Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Treat others the way Jesus would.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Sound familiar? I think we all have heard these phrases a time or two. However, what if we switched things up and dove a little deeper with the following:
I don’t feel comfortable working with this person because…
I am skeptical of this person’s ability to do a good job because…
I prefer not to have this person working at my company or team because…
Search your heart and think about it. Have you ever thought these things deep down? If so, were the thoughts based on work performance or off of characteristics that are non-work related?
I’ll continue with a story. A female chief executive shared a story regarding her experience with another executive from outside her company. Although they were sitting directly next to one another working on the same initiative, he never acknowledged her presence. As a matter of fact, every time she tried to speak up and work with him, he simply turned his back to her and addressed the other males in the room.
This executive is not the only one who has experienced this kind of prejudice. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Act has reported over 1 million cases involving, religion, age, race, gender and more. What a great mission opportunity, right? We as Christians have a huge opportunity to show Jesus to those facing these kinds of hurts in the workplace.
So how can we practically use faith at work to build bridges in the workplace? Simple.
1. Have lunch or coffee with a person who seems different than you. Get to know who they are, where they’re from, as well as their life experiences. Share your own story with them as well.
2. Invite a colleague of a different background to work with you on a particular project.
3. Demonstrate brave leadership through speaking up and addressing discrimination as soon as it happens in the workplace. This may involve pulling aside a colleague and approaching them in love and conviction.
4. Evaluate your work. Ask yourself, “If my company, brand or idea was a person what would they look like? And, is there a missing piece of the puzzle we should consider?”
5. Be intentional about understanding one’s viewpoint. Find out their reasoning before writing off their thoughts and opinions.
6. Become aware of your own prejudices through prayer and journaling. Admitting and evaluating your discomfort can lead you to new insights and help you disarm prejudice.
7. Ask a trusted colleague for feedback to help search your heart. Do they observe any bias in the way you act toward others? For example, do you leave certain employees out of the communication loop or automatically dismiss their input?
8. Show a willingness to learn about others through reverse mentoring. This allows you and someone of a different age, gender, race or other background share with one another your different viewpoints through trust and open communication.
9. Avoid micro-inequities that can unintentionally make others feel undervalued.
10. Finally, ask yourself “Who have you written off?” and be intentional about changing your thoughts and building an impactful relationship with them.
As you process these ideas I encourage you to read the following scriptures addressing God’s heart on this subject.
Galatians 3:28 ESV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:11 ESV
For God shows no partiality.
James 2:2-4 ESV
For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Matthew 5:44 ESV
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Mark 12:31 ESV
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Genesis 1:27 ESV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
We all have fallen victim to prejudice at work whether we have received it or expressed it. What lessons can we take with us to work today to help build bridges and truly close the gap between faith and work?