Are you a good bloke? And why can’t women be one?
WHO is a good bloke? And what does it mean in Australia to be one?
Byron Shire resident Chris Taylor recently month received a PhD from Antioch University in the USA after researching that topic.
Dr Taylor was awarded a PhD in Leadership and Change for a dissertation titled The Good Bloke in Contemporary Australian Workplaces: Origins, Qualities, and Impacts of a National Cultural Archetype in Small For-Profit Businesses.
Originally from Victoria, he has lived in Ewingsdale for 10 years. He is also the managing director of three renewable energy businesses.
Dr Taylor said that the expression 'good bloke' is part of the Australian language, is part of the Australian narrative and forms an important component to our national discourse, our language, and he wanted to put in under the microscope.
"I have three sons. To teach them to be decent human beings, it's probably important that I understand what I am trying to teach them, so I decided to understand what a good bloke was," he said.
"There is a quote (in his dissertation paper) that says 'a man can have all the possessions in the world but if he is not regarded as a good bloke, he has nothing in our society'," he said.
When Australians were asked to define who is a good bloke, as part of Dr Taylor's research, answers varied between genders.
"For women, one of the most important aspects to define who is a good bloke is inclusiveness: to the extent that they feel included, they feel equal and they feel a valued part of the environment; when they don't feel like they are treated differently but valued for who they are.
"For the males, it was more around the extent to which we can relate to someone: the extent that we see them as affable and if we see them as one of us."
The Byron business-owner said he got the idea for his PhD from his father.
"My father passed away 21 years ago and he was regarded widely a good bloke, and when he died, everyone said to me 'He was a good bloke'," he said.
"I started to ask people to explain that to me, and people struggled to give me a quantifiable context.
"The most common answer was 'well, you know', and yes, I knew, but what did that mean for them?
"Most said he was just a good person, but then I realised that nobody had ever tried to explain what an Australian good bloke actually meant."
Women are never seen as 'a good bloke'
One of the findings in Dr Taylor's research is that, based on language, the term 'good bloke' is never used to describe a woman.
"If a woman can't be a good bloke, what does that say about the term? And what does that say about the place of women in Australian society?" he said.
"I never set out for this to be a politically correct study. I never set out to undermine the language or the term."
Dr Taylor said the fact Australians would not identify a woman as a 'good bloke' has serious implications, including workplace behaviour.
"Aspects like recruitment, training and development, career progression and networking are all influenced by the 'good bloke ethos'." he said.
"We have a challenge around the fact that a female cannot be a good bloke and I feel that's a massive issue, in terms of the dynamics of workplace politics."
"In aspects like recruitment, career progression and networking, the good bloke is incredibly powerful, and if a woman can't be a good bloke, she is excluded from that social networking process, and therefore excluded from the value that is assigned to it," he explained.
He said a number of business leaders he interviewed acknowledged that it was important for them when a candidate for a job appears to be 'a good bloke', particularly when they had two candidates with the same skills and experience.
"They would hire the person why appears to be a good bloke," he said.
The downside to being a good bloke
A key aspect of the research was to explore any possible downsides to the notion of a good bloke in Australia, and Dr Taylor discovered the term carries a certain level of responsibility and pressure.
"People strive to be seen as a good bloke, and one thing that emerged from me is that the 'good bloke' can be used as a mask that people wear and it shifts behaviour."
"Sometime the pressure to be a good bloke pushes people beyond their limits and we need to be careful with that.
"When we talk about all the issues that are arising around masculine behaviour in Australia, and how we are leading and behaving as leaders, there is real need for us to unpack what are doing to become a good bloke."
Is the PM a good bloke?
Dr Taylor said it is in leadership positions where the idea of a good bloke becomes central to Australian culture, with the role of the recent debate regarding the conduct of Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a leader was a good example.
"Given our egalitarian culture, people will follow people they can relate to, and being a good bloke is not currently assigned as a value for our political leaders," he said.
"If you look at the behaviour and you look at the criticism that is thrown at the Federal Government, particularly at the Prime Minister at the moment, I think a good question to ask on surveys would be 'do you consider him to be a good bloke?'.
"He tries to portray himself as a good bloke.
"Looking at his marketing spin, it is clear that he tries to market himself as a good bloke.
"He tried, at the election, to be seen as one of the boys, but when push came to shove, people did not see it come out when they needed it to."
You can read Dr Taylor's dissertation paper at aura.antioch.edu/etds/506/.