Religious and Generational Diversity in the Workplace

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Four generations of people now exist in the workplace: the Traditionalist Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y/Millennials. When it comes to celebrating religious holidays and sharing spirtiual benefits, this co-inhabitance can create challanges in a professional environment.

Claire Simmers, Ph.D., chair and professor of managment at Saint Joseph's University is Philadelphia, says employers can foster a workplace where individuals have the freedom to express their spirituality while accommodating the differences of their peers. "Allowing employees the opportunity to uniquely express their spirituality boots their overall workplace satisfaction". Simmers offers the following advice to employers this holiday season:

1. Focus on creating a positive workplace and acknowledge that there is a spiritual side to all. Offering a meditation space at the beginning of each meeting with a moment of silence allows employees the opportunity for reflection during the workday.

2. Encourage free time outside of the office. Employers should promote a work-life balance by encouraging their employees to pursue their own interests during their time off- especially during the holidays- whether it's quality time with family and friends, volunteer opportunities or religious observance.

3. Celebrate differences. Accepting one's spiritual and religious views is crucial. Workers should be tolerant of differences when looking for common ground. One way this can be achieved is to include both standard holidays and non-traditional ways and employee may celebrate in the office newsletters and emails.

4. Work together. Multigenerational viewpoints enrich the workplace, so organizations should use this to their advantage. Employers may want to organize activities which foster altruistic behaviors- adopt a highway, collect toys, ect.- during the entire year and not just around the holidays.

5. Respect eachother. It's important not to make assumptions of people based on age. Not every Baby Boomer identifies with a formal religion and not every Generation Y'er is agnostic or self-centered.

Simmers, who explores generational differences and spirituality in her research, recently presented her findings during a meeting at the Academy of Management. She can be reached for comment at at (610)-660-1106 or by calling University Communications at (610)-660-1355.

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