The title above sounds like the start of a joke. But depending on the conversation that follows and the organizational culture it takes place in, it could be the start of improved results for your organization. Unfortunately, given the stats that 39% of religious minorities are reluctant to speak up at work, it’s more likely at least one of them will have a great idea or insight to contribute but instead of offering it to the group, they will hold back. At that moment, everyone loses – your organization loses their talents and they lose the opportunity to contribute and feel valuable. Most concerningly, the team and its leadership may never know what they are missing.

Religious minorities face discrimination and microaggressions on an unfortunately regular basis, sometimes compounded by discriminations stemming from their race or gender. And while we’ve become better at opening conversations about race, gender, gender expression and sexuality, many of us still tiptoe around religion.

Why is that? As a culture we’ve been taught not to engage in conversations about religion at work, in part because Western society views religion as a private, internal component of ourselves. But the reality is that by not talking about it, we perpetuate an organizational culture where religious diversity is, at best, politely ignored or tolerated, and at its worst, makes our colleagues feel excluded, dismissed, or unseen.

One of the leading topics in thinking about workplace effectiveness is psychological safety. Psychological safety might sound soft and fuzzy, but it’s vitally important. I have written about it before in this interview  I did of University of Toronto professor Tiziana Casciaro where we discuss how psychological safety is really the permission to speak up and disagree. It turns out that we are far more likely to do this in the right environment, namely one where we feel accepted and safe enough to voice our disagreement or to challenge the consensus. The bonds of trust that environment creates allows divergent thinking where new ideas abound, sparking new conversations that expose blind spots, highlight hidden opportunities, and generate creativity.

To create psychological safety, our colleagues need to feel seen as a whole person, and not just because we value their work product. Religious minorities need to know they can share about things that matter to them – from an upcoming religious observance to the impact of the latest incidence of discrimination on the evening news – and be fully supported. And they need to be assured, through our words, actions and culture that their ideas are fully welcomed. This all starts with open conversations.

On February 16, Encounter is hosting a webinar on Making the Case for Religious Literacy at Work. Using current research as our foundation, we will discuss the many ways religious literacy can result in a more effective and inclusive work environment. In addition, we will also look at how it can affect the way your clients or the public sees your organization. At the end of the webinar, our participants will leave with solid information to help open conversations in their own workplace. We invite you to join us and we’re offering 20% off (coupon details MTC20PERCENT). We would appreciate it if you could help us spread the word about this webinar by sharing it with your business colleagues and friends. They are also welcome to take advantage of the coupon.

This is an important conversation – one that we all need to feel more comfortable opening in our workplaces. Won’t you join us?

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