Globe and Mail: Christmas cheer has a place at the office – but not at the expense of other religions

Dec 18, 2014
Beedie School of Business Assistant Professor Brent Lyons.

Beedie School of Business Assistant Professor Brent Lyons.

The following article was published in the Globe and Mail on December 18, 2014.

By Rosanna Tamburri, Globe and Mail.

With the holiday season in full swing, employers should take care to show their employees that expressions of all faiths are welcome in the workplace, and not just Christian ones.

“It’s important that organizations are sending the message that a diversity of religious beliefs and values are okay and open for discussion,” says Brent Lyons, assistant professor of management and organizational studies at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business in Vancouver. It’s okay to deck the halls and spread Christmas cheer, he adds, but “if that’s the only thing employees are seeing, you may be inadvertently sending the message that only Christian beliefs are valued in your workplace.”

To foster a more inclusive office atmosphere, Dr. Lyons suggests including symbols from other faiths in the holiday celebrations or allowing employees to celebrate religious holidays at other times of the year. He wouldn’t counsel prohibiting employees from expressing their faiths altogether.

A recently published study co-authored by Dr. Lyons found that employees who feel at ease disclosing their religious affiliation at work and openly discussing their religious values and beliefs are more satisfied and able to develop closer relationships with their co-workers. Those who feel uncomfortable doing so are less committed to their workplace. This can have “important productivity costs and potential financial costs for the organization,” Dr. Lyons says.

He and his co-authors surveyed about 450 people who attended Christian churches in the United States and South Korea. The two countries were chosen because they are both predominantly Christian societies, yet they are believed to differ when it comes to expressions of individuality. South Korea is believed to be a more collectivist society where duty and loyalty to collective goals are valued whereas the United States is seen as a more individualistic society that encourages self-expression of all types.

The study found that the benefits of openly talking about religion and the costs associated with actively hiding it were the same in both countries. The results would be just as applicable to Canada, he adds: “Our study showed that our results tend to apply across cultures.”

The paper was published in the July edition of the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Read the full article at the Globe and Mail website.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,