Faith in the workplace © shutterstock
More and more U.S. corporations are discovering the religious faith of their employees as a resource. It makes life easier in the workplace and promotes a social climate. Many companies actively promote interfaith initiatives.
IT manager Sue Warnke experienced a touching moment in 2018. An employee of her group Salesforce thanked her very personally after the terrorist attack on the "Tree of Life" synagogue in Pittsburgh in the US state of Pennsylvania for her support. A right-wing extremist had killed 11 worshipers in October 2018, including a family member of Salesforce employees.
As a member of the group's leadership, Warnke had organized an interfaith meeting immediately after the carnage to offer comfort to the relatives. The director is also involved as president of the Faithforce organization. This promotes employee groups within its own group, as well as at other companies, that offer meetings in the workplace for members of all faith communities.
Pastoral care and mediation
At the IT company alone, more than 2.600 employees active on five continents. In mid-February, at the invitation of the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America in Washington, 150 captains of industry discussed the growing importance of religion in the workplace.
The conference was led by the Salesforce director. The main ie was how company faith groups can enrich corporate life in offices and production halls. They perform pastoral duties, for example, or mediate in problems between employees and management.
Trend is on the rise
"Faith is the foundation of everything we are," Father Greg McBrayer says of his experience as chaplain at American Airlines. So, he said, it is absolutely necessary to bring faith to the workplace as well to deal with the stresses of the job.
The first faith groups established themselves 20 years ago in some major U.S. companies. Most recently, the trend increased significantly. More than one in five of the top 100 U.S. corporations now have formed faith groups. Corporate giants from different industries such as Facebook, Walmart, Google, American Airlines and Tyson Food support the concept. In addition to the appreciative attitude toward employees of faith, this is also good for the working atmosphere and business, according to the conviction at corporate headquarters.
Companies should support the faith of their employees
"Faith in the workplace is critical to a productive environment," says Religious Freedom Business Foundation President and former senior researcher for the Religious Liberty Project at Georgetown University, Brian Grim.
Foundation promotes companies that hold religious liberty and diversity particularly dear. It advocates worldwide that companies should support the faith of their employees for mutual benefit. That's an important complement to company groups for members of different ethnic groups, people with disabilities or sexual minorities, she says.
As a pastor at a meat producer
Meat producer Tyson Foods has been among the pioneers since 2000. It now employs 90 chaplains at its Springdale, Arkansas, headquarters and its slaughterhouses in the U.S. Here, employees can find religious help when they can't cope with what is often a stressful job.
Pastor Karen Diefendorf organizes one of the groups that are open to all faith communities. "As a pastor of a particular denomination, I naturally represent my faith," says Diefendorf, describing the special nature of her role.
Good for business and togetherness
But as a chaplain at Tyson Foods, she was happy to support employees of other faiths as well. "I first ask them myself how their particular faith can help them deal with their problems."It takes a certain maturity to be able to abstract from one's own religion and to be open to others.
Salesforce director Warnke says religious faith groups in companies are an "antidote" to division in society and the workplace. They're good for everyone, she says – not just business, but also.