A grounded theory approach is used to explore the relationship between job insecurity and men's work orientation. Job insecurity is useful for exploring the concept of work orientation because it is argued that the possibility of job loss may be experienced by some men as a threat to their breadwinning identity. The article draws on in-depth interviews with 16 participants and develops a critical conceptual framework based partly on Hakim's preference theory. Exploring the theme of men's gendered choice and constraint in relation to work orientation, the results show that Hakim's theory has generated descriptively meaningful concepts but that there is a need for a greater understanding of the heterogeneity in work orientation amongst men. The term ‘adaptive’ may be theoretically more useful if it is refined to a degree where relationships between job facets (such as job insecurity) and rationales (such as ‘providing’) are explored. Moreover, adopting a gendered perspective shows us that women and men are likely to be ‘adaptive’ in very different ways and, as it stands, the concept is too broad to capture the variation in work orientation both within and between gender groups.