Religion in the Workplace and Perceived Discrimination

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Religion is a part of many people’s lives. In fact, 84 percent of individuals around the world follow some sort of religious tradition.

Religion’s prevalence means there are times when the topic intersects with parts of our lives, including work. Concerns arise, though, when people experience discrimination or prejudice at work because of their belief systems. When this occurs, employees are likely to have lower connection to work, express less satisfaction, and ultimately leave.

Given these trends, Christopher Scheitle, of West Virginia University, and Elaine Ecklund, of Rice University, recently explored whether being exposed to religion the workplace was linked with discrimination at work. 

They analyzed data from over 16,000 people who took part in a nationwide study.

Results showed that although most people didn’t experience religious discrimination, a sizeable portion did. Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Atheist respondents were all more likely to report discrimination than were others. In the US, people who follow these religious traditions are religious minorities.

The researchers also found that the more religion was a topic of conversation at work, the more likely people were to report experiencing discrimination. This pattern remained even after taking into account other religious-oriented factors.

One implication of the study would be for managers to prohibit religious discussions in the workplace. But, such a policy would likely meet resistance and negatively affect morale. Thus, the authors suggest creating workplace cultures where expressions of prejudice are not tolerated and all people, irrespective of their religious tradition or lack thereof, are valued members of the work community.

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Religion in the Workplace and Perceived Discrimination