Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Danger! Danger! And HOPE!

10 Apr, 2021
by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

Regardless of where you stand on the ideological or spiritual spectrum, “DANGER!” is the message you hear from your friends, your social media and your news outlets. And if you suggest that a particular danger is overstated, you risk being labeled “naïve,” or a “denier,” or a “traitor,” a “hater,” or something worse… and you risk getting cut off from your group. If your company speaks up on a particular social issue, it draws flak from the other side. If your company fails to take a public stand on the issue, it’s criticized for enabling an evil power structure by its silence. And what will happen to you if you express reservations about your company’s public stand? It all feels very dangerous.

But there’s hope.

Want a quick, simple answer that will yield harmony in every case? Sorry; not this week. But I will offer some hope. Kindly bear with me and extend to me the benefit of doubt for a few moments as you read this.

First, let’s talk about common ground. We at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation have seen the following five core principles working well and harmoniously to unite diverse employees throughout the world. One might argue about the implications of these principles in given situations, but their core message is embraced by people across the spectrum of faith and belief. The following five basic principles form a solid starting point:

Digging deeper, in previous blog posts I’ve reflected on the following issues that relate to the fear of DANGER:

Let’s go a bit further today.

Many doubt that heartfelt connection can be achieved across ideological, racial, religious, and political divides in our workplaces. It seems that people on “the other side” only pretend to listen to our concerns; that they don’t really care about “people like us.” Having grown cynical about the possibility of warm, sincere connection in a diverse workforce, many have concluded that the only way to guard against infringement of their rights is by exercising power over those who are different.

Perhaps we’ve been egged on by our respective interest groups to distrust one another. Perhaps we’ve grown too arrogant and self-righteous to acknowledge that others’ concerns about us might have some merit. Perhaps those other people are really evil (though I hope we’ll be especially careful about making that judgment). In any case, these doubts and fears present a big problem in our workplaces.

Consider the implications of these doubts and fears going forward. Fact is, we’ll always have differences and diversity. Today’s trends point to greater workplace diversity going forward. Whenever we force others – against their will and beliefs – to behave and speak the way we want them to behave and speak, we multiply these doubts and fears. Unless we find ways to connect without forcing conformity, we’re headed for endless, bitter power struggles. We need to find a way to escape this downward spiral.

I suggest we approach this problem through pathways that are often sidestepped in the workplace.

Many people of diverse faiths, and atheists, affirm and welcome the possibility of heart transformation. They acknowledge not just that others might come to believe what they believe, but also that they themselves can be enlightened and transformed further so as to better worship their god, to better love their colleagues, and to better conform their own hearts and actions to divine will and to reality. They believe that a movement of the spirit can replace bias and hatred with genuine warmth; even that their own hearts may need turning. They see that a movement impelled by external force has the undesirable effect of stirring resentment and fortifying the walls that separate us.

Steps to Strengthen Culture

This belief in the possibility and preferability of heart transformation spurs some to take culture-strengthening steps:

Every day, our workplaces – including our virtual workplaces – provide a terrific platform for constructing community and connection. Every day, we can resist the many swirling currents of culture that would divide and influence us to fear one another. We can overcome these destructive currents, provided that we don’t require that our coworkers agree with us as a precondition to building a deeper relationship. This can happen step by step. It can be instigated unilaterally. It needs to happen every day. Person to person.

There’s common ground here. Step out in faith, take the risk of crossing over to connect with others, and stand amazed as your corporate culture is transformed for the better, not by force, but willingly, and by love. This is a profoundly spiritual movement. It’s happening all across the world even as you read this blog. We’ve seen it.

So do not fear. There is danger… but there is hope. Join the conversation on LinkedIn.