Faith and religious beliefs in the workplace are often seen as causes of conflict. But is it possible that one’s faith could provide the means for enrichment and enhanced communications among employees and staff?
Yes, says educator David W. Miller. It can be the source of inclusion and positive influence, a unifying resource. “Increasingly, people want to bring their whole selves to work, including their personal beliefs,” says Miller, director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative, lecturer in the religious studies department, and professional specialist.
On Thursday, November 19, at 2 p.m. Miller will guest lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary for students taking the Seminary President’s Leadership course. Miller will cover conflict in the workplace, its causes and forms, and what clergy can do about it.
The integration of faith in the workplace is happening across the country, not just in the “Bible Belt,” he says. The good news is that clergy, business executives, and human resources departments have the power to create an environment that supports employees’ needs and prevents potential problems that could arise from lack of company policy or awareness of trends in the workplace.
Miller shares a recent experience; an organization had invited him to lecture on the topic of religion and the workplace, and the date happened to fall on evening of Yom Kippur. He mentioned the timing to the organizers, but they didn’t see it as an issue and hadn’t considered that the lecture date could prevent many staff from attending. In another example, a colleague told him about a big company dinner that offered no choices for a large group of employees because vegetarian dishes were not on the menu.
The best environment a company can offer its employees is one that is faith friendly, says Miller. Based on his research — defined on the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative website (princeton.edu/faithandwork) — he finds that organizations tend to be one of four types: faith-avoiding, faith-safe, faith-based, and the aforementioned faith-friendly.
The avoiders tend to suppress expressions of faith and see the inclusion of faith at work as being problematic.
Faith-based companies are overtly grounded in a particular religion or tradition. For small and privately held entities, this approach may be appropriate. However, it could present problems for larger and publicly held companies who could be at risk of discriminating against employees from one tradition over others in terms of hiring, promotion, or retention.
Faith-safe organizations represent a midpoint between the faith-avoidance and faith-based companies. The safe company is certain to comply with laws on discriminating against an individual’s religion. However, it does not encourage activities or create policies to expand awareness and show positive appreciation of faith.
The faith-friendly organization goes beyond minimum legal requirements and is respectful and welcoming of all faith traditions. This company recognizes the centrality of faith in many employees’ lives, and their desire to live an integrated, holistic life both at work and at home. It promotes a culture of respect, diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. In addition to religious and spiritual orientations, secular humanism, atheism, and other materialist worldviews are honored.
“We all have faith in something,” says Miller, “whether in reason, logic, and that which we can see and measure, or in the invisible and metaphysical, what some people might call God or the Divine. So being faith friendly is 100 percent inclusive, from atheist to Anglican.”
An important aspect of fostering a faith-friendly environment is recognizing and respecting the different ways people bring their faith to work. Based on his research and direct experience in work environments, Miller developed a rubric titled “The Integration Profile” (TIP): Faith and Work Integration Scale. The TIP model, comprising people of all worldviews, was introduced in his book: “God at Work: The History & Promise of the Faith at Work Movement” (Oxford University Press, 2007). In subsequent years he further developed the model with professor Timothy Ewest of Wartburg College.
The TIP model can be used by individuals to discover their faith and work integration preferences, and it can be used by companies as a means for understanding the makeup of the worker population and for informing human resources policies and organizational practices.
Miller has found that people tend to manifest their faith at work in specific ways. He defines these manifestations as the Four E’s: enrichment, ethics, experience, and expression. He also defines a fifth type, the non-integrator, who has no desire to integrate faith and work.
The enrichment types place high value on the way religion, spirituality, or consciousness enriches their work life. Their motivators include drawing strength and comfort from their work, coping with problems, and finding wisdom and personal growth through work.
People from this group tend to be inward and contemplative in nature and engage in various practices and disciplines such as prayer, devotionals, scripture study, liturgical activities, accountability exercises, yoga, meditation, or other reflective practices. They generally find that faith enriches their ability to stay humble amid times of success and hopeful in times of failure.
Within this type, there are those who are socially oriented and like to join groups and communities, and those who are individually oriented for whom expression of faith is more of a private matter.
The ethics types place high value on ethical concerns and actions. They are informed by commandments, rules, parables, and wisdom literature as a motivation for their decisions and actions.
Within this type, there are those with a community orientation who care about practices and trends that impact others within an organization or society at large. Within the organization, examples could include product and worker safety, benefits, compensation and discrimination. On a societal level, examples could include the environment, corporate social responsibility, and corruption.
Others within this type have a stronger self orientation and are more concerned with their own personal conduct and behavior. Virtues, such as integrity, character, honesty, loyalty, and respect for others are highly important to them. They are disinclined to engage in personal misconduct issues such as, sexual impropriety, disrespectful behavior toward others, cheating on expenses, conflict of interest, and misuse of power.
The experience types place high value on how they experience their work. The motivators include a search for meaning, purpose and value in the work itself. They are committed to excellent performance, and their work has a deep personal resonance and even divine importance. Some people view work as a spiritual vocation or a calling, sometimes believing that God placed them in their position for a purpose.
Some people in this group have an outcomes orientation where work is understood as a means to an end. It is not their title or position that gives them meaning or purpose. Rather, it is a sense of connection to their work’s social benefit and the opportunity to serve others, and for some, a form of honoring of God.
The expression types place high value on the ability to express their views to others. Some from this group see themselves as an ambassador for their faith. They often have a desire to persuade others to join their faith or worldview, have a sense of religious obligation, or a desire to exercise freedom of expression.
Miller says he finds it interesting to be working in Princeton today, close to his childhood hometown of Pennington, where father was a research scientist and his mother was a school teacher.
Before accepting his position at the university, he spent 16 years serving senior executive positions in international business and finance, including eight years in London, where he was a partner in a private equity firm that specialized in international investment management, corporate finance, and mergers and acquisitions. He also held executive positions at HSBC Group, Midland Bank plc, and State Street Bank & Trust, and sales and marketing positions at IBM. He holds degrees from Konrad Adenauer Gymnasium (Langenfeld, Germany), Bucknell University, and an MDiv in theology and PhD in ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary.
In addition to his research, teaching, and programs at Princeton University, he also serves as an advisor to corporate CEOs and senior executives on ethics, values-based leadership, culture change, and the role of faith at work.
“The idea of integrating faith with the workplace might seem counter intuitive,” says Miller. “But if understood and embraced, it can promote healthy curiosity, respect, and collegiality among staff.”