even work more than they would at the office because they feel a need to overcompensate and thank their employer for “letting” them work from home.
Research from Northeastern University finds role transitions are especially challenging for people who work at home. Humans like to compartmentalize: We put work in one domain, and family in another. When you work at home, you will be in your home environment and you will face distraction during the day. A dirty kitchen, lonely cat, sick kid, or leaky faucet can be your ruin if you let it. Working at home takes discipline and a keen sense of purpose.
JOHN OLYMPIC: WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WORK IN WALMART HELL
Thanks to recent teacher layoffs and the miserable job market, I’ve gone from substitute high-school teacher to Walmart associate.
The national unemployment rate is at 9.6 percent, with 15 million Americans looking for work. I guess working at Walmart is better than nothing.
But working for low pay is about as rewarding as stabbing out your own eyeballs with a stale baguette. Fourteen billion dollars in profits last year bumped Walmart back on top of the Fortune 500 list, and the company keeps up those profits partly by paying associates as little as (legally) possible. Walmart wages are not only well below living wage, we’re paid significantly less than comparable jobs at other retailers.
DACUS THOMPSON: CAREER CHANGERS
Suicidal thoughts. Spiraling disinterest. If you’ve ever had a job you hated, you know the feeling. These four guys told their bosses what they could do with their crappy gigs and followed their dreams.
“I was more interested in using my head and working on helping design how things work, helping make it work better. But that wasn’t part of my job. I might’ve been able to get to a position to change that, but the best managers—the guys who got promoted—were the ones who yelled the loudest, and I didn’t want to be that guy. I found that mindless and macho.” —Andy Barton
BRIAN STUART: WORKING FOR THE WOMAN
To succeed in the modern workforce, men need to learn to play well with others—and forget our outmoded expectations of leadership.
What’s it like being a man in a field where women make up the majority of your colleagues? … The reason my workplaces have been so productive is in large part due to the women steering the organizations. All were unique in their approach to leadership, but the key to their success is how they fostered environments that granted opportunities to all employees, and insisted that their team respect one another and the organization. Each leader defied expectations—not simply of what’s expected of women, but what’s expected of those at the helm.
TIM DONNELLY: IN DEFENSE OF DATING YOUR COWORKER
It goes against traditional wisdom and hackneyed clichés—fishing from the company pond, crapping where you eat, dipping the pen in the company ink—but the truth is, it can be kind of awesome.
Before I start here, I need to explain why the distinction between the type of “work” I’m talking about here is different from the typical kind of “job” drudgery lamented in endless Dilbert comics and annoying Facebook status updates. The type of workplace referenced here is the kind that serves as a funnel for your passions, not an obstacle between you and the weekend.
The work-to-live idea should by now (I hope) have been replaced by the live-to-work idea where you’re able to marry your passion to a day job that feels organic and parallel to your desire to create, shape, or direct the world around you. When you lock into a working environment that’s aligned with what drives you—be it writing, architecture, waste management, music, or retail—you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to meet a mate.
Your messy workspace is crimping your productivity. Your neighbor’s kid is playing his tuba. You’re lonely as hell. Head to the local beanery for a change of scenery. But don’t forget these essential rules.
So, you’ve finally decided—or, through layoffs, been forced—to ditch that day job and join the ranks of full-time freelance writers. Good for you. No more bosses. No more neckties. No more staff meetings. Health insurance is for weenies!
Writing at home gets pretty boring pretty quickly. Coffee shops, on the other hand, get you out of the house so you can still pound out a story while retaining what remains of your social skills. Try these tips for getting the most out of working out of a coffeehouse.
HENRY P. BELANGER: PICKING ON THE UNEMPLOYED, MIDDLE-AGED WHITE GUY
It’s not uncommon these days for wives to be the breadwinners, but it’s nonetheless perfectly understandable that a guy’s pride would be bruised when he relinquishes the role.
As if the world needed another trend piece about men in crisis, yesterday Newsweek ran a story titled “Dead Suit Walking,” about the plight of the unemployed middle-aged white man.
Why aren’t they selling their houses, getting marriage counseling, or taking jobs that are “beneath them”? Are they clinging to a John Wayne–style masculine ideal, or is it just run-of-the-mill Baby Boomer Entitlement Syndrome (BBES)? The story’s authors are too busy poking fun at them—and subtly reinforcing their shame at no longer bringing home the bacon—to be bothered to address the question.
TOM MATLACK: THE ILLUSION OF SUCCESS
To be truly successful, we need to be the same man both at the office and at home.
Being a man at work is a solo mission. Top secret. If what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas, what goes on at work stays at work. Just look at Tiger Woods or Eliot Spitzer or any number of guys who compartmentalized their lives, enduring incredible professional pressure and succeeding, only to screw up in their private lives.
Like a lot of guys, I went through a re-evaluation of what is important, how I define success, and how I balance wanting to be at home and wanting to continue to hunt some big-ass game. Every guy I know with a family is struggling to sort these things out—some with minor discomfort and others with life-altering agony. For me, it’s been the latter.
RYAN O’HANLON: MEET AMERICA’S OLDEST MINOR LEAGUER
Andy Tracy is 37. He’s been married for 10 years. He has two kids. And he’s playing minor-league baseball in Reno.
During the season, maybe there’s an injury here or a suspension there. You get your cup of tea, but it’s not much more. You bounce around from franchise to franchise, living a life of impermanence, hanging on to a dream or to a skill, waiting for a break, waiting for your shot. It never comes. Or when it does, it doesn’t last.
But maybe it’s not so bad.
Illustration by Bion Harrigan. Bion Harrigan keeps his head firmly planted in the clouds and has done so since the earliest days of a youth misspent idly daydreaming, reading Mad magazine, and drawing scary monsters and super creeps. He continues to spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming and drawing at his home in Maplewood, New Jersey.