COMMENTARY | Within your appointed "space" at work, is it proper to define the real you by displaying mementos, trinkets, photos or heaven forbid, bobble heads? I'm an employer: I want my employees to incorporate a connection to their personal lives while at work. A U.S. News & World Report LP article I read tagged office, desk or cubicle items that might offend co-workers. How would I handle personal religious objects if it became problematic for employees in my company?
The article raises a major question for me about personal items concerning religion. Essentially, the article notes that it's OK to display a religiously inspired quote in your space; obviously, wallpapering it with a recruitment campaign for your church or particular religion is not.
What about religion and people who share a space? Four people who work in two of our company's stores share one office and one desk. I have no doubt religion based items might rub others' the wrong way.
Balance in Religious Differences
A woman who works weekends has been with my 19-year-old company for 12 years. She's an exceptional person, a skillful worker, and draws her philosophies from atheism. Naturally, I never inquired about her religious preference; that's against the law. However, when someone works for you long enough, you come to know a lot about their personal lives.
Until I read the article, I never gave a thought to this woman occupying an office and desk with several people who came and went over the years. I know from conversation that two of those former employees lived as dedicated Catholics.
What would I do if the Catholic employees placed figurines of Christ or the Virgin Mary on the desk they shared? Would that be fair to the employee who's an atheist? Of course, it wouldn't. Truthfully, a standard of religious diversity fairness that everyone agrees on in the workplace eludes me.
More Questions than Answers
I don't even like to think about ever having to play the role of the company's religion Grinch. That is not appealing to me at all. Luckily, religious tension among my employees does not exist. I'm honest when I say I'm not sure how I'd deal with something of that nature. I do know this: I believe that as the owner of the business, I need to uphold a respectful working environment for everyone. I"ll do what I have to do.
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