How A Manager Can Deal With Religion In The Workplace

Managers need to balance religion when it comes to the office
Managers need to balance religion when it comes to the office
Image Credit: murdelta

Of all of the issues that managers have to use their manager skills to deal with in the workplace, it’s possible that religion might be the most difficult. The reason for this is simply because there are so many different religions out there and none of us have any manager training on how to deal with them. Even within a given religion, there may be many differ offshoots which all practice their faith differently. What religion we choose to follow is a deeply personal decision that goes a long way in defining who we are. It can be very difficult for us to interact with other people who have chosen a different religion from ourselves. As a manager you are going to need to find a way to get all of these people with different beliefs to work together…

What Happens When Religion Comes To The Workplace

Religion has always been a big deal. It is only now starting to become a big deal in the workplace. What managers are starting to see more of now is the cropping up of religious issues. These issues are sparking a flurry of lawsuits and they are starting to raise a complicated set of questions regarding how a worker’s faith should interact with their job. Managers have been encouraging their workers to take the time to celebrate what makes them unique individuals. However, perhaps because of the very personal nature of our personal religious choices, religious identity is turning out to be a bit tougher for managers to learn to navigate.

In the past, most managers have tried to stay far, far away from anything having to do with religion in the workplace. The reason that we’ve done this is that we’ve been very afraid of doing something wrong. We don’t want to make a mistake or end up doing something that turns out to be unlawful. Managers are well aware that if a worker feels as though they have been discriminated against because of the religion that they practice, they can file a religious discrimination lawsuit.

In the U.S., religious discrimination lawsuits have increased by more than 50% between 2006 and 2016. What this means for managers is that we are finding ourselves in charge of a more multicultural workforce that consists of people who have a wide array of different faiths. One problem that managers often have is that we fail to address our IT department member’s faiths until a problem shows up. Managers cannot ban religious expression outright. Additionally, they are required to accommodate religious expression as long as it does not cause undue hardship on the company or its workers.

How Managers Can Balance Religion In The Workplace

Given all of the complexities associated with religion, what’s a manager to do? The first thing that a manager has to realize is that their employees don’t drop their religious rights when they arrive at work. It is the responsibility of the manager to find a way to strike a balance. Managers need to understand that if they are not able to find a way to strike that balance, then they may find themselves in hot water. It’s important to understand that all people of faith feel that their faiths are not respected at work – white evangelicals are just as likely to have issues as non-Christians.

This is turning out to be a bigger deal than most managers are aware of. A recent survey showed that 28% of workers are saying that discrimination against Christians is as serious as discrimination against religious minorities. One of the reasons that this has become an issue is because religion is often missing when managers have conversations about corporate diversity policies. What managers would like to be able to do would be to create a workplace that was welcoming to workers of all faiths.

Surveys of workers have found that people who are working for teams that have a clearly stated religious nondiscrimination policy were less likely to say that they were looking for a new job. Even better, workers who work for a company that has flexible hours to permit religious observances were found to be more than twice as likely to say that they look forward to coming to work. Managers who take the time to understand what the religious needs of their various team members are and then create solutions for them will find that they have a much happier team.

What All Of This Means For You

Religion has always been a very tricky subject. Our religious beliefs are a very personal thing and the fact that other people may have different religious beliefs from us can cause many people to feel as though they are being discriminated against because of their beliefs. Managers need to be aware of the challenges associated with trying to accommodate multiple religious beliefs as they worry about things like team building and then take the correct steps to create a welcoming workplace.

Managers have to be aware of the fact that if a worker feels that they are being discriminated against then they may end up suing the company for religious discrimination. Managers have traditionally stayed away from religious issues because we didn’t want to make any mistakes. All too often managers don’t deal with religion until it becomes an issue. We are required by law to make religious accommodations for our workers. Managers need to understand that it’s not just non-Christians who may feel that they can’t practice their religion at work, a lot of Christians feel the same way. Religion has to be a part of any company’s diversity program. Having a clearly stated religious diversity program and providing time for religious observations can result in happier employees.

Life would be so much easier if there was only one religion and everyone subscribed to it. However, that is not the case and there are a lot of different religious views out there. In any IT team there are probably many different people with their own set of religious beliefs. As the manager it is your responsibility to make sure that nobody feels as though they are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. You also have to take steps to create a welcoming environment for all religions. If you can accomplish all of this, then your team will be the place that everyone wants to come and work in.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What can a manager do to show that their team has religious tolerance?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

They say that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family members. Well, it turns out that you also can’t necessarily pick your coworkers either. What this means for all of us is that every so often we’re going to find out that no matter what manager skills we have, we are working with a jerk. This can cause us all sorts of problems. What is a manager to do when we find ourselves working with a jerk?