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Religion in the workplace: implications for managers.

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Religion in the workplace: implications for managers. Here it comes again: the annual debate about whether a crehe or a decorated evergreen is an appropriate public symbol in December and whether the office party Should have a Christmas theme. America has assiduously tried to keep religion off the factory floor and out of the office--even as her citizens have continued to invoke God at baseball games, courtroom trials and sessions of Congress. We removed prayer from our nation's public schools several decades ago; now we are contemplating restoring it. In fact, some alternative schools exist today to counter the lack of religious expression in the public classroom. In at least one prominent case, religion co-exists effortlessly with public life: President Bill Clinton has become a remarkable National Griever in a nonsectarian way, at ease with religious expression in and out of the White House. He played a role during times of national tragedy recently, comforting families and attending services in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the TWA Flight 800 tragedy and the plane crash in Eastern Europe that took the lives of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, corporate executives and government workers. America may characterize itself as a religious nation but, if so, it has a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, stiff-upper-lip heritage that tends to be uncomfortable with emotion or religious fervor outside of a prescribed circle. Public expressions of Bible Belt evangelism and Eastern religions' rituals can cause controversy. ...read more.


When these expressions occur, most corporations don't know how to handle them, whether they are manifestations of organized religion or sincerely held unorthodox creed. The latter, according to the EEOC, includes atheism and religions the employer may not be cognizant of or may feel are ill-founded. "By the time you have protected yourself from every conceivable lawsuit in the world," Deal says, "you have created a very sterile climate. People climb into their silos and stay there until the day is over, then go home" This mentality, he adds, does not make for productivity, motivation, commitment, loyalty or high morale. It behooves business to understand not only the letter but also the spirit of religion. Many employees regard their jobs as an extension of family. Additionally, explicit in most of the great religions is the sanctity of work. Companies themselves are becoming more responsive these days by dealing with such "softer" issues as empowerment, team building and promotion of women and minorities. Even technology has a role: Techies and others are comfortable with the notion of the "electronic hearth," a community of interest linked electronically. "The workplace is a middle ground, between specific religious beliefs held by employees and an older view that everything in the workplace must be purely secular," says Ronald E Thiemann, dean of the Harvard Divinity School and author of Religion in Public Life: A Dilemma for Democracy (A Twentieth Century Fund Book: Georgetown University Press, 1996). ...read more.


Business leaders who cannot are destined for irrelevancy." Emery maintains that business leaders are primarily concerned about reducing risk and cost and increasing revenues and profits. "So, the most practical thing is, if they have no spiritual perspective, they'll say, 'Okay, that'll be fine. Just don't spill anything on the carpet.' The more enlightened leaders will get it." WORKBOOK Ever-growing diversity in today's work. force extends to religion and spirituality. Some guidelines for managers: * Before you can engage others, you must be engaged. How well do you know yourself? How good are your listening skills? How well do you know your people? * How patient and tolerant are you? Are you a role modem for the Golden Rule? Does your staff trust you? * Discuss the company's mission statement and its promulgated list of values. If your company doesn't have these, ask your company to devise them. Listen to their rationales. What is important to them? What are their own values? * Apply common sense, fairness and sensitivity. If your workers want more religious expression on the job, seek a broader frame of reference than your own--a questionnaire, for instance. BRIEFCASE At first glance, the idea of religion in a scular work environment might seem contradictory. But enlightened organizations recognize that their workers bring theor beliefs into the job with them and that an environment of tolerance and respect means more productivity and higher morale, no matter the gender, color or creed. ...read more.

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