The Business Of Faith
I recently read a stat that said 84 percent of the world's population has faith; a third are Christian. I began to ask myself the question, what role, if any, does faith play in the workplace? Is there room for such a role, and if so what would that look like? After all, people spend thirty to forty hours per week in their jobs (some even more than that) and clearly have a desire to have more if they openly claim to be “faith-filled”.
As a native Torontonian, back in the 80's, I had the pleasure of meeting the Reichmann brothers, two of the most successful businessmen in Canadian history. I later read an article about their family and how as orthodox Jews, they took their faith very seriously, adhering to the sabbath on Fridays and major Jewish holidays. I was not practising my faith at that point but, it struck me that it was courageous on so many levels that in the world of multi-million dollar deals they may have to stop negotiations to attend synagogue or close up shop due to a major religious holiday. Why, I wondered, would they risk losing that big for their faith? Was there something more than just their billion dollar projects that played a role in these men's lives?
I am a practising Catholic and was always open about that while in the bricks. I sold a number of religious gifts and welcomed lively conversations on faith and faith related issues. It was rather edifying for me to engage in these discussions as I view faith as an opportunity to learn as much as it is to share one’s own personal beliefs. I would offer prayer to those who were struggling, pray at times with those who initiated prayer and support those searching for faith. Why did I bother really when, I could have made it, none of my concern? I believe the reason I felt compelled to share about my journey was I sensed a longing to know more and hear more about faith from those who asked the question(s). It became a natural response from me with no intention whatsoever other than to share my experience. This, I believe, is the proper approach in the workplace, one which employers should welcome as it will make for more balanced employees.
Similarly, I was getting a tour not so long ago of a Toronto-based business and came to a small room off to the side of the other offices. I asked what it was used for, the answer was simply, to meditate. "We welcome all faiths here and it can be used for prayer whether you are a Muslim, Jewish or Christian". Again, I began to ask the question, what role does faith play in the business world. Clearly, it has been given some air time. But, why? Is there a hint of goodness faith may impart on the individual worker that has been recognized? Do companies see a difference in the overall job performance of their workers when freedom of religion is respected? I have yet to do the research on this one but, as a sociologist, I am certain that there is some sort of correlation between faith and work performance.
What I have discovered is faith, like no other subject, opens a door that invites an exchange which far surpasses "our understanding". Sporting events, our children, the weather are all notable conversation starters yet, something different happens when we open the door to our beliefs, something personal on a very deep level. This is why it makes perfect sense that to share such a topic in the workplace seems, a bit awkward. Yet, if shared correctly, within the right context, whether as an inter-faith group that meets up to share or perhaps through a social networking chat room through your company, openness to faith in the workplace can become edifying as well as increase job satisfaction.
I personally believe, that sharing your faith in the workplace, if placed in the proper context, can be a way to build up your team, staff, and each individual worker.