4 Rules for Being Religious at Work

Posted August 16, 2013 by
Businessman sitting in office praying

Businessman sitting in office praying. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Politics and religion—the two topics nobody wants discussed at the dinner table. Why? Because those two topics are polarizing and can quickly turn a functional situation dysfunctional. But work isn’t the dinner table, so shouldn’t you be free to talk about and practice your religion as you see fit? After all, at work you are protected by the Civil Rights Act—something that, sadly, won’t protect you at Thanksgiving.

Here is the truth: just because your boss can’t take disciplinary action based on your beliefs doesn’t mean that you can be obnoxious about those beliefs while you are at work. Your boss can take disciplinary action if you create a hostile environment for your coworkers. Religious protection only covers so much. So: just like we’ve taught you how to talk about politics at work, here is how to practice your faith in the workplace without causing (even accidentally) any issues.

1. Keep It Personal

At work, more than most other places, your beliefs are your own. You can believe what you want. You can even display religious paraphernalia in your cubicle. You can take religious holidays off. All of this is fine. When you try to force what you believe upon others, however, it becomes a problem. For example, don’t try to force your employer to call the winter Holiday Party a Christmas Party.

2. Wait to Be Asked

If someone asks you a question about your faith, it’s perfectly acceptable to answer it honestly. Answering a question when asked is perfectly fine. Offering up your religious views out of the blue can often be seen as intrusive.

The flip side of this is asking first before you share your religious views. Yes, you mean well. Your office mate is going through a hard time personally and wants to talk about it. You might know of a religious verse or tenet that you think will be helpful or provide some perspective. If you don’t already have a good relationship with your office mate (in which the sharing of religion based advice is accepted and welcomed), it is always better to ask “can I share a verse with you? I’ve always found it comforting, maybe you will too” than to simply say “my religious text says…”

3. Gift Giving

Keep gifts secular unless you know that something faith-based will be welcomed. For example, if you have a good relationship with someone in the marketing department and know that her daughter is receiving her first communion soon; giving her a communion gift from the Personal Creations site to celebrate is okay. For the winter “Secret Santa” gift exchange, though, it’s best to go with something more generic.

4. Work Comes First

Remember: you are hired to do a job. If your religious convictions prevent you from being able to commit to that job or do it to the best of your ability 100% of the time, you might think about pursuing other options. For example: if you are fundamentally opposed to birth control, perhaps a job as a pharmacist is a bad idea.

In today’s climate, nobody is going to tell you that you have to leave your faith at home (in fact, they are legally prohibited from doing so). Still, remember that your faith is your own. You can be as devout and as open about your religious viewpoints as your comfort level will allow. But remember: being open is not the same thing as being aggressive.

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