Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: April 2020

The Virtue Gap

26 Apr, 2020

By Brian J. Grim, Ph.D.

At the 2020 Faith@Work interfaith conference at the Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business in Washington DC, the school’s dean, Andrew Abela, delivered a keynote calling for virtuous business. In an age when declining trust in public institutions is rising, it is not surprising that behind that trend is a diminishing supply of virtue.

Indeed, trust is in short supply. Globally, the Edelman Trust Barometer’s 2020 report shows especially low confidence in government and media, with business and NGOs also losing ground. And in the United States, this trend didn’t just develop during the current administration, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center study; the decline in trust has been trending since 1958 (see chart).

My hypothesis is that the decline in trust and the rise in calls for corporate social responsibility are related to the decline in the practice of virtue. One snapshot of this is an analysis of how often ‘virtue’ appears in books over the past two centuries. The analysis, shown in the chart below, finds that virtue had its heyday about 220 years ago with a somewhat steady decline in usage up to the present (assuming that talking about virtue is a rough indication of its social currency).

The decline in talk of virtue is matched in the rise of talk of trust, i.e., more often the lack of trust (see chart). The gap between virtue and trust shown by the chart above is just one indicator of the problem and of a potential solution — the return of virtue to business (and government, media and NGOs).

Now, back to Dean Abela’s proposition that virtue in business holds solutions. He begins by quoting the Second Vatican Council, which declared that “the split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.” He dispels the notion that just because someone is religious, on Sunday for instance, that that makes them virtuous the rest of the week.

For example, Abela cites a study of more than 200 in-depth interviews of highly religious IT managers. The study by sociologist Brandon Vaidyanathan, and summarized in his book Mercenaries and Missionaries, found that an “apprehensive individualism” generated in global corporate workplaces is supported and sustained by a “therapeutic individualism” cultivated in evangelical-charismatic Catholicism. They applied their spirituality to their own motivation and meaning in life, but largely didn’t connect that to their work, where they reported saying such things as: “I’m just in it for the cash,” or “I don’t care anything about loyalty to the company,” or “You may need to agree with what they ask you but you just need to do it to get the promotion.”

This study shines a light on the split the Vatican Council decried decades earlier. Abela notes that one of the reasons for this incongruity is the implicit assumption that being effective at work and being religious are “at best irrelevant to each other or at worst incompatible.” The challenge is how to bring those two worlds completely and fully together — to live a unified life, an integrated life, a life of integrity.

At the Busch School, Abela offers, they have a useful way of teaching their business students how to overcome the divide by applying the concepts of virtue. Virtues are simply good habits. And the opposite of a virtue is a vice, a bad habit.

The great thing about virtues – good habits — is that they can be practiced and anybody can grow in virtue, says Abela. And as this makes for better people, better relationships, better communities, and better business through their practice.

The four cardinal virtues are prudence (habit of making wise decisions), justice (habit of being fair to others), fortitude or courage (habit of doing the right thing even when you’re afraid), and temperance (habit of resisting the temptation to do something wrong).

Abela proposes that practicing the virtues is a way for religious people to live out their faith at work. And the beauty of it is that the virtues can be practiced by anyone, religious or not. In fact, the four cardinal virtues didn’t come out of religion, but philosophy, Plato.

Circling back to my hypothesis that the decline in trust and the rise in calls for corporate social responsibility are related to a decline in the practice of virtue. We now have the opportunity and practical tools to address the lack of trust in our societies, first, by taking up the challenge to practice the virtues in our own lives. And second, by exercising leadership and promoting the practice of these virtues in our spheres of influence (family, workplace, business, public life, etc.).

Of course, this is much broader than a business school curriculum. It is a paradigm shift toward virtue at home, school, work, public life, and within religions themselves.

Ramadan Kareem رمضان كريم

23 Apr, 2020

Resources and Inspirations

  • … from the archives of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As a Christian who lived in majority-Muslim societies for decades  — Xinjiang (China), Soviet Central Asia, Middle East — I’ve had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of Ramadans. Below are links to various videos in support of those fasting this month.

Let me know if you like this material. If so, we have more! Ramadan Kareem!!رمضان كريم

Brian Grim, President
Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF)

From Texas Instruments & RFBF Conference (link)

Mohammed Faris

Dallas, Texas, May 6, 2019: At the Religious Diversity & Inclusion event at Texas Instruments HQ cosponsored with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Mohammed Faris, the founder of the Productive Muslim Company, provides a practical framework that helps urban global Muslims lead a productive lifestyle Spiritually, Physically, and Socially.

Zonera Javed

Zonera Javed is an experienced Software Engineer with experience in factory automation and data engineering. Zonera recently obtained a Master of Science degree in Computer Science with a specialization in Robotics and Computational Perception from Georgia Institute of Technology. Her professional interests include image processing, computer vision and AI. Here, she shares her positive experience of being in a religiously inclusive workplace – Texas Instruments.

From Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards

H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Global Business & Interfaith Peace medalist, former President of Zayed University and former CEO of Tejari, is a powerful force behind the UAE Pledge of Religious Tolerance adopted by government, civil society and business leaders. She not only works hand-in-hand with local Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikhs groups, but also with global political leaders and religious figures such as Pope Francis, helping the UAE become a world leader in interfaith action.

Sheikha Lubna’s acceptance speech:

H.E. Fouad Makhzoumi (link)

During a 15-year civil war in Lebanon, youth were led astray by religious fundamentalism foregoing education resulting in unemployment and economic stagnation. Fouad Makhzoumi, CEO of Future Pipes Industries Group Limited, witnessed how his son’s youthful energy and cross-cultural savvy – when brought in to lead the company – triggered exponential growth by providing a positive vision for productive and meaningful business. Makhzoumi and his foundation help empower people by harnessing youth and promoting religious freedom. For instance, his microcredit training for Lebanese of all faiths has helped over 10,000 set up sustainable businesses, and hundreds of thousands more are receiving vocational training.

Makhzoumi’s acceptance speech, كلمة المهندس فؤاد مخزومي خلال تسلمه جائزة السلام للأعمال العالمية

International Religious Freedom Business Roundtable, Bahrain

Middle East Business Leaders Pledge Support for Religious Freedom, Acceptance in the Workplace (link)

Manama, Dec. 8, 2019: Gathering together top business executives, government officials and religious leaders from across the region, the inaugural Middle East and North Africa International Religious Freedom Business Roundtable cohosted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence launched a critical discussion around global peace and understanding through acceptance of religious expression in the workplace.

Let us know if you have thoughts or suggestions!

Faith & Belief ERGs WebEx Call, May 5

23 Apr, 2020

Topic: Faith-Oriented ERGs’ Response to Covid-19

Note: Will not be recorded and is off the record (Chatham House Rule)

Hosted by Religious Freedom & Business Foundation via WebEx
12:00 PM – 12:30 PM Tuesday, May 5 2020 (UTC-04:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)

Faith-Oriented Employee Resource Groups throughout the world are helping inspire compassionate and effective responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. This month, representatives from various faith ERGs at American Express will briefly describe their groups and their activities, and how they’ve helped address the new world we’re living in under COVID-19.

Each Amex ERG representative will share from their respective spiritual traditions a thought, scripture or prayer that each finds helpful in navigating the challenges we are facing during the pandemic.

This is the second in a series of monthly interfaith ERG community calls. The first featured insights from Intel. Going forward, they will be held at noon Eastern Time on the first Tuesday of every month. The June 2 call will feature insights from American Airlines. Questions, suggestions? Email us!

Background Concept

by Kent Johnson, Senior Corporate Advisor, RFBF

The Covid-19 crisis spotlights another threatening illness in companies and society today: The apparent lack of authenticity, transparency and trust.

Especially during this time when we’re barred from in-person interaction, coworkers need to go deeper; to get more personal – and more authentic. We need deep connections among people collaborating all over the world – including people who differ in their faiths and beliefs, but who share core personal motivations to promote honesty, compassion and unselfishness.  This need will remain after Covid-19 is defeated.

Faith-and-Belief-oriented Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have a lot to offer in this crisis. The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s (RFBF’s) online conferences promote freedom of expression about faith and core values in the workplace. RFBF’s rigorous studies illustrate how this freedom enables human flourishing.  We celebrate companies that do this well, especially those that encourage employees to bring their full authentic selves to work, including their faith. And we see increasing evidence that companies are increasingly embracing faith-oriented ERGs as enormously beneficial for business – and for society at large.

We’re thankful that many of you are joining us in this hope-filled venture for a cure to the lack of authenticity, transparency and trust. And we are also pleased to announce the launch of the first-ever LinkedIn Group for Faith and Belief ERGs. Please join our LINKEDIN GROUP to share your thoughts and to stay in touch.

Learn about RFBF’s Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index:

For Humanity: Inter-Faith Solidarity and Joint Action to Combat COVID-19

20 Apr, 2020

On April 22nd, 9:15am EDT, Dr. Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, will join global leaders from the UAE, US, France, China, UK, Spain, Kenya, Italy and Malaysia in an online conference to discuss how faith and interfaith action is playing a role in combatting Covid-19.

See full program: Faith & Combatting COVID-19 Conference Program⁩

Grim will describe how faith and interfaith collaboration is empowering for many in the Fortune 500. It is an asset that not only sustains and deeply connects many during the pandemic, but one that will add power when the shutdowns end.

As people all over the world face layoffs, job loss and employment uncertainty, major companies are benefiting from the movements within companies to be faith-friendly. It has become standard practice for multinational corporations to assure employees of support regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. There’s now an intensifying push to ensure that companies are similarly supportive and inclusive when it comes to employees’ religious beliefs.

One barometer: More than 20% of the Fortune 100 have established faith-based employee resource groups, according to an AP examination and a high-powered conference that took place in February 2020 in Washington aimed at expanding those ranks. Corporate America is at a tipping point toward giving religion similar attention to that given the other major diversity categories. And this move is especially important as people all over the world seek to manage life during and after the pandemic.

Empowering a Billion Women Through Business

14 Apr, 2020

Hear the amazing story of how Ingrid Vanderveldt (aka IV) — Dell’s first entrepreneur in residence — began her journey of empowering a billion women through business and faith.

IV is founder and CEO of Empower a Billion Women. She spoke at the opening of the first-ever national conference for faith and belief Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in Fortune 500 companies held Feb. 13-14, 2020, at the Busch School of Business, at The Catholic University of America, Washington , DC, cosponsored by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and sponsored by American Airlines and Tyson Foods.

9/11 vs. Covid-19 Impact – As Seen by Priest & Chief Flight Controller at American Airlines

7 Apr, 2020

By Brian J. Grim, Ph.D.

This is part of an ongoing blog by RFBF President Brian Grim highlighting positive business responses to the pandemic, and part of the COVIDxNOW Global Economic Leaders Consortium, which is seeking to deliver innovative solutions for COVID19

Interview with Fr. Greg McBrayer, Chief Flight Dispatcher, American Airlines

RFBF President Brian Grim talks with bi-vocational priest Father Greg McBrayer about the difference he sees between the aftermath of 9/11, which hit the airline industry hard, and the coronavirus pandemic.

Fr. Greg has worked and served in the aviation industry over 40 years. As Chief Flight Dispatcher and Chaplain at American Airlines Flight Operations Center IOC in DFW, his career includes more than 35 years as a licensed airman in Part 121 Commercial Flight Operations.

As a bi-vocational priest, Father Greg serves as an Assisting Priest/Pastor at Saint Barnabas Anglican Church in Fort Worth. He also serves as Chaplain and the EAP Representative for (PAFCA) The Professional Airline Flight Controllers Association at American Airlines and is a member of the Emergency Response Care Team.

Holy Week, Passover and Ramadan — Countering the Spiritual Toll of Covid-19

5 Apr, 2020

By Brian J. Grim, Ph.D.

This is part of an ongoing blog by RFBF President Brian Grim highlighting positive business responses to the pandemic, and part of the COVIDxNOW Global Economic Leaders Consortium, which is seeking to deliver innovative solutions for COVID19

The picture above shows Pope Francis on Palm Sunday in 2020 versus 2014. The advent of Covid-19 makes the image of crowds pressing upon the pope almost unimaginable. In-person assemblies throughout the world of Christians, Jews and Muslims as they head into Holy Week, Passover and Ramadan are being curtailed – sometimes by law and at other times through and abundance of caution.

Here in the Washington DC area, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Ruth Eglash writing in the Washington Post note that three faith leaders, who normally lead worship within walking distance from each other in Northwest Washington, are all scrambling to find socially distant ways to celebrate major religious holidays this month. They are joined by clergy and the faithful around the world, including at well-known Christian, Jewish and Muslim sites in Jerusalem and beyond.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this disconnectedness has additional health risks and impacts on people, especially on those with substance abuse disorders.

To help all connect virtually, see Sue Warnke’s recent post, which links to various online resources from a variety of faith communities.

As we seek to support each other during this time, many, including the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, are hosting online Zoom meetings. It is important also to point out that, as a recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed, Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us. Simply, having so much direct face-time and eye contact with so many people can be overwhelming emotionally.  adding additional strain even while they provide support.

Finally, the WSJ points out that Zoombombing Harms the Alcoholics Anonymous Community. Zoom has recently upgraded security and settings recommendations. See here for the actions they have taken.

Tackling “Ramadan-At-Home” Productivity for Muslim Employees

4 Apr, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

On Tuesday, April 7, my friend, Mohammed Faris, the founder, and CEO of “The Productive Muslim Company” – a faith-based productivity training and coaching company – will share practical strategies that CEOs, HR Managers, Team Leads, and Faith-based Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), can leverage to connect, engage and support their Muslim professionals during this upcoming tough Ramadan: Tackling Ramadan-At-Home Productivity for Muslim Employees.

Organizations that have a sizable Muslim workforce or operate in Muslim majority countries need to be aware of and prepared for the spiritual and psychological challenges that the upcoming Ramadan will pose on Muslim employees – especially in the current climate.

Due to precautionary measures taken against COVID19, Muslims around the world will experience an unprecedented Ramadan without the usual Ramadan mosque-related rituals, iftar gatherings, or community Eid Celebrations.

Topics that will be covered include:

  1. (1) The Spiritual and Psychological challenges of a Ramadan at Home for Muslim Professionals
  2. (2) The value of Spirituality and Faith to reduce employee anxiety especially during these unprecedented times.
  3. (3) Practical tips to Connect, Engage, and Support Muslim Employees in the challenging Ramadan ahead.
  4. (4) Available resources from The Productive Muslim Company to support Muslim Employees during this period.

If you have Muslim employees or coworkers, I believe that you’ll find this seminar very useful. Register here.

Brian Grim, RFBF President