Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Religion in the Work Place

I am sure I will get some heat for this post but I think it is grossly inappropriate for someone in a position of authority to push religious materials onto their subordinates. It is definitely a drawback at my workplace and happens way too often.

For example, I just heard the head of our IT department ask his newest associate if she likes to read. She responds that she reads sometimes but she doesn't have the time for it (from what I have learned, she has a small child that keeps her very busy)and she just finished college and is over reading books for awhile. Now most people would just dropped the subject, but he pushes on and says "that's ok I will find you this book on audio tape, it is really important that your read this book". This guy has done the same thing to me a few months ago and the book he is trying to get her to read is a book about the importance of christianity. He knew that I am not religious (and I have a feeling the new associate is not either) but yet he insisted that I read this book. He asked me a few times if I had read it and if I wanted to talk with him about what I learned. I finally got tired of it and snuck the book back on his shelf and then told him I'm just too busy with my two jobs to read. He proceeded to do the same thing to a young intern who you could tell by the way he was acting, he was feeling pressured into it as well. The intern only stayed for a short time.

I know how I felt when I was in this new associates shoes. I asked myself, is this going to prevent me from moving up with the company? Am I going to be passed over for promotions?

My boss, very sweet guy, is extremely religious and insists that we pray before all our meals, which I find inappropriate. I respect that he is religious, I just do not want it forced upon me. But if I say no, what will be the conscequences? I know many of these religious co-workers are against gay people and alternative families. How are those strong beliefs going to come into play when they find out I went and got pregnant on my own, on purpose? I fear I will be black balled because of it.

Until a few months ago, every person who was on the board for the company could be labeled fiercly religious (We just brought on two new boardmembers who are younger and a little more open minded). Even after the HR person repeatedly told the board that their mixing of religion with the workplace was a recipe for disaster, they still have not removed the crosses, which can be found in every meeting room, and they still hold morning prayer at 7:55 (not mandatory, yet highly encouraged to attend). Our owner of the company, another great guy who I do respect, is known to go around to make sure that the usual people attend.

What is really disturbing is that last year the IT Manager started a "book club", with weekly readings during the lunch break for those who are interested in joining. A few people replied to his email request (which was okayed through HR and I don't have a problem with the email)but to get more recruits he went "door-to-door" more than once trying to convince people they should go and that it would make them a better person. Ugggh. My good friend at work felt like she couldn't say no to his face and went. She said it was basically him preaching the whole time so she decided not to go to the second week. When he noticed that she didn't go, he had the balls to ask her why she wasn't there and then told her that he could make it up by going to the next one. double uggh.

Our Christmas Party, excuse me, we have to call it a staff appreciation party for tax purposes, was great but we had to endure a 30 minute sermon from the owners wife where she mentioned that having kids and being married is great and if you don't have these things you should get them!! I wanted to walk out. She never had kids and just got married for the first time in her 60's. Who the hell says those things?

We do work with many local government, state and Federal agencies who have policies against the very things that go on here on a daily basis. I am rather surprised they haven't cut ties with the company (although I am very thankful they see past this because I would otherwise be out of a job). State and Federal clients are in our meeting rooms all the time, they see the crucifixes. I wonder if the board members make our clients pray when they are at meetings or do they just do it to us?

As you can tell, it gets to me. I don't think I'm a bad person because I chose not to go to church and I resent the fact that they try to make me feel that way. I live my life in a manner where I try to be respectful of others, why can't they do the same? I really get frustrated when many of them act like they are better than those who don't share there exact beliefs. I know there are a few other people who share my sentiments but we are fearful of the concequences in forcing the issue of removing religious materials and talk from the workplace. Where will the line be drawn?


Kristina said...

Wow, that sounds pretty intense. Where WILL the line be drawn. You sound very tolerant and luckily pretty confident in your own self and beliefs. Pressuring interns and new hires sounds like an abuse of power. :( sorry you have to deal with this stuff (though I hear you respect many of these folks professionally). Hoping good things for you your next cycle!

Jen said...

You have to go to HR. What they are doing is more than borderline it's over the line. They can ask but they cannot badger. If it makes you uncomfortable, then it's time for you to take action.

I say this because I had to. A manager was sending out religious emails 2 - 3 times a day. Some of them were those ridiculous "If you love Jesus then forward..." ones but it is still inappropriate.

You have rights. Exercise them.

Billy said...

That sounds pretty bad to me. And what if the emplyee is not even a Christian?