Don’t Let the Man Bring You Down

Workplace Oppression and the Psychology of Work

How Does Your Childhood Define You?

My childhood was unique.  It was unusual, and I was blessed.  I had a mother and a father who loved me each and every single day.  They continue to do so even now.  We lived in Kansas, a very conservative and Republican state.  Our family didn’t quite fit in, but like most kids I was blissfully unaware.  I was raised by hippies, but modern and moderate hippies.  We lived on a farm with 10 acres, and I grew up young having goat milk with my Kicks cereal and eggs from our chickens for breakfast.  And if I was hungry for a snack, my sisters and I would head to the garden where we could pick and enjoy strawberries, cantaloupe, or fresh green beans.

As a child, my dad spent a lot of time talking about the man.  “The man does this.  The man does that.,” or my favorite, “Don’t let the man bring you down.”  For years, I listened as he and his friends talked about politics, life choices, and sports usually over beers and barbecue.

Workplace Oppression and the Psychology of Work

It was only later after starting my first job in HR after graduating that I finally made the realization about who the man in fact was.  We were at my family home in Kansas kicking back beers spending time catching up with one another.  My dad started in talking about the man referencing some local news event at the time.  He’s an avid reader and a very smart man.  I remember as a child my dad taking encyclopedias to work reading them over lunches and breaks.

I interrupted my dad which is something that I don’t normally do halfway into his diatribe with the family listening on.  I said to him, “But Dad, doesn’t that make me the man?  I mean I am a Human Resource Manager?”

Yes, yes, I was.  And that was the last time I have ever heard my dad mention the man, and its been over 10 years.

The man for me can mean many things.  It’s not necessarily the government, a boss, or someone who is a position of authority.  I mean, HR already has a PR problem when it comes to the workplace even if we are the man or not.  We, HR have no friends. The man in my mind is an idea, it is something that is holding you back.  It could be change, fear, or just personal circumstance (read my story here).

So who’s holding you back and what drives oppression in both workplace and life?  If it just psychology or something more?  I would love to hear your feedback.   

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Jodi Bakken says

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I think often “the man” can be that inner voice inside each one of us that tells us we aren’t capable of something, we should feel guilty about it, or what will other people think. When you change your inner voice, you can change your life!



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