Japanese car firm Mazda is offering support groups to its male employees to help them deal with competition from women in the workplace.
As part of its package of training, all male staff, including mechanics, engineers and executives, can take part in the course, called the Navigator programme.
The company is one of the first in the UK to take up the programme, which was developed by training and development agency Springboard.
Banks, local councils and universities are also offering it to their male staff.
Employers have begun to take up the course following research which suggests that men are struggling to cope with the challenge of women in the workplace, both in executive roles and on the factory floor.
Women are seen as having better communication and people skills, which are in greater demand from employers.
Navigator course members take classes in `the meaning of being a man’ and develop coaching partnerships to help them when they are back at their place of work.
`The course has given men more confidence to assert themselves and make demands – and even in a male-dominated company it has been very successful,’ said Sally Vanson of MCL, the parent company of Mazda Cars UK.
Candidates are encouraged to draw pictures of where they want to see themselves in one year’s time. They also study assertiveness, listening techniques, how to recognise feelings and stress-relieving breathing methods.
Top-level executives are schooled in how to vary the firmness of their handshake depending on who they are greeting.
`A lot of men appreciate the all-male environment and feel more free to say what they feel,’ said course-developer James Traeger.
`The increasing number of women in the workplace is definitely contributing to the need for something like this. The expectation is that women are better at dealing with people than men. This expectation needs to be challenged if men are going to feel confident about themselves in the workplace.’
The Navigator course is based on a similar course for women which has been running for many years.
John Robinson writes for Personnel Today magazine