Diversity of Religion at the Workplace

Workplace etiquette dictates that it is impolite to talk about religion. However, with more and more offices becoming culturally and religiously diverse, more often than not you have an colleague whose religion is different from yours. And when you work closely with them, it is natural to be curious about different practices.

So instead of asking too much, it would be better if you research about other religions first. Here are some basic facts.

Different religions dress differently

Although the Koran does not prescribe a dress, Islam calls for modesty. This is why many Muslim women cover their hair, neck, and ears using a veil, while others would go beyond that and cover their entire body. Meanwhile, Muslim men are also expected to dress simply, without the use of flashy colors, luxurious fabrics like silk, and gold chains. The male Sikhs are expected to wear turbans, and Jewish men may wear yarmulkes (or skullcaps). Catholics and Christians of many denominations may wear a cross as a symbol of their faith.

Different religions pray differently

Muslims are advised to pray five times a day for about 10 minutes each time. They kneel on prayer rugs and must face the direction of Mecca, Islam’s most sacred city. Some Muslims use a closed room for privacy, while others seek a secluded corner of the workplace. Meanwhile, some Catholics still pray the Angelus during noon and at dusk.

Different religions have their respective holy days

Many Christians consider Easter Sunday, as the most important holiday of the year. On Ash Wednesday, which is held 40 days before Good Friday, the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes. Meanwhile, Jews celebrate an important holiday called Passover, which usually coincides with Easter. This eight-day holiday marks the exodus and freedom of the Israelites from Egypt.

The ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, is considered holy among followers of Islam. This is the time when they practice fasting for the entire month, in which they eat and drink nothing (including water) from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr ("Breaking of Fast"). If your office wants to be considerate towards your Muslim colleagues, try not to hold special events or bring special goodies during this month. They won’t participate, which would dampen workplace relations.

For Hindus, their most important holiday is the five-day observance of Dival or "Festival of Lights." Hindus celebrate this occasion differently, depending on what part of India they are from. The common factor here is that this is the time when they clean their entire house and illuminate every room. This marks new beginnings in both personal and business relationships.

On a regular week, Muslims consider Friday as a holy day when they congregate at a mosque to pray, just like how Christians visit the church on a Sunday.

Different religions have different diets

You may have noticed some of your workmates have different eating habits or rituals. For instance, Jewish people do not eat any leavened products like bread or pasta during Passover. They also make sure that their food is "kosher," or complies with laws set forth in the Torah. Some Christians, meanwhile, tend to pray before eating. This is their way of thanking God for the bounty that they are about to receive.

Meanwhile, Mormons do not drink any caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, and cola, because their church prohibits caffeine. Hindus do not eat beef because cows considered sacred, and instead would eat lamb and chicken as their meat. Some Buddhists do not eat meat, but others do depending on their interpretation of Buddhism. Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcohol.

In this case, you need to be very considerate when going out with your colleagues of different religions for lunch.

Different religions have different practices

Do not castigate your Jewish or Seventh-Day Adventist workmates when they tend to leave early on a Friday. They may leave work in observance of the Sabbath. Meanwhile, colleagues under Jehovah’s Witnesses would insist not to have birthday parties for them. They believe such parties are considered as glorification of the individual, rather than the Creator. Christian Scientists would insist not to receive medication when they get sick. They believe the power of prayer would cure illnesses.


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