Xerox and the Vision Quest

During the 1990’s Xerox incorporated several traditions of Native American tribes based in the Northeastern United States to foster creativity and employee communication. One such tradition involved employees spending up 24 hours in the mountains of New York with little more than water and a sleeping bag. Another involved group discussion where a stone was passed around and only the person holding the stone was allowed to speak. These activities were designed to inspire spiritual growth and unity among the employees, leading in turn to greater workplace creativity and productivity.

These quasi religious activities were not all universally accepted, as addressed in the case: "Xerox and the Vision Quest." In the case, a new employee, who is a professed atheist, expresses some concerns about participating in the retreat to the Production Manager. Beyond reaching outside the employees' comfort levels on the trip, there is the additional issue of not joining the activities and feeling left out or not as much a part of the team as a result. The Production Manager is faced with the difficult and delicate challenge of how best to respond.

Religion and Spirituality in the Workplace:

Other companies have also incorporated religious and spiritual ideas into their workforce. The owner of Chik-Fil-A, for example, is strongly Christian and the company has rules that prohibit its franchises from being opened on Sunday, referred to in the Bible as a day of rest meant to worship God. Many companies with large Muslim populations, such as Boeing, have incorporated prayer rooms so they keep with the practice of Salat.

However, the issue of the place of religion in the workplace has become more contentious of the years. The owner of Hobby Lobby recently made headlines for refusing to cover the health costs of employees that purchased birth control on the basis of religious grounds. Overall the number of incidents where employees have complained about religious issues at work have steadily increased since the late 1990s.

Potential Benefits of bringing spirituality to the workplace

Nowadays, many people feel that it is necessary and beneficial to establish and maintain a spiritual workplace. As mentioned in the Xerox case, the managers believe that spiritual activities can bring creativity to their products. Research shows that companies with spiritual workplaces experience improved productivity and reduced turnover from their employees. Also, as more unethical behaviors have been disclosed, the need to increase the experience of spirituality is growing.

Spirituality is essential to the pursuit of meaning and purpose in the workplace. Spiritual organizations have clearly distinguished their goals and responsibilities from profit-maximization. They tend to inspire their employees to view their jobs as more decent, and to contribute more to the society, therefore, the employees will feel more involved in the community. Spiritual organizations also aim to provide an environment which fosters positive relationships among coworkers. The sense of belonging will enable the employees to work hard together to achieve their common goals. Moreover, spirituality is essential to health, credibility, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, creativity, and commitment.

Concerns:

1. Religious-based discrimination

Most common elements of religious discrimination include the discounting of other people’s beliefs, religious jokes, compulsory services, exclusionary prayer, non association due to religion, failure to provide alternative services and lack of concern.

https://tanenbaum.org/publications/2013-survey/ (purchase required)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to:

  • Provide a workplace free from religious discrimination (including harassment)
  • Provide a reasonable accommodation for employee’s seriously held religious beliefs unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the company. (What constitutes reasonable accommodation and undue hardship depends on each situation’s facts.)

2.Lost talent with other religions or non-religions

Companies has certain religious or spiritual commitments may not explicitly discriminate employees with other beliefs, but they may feel uncomfortable or pressure working in such corporate culture and may be afraid of being estranged from colleagues or losing promotion opportunities. Employees feel uncomfortable with the companies’ culture will work unproductively or even leave the company.

Possible Solutions:

  • Create a positive environment that respects different religions and spiritualities. Every employee, no matter what his or her religion and spirituality is, should be respected by the company and other employees.
  • Build company's own culture.  The company encourage creative thinking, honesty, integrity, accountability, cooperation, and good quality work as the shared value and practices itself independent of particular religion and spirituality.
  • Educate the management to realize the religious difference and not to abuse the authority. The manager with personal religion and spirituality should neither interfere with job responsbility nor push his or her spirituality to employees.

Survey completed about how well corporate America is doing to support spiritual needs.

Questions for Class Discussion:

  • Would it be best to tweak the existing program, get rid of it completely, or continue just as they have been doing for years?
  • Is there a place for spirituality in the workplace? If yes, how do you best accommodate various faiths as well as non-believers?
  • Do you agree with our proposed solutions? What are some potential issues with these ideas?

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