Does Religion Ever Have a Place in Your Workplace?

Kathy Rapp HR (& Life!) Advice, Kathy Rapp, Religion

I took a day off recently and finished up some shopping.  I made a number of stops and expected to be wished a “Merry Christmas” at James Avery, but was kind of surprised when it happened at Victoria’s Secret (ok..so maybe SOME of the shopping was for me) and Macy’s.  Granted, I’ve been out of corporate HR for almost 4.5 years – but did we suddenly say to hell with being cautious about embracing religion in the workplace?  Are you guys all running around now wishing each other Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas?!!

The governor of Texas was recently slammed due to his overly Christian political ad.  And before you go off on me about Rick Perry, note this is purely a RELIGIOUS post and I want nothing to do with politics. Was he out of line or isn’t everyone used to hearing (and asking) about the religious views of our political candidates by now?

We have a couple of clients who are overt about their Christian workplaces.  It’s actually great to know up front as we need to ensure their culture isn’t going to offend potential candidates.  Prayers before executive committee meetings, bible studies, values that clearly talk about faith and believing in a higher power – yep all out there in a global, billion dollar organization.  They have incredible tenure and while competitive, underscore people with big egos or those who run over others to accomplish personal goals do not have a place with them.

Chick-fil-A is another company that is out there when it comes to promoting Christian beliefs…so much so they close their stores on Sundays to allow their employees to attend worship, rest and spend time with their families.  I always forget I need to get my Chick-fil-A fix on Saturdays.

I have to tell ya – I think it’s ok if HR has become more lax in their attitudes about religion and/or employees are more comfortable being open regarding their faith – whatever faith or belief it may be.  I do believe you need to be respectful of the work environment and there’s never a time to push religion on a co-worker, but typically you know if someone shares like sentiments and so why can’t you say “Merry Christmas” vs. the horribly disguised, “Happy Holidays”?!!

I now work in an environment where we are open about calling Christmas….Christmas, yet also have PTO days where people can take time to celebrate other special religious days.  It works and it is wonderful not to have to feel like you’re stepping on anyone’s toes by inviting them to a Christmas party.

This has recently hit home, as within a span of two weeks, two of my employees’ fathers had heart attacks.  Their families were faced with the horrific decision to allow them to pass in peace vs. lingering on life-support.  Another co-worker’s father had open-heart surgery and experienced complications but thankfully is recovering in rehab.  Lastly, a former co-worker just let me know her mom was giving up on chemotherapy and it is only a matter of time.

I am so grateful to work at a place where I can send out update emails to the rest of our national team and ask for prayers for these employees and their families.  I can openly talk about faith and the strength of their beliefs and it is comforting to them, as well as to me.

I’m sure there will be those who disagree, but I believe in the grace of a higher power and I believe there ARE times in the workplace where it is perfectly OK to share those thoughts.  My team has been hit and hurt and every single person has expressed their care and concern for them with some sort of religious undertone.

Guess what?  It has not only helped them get through this terrible time, but it has made us stronger as a team as a result.

I hope each of you rejoice in this time of year with your family and friends – – go hug your mothers and fathers – – and have a Merry Christmas!

Kathy Rapp

Kathy Rapp is the CEO of hrQ where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent for permanent or project roles across the country. Prior to joining hrQ Kathy booked more than 15 years of diverse HR leadership experience working in F500s and start-up organizations. A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent insights can be gleamed from the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen and AC/DC.