Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: January 2021

Violence is Widening the “Authenticity Gap”

9 Jan, 2021

by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

Flashes of violence – on the streets and in the US Capitol – fan the flames of distrust everywhere. Increasingly, people presume that everyone on “the other side” has the worst intentions. The fear is that “they” want to destroy what “we” hold dear.

Make no mistake: This distrust and suspicion seeps into our workplaces. We ignore it at our peril.

Times like these drive many to silence. The problem is, silence is fertile ground for conspiracy theories, worry and hatred. It’s far better to promote a culture of authenticity and transparency about core issues and beliefs.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting the answer is to launch debates in the workplace on particular hot political topics. That’s rarely productive since it focuses on issues rather than on relationships. Instead, I submit that the work to strengthen trust and connection is best focused on the field of basic principles.

As I noted last week, “religion” has been defined as “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” Now we’ll take that further. Those of us who’ve been promoting Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) have seen, time and again, that when workers sincerely open up about the basic core principles that motivate and inspire them, there’s remarkable collegiality. More, there’s broad agreement on the basic values that play out in the workplace every day, including values like:

  • – Respect for all people, whoever they are;
  • – The right of all human beings to be treated with dignity and fairness, as we ourselves would like to be treated;
  • – The right of people to live and speak according to their beliefs, insofar as that right doesn’t actually impinge on the rights of others;
  • – A desire for facts (and not prejudice) to drive decisions; and
  • – A desire for friendship, and even reconciliation, across cultures.

In diverse environments that promote FoRB for all, we’ve seen hearts turned toward reconciliation and connection. Workers often come to see that the proverbial “they” are not really bent on harming “us”. There certainly remain large areas of significant disagreement about the implications of certain facts, what constitutes “fact,” and specific policies best suited to accomplish fairness and justice; but those involved often come to see that, if “we” believed what “they” believe about a given situation, we’d be standing alongside them in solidarity. The door to deeper trust, reconciliation and meaningful friendship is opened when coworkers connect about their foundational principles.

What’s the alternative? If we presume that the differences in our basic personal principles are so fundamentally opposed that they cannot be reconciled, then, perhaps the best we can do is create a culture that compels employees to hide their core principles, or pretend they don’t exist. Is it feasible to do that? Does that strategy square with the goals of our diversity and inclusion programs? Is that “right?”

The good news is that, in the workplace, in our experience, the most divisive differences don’t flow from different fundamental principles of fairness. The biggest differences flow from different assumptions and perceptions. To be sure, hatred does surface sometimes. But it’s often grounded in misunderstanding. In any case, it’s better to see hatred out in the open, than to enable it to be concealed and be surprised when it rears its ugly head.

There’s hope for civility. Workplaces can be crucibles for peace, trust and warm friendship across cultures and across ideological walls. Among other vignettes, just consider the friendship between Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.

We’ll pursue this in future posts. In the meantime, we’d love to have your comments, thoughts and disagreement about these important things. Join the dialogue! Challenge us!

Comment on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Invitation: If you’re ready to advance civility and connection in the workplace, join us each week for Authenticity & Connection, a concise and thought-provoking reflection by Kent Johnson and guests; and help shape this important dialogue by weighing in via LinkedIn or Facebook.

Google’s Diversity Lead to Headline National Faith@Work Conference

6 Jan, 2021

Tomas Flier, Google’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead, will deliver a keynote presentation at the 2nd annual National Faith@Work ERG Conference, Feb. 9-11, 2021 hosted by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF) and the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

In Flier’s keynote, he will tell the story of how building a culture of belonging for all at Google includes religious inclusion.

“We are excited to hear from Mr. Flier how religious inclusion benefits not only Google’s global workforce but also all of us who rely on the many innovative products and services provided by Google every day,” said Brian Grim, RFBF President.

“Connection to one another and to our wider communities is an essential part of our wellbeing, and technology can help bridge physical distance and bring us together,” in How your faith community can come together online, by Kirk Perry, President, Global Client and Agency Solutions, Executive Sponsor of Google Inter Belief Network.

At Google there are currently 16 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) with more than 250 chapters globally – providing community, personal and professional development opportunities for Googlers from underrepresented communities. Google’s Inter Belief Network (IBN) aims to create a culture of inclusion, tolerance, and mutual understanding at Google for a diversity of beliefs, where Googlers of all beliefs feel welcome, included, and supported.

IBN also works to ensure that the voices of belief-based communities are represented in Google’s products. IBN consists of multiple member chapters representing specific communities of interest, including but not limited to: Buddhists, Christians, Jewglers, Muslims.

The conference – to be held virtually – brings together representatives of Fortune 500 companies who are members of faith-and-belief employee resource groups (ERGs). It also is a national convening point for workplace chaplains and corporate leaders interested in ethical leadership in the tech age of AI.

The 2021 conference theme is Authenticity & Connection, which is kicked off today by a discussion-starting blog by Kent Johnson, RFBF Senior Corporate Advisor. Join the discussion online today via our LinkedIn or Facebook page.

See full EIN PressWire.

The Authenticity Gap

5 Jan, 2021

Picture these scenarios:

  • 1. Without explanation, management abruptly abandons a project you’ve devoted months to pursuing.
  • 2. Credit for a successful project is lavished on someone who – it seems – did little.
  • 3. A customer is treated in a way that seems improper or unfair to you.

There may be legitimate explanations for each of these kinds of situations. But we need to consider, without the benefit of knowing all the facts all the time, whether we can trust that our coworkers’ motivations are justifiable; that their actions are driven by the facts, consistent with core ethics and fairness, and that they are undertaken with respectful regard for those affected – and not driven by self-interest or prejudice.

This is a serious problem. Skepticism about coworkers’ motives saps energy and squashes collaboration and initiative. We want to disengage. Quit. Or accuse.

What is the Root of the Distrust Problem?

A big part of the problem is that we have an “Authenticity Gap.” Often it seems our coworkers are playing roles. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our key workmates had no guile; no pretension; no ulterior motives … if we knew enough about them to be able to give them the benefit of doubt when we don’t see the whole picture. Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose and hard to give, unless workers up and down the reporting chain are being authentic with one another.

How Do We Close the Authenticity Gap?

There’s no quick fix for the Authenticity Gap. A culture of trust and authenticity doesn’t just happen; it’s never complete. But I do have a proven principle to share: To bridge this gap, it’s essential to consistently encourage Freedom of expression of Religion and Belief (FoRB).

Why Religion?

Webster includes a definition that’s particularly helpful for our purposes: Religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” I’d submit that everyone – atheist, agnostic or devout – has that. By definition, this “religion” matters to our people. If we want coworkers to be authentic, and if we really want to learn what makes them tick, FoRB ought to matter to us. We should seek to create a work culture that welcomes expression of their deeply-held “cause, principle or system of beliefs.”

What do you think? Have you experienced the Authenticity Gap? If so, what are your thoughts on how to address it?

Kent Johnson

Invitation: If you’re ready to advance civility and connection in the workplace, join us each week for Authenticity & Connection, a concise and thought-provoking reflection by Kent Johnson and guests; and help shape this important dialogue by weighing in via LinkedIn or Facebook.