Skip to main content

Is Religion Unsafe for Work?

Last night I had to get my mind off the San Bernardino shootings and so I forced myself to watch a Vince Vaughn comedy on Xfinity called Unfinished Business.
I wasn't especially familiar with this film but as a brand Vince Vaughn is a certain kind of funny and I was sure that the time would produce the intended effect. It did.
In the movie he and his sidekicks need to sign a client or go bankrupt. Nothing can go wrong with this deal.
On the plane to Portland, where the deal is to be done, Vaughn turns to his sales director.
"Listen, Mike, when we get to the meeting, don't say your last name."
"What's wrong with my last name?" 
"It's distracting from business," says Vaughn.
"What's distracting about my name?" says the guy.
"Your name is Mike Pancake."
I saw this scene and couldn't help but laugh hysterically. It's funny on the plane and it's funny when of course the guy screws up and says "Mike Pancake." (And they don't get that desperately needed handshake, either - at least not yet.)
But what isn't funny about the bit is the subtle message "diverse" people get in real life: We want you, we welcome you, but please don't bring your "difference" to the workplace.
I remember my uncle worked for the U.S. government in the Senior Executive Service. An Orthodox Jew, he would not wear a yarmulke for fear of provoking anti-Semitism. 
When I joined the U.S. government I covered my hair in a religious way that was unusual for America (an Israeli type snood). One woman asked me, "Excuse me, I don't mean to offend you - but are you a Mennonite?"
My father's side of the family is Chasidish (Hasidic). I have never once seen a Chasid in the government. If I did, they were hiding it very well.
I have worked a few times with very religious Christians. One woman started a prayer group at work - they gave her a quiet room once a week on Wednesdays. But only after her boss almost nixed the whole thing.
And I have worked with Muslims as well. They are in a terrible situation, worse now than ever - pressured from all sides into an impossible vise. Walking on land mines, constantly.
You have to let people be themselves at work. You have to let them live their faith, if they have it. It's not just about obeying the law, where applicable; or doing better at business, because you will; or even because you're nice enough to "tolerate" others being "other."
It's right to support diversity, in the workplace and everywhere, because diversity is fundamentally human. If we turn against each other because of religious garb, we will turn against each other for every other reason under the sun, and then where will the turning end?
It is okay to live and let live - not everybody has to be the same, like Wonder Bread. 
People say that terrorists want to force religion on others. But I think it's the opposite: the freedom to live your conscience is precisely what they want to steal.
When we uphold religious diversity at work - including the absence of religion completely - we stop them.
_____
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. 

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

________________
All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.