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Readers cover a number of live-wire issues

Coach's Corner--November 10, 2008

Let’s hear from readers again. Many of you had strong opinions on religion in the workplace, but first, let’s go to some comments on a few other topics.

Confronting blind spots (Sept. 29):
One reader noted that change can require more than individual efforts. “Even if the problem is primarily with this individual, once he makes a commitment to improving his interpersonal skills (assuming he does), wouldn’t you also want to do some training on communication styles with the entire group?” Good point. In many cases, a person tries to change only to be faced with a workplace that doesn’t have the knowledge or flexibility to react. This only reinforces the bad habits.

Handling a disruptive co-worker (Sept. 8):
A reader offered this idea on managing hard-to-handle colleagues in meetings: “One that I’ve used in the past (when it could be arranged) is enlisting another (trusted) attendee at the meeting to pitch in when “Tangent Ted” goes off on one. Peer pressure is a great tool!”

Achieving a fulfilling life (Sept. 1):
A reader from Wisconsin suggested that volunteering can bring meaning by helping others who are less fortunate. She also noted that finding the type of meaning she is seeking may come to her through religion. I agree that a deeper spiritual path can help many people gain a sense of more meaning in what they do.

Religion in the workplace (Oct. 27):
This column drew strong reactions, both for and against the suggested approach. Readers who disagreed highlighted legal risk to the company: “If that supervisor keeps up that type of language in the office, you are going to get an EEOC complaint.”

Others were less clear that this was an issue for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, even noting that failure to accommodate the supervisor’s religious beliefs could initiate EEOC action on her part: “If the woman is not forcing her religious views upon anyone and otherwise satisfactorily performs her job, then the people around her must respect her views. … The workplace has to provide reasonable accommodation for everyone’s religious views — even that of supervisors and managers. If her work performance is not adequate — that is an issue management should deal with, separate from religion. … Just be aware that bringing religion into the debate could backfire with her filing an EEOC complaint against her manager!”


One reader called for tolerance and respect in the workplace. “If her performance meets standards and she still inflects her supervisory directives with some religious perspective, perhaps it is the folks working for and with her who also require some training in tolerance?”


Regardless, I’ll agree that being informed about the legal aspects is important. However, I still recommend working on the management skills and considering their impact on people. The goal is changing behavior to help the supervisor be successful, while ensuring that all team members get the support they need. Ideally, this approach will foster a workplace where all perspectives are valued and where differences become a source of enrichment rather than conflict.


Readers, keep your comments coming! And check out the resource box for a few surprises — interesting articles I’ve found on a variety of topics.


Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted November 10, 2008
Do you have a question or an idea for a future discussion? Submit it here.

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