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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2020

2 Men Opting out: Disenchantment with Corporate Cultures and Career Ideals

From the book Men, Masculinities and the Modern Career

Ingrid Biese


Opting out of successful careers has been a highly debated topic ever since New York Times columnist Lisa Belkin published her article ‘The Opt-Out Revolution’. However, men have not been included in the debate, nor has it captured contemporary, societal aspects, as it has focused solely on women who leave to care full-time for children. I have thus broadened the definition of opting out to include opting in to new lifestyles or solutions for work. Mainstream career models no longer accurately describe preferred or actual career patterns and progressions. In addition, although prevalent career models are based on masculinist norms, they do not leave much room for diversity among men. Using a narrative approach, this chapter draws on the narratives of 29 men from Finland, the UK and the US who opted out of mainstream masculinist careers to pursue new lifestyles and solutions for work. The men typically felt disenchanted with corporate ideals and expectations as they progressed up the career ladder. This disenchantment came from internal struggles associated with increased pressure and stress on the one hand, and ethical issues regarding the treatment of, for example, employees and clients on the other. Opting out allowed them to create solutions for work that provided a sense of coherence, authenticity and wellbeing, and made it possible for them to spend time and nurture the relationships with people who were important to them.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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