i4cp Study Finds Employers Struggling with How to Handle Religious Differences

SEATTLE, WA (June 9, 2008) – According to a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), nearly a third of employers surveyed said they have seen personal clashes in the workplace linked to religion. Despite the frequency, it’s clear that many of those organizations are still unsure of how to handle religious differences in the work environment.

While 61% of companies said they have made an accommodation for an employee based on the worker’s religious beliefs, just 12% of respondents actually have a written definition of what is considered to be a “religious belief.” And, even though a third of respondents reported that their organization has experienced personal friction over religious beliefs, almost two-thirds of those companies said they do not have a written policy specifically addressing religious bias.

Perhaps because of this lack of clarity, most companies opt to handle disputes quietly and internally. Over half (56%) of the employers surveyed reported that they use in-house mediation to resolve religious disputes. For some, those disputes might be avoided if leaders were better trained on how to handle them. Of the companies surveyed, a mere 29% train managers on how to avoid religious bias in their decision-making.

“Businesses must find ways to handle religious conflicts while allowing room for employees’ spiritual needs,” said Anne Lindberg, research analyst with i4cp. “Effectively handling religious differences not only requires specific attention, but also creativity, empathy and fairness."

When asked about practices used to attend to religious diversity, 68% of companies reported they “make reasonable accommodations for beliefs and practices,” implying that the remaining 32% don’t. “This is interesting because, by law, all companies are supposed to offer reasonable accommodations,” Lindberg adds.

Other findings from the survey:
  • Fifty-five percent of companies provide flexible scheduling to allow people to attend religious services, yet only 33% offer paid time off for religious holidays.
  • 31% said that unsolicited sharing of religious views has been a problem in the workplace.
  • 13% said that, because of their religious beliefs, employees have refused to do certain work or associate with certain co-workers.

The Taking the Pulse: Religious Discrimination survey was conducted by i4cp, in conjunction with HR.com, in April 2008. A total of 278 organizations participated. The full results of the survey are now available exclusively for i4cp corporate members.

About i4cp, inc.

i4cp is the world’s largest private network of corporations focused on improving workforce productivity. Our vendor-free community facilitates innovation by giving our members – among the largest and most respected organizations in the world – access to:
  1. Peers to spark new ideas and prevent “reinventing the wheel,”
  2. Research to enable members to understand current practices and next practices,
  3. Tools to put ideas and research into action,
  4. Technology to enable members to easily access tailored information and execute workforce strategies.

With more than 40 years of experience and the industry’s largest team of human capital analysts, i4cp is the definitive destination for organizations seeking innovative ways to improve workforce productivity.