God Has No Place in the Workplace

god, religion, workplace

Employees Rights to Religion at Work

I understand that the law provides employees the opportunity for religious accommodation meaning employers should provide employee time off to worship, attend their church, and observe their religious holidays.  I have had my share of run-ins with management staff as I explained that employees can take time off to attend church and worship. To exclude any employees from practicing their religious freedom would be a form of religious discrimination.

These rights are part The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and applies to freedom from religious discrimination, accommodation, and hostile work environment matters in both public and private workplaces.

Examples of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

In many cases, religion at work causes more problems than not in the workplace.  Practicing religion at the office or even sharing beliefs can touch on nerves, hurt feelings, and ignite high level of anger as well as passion.  Religion at work provides a veritable HR smorgasbord of workplace scenarios:

  • Employee Bible Study.   As an HR Director, I arrived to the office early.  It was a Wednesday morning and was surprised to see so many employee cars in the office parking lot.  As I walked the office and facility floor, most offices were empty, so where we all the employees?  Upon further investigation I found a large group of employees in a meeting room facilitating a weekly morning employee Bible study.  I literally stopped in my tracks.  This is a problem because according to the act mention above, I need to create a workplace free from religious discrimination meaning if one religion has a Bible or religious study, all may be offered the same opportunity.
  • When Employee Religious Beliefs Offend Other Employees. Picture an employee sharing their very public view and religious stance on abortion complete with a picture of a dead baby held in a woman’s arms as a screen saver on their work computer.  While he has right to his opinion and the freedom to practice his religion as he see’s fit, his office was in an open area and caused a slew of complaints from offended employees.
  • When Religious Head Coverings Conflict with Dress code.  Having a great deal of experience working in a retail and customer facing setting, dress code is very important.  Muslim head coverings and other religious self-expression items like cross earrings and jewelry are allowed for employees to wear at work. To create employee rules that forbid religiously established forms of dress would be to invite a religious discrimination lawsuit. For example,  Muslim woman at a Disney-owned restaurant filed a discrimination complaint  in 2010 saying that she had repeatedly been sent home without pay for refusing to remove her head scarf at work.

Does Religion Belong at Work?

The holidays, preferably those of the more of the Christian variety, seem to be prime time for igniting conflict surrounding religion at work. Sometimes that’s okay; just observe the recent  Rhode Island “holiday tree” controversy that grabbed the headlines  Of course, most the holiday season isn’t really about religion; it’s about vacation, family, and commercialism driving that capitalist machine where we live today.  So excuse me, if this HR hippie chick is a little jaded and not too enthusiastic about religion, specifically God at work.

I understand the power and importance of belief, community, and religion.  I happen to live smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt here in Oklahoma.  Generally speaking, I don’t mind hearing about people’s thoughts and conversations surrounding their religion and beliefs.  I find the topic fascinating and happen to be a student of religion; constantly fascinated and reading about religion among different people and cultures.

Religion like politics is a workplace topic that is guaranteed to generate an HR shit storm which is why I’ve had enough.  God has no place in the workplace. Do you agree?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions

Comments

    • AvatarRonald T says

      i was rudly told that I could not wear my I LOVE JESUS baseball cap at work. 2 days later I was terminated 2 days later under phony actions. i took my hat off as soon as I was asked. Whats up I though Christmas was a party for Jesus birthday. in all countries.

  1. AvatarMichael M. says

    It is a fine line. The other issue is that unless the work place is going to be a completely sterile environment where do you draw that line on people having a little cross or Star of David on their desk compared to other personal decorations in their work place? The other consideration is the general climate that you’re trying to set. Yes they are there to work and not socialize, but if they don’t feel any connection to or even feel that the company is trying create a nice atmosphere then I would imagine you’re going to run into retention and turnover issues. It is a tough line to walk, but removing everything totally may create just as many headaches.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Good point, Michael.

      It is a fine line with no right or wrong way. HR folks and company leaders need to gauge the temperature of their workplace to make an individual decision keeping in mind the laws put in place.

      Appreciate your comment.

      JMM

    • AvatarJean Carlos says

      Religious discrimination is becoming a growing problem in the workforce. Many people want to take their religion with them everywhere they go. However, religion can create problems among individuals in the work force. According to Examples of Discrimination in The Work Place, the allowing of worship of religion in the work field and denying others would be religious discrimination.
      People’s perspective on topics because of their beliefs may not always be acceptable by others. What if the discussion of whether or not to let allow same sex marriage came up? Based on some people’s beliefs some may agree or disagree that same sex marriage should be allowed. It would cause so much discourse, and it would distract individuals and slow the down production in the work force.
      Religious is a growing problem and has to be dealt with. However, there is a time and place for religion, and the work force is not the time and place for religion. It causes too much discourse and negativity among individuals in the work force, and because of this I believe god does not have a place in the work force.

  2. AvatarJeff Williams says

    My short answer to your question is and emphatic no, I do not agree. The logic gets extended like this…
    1. employees discuss politics and religion, off the clock in the breakroom which leads to
    2.employee wears a t-shirt with a cool non-religious graphic and the name of their church on it which leads to
    3. employee wears a bracelet that says WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) which leads to
    4. employees wear a neclace with a cross on it which leads to
    5. employees what to say Merry Christmas or other religous related greeting which leads
    6. employees want to have place to pray or have a religious study before or after work
    which leades to
    7. employee will “sell” their religion hard during work hours while on the clock and tell people they are are destined to hell, which leads to
    8. employees will post a picture of an aborted baby on their cubicle wall

    Weak leaders will therefore decide “God has no place in the workplace.” Seriously…you want to ban God and therefore by extension ban all 8 of these employee expressions of relgion or culture? What we do not need is this form of extreemism and intolerance supported by the HR community. We need the HR community to teach leaders how to lead, how to be tolerant of diverse beliefs in the workplace and how to make decisions not based upon relgious preference but good business practice and respect for fellow employees.

    I would not allow all 8 of the things I listed above. Numbers 1 through 5 above I would have no problem with. Number 6 through 8 I would not permit. But not because God has no place in the workplace. You may vary some in what all you would allow in your workplace, but lets teach leaders to think and lead instead of proposing a “policy of a God free or religion free workplace.”

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Jeff,

      Good discussion and I like your list. We can’t remove our beliefs completely from work. The reason I wrote this post because I was listening to Drive Thru HR talk about politics at work. There was so much grey and I thought about religion often being the same.

      And actually I don’t want to really ban God at work but I know managers who do. It does complicate things because we are human. And I agree with 6 through 8 as well.

      I once had an employee who was being terminated for performance at one of the facilities I was responsible for. She knew her number was up and so just before her meeting with her manager she sent out a mass email to all 40,000 employees of the organization wishing them well and sharing with them a passage from the Bible as part of her goodbye. It was totally uncalled for, and I wondered where does one cross the line.

      Thank you for your comment.

      JMM

      • AvatarTracy says

        To your last point about the separating employee adding a passage from the bible: What about someone who quotes a famous write, or a proverb? Is that uncalled for?

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks, Chris. It’s clear from the comments that it’s a touchy subject that has a number of different interpretations. I believe in God but I don’t think that employees have the right to force their beliefs and religion onto others. But what is that exactly? Is it just wearing a t-shirt at work that mentions your religious preference or is it saying a prayer in the employee break room before you eat your lunch?

      Also, nobody blogs about this stuff. We avoid what we are not comfortable with. I’m ready to get a little uncomfortable. I hope the blog readers are too.

      JMM

  3. AvatarSimon Jones says

    It’s interesting to contrast this with the experience in the UK, where we are covered by the Equality Act 2010. Under this, employees of all religions (or no religion – such as atheists) are protected against discrimination in the work place – equally however they are not given special treatment. So employees cannot insist that they take time off for religious festivals, or wear specific religious clothing or identification unless it is an integral part of their religion (so for example a Sikh can wear a turban, but a Christian cannot insist on wearing a cross or a Muslim woman a burka). Nor can employees seek to impose their religious beliefs on others or use religious belief as a reason for not undertaking reasonable and legal duties (there is a famous case of a Christian wedding registrar who refused to undertake gay civil partnership ceremonies, who lost her religious discrimination claim)

  4. AvatarRobin Schooling says

    Oh boy. Always a hot topic. I applaud when companies allow employees to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work – if you want a Bible verse on your cubicle wall, that’s fine with me. Want to belong to the Church of Body Modification? Fine with me also. But don’t proselityze or make your co-workers, customers or guests uncomfortable by assuming that everyone worships the same way you do. Someone’s love for God, however one defines God, is not a battle for the workplace. I recently posted about an uncomfortable (to say the least) experience during an interview: http://tinyurl.com/79avbdj

    • AvatarAnna Marie Stuben says

      As a believer of God, I don’t appreciate a Township Supervisor sending out Emails to all employees speaking the word of God and then explaining it to all.
      Is this appropriate and can I as a single employee do anything about it?
      This is not just and ending quote like “God Bless you” it is a verse from the Bible listed.
      This email was sent with a title of Be encouraged.
      Any info you can suggestion about this problem would help.
      Thank you for taking the time to read this.
      Sincerely,
      Anna Marie Stuben, Senior Programmer

      • AvatarJohn says

        Without God you have no breath, no life, no “workplace ” so, think about how some people have exalted themselves to such a place or position to even think about telling the eternal creator of all things where He Himself belongs. And.. How petty can someone be over a simple “God bless you” harassment while it is said that Christians in North Korea can experience 15 years in a hard labor camp for having a Bible and others around the world experience real persecution not a simple loving “God bless you ”
        Read the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ is Lord. John 3:16..
        1 Corinthians 15:1-8
        Note: With all due respect, some people need to just “get over it ” and think about how the only sinless person to ever walk this earth, Jesus Christ the Son of the living God died on the cross Himself to save sinners. He’s alive, if you want, you can always ask Him personally how He feels personally about any topic or read what He already said when He was here on Earth during that time. God bless you! I love you, and really, come on people, seriously?

  5. AvatarLeigh Steere says

    Jessica, I do not agree. To me, this is part of the larger diversity discussion.

    In the U.S., we are fortunate to have freedoms not available in many parts of the world. Here, Muslims, Christians, Zorastrians, and atheists work side by side and produce great work together.

    In psychology, there’s a concept called “compartmentalization.” One blogger describes it as the act of “placing two or more aspects of one’s life in separate mental boxes, and believing that they have nothing to do with each other.”

    Employers who take a hard line on religion in the workplace are essentially demanding that employees compartmentalize and leave part of themselves at the door when they arrive to work each morning. In essence, the employer is saying, “For the most part, you are welcome here. But we don’t welcome this particular part.”

    Research suggests forced compartmentalization is unhealthy. It creates internal stress, which can lead to illness and lost productivity.

    The American Psychoanalytic Association published a piece about the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, which is another form of forced compartmentalization. They said it resulted in an exodus of an “estimated 13,000 individuals from the military, including people with vital skills like Arabic translators.”

    Recruiting is already tough in many industries. Do employers want to drive away employees and candidates with vital skills over a spiritual issue?

    The Bible study you mention in your post sounds as if it wasn’t bothering anyone. It was taking place before work, meaning it didn’t interfere with company productivity. My guess is it was probably open to anyone interested.

    A company runs into problems if it allows some special interest groups to meet, but denies that opportunity to others.

    If a Bible study is taking place in a company conference room before business hours and someone wants to study the Qur’an in a different conference room before business hours, the employer needs to treat both groups in the same manner.

    Special interest groups provide a great venue for employees to get to know each other better. Strong relationships between coworkers can lead to improved staff retention. Colleagues become a second family. And that’s of business value to your organization.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Leigh,

      I wrote this blog post specifically so we could generate some discussion because it is such a touchy subject. As far as the Bible study goes, imagine if you did open it up for anyone at work. That means that I would need to manage a calendar and open up religious worship for all different types of religions and beliefs including Muslim, athetists, and even Wiccan. I can see that eventually someone would likely bringing friends and others to the closed work facility to participate in the discussion opening me up to unions entering the facility which I would not want.

      I can already hear the NLRB calling me . . .

      I agree with you about forced compartmentalization. I dealt with that every single day in the corporate environment. I couldn’t be myself because I was in HR the rule miser and holder of policy and procedure. I don’t force compartmentalize well. My personal life bleeds into my work life every single day. So how do we fix this and let people bring their whole selves to work? That is the million dollar question isn’t it?

      Thank you for your comments.

      JMM

        • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

          Bob,

          In my 10 years of HR work I have never investigated a religious discrimination claim for Wiccans or Pagans. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen but it’s the reason I used the word even. We shouldn’t discount religions like those just because they are not in the majority. Reminding folks of that with the mention.

          Thanks for the comment. Hope this gives you insights into my POV.

          JMM

  6. AvatarMegan says

    Hmmm.

    What’s more important: Freedom to – , or Freedom from -?

    Freedom to express your religious views at work, or freedom from being exposed to other people’s religious views.

    In terms of in the workplace – it sucks to not be able to bring your “whole self” to work, no question – but isn’t that a tolerable sacrifice for not inviting an environment of discomfort and offense? How much of a person’s “self” needs to be at work? While I tend to dislike anything that smacks of repression – religion is just so loaded, and so controversial – opening that door can only end in bad.

    I agree with the UK standpoint Simon presented above – unless something is a necessary observance (which should always be respected) – I don’t think religion belongs in the workplace.

  7. AvatarMark says

    This is a touchy topic as evident by the comments addressing it so far. I admit that I a Christian, but I don’t push my religious beliefs at work. However, I feel if one wanted to hold a Bible study at work and did it during a time that was not interfering with one’s work, then people should have that right. Thinking during lunch or in the morning before work starts. We should not have to separate ourselves from representing Christ (if you are a Christian) if we are at work.

  8. AvatarJosiah says

    There is a time for worship, and there is time for work; the two need not overlap or “mingle”, if you get my drift. Just like politics, people sometimes tend to take religious differences personal. Employers might want to try and accommodate everyone, but you’ll always have that one person trying to push the envelope a little further.

  9. AvatarBuzz Rooney says

    Amen! (pun intended)
    There really isn’t enough talk about this in the HR blogs. You’ve inspired me to think and address it.

    I love Jesus and I know there is a proper way for how that gets expressed in the workplace. I know how NOT to make others feel unwanted or unwelcomed when their views differ from mine. It is about balance –and HR has to lead the way on this to avoid discrimination and the costly litigation and lost productivity that comes from it. No one wins when someone feels left out or mistreated

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Rayanne,

      It totally slipped my mind that you wrote this. How perfect. The discussion here has been interesting to say the least as well as the reaction from others outside of HR to the particular blog post. I suspect that many people chose not even to read the blog post because of the title. At least that was the reaction from a few people on Facebook who have bene my coworkers in the past.

      Thank you as always for the comment and discussion. I look forward to more conversations.

      JMM

  10. AvatarKarenM says

    We don’t allow discussions of Sex in the workplace, why? because it makes people uncomfortable.
    We prefer to restrain from discussions of Politics, because it creates hostility
    We suggest the same about Religion – because for some, worshiping the Devil, is considered freedom of Choice and freedom of personal Religion – just as for others, discussions of Multiple marriages is also based upon Religion..

    Religion is a personal Choice – and is very subjective.. Based upon the very responses that we see here.. This conversation created conflict and passion.. Not all positive.. This is why discussions about Religion, like Sex, and like Politics, doesn’t have a place in the workplace..

    It is personal, it is one’s own truth! and it is through respect that we allow each other the freedom of being able to own what one believes, and sometimes it is better left in private, or with others who share ones belief in the proper (sensitive) local..

    KarenM

  11. AvatarJim Thomason says

    I could not disagree more and this is the type of thinking that gives our profession a bad name. I work for a book and bible publisher. It is an environment steeped in overt religious expression. However we not a denominational publisher and up until a few years ago we were a publicly traded company. That means we have a diverse workforce of various faiths that all coexist peacefully. The notion that we have to scrub religion from the workplace in order to provide a fair workplace is just not born out by our experience. Also the law does not require that you set up a Muslim or Buddhist prayer group because a Christian group chose to use a vacant conference room off-hours for bible study. It would simply require that you giver that same accommodation to a similar group should they request it. Equal opportunity and access need not be accomplish by censorship. In the Bible belt, the black eye you’ll get with your workforce for stamping out free expression of faith is something from which you can’t recover with 1,000 company picnics.

  12. AvatarStephanie Michaels says

    Oh, how I wish we could eliminate religion from the workplace — the lengthy discusion (inlcuding prayers for various blog-respondents) just goes to show you what a waste of time religion in the workplace is. (I think only a true athiest can appreciate the humour of the last sentence.)
    As an athiest, I see all religious encroachment as an attack on my right to not be subjected to other peoples’s beliefs. However, I know from experience that people will argue (endlessly) over whether we say Grace at the annual office feast of roast bird — our “private” room, set up exclusively for prayer, is too small, too dingy, too… Sigh.

    Religion, politics and the size of someone’s bonus are all pretty touchy for office-talk. No good can come from it. I have seen people persecuted for their belief, especially if their belief is to not believe. Why? Because most religious texts and beliefs are not as inclusive as the laws that protect them. All of the discussion about bringing your whole self to work is intersting but it really does open the door to intolerance and unintended bias. I don’t think a non-religious work-site is sterile. I find it comforting that in this world of war and danger and misunderstanding that work can be a place that is safe from supersticious madness aka religion.

    If I were a leader (don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely to happen), I would say that there is a big difference between someone posting a pennant from their favourite team than some kind of religious icon. Both items are displayed to show others that the owner supports something. However, fans of opposing teams tend to be able to have a good natured discussion about their preferences. It’s hardly ever very convivial when believers start discussing beliefs.

    Please, don’t anyone pray for me (or curse me). My non-belief is also protected but I know better than to display a Hitchen’s book at my desk.

  13. AvatarStacey says

    We have a bullentin board at work for people selling things, annoucements, and stuff for sale. We have a guy that keeps putting up a piece of apper asking people to join a prayer group. And he also put a flyer up there for his church. The first one he put up someone took it down and gave it to me. So I wasn’t sure if I should go to HR or not. So a few days go by and my co worker in my dept said that their was another flyer up asking to joing the prayer group. She took it down, and a few hours later there is another one up there. Should I say something to HR or is this acceptable? I am not sure what to do.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Hi Stacey,

      Thanks for your comment. Is the flier making you uncomfortable at work? If the answer is yes, then you need to talk with HR again. I’m not sure how your HR team is structured or your company’s polices and procedures.

      JMM

  14. AvatarBoe Parrish says

    Jessica,

    I love your post!! I love the fact that a discussion like this is being offered. Both sides have identified all of the obvious landmines with religion in the marketplace, and have for the most part done so respectfully, and for that to be commended. The number one fear of American business owners is legal litigation, because one major legal issue can take a small or medium business down. How topics like this are handled may be the very thing that makes or breaks a business. St. Francis of Assisi probably stated it best, “go into all the world and preach the gospel, but only use your mouth if you absolutely have to. The best way to share your faith is in the way you love and serve others, and with the excellence of your labor. If you do those things well, people will come and ask you about the peace in your heart, and the twinkle in your eye. Once you’re invited to share about the hope within you, then you’ve earned enough relational equity to be able to resond to someone’s request, but until then, work hard, serve passionately and keep quiet.

    I have been a corporate chaplain in the marketplace of America for over twenty-five years, quietly serving tens of thousands of employees without even a hint of one single legal issue. It doesn’t matter if they’re Muslim or Methodist, or Buddhist or Baptist…they’re people who are priceless souls and every one of them deserve to be respected valued and cared for in their time of need. Religion isn’t about always being right, rather it’s always about being righteous and respectful. I have never led a Bible study in the marketplace, because there is a tendency to polarize employees who believe differently. If one employee chooses not to attend the voluntary study, and later down the road feels they were bypassed for that last promotion, then there is a potential discrimination issue brewing. It’s simply wiser to have a study off-site, to anyone desiring to learn more.

    Do I agree with Jessica’s post, about banning God and religion, of course not, but neither do I believe religious dogma should be allowed to wound individuals or use the workplace to evangelize or convert others to their religious persuasion. Each company has its own unique personality and culture, and learning to reap the rewards of a caring culture, even with religion present is a good thing. We all need encouragement, direction and a few other options from time to time, and a wise corporate chaplain has proven over and over to be a wise addition. You see, there are two times in life when people need you…and that’s when they need you, and when they need you! They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

  15. AvatarVincent Armone says

    This past Ash Wednesday, ashes and communion were brought into my work place and offered to all those who wanted them. The ceremony was given in a separate room. I have a huge problem with this, because my beliefs were not considered when these activity s were being planned. I do not wish to be in the presence of any religious ceremony espesically at work or outside of work. When I asked fellow employees about religion in the work place and were it belongs, I was told tough shit you don’t have to participate, and deal with. I went to my boss who by the way organize all the proceedings and explained my position. Now in the end they won’t stop bringing religion into the work place, and when they do, I have not be in the building because I feel uncomfortable. This is what happens with religion in the work place craziness. So religion at work oh Hell no.

  16. AvatarMichael says

    I think religion is fine at work, no matter what religion if that is you don’t try to “convert” or bring other people to agree with your opinion.

    I happen to have found thinks I believe in many “religions”. Christianity’s golden rule of treat people the way you (or Jesus) would want to be treated. Islam’s submit yourself to God and admit you don’t know much of anything, Hindu’s who teach to get in touch with your inner self and the cosmos, Mormons who teach people can become like God gives hope to those of us who will never have much in this world, even Buddhism seems to help people calm down so they can better deal with life.

    Those are all good things in my “personal religion” But at work I’m the odd ball. I don’t believe in celebrating birthdays or any religions holiday (Christmas, Ramadan, Passover, any religious holiday) I don’t want to participate in office Christmas / Holiday “secret Santa” or gift exchanges. I have a small Buddha on my desk. (Less than 1.5 inches tall, this than 1.25 wide). No one but me knows what this Buddha does. I rub my Buddha’s belly as a calming ritual prior to giving a presentation to my bosses or co workers. I rub it again if I’m worried about negotiations I’m working on with clients

    I studiously avoid religious discussions at work, when asked a religious question I say I’m not comfortable talking about it my I please concentrate on my job, or if in the cafeteria that I’m not comfortable discussing religion and move to an un occupied table or simple put my tray away and go to my office.

    I’ve been told by 2 current and 1 former boss that my personal beliefs are not a religion because I don’t go to some building to worship on a regular basis.

    Last week my immediate supervisor came to my office and put a jar of Moose Feces on my desk next to my Buddha. She said it was to remind me that if the department doesn’t make sales quota we will all be in trouble. I said ok, but can I put it on the other end of my desk away from my Buddha. (Next to my in box rather than my PC) she said no it stays where I put it. So I moved my Buddha to the other side of the desk I was then told I was being ridiculous that Buddha is a statue and I was being “overly sensitive” She then moved the moose shit to again be by my Buddha. No my Buddha is in my suit jacket pocket.

    Others in this department put the jars of feces in different places on their desks. Away from family photo’s, cross paperweights ECT. They didn’t have her moving the feces around to be next to their important things.

    My boss was wrong. (And probably meets the definition of harassment by her words and actions) Yet I just quietly do my job. I remain the top producer in this company and keep Buddha in my jacket.

    No one should be forced to keep their beliefs hidden but at the same time they shouldn’t try to convince others to “convert” or change religious ideals. It’s FINE to disagree with peoples ideas but there is rarely a need to be confrontational or “in their face” about beliefs not related to work.

  17. AvatarStephanie Michaels says

    Wow, Michael
    You are a paragon of virtue. What a horrible thing for your boss to do. Very disrespectful — even if it weren’t for the Buddha, you wouldn’t want a representation of poop next to pictures of your family — or even family pet. It’s also a lousy kind of way to get people to step up and perform better.

    There are few absolutes in life. It would be hard to say that there be absolutely no religion (lucky charms, inspirational quotes, image to stimulate serenity) at work. But it is clear from the gist of this discussion that people need to be mindful — on both sides of the spectrum.

    I had a co-worker who would bring up religion in the lunchroom and then complain to my boss about me when I countered her beliefs with fact or scripture. (The thing about being an athiest is that you have to know stuff so others don’t try to “teach” you.)

    We struck a deal. Neither of us would bring up the subject, but it did have a lasting effect on our relationship — she was not the forgiving kind regardless of her expressed belief.

    I applaud you for your solution. I’d like to tell you (and any other readers) something one of my shrinks told me. All credit to Dr. Jack Sikand for his wisdom.

    He said that people like me (people who might say, “Please don’t put the fake moose feces next to my object of admiration” would end up getting watched like hawks. His example was this — Let’s say his boss comes along and says, Steph, I need you to put a toothpaste cap on your head and keep it there all day, every day. Naturally, I’d scoff, argue, reason, plead, carry on and otherwise draw attention to the fact that I was dealing with an numnull.

    The result, every day the boss would come to check on me to ensure I had the stupid toothpaste cap on my head. And every day I’d be mad because here I am sitting with a toothpaste cap on my head and hating every minute.

    And Jack? Well, he’d say, “Yes, boss. Sure, boss. Does this angle look rakish, boss?” The boss would never, ever check on Jack. He knows Jack is a loyal do-bee.

    The moral of the story is to always say you’ll wear the toothpaste cap — even if you know you won’t.

    I know — it’s off topic, but I couldn’t help myself today. Apologies, all.

  18. AvatarAlexander Vernet says

    Expanding on Leigh’s post about compartmentalization – another challenge is that one’s religion usually doesn’t allow for it. For myself, work is part of my relationship to God. How I work, how hard I work, for whom I work, etc., are not aspects of my life that are self contained.

    I’m not sure if this is equally true for all religions.

  19. AvatarScot says

    There appears to be a whole lot of hysteria in people who don’t believe in God, most of the same who pride themselves on being ‘tolerant’. I mean c’mon who goes around trying to proselytize at work anyway and if 2 people are having a private side conversation about God, so what! It’s their business. Unregenerate people don’t want to enter the kingdom of heaven and they don’t want others to either. Most of their claims are ridiculous and exaggerated.

  20. AvatarTara says

    Thank you all for the inspiration – Hopefully we can teach people about the benefits of religion – rise above the petty arguing etc.

  21. AvatarAhmed says

    Hi, quick question. i had a problem with a colleague at work that turned to a conflict and at one point i decided that i should be the nice guy and take the first step to solve the conflict so i sent an email to her stating that i believe that we can have better productive business relationship and i apologize for any action that she found offensive from my side and i ended the message by saying that God knows that i only want to fix things for the better. she took this to the HR and HR now want to give me warning as i talked about religion at work place. The warning is because she got offended ” although she sent me emails before with the word God in it” and because i mentioned religion at work place. can they really do that?

    • AvatarStephanie Michaels says

      Ahmed
      The person who complained to HR missed a real opportunity to move forward with you. It was short-sighted.

      Can the employer do reprimand you– I’m not sure, but I know that challenging the whole mess through official channels will not really help the situation and may just put a whole nasty spotlight on you. That’s the crappy way of the work-world sometimes.

      It may be that you could have taken all the credit for yourself instead of sharing it with God — you only wanted to fix things for the better. But clearly, this other person doesn’t know what you and God know. Maybe she feels left out.

      This is another reason why people like me say it’s best to leave strong, personal beliefs out of the workplace.

      In future if you have to apologise, it’s best to be succinct and say “I’m sorry if I offended you. I’d like to move on so we can have a better work relationship.” It’s accountable and achievable.

      Take this from a long-time union steward: From here on in, do not engage in controversy with the other person. If she wants to poke at you in a future discussion, just tell her that she has an interesting point. Then walk away. Pray if you must, but do not take the bait.

  22. AvatarOwen says

    In one sense, a ridiculous question. Really, all employees must leave their philosophy at home, come as automations and be engaged at the same time? Religion is something we all have, whether we worship work, play, self-indulgence or a transcendent God. What the question really is asking is, can we exclude those who want to consider the transcendendent. Pretty ironic in a world where the popular god is tolerance. Tolerance in our society only means, no morals, no standards, no truth (your truth is different from my truth). I could go on, but don’t want to miss the opportunity to say, thanks for thinking. There is real truth, a real god each one of us worships, be that ourselves, our leisure, work, money….

  23. AvatarKathryn House says

    Religion has no place in the workplace, you claim. There are many reasons for this, it causes problems with dress code and other employees. However, you fail to see the real reason why religion is required in the workplace. Religion is not what a person does on holidays or an expression of something that a person enjoys. Religions are part of people that follow them everywhere; something that we as humans believe in so strongly we cannot simply take it off at the door.

    While religions may cause a few problems here or there, it is something that totally permeates every area of a person’s life. Thus, a person cannot stop being religious at work, simply because it causes a few rough patches in the workplace. These rough patches can be overcome by the employers accommodating for their religion, as well as by other employees understanding that their religion, or lack thereof, is different from his coworkers. This sense of understanding and accommodation would help to smooth over many rough spots of religious discrimination.

    Religion has a place in the workplace, as it does in every other place in life. It cannot be separated from who a person is or what they do. Religion must be taken into account by every employer because it is going to be in the workplace whether you believe it should be or not.

    • AvatarZoe says

      I sounds to me like you belong to the majority religion in your office. Currently, in my office, as I sit here isolated in my office because I am in a minority. I don’t wear any special clothes or head coverings, but I am isolated because if I go into the lunchroom, I am interrogated about my religion. When my religion came to be known, people who had no other religious symbols on their desks suddenly became very devout and now I’m confronted with big red crosses made out of thumb tacks on their bulletin boards. It’s pretty clear to me that this display has little to do with deeply held religious belief, but is intended as a hate statement — get out of here, your kind are not welcome. And that is why you are wrong. People are not living these deeply spiritual lives. They have been taught sadly to use their religion as a weapon to build and keep power.

  24. AvatarJoy says

    I am Hindu working in Australia. In my office, today I received a forwarded email from a religious minded colleague. The forwarded email is from a Christian Missionary who’s describing charity work that Missionary is currently part of. But the proselytizing email also talks about converting(at charity location) those who are into idolatry. I am not religious minded but still I sensed a lack of respect in that email. I read the discussion here and think my course of action should be – keep quiet. Earlier I was thinking of making my disgust known to her.

  25. AvatarYEMIMA says

    I have been told by HR NOT to discuss my religion (Judaism) at work.. Meanwhile Christians are free to walk around screaming thank you Jesus all day and talk about their church and everything else and I just sit and look….and did I mention the thank you jesus is normally said by the HR rep that told me not to talk……hmmmmm

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Hi Yemima,

      Every situation is different. I’m not at your office so I can’t say for certain. I, myself don’t discuss religion and politics at work as a best practice because it tends to cause so much interpersonal drama. If you have a particular concern, I would suggest reaching out to your HR team at the office and talking with them about this.

      JMM

  26. Avataryoster schnauss says

    As long as shifts are distributed evenly, I don’t care what people do, or if my coworkers want to trade with the religious person to give them their day off—I don’t care. But the SECOND we are SCHEDULED to have less weekends than the religious person, THAT IS WHERE IT IS WRONG. We are about to hire a Jewish person who is insisting he get every Sunday off (24/7 operation), and if that means my schedule is going to have less weekends than it did before, I am going to flip out and make as much stink at HR as I can before I am fired (and then I will sue them).

    The ONLY fair thing to do in these cases is say NO to EVERYBODY. If you can’t get Saturdays/Sundays off at your job, FIND ANOTHER JOB.

  27. AvatarLiz says

    I am Jewish, and I talk about the fact that I’m Jewish at work, but I don’t talk about God or try to convert people. For example, I talk about trying to find a place to go on the holidays, but I don’t try to bring anyone with me. I suppose I discuss other ways my Judaism affects my life, like keeping Kosher, but I don’t try to make anyone else eat like that. I answer questions about Judaism when prompted because I studied the Bible in high school and am more knowledgeable than the average Jew.

    A coworker recently mentioned that I talk about my faith a lot. He said it doesn’t bother him, but might bother others. I asked him about the difference between acknowledging my religion and prosthletising. He said to not mention my religion at all.

    Obviously my faith is a large part of who I am, and I do not believe in forcing others to my faith. My conversation with my coworker made me uncomfortable, and I was hoping for your thoughts on the situation.

  28. AvatarChristisrisen says

    tHE REAL QUESTION REMAINS. wHY ARE YOU FEELING AN EMOTION OR SO AGAINST…. CHRIST FOLLOWERS? THAT IS A HEART ISSUE. SHOULD SOMEONE HAVE AN ABORTION ON THEIR COMPUTER SCREEN, NO! wHY WOULD I SAY THAT? BECAUSE THE COMPUTER IS NOT THEIR PROPERTY UNLESS THEY PURCHASED IT THEMSELVES. IF THAT INDIVIDUAL WAS ASKED TO REMOVE IT FROM COMPANY PROPERTY AND DID NOT, THEN i WOULD SAY THAT HE NEEDS TO BE LET GO. YOU WILL NEVER STOP A CHRISTIAN FROM TALKING ABOUT CHRIST AT WORK. EVER. BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU AND HOPE THAT GOD WILL LET HIS LOVE ENTER YOUR HEART. SHOULD SOMEONE BE FIRED FOR TALKING POSITIVELY ABOUT DIVORCE AT WORK AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS, SHOULD THEY BE FIRED? WE ARE NOT ROBOTS, NO ONE WANTS TO GO TO WORK AND NOT TALK. wHAT BETTER SUBJECT THAN “STOP WATCHING PORN, STOP DRINKING AND RUINING YOUR FAMILY”. GOD HEALS THE HEART. HE MADE YOU

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