Faith in the Workplace

With the world of business becoming increasingly aware of employees’ need to feel culturally comfortable in their office environment, religion has become more and more a part of the workplace. Spirituality is thriving in the offices—so what does this mean for the evolution of business culture?

Although corporate life is often stereotyped as one that is more selfish and less fulfilling than other professions, there is a growing movement encouraging faith in the workplace. This notion challenges popular stereotypes of spirituality as a private matter. There are benefits that arise from faith in the workplace, such as more fulfilled, happy workers. Having a sense of spirituality in an office can often lead to more ethically sound decisions on the part of senior management.

As part of this movement, office chaplains have greatly increased in recent years. Chaplains have had a history in the military and on college campuses, yet only recently have they expanded to the workplace. These figures have religious training and help people talk through frustrations in the office. Although almost all workplace chaplains are Christian, they rarely bring up faith unless asked. Instead, the conversations are mostly secular, targeted at decreasing anxiety and improving satisfaction amongst employees through self-reflection.

Many CEOs and senior management figures in corporations also hold religion close to their heart when making important decisions. When Apple CEO Tim Cook announced he was homosexual, he stated that he considered being gay one of the greatest gifts God gave him. Similarly, in a statement about the difficulties of raising a family while balancing work as a woman, the CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi said that she attributes her strength to her Hindu faith. Pierre Omidyar, the former CEO of eBay and current chairman of the company, says that the mission of eBay furthers his Buddhist goals of expanding opportunity to as many people as possible to allow them to reach their potential. Their faith has improved their business-making decisions, and promoted ethically moral thinking in their everyday office environment.

But where can all these initiatives go wrong?

In 2015, Kim Davis, a county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, made international news when she defied a federal court order requiring that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In her mind, her religious devotion to God prevented her from carrying out her duties as county clerk. She felt the law could not overpower her faith, and she valued her belief in God above the duties of her job.

Many fear the spread of spirituality in the workplace due to cases like those of Kim Davis. These extreme examples instill trepidation in outsiders, particularly those who do not consider religion or faith as a major part of their lives. As these initiatives develop and flourish, should we allow religion to have an increasing role in the workplace, or should it be limited only to personal lives?

News & AnalysisLiz Osterag