Faith at Work

Religious discrimination always attracts media coverage, but we ask what is the relationship between religion and work.

We don’t do God

While he was working for Prime Minister Tony Blair,  Alastair Campbell, was famously quoted  as saying that ‘we don’t do God’.

This was taken to mean that the then British Prime Minister would not discuss his religious beliefs, a view that was interpreted as meaning that in the UK talking about God would mean that you turned off potential voters.

Following the same dinner party rules about unacceptable subjects for conversation many people especially Christians would avoid discussing their faith at work or in a recruitment and selection process.

Discrimination cases

Over the years the European Court of Human Rights has heard many cases that were brought by people who believed that they have been discriminated against by their employers because they let their Christian faith influence the decisions they made at work.

Some refused to undertake particular activities while others decided that they wanted to wear Christian symbols, like a cross, at work.

Senior clerics

Many senior clerics from across the Christian denominations have spoken from the pulpit in support of people who have taken legal action that claimed discrimination on religious grounds:

Politicians

Former co-Chair of the Conservative Party and a former Minister without Portfolio Baroness Warsi has also spoken about the need for all religious communities to respect the beliefs of others and how that mutual respect helped to strengthen the community as a whole.

In one of his statements Dr Carey  suggested that far from strengthening the community the Government’s refusal to recognise the rights of Christians to wear the intrinsic symbols of their faith is an attack on those Christians.

Think again

So if you are someone with a faith you may be feeling that you are under attack.

But then maybe you need to think again, and perhaps look at the work of Max Weber.

Over 100 years ago Weber a German polymath wrote that religion was good for business and suggested that far from excluding religion from the work place there may be very positive role for it to play in improving and maintaining business performance. This according to Weber is simply because many religions promote the view that work is for the glory of God and that those that work hard receive God’s grace.

Religion as a workplace asset

Essentially Weber’s view is that religious people work harder than those without religious beliefs, so logically employers should encourage people to bring their religious beliefs to work.

That means that if you are an employee with religious beliefs your employer could be seeing you as something of an asset.

Religions of all kinds are  based on faith and an acceptance of a set of values, which mean that employees who have a faith are more likely to; act with integrity; treat fellow employees, suppliers and customers in a responsible manner; and think about how their activities impact the organisation they work for and the role it plays in the wider community.

Corporate governance

Employees with faith are more likely to have a positive impact on the ethical stance of a business applying their religious values to work based decisions that can encourage discussions about whether business decisions are being made purely with the biggest profit in mind.

Healthy work life balance

Employees who have faith based values are more likely to have a healthy work life balance.

This is because their religious values provide them with a clearer definition of what they are and what they are not prepared to sacrifice at home in order to be successful at work.

Recruitment and selection

Weber believed that religious people are more likely to have jobs that fit with their values and personality, something that could be described as a vocation, or work that they were born to do.

Vocation is a word most often used to describe people who enter religious orders but it can also be applied to people who find the job that suits them best rather than just having a job that pays the bills.

Work ethic

Whilst employers bemoan the lack of work ethic in British workers, it is worth remembering that for many years good workers have been described as having a strong protestant work ethic.

It makes you think?

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