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Religion in the Workplace

By July 23, 2009

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One question I see a lot concerns how open one should be about their religious affiliation, particularly at work. Religious freedom allows us to believe whatever we want. That doesn't give us the right to behave outlandishly about it and not expect consequences.

You don't get to choose your coworkers. Religion is one of those things that can very quickly make work environments uncomfortable, because lots of people can have lots of very different opinions on the matter and feel very passionately about their perspective. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Keep it personal. Small, positive expressions of your faith within your cubicle are much less likely to cause trouble than shows of disrespect toward non-believers.
  2. Don't ask for favors you're not comfortable having granted to others. If you feel you need to take off a variety of religious holidays, be willing to help cover if someone else has the same issue.
  3. Make sure of the rules. Some businesses heavily frown on or even ban religious displays beyond what is commonly required from a faith.
  4. Steer clear of overt religious discussions. Mentioning the fun you had at a church picnic is one thing. Discussing the anti-abortion rally you participated in, or how much your version of God loves the world, is bound to cause tension.
  5. Be willing to explain anything that you display. If you're not comfortable fielding questions about that symbol sitting on top of your monitor, don't put it on display.
  6. Do not think of your display as an educational tool. Work is not the place for it.
  7. Respect the displays of others, particularly those that believers are more or less required to show, such as distinctive clothing.

July 24, 2009 at 3:09 pm
(1) Ernest says:

I think that you are providing some commonsense rules. Some workplaces a strictly secular, others are more moderate or have a degree of tolerence for religous views, as long as they do not prove to be devisive or get in the way of getting the job done.

I am fortunate having come to faith last year, to be able to talk about my experiences, as people are curious and actually ask me.

I have found them both tolerent and supportive, but than I don’t work in the NHS or British Airways!

July 27, 2009 at 5:20 pm
(2) molly says:

Having lost a job because of my religion (I know, it’s illegal to fire someone for their beliefs, but still, it happens), I am rather sensitive on the issue. I wear a symbol or so of my beliefs and am willing to talk about them. I am also upfront about my belief system, on the theory that clearing the air and letting people know where I stand gets that issue out of the way. I don’t proselytize, ever, and don’t bring relgious books or other items to the workplace. If anybody has questions, I answer them briefly and give them places to go to get further information if they so choose. I will meet people away from the workplace for coffee and talk if they want, but it never is my suggestion. That’s how I have chosen to handle the siguation. I realize that this way won’t work for everybody but it seems to work OK for me.

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