Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: February 2022

Authenticity & Connection: New Landing Page

22 Feb, 2022

To make Kent Johnson’s Authenticity & Connection blogs more accessible, we’ve now organized them topically.

  • — The “WHY” of Faith & Belief at Work
  • — The “WHAT” of Faith & Belief at Work
  • — The “HOW” of Faith & Belief at Work
  • — The “WHO” of Faith & Belief at Work
  • — The “HOPE” of Faith & Belief at Work
  • — The “DIVERSITY” of Faith & Belief at Work

There’s also a link to contact Kent directly, as well as a link to access occasional guest posts from RFBF and partners.

This week’s blog focuses on a small part of the HOW of religious freedom and belief at work; specifically, the apparent tension between “Getting It Done” and “Building The Relationship”.

“Get it Done” or “Build a Relationship”?

21 Feb, 2022

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

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection, category HOW

Suppose you’re a middle manager who was recently assigned an important full-time project that’s expected to last a year. Your project co-workers don’t know one another. They’re of different races, nationalities, social backgrounds, cultures and religions. The project necessitates close, trusting collaboration among all of you. The time-sensitive business objective and general guidelines on how to accomplish it have been clearly communicated to all.

How will you help this group get started on a positive trajectory? How (if at all) will your core beliefs, and those of your teammates, help shape your course of action?

Some workers might reasonably decide to focus exclusively on accomplishing the specific business objective and ignore all the differences (since time is precious). Let’s call that the “Get It Done” (or “GID”) approach.

On the other end of the spectrum, some might seek to encourage personal dialogue up and down the reporting chain, so as to strengthen mutual understanding and connection (since it’s hard to build trust without seeking connection). We’ll call that extreme the “Building The Relationship” (or “BTR”) approach. WHERE WOULD YOU FALL ON THE GID/BTR SPECTRUM?

For those who lean toward GID: Would it make a difference if you knew that several essential team members consider it part of their personal “calling” and passion – their reason for existing – to connect meaningfully with their coworkers; and that they’d interpret an extreme GID approach as a signal that their core identity is devalued? What if this constraint on connection would cause them to disengage from the task at hand? Should you nonetheless silence the BTR extremists, and promote those like you, the GIDs? Is that approach likely to advance your cause?

For those who lean toward BTR: What if you learned that several team members ascribe highest value to accomplishing the task, and are sincerely worried that a focus on getting to know one another is a waste of time and will distract the team from the objective? Should you sit these diligent workers down against their will, and take time to try to persuade them that it’s better to BTR? Is that approach likely to change the GID devotee’s heart?

Your coworkers’ core beliefs, values and sensitivities (whether “religious” or not) shape the way they approach situations like this. Every individual is different. In some cases, a person’s hesitancy to discuss core beliefs and identity may result from introversion. Many may not have thought deeply enough to form a core belief. Or the hesitancy may stem from worry that personal disclosure of core beliefs would be viewed as rude or improper.

The diversity movement has shown that diverse perspectives strengthen a company’s performance and influence a more engaged, more civil environment. It’s almost always counterproductive to force individuals to behave in a way that they think violates their core values, beliefs and identity (unless, of course, those core values promote cheating, lying, bullying or other unethical behavior!) It’s demoralizing to feel shut down.

As is normally the case, Management has got to convey an urgency to “get the job done.” But most American work cultures already have this part down pat. Where it’s entrenched, the GID culture’s silence about coworker relationships is often interpreted as a message that efforts to connect on a meaningful level would be frowned upon. Worse, a dominant GID culture spawns a palpable fear among relationship-builders that they’ll be demoted or fired if they engage (or, at best, that they’ll be viewed as frivolous time-wasters). This is why, in our experience with diverse workforces, there’s usually a critical mass of team members who have a deep-seated, strong, but stifled desire to connect more meaningfully with their coworkers who are willing.

There are often ways to “get it done” and “build the relationship” at the same time. But FORCING middle-of-the-road uniformity on all individuals is often destructive. So here’s our advice, based on the experiences of many companies: Never try to force personal disclosure and relationship-building on unwilling individuals. Respect those on the GID side of the spectrum. Let it go. And in the same spirit of respect, be purposeful and vocal about freeing your BTR workers to live in accordance with their personal sense of ”calling” to connect.

There are many other facets of the GID/BTR spectrum at work, and we certainly haven’t provided the needed answers here. Hopefully these ideas trigger some useful dialogue in your workplace. Let us know if we can help you think through these nuanced issues.

In future installments we’ll discuss other apparent tensions; including questions concerning the role of faith and belief in “Social Responsibility vs. Profitability,” “Quality vs. Marketing Hype,” and “Product Design vs. Manufacturability.” It’s not a zero sum game in any of these cases. Advancing the one objective need not compromise the other. Authenticity and Connection can help.

3 Opportunities to Engage with Workplace Faith

19 Feb, 2022

Hear from folks at Google, Equinix, American Airlines, Intel & Tyson Foods

Would you like to see what religious freedom looks like inside some of the most innovative and successful workplaces in America? Here are three great opportunities:

March 3 (virtual): Interfaith ERG leaders at Google and Equinix share how they collaborate across companies to serve others (more details) (register)
March 23 (virtual via Brandeis Chaplaincy Lab): Jeffrey Murphy, a chaplain with Tyson Foods, shares what it means to support employees in a corporate setting (more details) (register)
April 21 (in-person, with BYU Management Society Phoenix Chapter): Intel Corporation and American Airlines ERG leaders discuss what their companies gain by having religiously inclusive workplaces (more details) (register)
And, for this weekend’s inspirational video, watch Texas Instrument’s (now retired) Senior Vice President Ellen Barker’s powerful talk on how a faith-friendly workplace benefits business.

Faith and Business, Together They Build a Better World

18 Feb, 2022

  • BYU Management Society, Phoenix*

  • Luncheon Venue: EVIT (East Valley Institute of Technology)

  • Thu, Apr 21, 11:30 AM (MST)

  • Register


Join us Thursday, April 21st for an enlightening panel discussion hosted by Brian Grim with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. He will be joined by Craig Carter from Intel and Father Greg McBrayer from American Airlines. Hear what two businesses have gained when they are religiously inclusive in their workplace. Find out which Fortune 100 businesses are doing it, and how you can too.

* The Phoenix Chapter of the BYU Management Society is a group of business professionals dedicated to growing moral and ethical leaders in our community. They have a mutual respect for high moral and ethical standards as a code of business conduct and integrity. They serve the greater Phoenix area and deliver programs to help members live by high standards and grow as leaders. Membership is open to everyone who values and strives to live by moral and ethical standards.

Corporate Chaplaincy with Jeffery Murphy

18 Feb, 2022

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation supports this webinar.

What does it mean to support employees?

Join Jeffrey Murphy, a chaplain* with Tyson Foods, for a discussion of chaplaincy in a corporate setting.

Corporate chaplaincy is a growing field. Yet many in the profession have little knowledge of chaplaincy in the corporate setting, not least because CPE is often based in the healthcare. How will our industry adjust to the growth of corporate chaplaincy and prepare candidates for work in this field?

This webinar will offer the reflections of one chaplain who moved to the corporate setting after nearly thirty years in healthcare. It will also look at the growth and potential growth of corporate chaplaincy, and the similarities and differences between chaplaincy in the healthcare setting and the corporate setting.

* Chaplains are pastoral/spiritual practitioners (of any faith or belief) who seek to build a relationship of trust through compassionate presence and thereby offer help and support to a wide range of people.

Heroic Leadership: How to work with people different from yourself

16 Feb, 2022

Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World

Review by Brian Grim

As I reflected this week on the value of working with people different from myself, I came back to a point made by Chris Lowney in Heroic Leadership. With the provocative subtitle, Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World, he offers insights that benefit any organization – business or otherwise.

Chris Lowney vice chairs the board of CommonSpirit Health, America’s largest nonprofit health system with $29 Billion in revenues and more than 150,000 employees, and previously served as a Managing Director of J.P. Morgan & Co. on three continents.

But it is his stint as a Jesuit seminarian before his business career that influenced his approach. And the 450-year-old “company” is the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits (Pope Francis is a member), founded in 1534 by St. Ignatius of Loyola and his companions.

Reflecting on the large number of companies that were extolled in the 1982 “Best-Run Companies” book by Peters and Waterman, that are now no longer in business (e.g., Eastman Kodak and Kmart), Lowney offers a Jesuit insight.

Given that excellence is not a “timeless plateau that once attained is never forfeited … succeeding in this world requires individuals to cultivate the personal skills needed to thrive in an environment of near permanent change” (pp. 148-49).

One way that Jesuits cultivated the skill of such thriving is to “see God in all things.” This not only includes the people we encounter but each moment of the day, each sense and sensation, in the consolations and desolations we experience. This approach was in contrast to the monasteries and convents of Ignatius’ day, that found God within the walls, walls which were often viewed as providing protection from the vagaries, temptations and dangers of the world.

The principle of seeing God in all things means that we are actively seeking to see the good and excellent, and even the spiritual, in all we encounter. It embraces the messiness of the world rather than seeking protection from it. Such a skill breaks down barriers and creates workplaces that are innovative, trusting and collaborative, where people can adapt, create and respond quickly.

An example of this is the tremendous interfaith collaboration at one of today’s most successful global companies, Intel. To see it in action, check out the discussion between leaders from their Christian, Muslim and Jewish employee resource groups from our 2021 Faith@Work Conference: Today’s need for greater empathy and “thicker skin”.

Connecting with ‘WHY’ to Strengthen Workplace Culture: A Lesson from the Life of Clayton Christensen

9 Feb, 2022

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

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

At the end of your life, what will be the measure of your work success?

Put differently, day after day, what motivates your work? Is it the need to earn money to support a lifestyle or family? Personal recognition? Avoidance of blame? A desire to help the working group succeed? The sheer satisfaction of a job well done? A desire to provide truly useful goods and services to customers, or to make the world a better place?

This year, for its 100th birthday, the Harvard Business Review is highlighting twelve of HBR’s “finest articles.” It’s notable that the first in this series was written by a self-described “deeply religious” man, Professor Clayton M. Christensen (1952-2020)*, about the intersection of his faith and his work: How Will You Measure Your Life? (

Facing life-threatening cancer, Christensen wrote:

“Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.”

“It’s quite startling that a significant fraction of the 900 students that Harvard Business School draws each year from the world’s best have given little thought to the purpose of their lives.”

“I have a pretty clear idea of how my ideas have generated enormous revenue for companies that have used my research; I know I’ve had a substantial impact. But as I’ve confronted this disease, it’s been interesting to see how unimportant that impact is to me now. I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.”

“My purpose grew out of my religious faith, but faith isn’t the only thing that gives people direction.”

“Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.”

For many like Prof. Christensen, the ultimate “why” of work is rooted in their faith. They seek to honor God in the way they perform their duties, and the way they treat others. That’s why they honor their commitments, treat others with respect, stand up for the rights of others, give credit where it’s due, visit coworkers in the hospital, and show other kindnesses. For some, such deeds are a way of earning God’s favor. For others, works like these are an appropriate, worshipful response of gratitude for God’s unmerited kindness to them.

Of course, many workers simply haven’t thought about it. They go to work day after day without reflecting on any ultimate why.

We at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation are driven to celebrate and enable cultures that encourage free and voluntary discussions about workers’ personal “whys.” We help companies listen to the diverse personal WHYs of their people. We do this because we’ve seen how such workplace discussions facilitate positive, transformative authenticity and connection. We’ve seen that, when employees voluntarily open up to disclose their “why,” there’s a self-induced accountability to act according to those expressed principles. When they tell, as Christensen did, about the intersection of their faith and their work, and live according to their professed principles, they inspire others, and sow hope. And when they die, they leave a legacy of civility that makes the world a better place.

The large positive legacy that Clay Christensen left is not measurable in dollars. His life story touches many who are outside his faith tradition. In a comment on Christensen’s Boston TedX Talk (with 1 million views), Cameron Fife aptly observed:

“For those of you who aren’t really religious, I think the point he is trying to make at the end of his talk is this: Don’t measure your life by the amount of money, the degree, or the number of friends you have by the time you die. It’s much better to think about some of the individual experiences or moments in your life where you can really see the good impacts you made on your peers or society as a whole.”

Whether we’re “religious” or not, the question of one’s ultimate “why” is, essentially, a matter of faith and belief. To the extent that we seek to conduct our daily work so as to leave a particular kind of legacy, we honor the core principles (God’s will, as it were) we profess to live by.

That is the standard against which our lives will be measured. It’s worth considering.

* Clayton Magleby Christensen (April 6, 1952 – January 23, 2020) was an American academic and business consultant who developed the theory of “disruptive innovation”, which has been called the most influential business idea of the early 21st century. Christensen introduced “disruption” in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma, and it led The Economist to term him “the most influential management thinker of his time.” He served as the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School (HBS), and was also a leader and writer in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christensen was also a co-founder of Rose Park Advisors, a venture capital firm, and Innosight, a management consulting and investment firm specializing in innovation. For more, see the New York Times obituary of Christensen, which describes his lasting impact on business.

New Publications on Faith@Work

9 Feb, 2022

Faith@Work is not only a growing movement within Fortune 500 companies (see REDI Index), it is also a topic of scholarly study. For example, RFBF has contributed chapters to three recent Routledge publications:

Authors of books related to faith@work movement will be joining us at our May 23-25, 2022, Faith@Work National ERG conference Dare to Overcome, including David W. Miller, Ph.D., Director of Princeton University’s Faith & Work Initiative, who is revising his classic God at Work (Oxford University Press) in light of the growing multi-faith workplace engagement.

Also, Rear Admiral Alan Baker (US Navy, ret.), 16th Chaplain of the Marine Corps, will keynote our special corporate chaplaincy track with insights from his seminal book Foundations of Chaplaincy: A Practical Guide (Eerdmans). Chaplains of various faiths and denominations provide compassionate ministry of presence in some of America’s largest corporations, including American Airlines, Tyson Foods, and Coca-Cola Consolidated, all sponsors of our May 23-25 conference.

If your company would like to participate in the 2022 REDI Index, email and/or learn more here.

Overcoming Disengagement

2 Feb, 2022

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

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection

In May 2021 I wrote a blog on “Strengthening Employee Engagement.”  Since then, companies have seen a swelling flood of disengagement in workplaces.  A Gallup study published in early 2022 has revealed this:

“For the first year in more than a decade, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined in 2021. Just over one-third of employees (34%) were engaged, and 16% were actively disengaged in their work and workplace, based on a random sample of 57,022 full- and part-time employees throughout the year.”

Disengagement presents a serious threat to a company’s bottom line, to a company’s culture, and to society at large.

  • — When employees are disengaged, they’re more likely to lag in productivity, to promote dissatisfaction in their coworkers, and to quit.  In a famous study several years ago, Gallup concluded that “…an actively disengaged employee costs their organization $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary, or 34 percent. That means that a disgruntled or “checked out” person on staff making $60,000 a year costs their company $20,400 for that same year.”
  • — But disengagement doesn’t “just” rob the financial bottom line.  Disengagement also sucks the vitality out of a workplace.  It decouples employees’ work from their passion, and isolates their work from their core purpose in life.  In a real sense, disengagement robs workers of what makes them human.
  • — One of the outcomes of disengagement is that employees are quitting (see my blog post on the Great Resignation).  Alongside the rise in resignations, we’re seeing a rise in loneliness, substance abuse, violence and suicide.

Why is disengagement on the rise?  Several contributing factors can be cited.  The 2022 Gallup study noted the impact of physical isolation due to Covid; but also pointed out that companies with strong corporate cultures have remained vibrant.  As Jacob Morgan reported in his 2017 article in Harvard Business Review, companies that invest in employee experience outperform those that don’t. Perhaps more now than ever, what’s needed is a focus on freeing employees to express their hearts, and listening to them.

Unfortunately, in many corporate cultures, even today, there’s a perceived or real “gag order” on faith-oriented discussion in the workplace.  That constraint has the effect of fortifying perceived walls of separation.  It prevents many employees from truly “showing up” at work.  It discourages those who want to connect with one another on a deep level, and keeps them from building trust across faith traditions.

It’s high time that companies invite all their employees to openly apply their faith and beliefs to work.  We should encourage them to share the values, traditions and motivations that define their core identity and inform and inspire the way they work.

The diversity movement has much to say on topics like full engagement and welcoming people across the spectrum.  It’s about time the principles driving diversity and inclusion were embraced more broadly and applied to employees’ faith and belief in particular.

The good news is that faith and belief is being unleashed in more and more companies.  (See the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s REDI Index).  Where it is, we’ve seen warm, respectful, healing connection and mutual respect.  These companies are weaving a fabric of culture that strengthens friendships, improves the bottom line and makes the world a more civil place.

Let’s free our people to be more engaged at work.