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Note: We originally intended to submit this as a guest post at The Art of Manliness, which is why you’ll find it’s not exactly gender-neutral. Since we liked it so much, however, we decided to publish it ourselves instead!

(Also, they rejected it)

Pick the odd one out of these manly professions:

  • A blacksmith forging red-hot iron on his anvil, sparks flying as he bends the raw metal to his will
  • A cowboy herding cattle in the harsh wilderness, eating baked beans under a starlit prairie-sky
  • A lumberjack in a tartan flannel shirt felling great redwoods, calling out “Timber!” as the mighty trees tumble
  • Davidson from accounts presenting PowerPoint slides on revenue development in the last quarter

Corporate jobs are generally not considered manly. Ask a hundred women what they consider the sexiest professions to be and you will find that firemen and police officers tend to edge their way past accountants and systems analysts. White-collar workers can wear manly suits and may have high-powered positions within their companies, but what opportunities does their work really provide for demonstrating manliness? Very few, and it even turns out that using a screen saver with construction workers only has the opposite effect. In fact, the corporate world is filled with pitfalls, where manliness must be sacrificed in order to make a sale or advance one’s career.

AoM v2 Manliness in a corporate worldImagine Davidson from accounts is holding the aforementioned presentation when his immediate superior asks a dumb question, revealing that he is absolutely clueless as to the topic at hand. Would the manly course of action be to reprimand this senior executive for not having listened, and question whether he should try dislodging his head from his ass? Perhaps. But what if Davidson were in line for a big promotion at work? Maybe then a more prudent choice would be to give a measured reply, carefully explaining the situation in a way that does not highlight the boss’s complete incompetence.

Situations like the above are commonplace in the corporate world. No matter how non-hierarchical an organization, no matter how professional the conduct, one will always find oneself in situations where manliness is called for, but subtlety or even shutting the hell up is more beneficial career-wise. But when does this go too far? When does pragmatism turn into disgraceful groveling and ass-kissing? The first clue might be a reluctance to face yourself in the mirror, or a sense of all-pervasive self-loathing, but to avoid things going that far, we have listed below some dangerous situations as well as possible courses of action.

1. Your boss tells you a joke that just isn’t funny. An awkward silence descends and he stares at you expectantly. As the seconds tick by you can tell he’s confused, and he may even repeat the punch line or say “Get it?”

  • The “Corporate chimp”-option: “Oh I see, the monkey was WEARING the glove! Ha-ha! Jolly good one Sir, you’ve nailed it again!”
  • The “Chuck Norris”-option: Say nothing. Stare right back at him, breathing heavily through gritted teeth, if possible with flared nostrils. Make sure you are clenching your fists so your knuckles are white. Continue until he changes the subject.
  • The “Wise but manly”-option: Give the tiniest hint of a smile, the same way you would to any acquaintance who was trying his best to be funny. Change the subject back to the matter at hand. If the joke/remark is racist, bigamous, or in any way offensive to you, then this is not enough and a lesson must be taught. If the derided group of people is “X”, then you always retort by taking on a stern expression and saying “My grandmother was X”. Stare at him until he changes the subject.

2. A client suggests something idiotic during a meeting or presentation. This could e.g. be something that shows he has no idea what you’re talking about.

  • The “Corporate chimp”-option: “Admittedly that has not been done yet, but that is a relevant point and I shall get right on it!”
  • The “Chuck Norris”-option: Walk over to him and start rapping your knuckles on his skull with a condescending: “Hellooo! Earth to Arthur! Is anyone theeere? “
  •  The “Wise but manly”-option: “That’s an interesting point, but at the end of the day it is not really relevant for the topic at hand. Let’s touch base later today.”

3. Your subordinate underperforms, missing a deadline or turning in sub-par work. This is inconveniencing and adds to your workload.

  • The “Corporate chimp”-option: Say nothing, but write a negative performance review about him or assign him to other projects.
  • The “Chuck Norris”-option: Print out his work and place it on his desk. Ask him to look at it. Ask him to lean in and look real close. Then grab him by his hair and slam his head repeatedly into the desk, shouting “Does… this… look… like…good… work… to… you?!!”
  • The “Wise but manly”-option: Ask to see the employee in question privately for a brief chat. Tell him that unfortunately this is not the level of performance you expect from him. Enquire if he’s ok, if he feels he needs more guidance or whether there’s anything that can be done to fix the matter. Make sure you give him the tools necessary to improve, don’t just criticize. If the poor work continues, repeat the exercise but with a sterner tone, and also mention that if he cannot address the issue, he may be better suited for a different career. If this still does not work, tell him you are firing/reassigning him before you tell anyone else about it. Make sure he hears it from you first.

4. Your boss either inadvertently or on purpose asks you to do something unethical, e.g. share confidential information meant for your eyes only.

  • The “Corporate chimp”-option: Give the information. Hell, you can always use the Nuremberg-defense about being forced to do it if it ever comes out.
  • The “Chuck Norris”-option: Refuse the request by explaining that the information is confidential. Then create false documents that look like the real thing with “Confidential” stamps on the covers, and leave them on your desk while you hide behind a plant. The minute your boss reaches for the documents, jump out and cry “Citizen’s arrest!” while flooring him with a round-house kick.
  • The “Wise but manly”-option: Reply by saying that divulging this information would be in breach of either the corporate code of ethical conduct (most larger companies have a pretty comprehensive one these days) or your own personal ethics. If he persists, consult the person responsible for ethical business practices at your company, he or she will back you up.

5. You’re at a company event and have decided to call it an early night. Your boss is eager to keep partying and hints that it might be beneficial for your career to not go home just yet.

  • The “Corporate chimp”-option: Order a vodka-tonic and sip it throughout the rest of the evening while your boss does the worst robot-dance ever. What the hell, you can run that marathon tomorrow even with three hours’ sleep, right?
  • The “Chuck Norris”-option: Ask your boss if he intends to keep drinking the entire night, and when he says yes, reply: “That’s interesting. But how are you going to drink if I superglue your tongue to your asshole?”
  • The “Wise but manly”-option: The fact is that you don’t need to explain yourself or come up with excuses. Try to laugh it off with a joke, leave when you feel like it and don’t worry about the consequences. Most likely your boss will be too shit-faced to remember anything anyway.

Karate v4 Manliness in a corporate world

These are just a few of the situations where it’s possible to kill your career or sell your soul to the emasculation devil if you’re not careful. Should you, however, keep your cool and stay true to yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t uphold your manliness even in a corporate world. And it always helps if you show up for work riding a motorcycle, wild stallion or airboat.

Have you ever had to make a trade-off between manliness and your career? Share your comments on our Facebook-page and be sure to let us know how you handled it!

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