David Hatton: ‘Promoting Open Discussions and Celebrating Positive Male Influences.’

International Men’s Day is often overlooked due to the fact that men for a long time and still are often favoured in a hiring process and the toxic masculinity environments which have poisoned workplaces across the world. But International Men’s Day should be discussed and the positive male influences in our lives should be celebrated. Through this, we can promote open discussions of our challenges and our feelings, which will not only help erase the dominance of mansplaining, but also reduce the high number of suicides in young men, who often feel an inability to open up.

I’ve worked in Talent Acquisition for twelve years now and during that time I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic people who became great role models. I began working at Sainsbury’s after completing my degree. I didn’t get onto a graduate programme, so I had to start at the bottom, which in my case was taking up a temporary role as a Customer Agent within the resourcing team within their HR Shared Service Centre in Manchester, booking candidates in for interviews in store. I was keen to progress within a career in HR and I set my sights on Nick Speight, the Head of HR Services at the time, for some advice. I asked if I could have a meeting with him (during my first week!) and he was gracious enough to give me… this bolshy newcomer temp, who had ideas of grandeur of becoming a HR Director, and probably wouldn’t even be still in the business within a few weeks when his temporary contracted ended.

Nick didn’t laugh when I said I wanted to become a HR Director, instead he asked what kind (e.g. Recruitment, Generalist etc). I was stumped. I hadn’t really thought about it and to be honest I didn’t really know what HR was yet. A few months later, I was made permanent, and I got an opportunity to work down in London on a secondment. On his visits to London, Nick put in time with me to check I was ok while away from home, and he was interested in the work I was doing. At my request to get involved in a project, he gave me some research to do into the cost savings of recruiting directly with tools such as Linked In rather than relying on external agencies. That piece of work led to him gaining the funding to build an in-house recruitment ‘agency’ team in Manchester, which I ended up working in at the end of my secondment. Throughout my secondment, Nick made me aware of the upcoming opportunities and gave me advice about what I should be doing in preparation for when the roles became available.  I was successful in my application to work in his in-house recruitment team but had my sights on a managerial role, which once again he gave me advice on, and I was successful in achieving that goal within just a few months of joining the team.

We’ve both grown within our careers since and left Sainsbury’s, departing with fond memories and friendships. We’ve kept in touch, and he’s been there when I’ve had questions or career advice over the years. I was pleased to see he was made an MBE after his support to the food industry during the pandemic. He was always (and continues to be) an approachable person who is knowledgeable and will give his time to anyone who needs it.

Nick went onto become a HR Director. I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to quite reach that level. I’ve seen the level of dedication which would be required to achieve and maintain that tier of leadership and I’ve had some mental health battles which has required me to step back and prioritise what’s important to me. Working amongst caring people, I’ve been able to be honest about the battles I’ve faced. I’ve been able to talk about the counselling I’ve received and the medication I’m taking. It’s incredible how many men have turned around and said “oh me too, which antidepressant has the doctor given you?”; I had no idea these guys (who I thought had it all held together) had faced their own challenges as it’s just not spoken about. Those of us who feel comfortable to share should really speak up, so that others who are battling their own demons know they’ve got someone to talk to, but also an avenue to explore to get help themselves, whether it’s through a counselling service or their GP. And hopefully that self-doubt and internal suffering won’t fester into something more toxic which will spill into a workplace.

Outside of work, I write novels. I’ve published six books of different genres, and that has been a wonderful outlet for my creativity, which has kept me mentally stimulated too. In the writing world, I’ve got many male heroes; my favourite writer being the incredible Linwood Barclay, who a few years ago (before he became an international sensation) I wrote to, and he replied with encouraging words regarding my own quest to be an author. I’ve also got a friend called Kerry Wilkinson, who took the plunge years before I did and encouraged my own thirst to write. Kerry’s gone on to sell millions of books across the world. I’ve not had the same success yet, but maybe one day.

For International Men’s Day, I feel we should be kinder to each other. To encourage each other and not laugh if people have ambitions which might be overly optimistic. We should open up more about our struggles and provide a listening ear when others are facing theirs. And celebrate the fantastic people who are making a real difference as it’ll encourage others to do the same.