Religious Diversity at Work: The Perceptual Effects of Religious Discrimination on Employee Engagement and Commitment

By Messarra, Leila Canaan | Contemporary Management Research, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Religious Diversity at Work: The Perceptual Effects of Religious Discrimination on Employee Engagement and Commitment


Messarra, Leila Canaan, Contemporary Management Research


ABSTRACT

As the workforce is becoming more diversified in terms of culture, ethnicity, and religion, many individual values are carried over to the workplace. Now, in the post-9/11 world, employees working in religiously diverse organizations might be prone to increased interpersonal conflicts and misunderstandings because of their religious affiliation. Yet, exploring the effects of religious diversity in organizations is still in its embryonic stages. This study investigated the perceptual effects of perceived religious discrimination on employee work-related behaviors, mainly commitment and engagement. The study surveyed 548 employees working in religiously diverse organizations. The findings suggested that when workers perceive religious discrimination in their organization, their commitment and engagement are affected. It is recommended that managers in general and specifically human resource managers devise strategies and develop management interventions to mitigate the negative organizational and personal consequences of religious discrimination in the workplace. Further studies should assess the effects of employees' perceived religious discrimination on other behavioral outcomes.

Keywords: Employee Engagement, Commitment, Religious Discrimination, Religious Diversity

INTRODUCTION

The research on religious diversity in organizations is still in its embryonic stages; however, with globalization and increased immigration, it is imperative to study this issue as a new challenge within a diverse workforce. Workforce diversity suggests that the workplace comprises people with different characteristics, such as race, gender, ethnicity, language, color, religion, and health status (Chan, 2011). Most Western literature on workplace diversity has tackled issues like gender, ethnicity, race, age, sexual orientation, and the like, although it has remained relatively tacit regarding religious diversity. Now, in the post-9/11 world, this issue has surfaced as a topic of interest both within and outside of the workplace in general. Currently, religious discrimination has surfaced as a new managerial challenge that needs to be addressed. The number of religious discrimination grievances has been rising faster than gender or race claims (Weiss, 2008). According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC, 2011) in the US, 3,790 religious bias complaints were filed in 2010 compared to 2,127 in 2001, with settlements reaching nearly $10 million (to the researcher's knowledge, no statistics exists on religious discrimination claims for other countries).

As the workforce is becoming more diversified in terms of culture, ethnicity, and religion, many individual values are carried over to the workplace. Hence, employees are most likely to bring their religious beliefs with them to the office. According to Oliveira (2004), Mitroff and Denton (1999), and Cavanagh (1999), organizations that openly encourage their employees to express their spirituality are likely to become more successful. Still, what if the colleagues or supervisors do not share or embrace the beliefs of their coworkers? What if they discriminate against them because of different religion? This can affect both employers and employees.

A limited number of scholarly publications focused on religious discrimination and/or religious diversity management within organizations. Previous discrimination studies have examined such characteristics as age, gender, race and disability, and their relation to organizational behavioral outcomes (see for example Channar, Abbassi, & Ujan, 2011; Ensher et al., 2001; Rabl & del Carmen Triana, 2013). However, no study to date has examined the relationship between religious discrimination and organizational behavioral outcomes. The purpose of this study is twofold. First, it attempts to fill the gap in the literature on religious discrimination and strives to increase the level of organizational awareness about the importance of perceived religious discrimination in the workplace. …

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