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March 14, 2019

Breaking Up the "Bro Culture" – Your Top Tips!

Keith Jackson

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What Is "Bro Culture"?

"Bro culture", or "lads culture" as it's called in the U.K., covers a multitude of sins. But it can be described as the boorish, sexist, obnoxious tribal behavior of over-confident, arrogant men.

Sadly, it's not too hard to find: it's present on university campuses, on sports teams, and in workplaces around the world.

At best, it manifests as condescension, macho posturing and inappropriate "banter" toward women, but too often escalates into discrimination, bullying, exclusion and even sexual harassment and assault.

The Poison of Bro Culture in Business

Bro culture has infested some global organizations, with high-profile cases at Google and Uber making headlines around the world.

Tech firms, video gaming and finance seem particularly fertile grounds for this phenomenon. Some of the reasons for this, such as the under-representation of women in these fields, are explored in this Business Insider report into the insidious nature of bro culture in the workplace.

Bro culture's grip on the tech world has been exposed by Emily Chang, executive producer of Bloomberg Technology, in her 2018 book, "Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley."

The issue is tackled head-on in this animation, which has had more than 7.7 million views on YouTube. (A word of warning, though: although recognizably a Disney-Pixar production, this eight-minute mini-movie doesn't pull any punches dealing with such an adult theme and includes a small amount of crude language among the insight and pathos.)

Your Top Tips for Dealing With Bro Culture

We asked you, our friends and followers on social media, for your tips and advice on how to challenge bro culture, or "boys' club" culture in the workplace.

Here is a selection of your responses:

Facebook friend Randy Jenkins, a psychology student from Ohio, U.S., said that bro culture was, "Likely the result of a vision that isn’t specific or inclusive of women leadership. The vision statement needs to be redone. HR and the Executives have the most control over the culture."

Rodger Chimatira, added, "A boys' culture in an organisation is an attitude problem. There is lack of diversity management and the organisation is missing out on the talents and abilities of the girls [sic].

"This attitude problem is likely to affect its customers as well. I would go for attitude surveys to gauge the girls' feelings about the organisation, including a cultural audit and team building."

Richard Underhill, from Wigan, U.K., said, "Cultural change is driven from the top and does work. We no longer have smoking in the office for example.

"An organisation must be colour blind, gender blind, sexuality blind etc. The only things that matter in the workplace are competence and the ability to work as part of the team."

The Importance of Diversity

Twitter follower Martina Keating said, "Hire more women in roles of authority. Start a women's club culture!"

Career development writer Catherine Quinn, from the U.K., said, "Pose the question: what kind of organisation do you want to be? Chances are they won’t answer 'boys club.'"

"Influence leaders with the importance of diversity and equality evidence and find the change leaders within to support the next stage of cultural change."

On Linkedin, Kelly Taylor, an office manager from Surrey, U.K., related her experience of old-fashioned sexism.

She said, "I was attending a christening at a very dated golf club. Upon stepping into the front bar with the party, the room fell silent and a couple of throats cleared and one male said, 'no ladies are allowed in here.'

"I just stood there frozen from the shock at what had just been said to me! Sorry, it's 2019 not the 1950s! I just stood there for what felt like a life time and stared at the man. He was sat down arms folded staring back, I turned and walked out into the next bar! I can't believe these places still exist, very out dated decor for outdated opinions!"

Who Is Suffering in Bro Culture?

Motivator and speaker Liz Evenden, from London, U.K., said, "This is not a simple issue, and solutions need to be tailored to the problem. And preferably created by the people inside the organisation, not done to them just because someone else said it was a good idea.

"Rather than leap into action with advice, I'd be asking things like: who is suffering? How does this specific boys' club play out? What kind of things are being done and said and by whom, to whom? Does it affect everyone in the organisation, is everyone unhappy with it or are some ok with it? Are there any perceived benefits to the organisation from being this way?

"Once we have more insight into the problem, we could then start to seek solutions."

Maria Carrillo-Walther, an information technology professional from Calgary, Canada, said, "I have experienced this several times in different jobs. I suggest HR works on a campaign to make everyone in the organization aware of the boys' culture impact, as well as organize activities to change the behavioral pattern and stimulate a healthier culture."

Thank you to everyone who responded to our #MTtips question. You can still have your say, below!

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One comment on “Breaking Up the "Bro Culture" – Your Top Tips!”

  1. While HR can and should help and guide a solution to the "Bro Culture" I really resent the fact that in a number of comments it appears that we can control it. Often, HR doesn't have final say or authority and we are over-ridden all the time. It is critical that the CEO &/or president wants to break up negative, exclusive cultures and allows good ideas to be enacted. Assuming HR can control poor behavior on its own is ridiculous, especially at small companies where HR is often a party of 1 or 2.

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