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Surprising Science

Religious Self-Expression May Make for a Happier Workplace

Religion can be an uncomfortable topic for some people to discuss, especially with co-workers. Researchers say, hiding part of your identity may be damaging your mental well-being and office relationships.

Religion can be a hot-button issue, but if it’s a part of yourself—a part of who you are as a person, suppressing that portion of your life at you job may bring on more stress than it’s worth. Max Ufberg from the Pacific Standard writes on a recent study that calls for encouraging religious self-expression in the office.

There’s a risk of talking about your religion at work. You may neglect mentioning your Sunday worship  when someone asks you about your weekend, or perhaps you don’t mention why you’ll be delayed going out to karaoke one night because you have to do you evening prayers. But if it’s a part of your identity, why not mention these things about yourself? Researchers sought to answer how this suppressive behavior has on people working in the office.

You could almost equate it to being in the closet, afraid to let anyone know your true identity for fear of how they’ll treat you. There’s a pressure to assimilate and not make waves. Brent Lyons, an Assistant Professor of management and organization studies at Simon Fraser University, led the study that was published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. The sample groups were from the United State and South Korea and consisted of 592 employees. Both countries hold Christianity as its popular religion, however, they also have their own reputations of how one expresses oneself in the office—typically Americans are more vocal than South Koreans.

The participants varied by denomination, but were all Christian. Each person was asked to what degree their religion defined them as a person and how often they spoke or expressed their beliefs at work. Lyon and his team then measured the participants’ overall job satisfaction and if they felt pressured to assimilate.

Lyons found that those who were open about their religious self felt more satisfied with their jobs. Those that were secretive about their beliefs or hid it completely at the workplace reported feeling stressed at the office, which resulted in negative feelings toward their co-workers.

“If religion is important to you, and you are not open about it, it may mean that you are hiding aspects of yourself from your co-workers. Keeping secrets or presenting a false self can be stressful and can negatively impact relationships you develop with your co-workers.”

While this study certainly offers some optimism about religious self-expression, it would have been nice to see a more diverse sampling of religions.

Read more at Pacific Standard

Photo Credit: lightwavemedi/Shutterstock


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