In a lot of ways, religious beliefs are like sex.
Your boss and co-workers shouldn’t necessarily know what you do behind closed doors, whether you’re straight, gay, bisexual, polyamorous; into kinky stuff or relatively tame.
Sure, you probably enjoy what you do and who you do it with, and maybe you think others should try it too, but you just shouldn’t share those nitty-gritty details for a long list of reasons. For one, it’s not politically correct. However, the more important reason is, in my opinion, it can also make other people extremely uncomfortable – especially the people you work with.
And while it may be more politically correct to discuss your religious beliefs than your sex life, it can definitely make people uncomfortable. It can also give hateful people the push they need to not like you or even discriminate against you, unfortunately.
If you’re looking for a job, it gets worse: when you disclose details about your religious beliefs in the job application process, you’re giving the recruiter an excuse to not hire you. Probably not because they hate your religion in particular, but because if you’re zealous enough to mention your beliefs in your resumé or cover letter, or if they can find evidence of your enthusiasm online in a blog or forum, they might think you could be hell – pun intended – to work with.
Although it’s illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their religion when considering them for a position or even after they’re hired, it probably happens more often than any Canadian would like to admit.
The possibilities are endless here, but they range from making people uncomfortable, as mentioned, to serious ideological conflicts and even human rights violations.
To those of you who are deeply religious – or anti-religious – this may come as a shock. But, the truth is, unless you require some kind of workplace accommodation for prayer or holidays, or the organization you want to work for is connected to organized religion in some way, your co-workers and especially your boss shouldn’t know what your religious beliefs are.
However, many people are involved in their temples, mosques and churches from an early age and it can be a good way to network, gain business experience and head up large projects. In some cases, it may be the only relevant experience a young person can show off on their resumé when applying for internships and entry-level roles.
And if you think your experience leading a church youth group or a temple charity drive is directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, stick strictly to business. Explain only the elements of your work you can quantify: number of youth led, amount of money raised, specifications of the website you designed and so on.
Never ever use hot-button words such as God, saviour, sin, scripture, ignorant, unenlightened, etc. because chances are your God or saviour is not theirs, they don’t consider themselves ignorant of your beliefs and they are just as enlightened as you are, they just live their life differently.
Religion can segregate people, and presidents, managers and leaders do not want their teams divided. Productivity and morale would suffer if Jenny couldn’t stand working with Bob because he continuously made her feel uncomfortable about her religious beliefs (or lack thereof), tried to recruit her to his religion or congregation, or judged her personal life by the rules of his religion.
And, yes, it can go the other way too: atheist Jenny could hassle Bob for being religious in a similar way.
Of course, just like politics – and yes, even sex – religion is bound to come up as you get to know people. It’s human nature. But there are so many things which make the current job market tough for students and new grads, there’s no need to give recruiters another reason to pass over your application.