Does faith have a place at work? CEOs at some major corporations think so.
John Tyson, chairman of Tyson foods doesn’t believe that faith needs to be checked at the door when you come to work. He believes that “(His) faith is just an ongoing evolution, trying to understand what faith in the marketplace looks like, giving people permission to live their faith seven days a week…If people can talk about the football game on Monday, why can’t they talk about their faith?” Tyson Foods employs chaplains to provide support to employees of all faiths, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels had a deep devotion to God that permeated his business decisions and personal life. Upon his death, he left most of his fortune to a Catholic charity with the statement that “There is a natural law, a Divine law that obliges you and me to relieve the suffering, the distressed and the destitute.”
Do Won and Jin Sook Chang are cofounders and owners of the popular fashion brand Forever 21. As professed Christians, they share that God told them to open the store, and they continue to attend church every morning. Chang keeps a Bible open on his desk and has placed the scripture John 3:16 on the bottom of every store bag as a statement of faith.
What Is Faith?
Faith is confidently trusting that something will happen, particularly when we don’t yet understand how it’s possible. Faith often evokes a spiritual attitude, associated with a belief in a higher power, such as God. To be effective, faith requires some action based on your belief, and often as a result of your past experiences. You may exercise faith that individuals on your team will perform in a certain way based on their past performance. You may exercise faith to be able to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.
One of my favorite examples of faith comes from the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At the climax of the movie Indiana (played by Harrison Ford) must save his father’s life by quickly finding the Holy Grail. He comes to the edge of a cliff and his map says he must somehow get across a bottomless chasm to the side of the neighboring cliff. There’s no visible means to cross it, and nowhere else to go, but the map has proven true up to this point. He takes a deep breath, then lifts one foot and steps forward, muttering that he’s taking a leap of faith. His sigh of relief is palpable when he finds that a span of rock has appeared before him bridging the distance across the deep void. His belief in the origin of the map was the basis for exercising faith that his steps were correct. In a similar manner, your experience with the maker of your “map” is your basis for exercising faith.
Can You Really Bring Faith to Work?
The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center5 reports that 70% of the population report some affiliation with Christian religions (i.e. Protestant, Catholic, etc.) while almost 6% identify with a non-Christian faith (i.e. Jewish, Muslim), and another 22% report no religious affiliation. These numbers indicate that a high percentage of employees bring some measure of faith into the workplace. Yet, like politics, it is an often avoided or delicately approached topic for fear of offending or being accused of proselytizing others.
As companies seek to engage and retain employees and talk about “bringing your whole self to work,” there may be benefit in opening a respectful dialogue about faith at work. In doing so, it’s important for leaders to set the tone of mutual respect and openness to various perspectives.
As a leader for many years in corporate America I brought my faith to work every day. It was rarely a topic of explicit conversation, but ever present in my perspective, thoughts and approach to work. Most importantly, it provided me with the ability to view situations not as they were but as they could be with God powerfully working through me and my team to achieve appropriate goals. I felt I was given each assignment to accomplish His purpose in my environment.
I often prayed on my way to work, and while walking to meetings. This took my focus off my own capabilities, and placed it instead on God’s ability to intervene in every aspect of my work. I memorized scriptures that helped me to concentrate on how God would help me in a variety of situations. Thus, instead of over-reacting emotionally when things didn’t go as planned, this gave me a new level of peace. Yes, there were times when my level of anxiety would increase as a result of a particular issue, but that was also a sign that I needed to take a deep breath and focus on the only person I knew who could guide me through it.
I’ve found that leaders who exercise faith at work tend to follow four strategies for success.
- They listen. They have a relationship with God, and know how to hear His voice speaking to them. Specifically, they hear what God is saying about their work, ideas on how to complete it, insights and wisdom on how to approach it. They aren’t afraid to dream big.
- They obey. They put their faith into action, even when it doesn’t appear to make sense. They aren’t afraid of what others will think. They trust the process and are more comfortable seeing just the next step ahead, instead of the complete pathway.
- They believe. God is really working in and through them, and He has a bigger plan than they can imagine. They’ve seen it work before, and know it can happen again. They’re not surprised when unexpected things happen, impossibilities become possibilities, and paradigms shift.
- They receive. Miracles from God are manifested in tangible business results and achievements.
So, do you bring your faith to work? If so, how does it show up as an asset in your workplace?