Religious expression in the workplace is common in the Philippines, but is this a value-adding practice?
If you have been employed for a while, I bet you have been invited (if not required) to attend either morning devotions, weekly services and/or bible studies, or orasyon at a certain time like the 3 o’clock habit. But is this practice aimed simply for mental wellness or more of direct intervention to improve employee behavior?
Revisiting the value of such activities is something an HR professional should seek to clarify.
Before I proceed let me disclose that I am Christian, I personally believe a well-thought spiritual intervention can make participants become critical thinkers and seek alternate responses to common office issues. One intervention that helps clarify core values and identify behavioral indicators is Spiritual Intelligence.
However, an undirected religious expression in the workplace can do more harm than good if the proponents do not walk their talk, or don’t do enough to make the alternate universe more makatotohanan.
A religious activity that is forced, breeds contempt when more pressing and/or recurring issues about social justice and fairness are not addressed in the workplace.
How a religious expression can add value
Any employee advocating for a religious expression is welcome, but HR and top management should not only look at this as a plus for employee engagement but more of an appointment of an informal leader, a sensitive process. The person volunteering is like saying s/he has moral ascendancy to spearhead the program. Needless to say, that when management approves, they are now equally accountable for the program.
While the core values being cultivated by a religious group is value-adding, the messenger should be credible and has a good history of walking her talk. And in cases when the values being presented contradicts company practice or culture, management should be open to change.
Likewise, expect contempt and demoralization if the religious proponent compromised on her values in pursuit of personal gain.
Consistency is the key
I’ve been in an organization whose President claims to be godly. He ordered regular chapel services and invokes the name of God in his decisions, He prefers hiring employees who have similar beliefs and outsourced some biz operations to churches. But when the going gets tough, religious values were compromised in pursuit of revenues. The company and its president became a laughing stock of everyone. What is disturbing is God himself was mocked because of the people who represented Him.
I have HR and entrepreneur friends who chose applicants who have “the character”, over skills. And the usual way to measure character is the applicants’ religious engagement. The honesty of these employees is unquestionable. These employees grew in influence because they are likable, kind, and fought for others when they think it is right.
It should be good, right? Well, yes and no.
Yes, because such people bring good changes to the culture.
No, because when management quickly “promote” these employees they effectively placed them in a position of failure. When these employees were put in the spotlight because of their faith and given more than what they can chew, the likelihood that they will err big time is high. And when this happens, management will take a beating for preferring character over skills and you will also lose a good employee in the process.
No, because skills are still necessary to get a job done. I was informed by an acquaintance that there is an employee who is overtly zealous and often uses the name of God at work. But s/he can’t accomplish her effectively without intervention from fellow workers. Employees were demoralized because preference was given to this employee for her religious belief. Even though it is not the case.
No, because people will always fall short. Another story was shared with me of a religious influencer who invited an acquaintance to join his team. S/he soon brought this acquaintance to church and joined in cell/connect groups. But when the pandemic hits, this acquaintance was left floating for more than a month, requested to do some work at home without pay, and was not given a proper explanation why it was only him that was affected. This acquaintance left the church in disgust for the experience.
A word for management and HR professionals.
Hiring and keeping employees because of character over skills on most occasions is value-adding if we give them the space to grow professionally to acquire the requisite skills before giving them bigger responsibilities.
Allowing religious expression is value-adding if non-discriminatory and not forced. This can help in mental wellness. However, due diligence is needed because of the moral ascendancy factor.
Using a spiritual intervention for behavioral reasons is not bad but tricky. It can be effective if given careful thought plus strategic execution.
A word for fellow Christians.
Let our actions speak for our faith. And if we need to evangelize, this advice can come in handy-A wise person does the right thing at the right time Ecclesiastes 8:5b (NCV). Misusing the name of God will do more harm and may drive more people away from Him
God is grateful and will certainly reward you for your efforts. But seek guidance from church leaders. And be thoughtful of past abuses that non-Christians may throw in your way.
Do you have a good or bad religious expression experience in the workplace? Care to share your thoughts?