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Does Religion Have a Place In the Office?

Does Religion Have a Place In the Office?
Credit: Jackson/Shutterstock

While discussion of religion is often a taboo subject in some businesses, it could be the secret to your employees' happiness, new research suggests.

Employees who openly discuss their religious beliefs at work are often happier and have higher job satisfaction than those who aren't as forthcoming, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Sooyeol Kim, one of the study's authors and a doctoral student in psychological sciences at Kansas State University, said for many people, religion is the core of their lives.

"Being able to express important aspects of one's life can influence work-related issues, such as job satisfaction, work performance or engagement," Kim said in a statement. "It can be beneficial for organizations to have a climate that is welcoming to every religion and culture."

As part of the study, researchers surveyed nearly 600 working adults from a variety of industries in the United States and South Korea. The surveyed employees were all Christian, but identified with a variety of denominations, including Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist, among others. In the survey, participants were asked how important religion was to them and how it helped to shape their identity. [ ]

The study's authors discovered that employees who valued religion as a core part of their lives were more likely to disclose their religion in the workplace. Conversely, employees who felt pressure to integrate in the workplace were less likely to disclose their religious identity.

Additionally, the researchers found that employees who disclosed their religion in the workplace had several positive outcomes, including higher job satisfaction and higher perceived happiness.

"When you try to hide your identity, you have to pretend or you have to lie to others, which can be stressful and negatively impact how you build relationships with co-workers," Kim said.

The researchers found no major differences between the U.S. and Korean samples, as well as among the different industries.

Based on the study's results, employers might want to consider a religion-friendly policy or find ways to encourage religious expression, Kim said. Some examples that researchers suggested include having an office Christmas party while also recognizing and celebrating other religious holidays and dates, such as Hanukkah, Ramadan or Buddhist holidays.

The study was co-authored by Brent Lyons, an assistant professor of management and organization studies at Simon Fraser University; Jennifer Wessel, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Maryland; Sonia Ghumman, an assistant professor of management at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; and Ann Marie Ryan, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.