How to Head off Objections to a Faith-Based Employee Resource Group (ERG)
As you develop relationships that lay the groundwork for your ERG, you have the opportunity to head off objections before they start. This involves making friends out of potential enemies and thinking through the messaging that will defend your ERG project from naysayers.
HOW ONE ERG LEADER MADE FRIENDS FROM DOUBTERS
Sue Warnke is the Senior Director of Content and Communications Experience at Salesforce, and the president of Faithforce San Francisco, an internal interfaith organization. She shares this story about heading off objections from those in her company who would oppose a faith-based Employee Resource Group (ERG).
I know a lot of atheists at work who are very out in their atheism. There's tension there, sometimes. There's the assumption on both sides of what each other believes.
So what I did is I strategically set up a meeting with two or three different atheist employees who felt really strongly about faith and had experienced some pain related to organized religion. I had a one-on-one with them. I would just ask – not pushing my faith – but really ask about their position, why they felt that way and what their experiences were.
Those conversations led to real breakthroughs where they then asked me about my story. They realized that I didn't represent this sort of negative version of Christianity like what they had experienced. They realized there are more types of Christianity out there – that it's not all pushy – and that it is really, truly just about loving each other.
COMMON OBJECTIONS TO FAITH-BASED EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUPS (ERGS)
Here are some common objections to Christian ERGs. You can present these talking points to leaders and potential sponsors as you develop your launch plan.
Does A Christian Employee Resource Group (ERG) Exclude Non-Christians?
CONCERN: A Christian ERG will exclude non-Christians.
ANSWER: Membership in a Christian Employee Resource Group (CERG) is open to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation. Non-Christians will be invited to participate and welcomed at all CERG activities. Opening the door for multiple faith-based groups allows employees to express the fullness of their identity at work, AND benefit from learning more about their coworkers. This strengthens individual expression and team unity.
“Being able to appreciate other people and understand where they’re coming from in life gives me more insight into the person and what they care about when they’re doing their job. Knowing them better helps me understand how I can help them, and what they can offer me.”
- Jason Rosen, Texas Instruments Jewish ERG chair
If A Company Has A Multi-Faith Group, Does It Need A Christian Group Too?
CONCERN: We already have a multi-faith employee group.
ANSWER: Multi-faith groups fulfill the purpose of bringing employees together across different backgrounds. Single faith groups fulfill a different purpose that is just as necessary for the health and wellbeing of employees. In a Christian Employee Resource Group, these employees have a space to share the particular challenges and questions that come from living as a Christian in the secular workplace. The unique outlet of a Christian Employee Resource Group allows Christian employees to support one another and as a result give themselves more freely and completely to the diverse teams in which they work.
Are Christians Minorities In The Workplace?
CONCERN: It’s real minorities that need a resource group.
ANSWER: Many people don’t realize that practicing Christians are actually a minority in the workplace. Over the past decade, workers identifying as religion “none” – those who are agnostic or self-identify with no religion – outnumber practicing Christians in most places of work. For this reason, Christians for whom their faith is an essential aspect of their personality often feel embarrassed or even minimized in groups of their peers. A group of like-minded peers provides critical support for these minority employees who might otherwise struggle to find their place in the organization.
Is It Okay For A Christian To Be A Member Of An Interfaith Group?
CONCERN: I’m a Christian, and I won’t participate in an interfaith group. I don’t compromise my faith.
ANSWER: Participating in an interfaith group does not invalidate the deeply-held beliefs of Christian members. Interfaith doesn’t mean “either/or” – it’s “Yes, and.” Yes, you can have a body of Christian believers meeting together unapologetically around their shared faith in Jesus. You also create opportunities to gather with colleagues of other faiths around the things you share in common. As a Christian, you can have the confidence that participating in an interfaith group need not shake your faith in Jesus. Rather, it gives you the opportunity to share your faith with others.
“THEY TOLD ME: WE DON’T DO RELIGION HERE.”
Glenda Cameron, Customer Incident Manager at Dell Technologies and Global Interfaith ERG Co-Leader, shares this story of facing down objections when she started a faith-based Employee Resource Group (ERG).
When I reached out to the folks that were in charge of diversity and inclusion to say, "Hey, I'm interested in seeing what it takes to start a faith-based employee resource group," their very first instinct was, "Oh no, no, no. We don't do religion here."
They even came back with some very legal language including cease and desist.
But I had examples of other people in the marketplace – other companies that were out there doing this.
So I kind of jumped a few levels and reached out to the Chief Diversity officer. And she agreed to schedule some time to talk. She said one of the first steps was to see if there was some kind of a significant interest.
So I put a little bit of a teaser out there to the EMC community. I posted it into the online portal: "Hey, if we were to start a faith-based group, who would be interested?" And I was overwhelmed by the number of people.
So when I went back to our Chief Diversity officer to say, "Look, here are the numbers."
She said, "Okay. Yes. That's enough."