Religious Diversity

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss religious diversity in the workplace

Many people have been taught that it is bad etiquette to discuss religion and politics at the dinner table. Both religion and politics are very emotional subjects that can quickly turn from a conversation to an argument. People are likely to take others’ opinions and disagreements to heart when discussing religion and politics which does not lead to a nice and relaxing gathering.

So what about in the workplace? People on average will spend about one third of their life at their job. Therefore, it is important to learn how to handle conversations about religion and politics in a constructive manner. This is not to say that religion and politics should be a daily topic of conversation. However, approaching an unfamiliar topic with genuine curiosity and a desire to understand can be a great way to foster diversity. Asking questions does not mean you always have to agree with the answer, however, it may give you a new perspective.

For the purpose of this section, let’s specifically focus on religious diversity in the workplace. How can companies foster an inclusive environment for people from all religions? A very simple way is to create a calendar with a wide variety of holidays. This will allow people from all religions to share their holiday celebrations with those at work. It is also a great opportunity for people to learn about their coworkers. Some companies even have floating holiday options available to employees which allows them to take off work according to the religious holidays they observe. Companies can also have a quiet space available for employees who need to pray or reflect. Dress codes should also be accommodating to allow religious attire like yarmulkes or hijabs. Even small actions like having non-pork options at luncheons or social outings without alcohol to better incorporate all religious beliefs can make a huge impact. Often the only “extra” work that needs to be done is pausing to think of others’ needs and considerations.

Practice Question

As with all forms of diversity, the first step is to simply be respectful and understanding of people’s differences. Viewing everyone’s differences as a learning opportunity or a way to get to know them better will create a more inclusive work environment. Humans are naturally curious and that is a good thing! However, be sure to present your curiosity in a respectful manner. Some people may not be comfortable discussing their religious beliefs, and this is okay—remember that no one owes you an answer. And if you’re really curious, there are plenty of online resources written by members of religions that you can find.

So if being inclusive is such a simply thing to do, why do so many companies struggle with it? Incorporating inclusive guidelines on a corporate and team level is important to ensuring an inclusive environment. Since religion is such a personal subject and choice, religious inclusion on a personal level can be a little harder to achieve. However, by implementing some of the ideas listed above, there is a greater possibility for religious tolerance and inclusion.

References

Annese, Lisa. “Practical Ways to Promote Religious Diversity in the Workplace.” Diversity Council Australia. December 01, 2016. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.dca.org.au/opinion-pieces/practical-ways-promote-religious-diversity-workplace.

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