A culture’s belief systems are invaluable tools for encoding and reinforcing key value orientations within a given group or community, thereby lending it cohesiveness in outlook and perspective to the everyday challenges of life. Awareness of a culture’s religious practices and values play a major role in managing, negotiating or working with others from a different culture.
It is essential to keep religious preferences and practices in mind when conducting business, either outside one’s own culture, or while in one’s own culture among others whose religious preferences or practices differ from one’s own. At the same time, there will always be exceptions and the cultural values and subsequent business practices of individuals may very well differ significantly from those of the majority of the religion’s practitioners. The topics covered include: •The Workplace and Religion
oWomen in Business
oFunerary & Mourning Practices
•Religion’s Impact on Negotiating
•Religious Implications on Financial Practices
The Workplace and Religion
Many workers wear traditional religious dress on the job as evidenced by the black and white outfits worn by Chasidic or orthodox Jews, the turbans worn by devout Muslims or Sikhs, and the saris worn by Hindu women. A manager who is unaware of religious difference and the importance of dress might consider the employee’s dress as an indication that the employee does not want to fit in with his or her co-workers, or – in a worst case - worry that a client might be offended.
While it is conceivable a client might find such dress practices offensive, it is unacceptable that a manager prohibits such dress for this reason. Rather, he or she should discuss the situation with the client, and if needs be, offer the client the services of an employee who does not wear such religious dress. At the same time, the manager should assure his/her employee that the client’s actions and perceptions are totally unacceptable and that the manager does not share the client’s views or doubt the employee’s abilities. Reassuring the employee that he/she will not be subject to internal prejudice, no matter what a client might think, is essential to building and maintaining a tolerant community within the workplace.
On the contrary, when religious dress may compromise an employee’s safety, such as in the case of Hindu woman who wears a sari (a very loose fitting wrap-around garment) but operates heavy machinery, it is acceptable to request that the employee no longer wear such dress to work. It is the manager’s responsibility to explain the safety and liability issues involved to the employee.
Women in Business
When considering the place of women in business, it is important to understand the traditional role of women in the country’s society and within the context of a culture’s religious views.
For instance, even in liberal or moderate Islamic societies, tradition calls for the subordinate place of women compared to men when outside of the home. In fact, only in the most liberal Islamic societies do women occupy positions of note in business. At the same time, even for clerical positions in non-Islamic societies, , it is not as uncommon as one might think to fewer women in business roles. Most women in notable positions will be found in medicine and education, two fields in which there are larger numbers of women working even in politics although to a much lesser extent. In traditional Muslim societies, a woman’s role is primarily domestic.
When a non-Muslim businesswoman travels to the Islamic world,...