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R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the Workplace

5 February, 2024

“What’s your problem, bro?” “Quit being soft.” “Did you bring your big boy belt today?” We all know that these words are standard in the trades — we hear them all the time. As the child of a baby boomer and a third-generation painter, I grew up with this mentality. My father taught us a trade, but he wasn’t the nicest person to work with — let’s just say I know what the backside of a belt looks like. Now, though, we are in the middle of a drastic change — a change for the ages — where we are seeing a new type of employee who won’t tolerate that behavior. And honestly, why should they? By Shaun Temple



The Crew

     It’s time to end toxic behavior in the workplace and become the new motivation, being ten-der is going to become the new bonus. Most of the next generation is willing to take a smaller dollar amount for a kinder boss, and I believe that business owners who foster a toxic environment are going to fall behind in these competitive times. The phrase “toxic masculinity “is thrown around pretty regularly, but I don’t think it’s used appropriately — because of what you hear in the media, a lot of people are calling any form of masculinity toxic, but of course, there are many examples of positive masculinity as well. I have raised my daughters to understand that a “real man” is tender, strong, and steady and that no man should speak disrespectfully to them. The true definition of toxic masculinity, in my opinion, is the direct result of narcissistic traits passed on from generation to generation. It’s OK to have fun with your team and even razz at them a bit, but you need to make sure they can handle it and that you’re not overdoing it.

     It’s just like vitamin D. It’s an essential vitamin for us, and some people don’t get enough of it, but the opposite is that if you get too much of it, it’s dangerous. Now, take that and apply it to anything. That’s how we have to look at being a tough guy, a “real man whatever you want to call it, without abusing the next generation. Stereotyping and Discrimination I’m a pretty easy guy to spot. I’m over 6.5 feet tall, and I’ve been known to spend some time at the gym, so people come to fast conclusions about me and make stereotyping comments — as if they’ve come up with these thoughts for the first time and I’ve never heard them before. In my case, it’s, “How big are your shoes? ” Is the air thin up there? ”Do you play basketball? “I’ve seen this same thing on a job site, where people aren’t allowed to reach their full potential — this can affect your productivity and your crew’s morale — because of stereotyping. I am generally pigeon-holed into doing “taller stuff “because, well, I’m tall, so it seems to make sense, but I explain to people that it’s more efficient for me to be on the ground moving around because I don’t need a ladder as much as some others on the crew. It gave me a lot of trouble early on in my career because my dad and other painters would have me just trimming or whatnot and didn’t teach me many of the other skills I wanted to learn.

     I tried to get a spray gun in my hands, but instead of someone taking the time to show me, I had to learn a lot of my spray skills from observation until I could put them into practice myself. I have seen a lot of discrimination in this industry, and very often when it comes to Spanish-speaking workers. I have often seen business owners taking advantage of Hispanic subcontractors and painters, paying them the lowest price possible because it’s harder for them — especially if they’re not native English speakers — to communicate well enough to negotiate the right price on their bid. Recently, I was bidding on a job. I have a fantastic Hispanic crew I work with, and I asked them how much they would charge. They gave me their price, and I explained to them that they were charging half of what they should be, and they responded that nobody wanted to pay them more. Communication Is Key It brought home an important point: Because I can communicate well with a customer and I understand pricing, I can get what I am worth, but they cannot because there are language barriers and, in many cases, other factors at work. People in that position are often afraid to speak up about it because they realize it’s going to be almost impossible for them to keep their jobs if they do.

     It’s also essential to distinguish between masculinity and toxic masculinity; when you have a workforce that’s mainly men, there will be a lot of masculine energy on the job site. Toxic masculinity emerges when workers or crew leaders exhibit or foster traits such as aggression and emotional suppression, which can devastate the mental health of others and the critical task of getting the work done. That’s no excuse to treat others disrespectfully, and those who learn to treat workers from all walks of life with respect and compassion and not expect them to conform to some notion of a painter that was established 50 years ago will have the most productive teams. We also have to understand that toxic traits come from all avenues of life, and the toxic workplace in our trade is a real issue that needs to be addressed.

     This trade can grow if we celebrate the unique qualities that different people bring to their work. By addressing and mitigating toxic aspects of gender expectations, we can create a higher-functioning environment and become better business owners ourselves.


Loren A Devlin (not verified)

All I can say is WOW, I Love you boys, that's AMAZING.

Mon, 02/05/2024 - 12:54 Permalink

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Does your company own at least one AED/Automated External Defibrillator?


Did you attend any in-person paint industry events in 2023?


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