Being a pagan in an office setting is not without its share of difficulties. Of the numerous faiths practiced, those that fall under the category of pagan are perhaps the most misunderstood among persons of mainstream religion. Some pagans may find themselves harassed, ridiculed, or shunned, while others may find themselves fortunate enough to have understanding and tolerant coworkers.
In the work place, the first thing that a person must realize, no matter what faith they practice, is that the work place is for work and not for proselytizing religion. When a job applicant goes into an interview, they should be focused on selling their skill set, not their faith. This is important to bear in mind whether a long term employee or someone just starting from scratch.
Whether or not to let others know what faith one follows is a personal choice. Like politics, no one is under any obligation to divulge what “party” they follow. How it is revealed is important. Flamboyant displays should always be avoided simply because the work place is not the proper place for it. Remaining low-key is considerably better and less threatening to those who don’t understand the reasoning behind another person’s chosen path.
Avoiding Religious Confrontation in the Work Place
What should be done if someone does bring up the subject of religion? Religion is a very heated subject for some people. Remember that no one is required to explain or defend themselves on the topic of religious choice. Politely state that the work place is not the appropriate place for such questions and don’t get drawn into a conversation over it.
If a coworker continues to pursue unwanted questions of a religious or spiritual nature, it needs to be brought to the attention of management. Inform them that the colleague has been asked to not pursue such lines of questioning and that it is interfering with work production.
If the person with questions is open-minded, has a genuine interest, is not antagonist and it feels comfortable, extending an invitation to them for an after work coffee and further discussion might be a feasible course of action. Avoid discussing the topic at all in the office.
Photo by Epimetheus
Here are some subtle ideas to help keep in touch with personal spirituality in the office:
- Keep a plant at your desk.
- Add a small photo or figurine of a personal totem.
- While a candle flame could pose a potential fire hazard in the office, a small LED candle in a decorative votive is safe and unobtrusive.
- A mini Zen garden is a good way to relax when stress is high.
- Avoid large flashy jewelry that draws attention. Unobtrusive and simple jewelry choices denotes a focused professional demeanor. Also, try to avoid consciously pulling at or fidgeting with personal spiritual jewelry and drawing attention to it while interacting with coworkers or customers.
- If music is allowed, try listening to simple nature soundtracks or instrumentals.
This helpful guide should not be construed as asking anyone to hide their religion. It is simply designed to provide an effective alternative way of preventing uncomfortable situations from escalating out of control. Speaking as someone who has worked in the strict structure of a legal setting for the past 9 years, running under the radar generates considerably less stress and friction, especially over the long run. This encourages employers to keep their focus on the quality of work that an employee produces and not on personal choices.