Many principles used in businesses today can be traced to the Bible. Albeit subtle, often paraphrased, and even quoted in part, biblical principles play a valuable role both in society and in today’s workplace. Without question, there are legal and ethical grounds for not mixing work and religion. While some believe that “religion” in any form has no place in a briefcase let alone the boardroom, others achieve success by incorporating biblical principles personally and professionally.
Founder and CEO of World Wide Technology, David Steward , is a living testament to success found in applying biblical principles in the workplace. Both company and owner have amassed an extensive list of accolades over a fifteen-year period. World Wide’s accolades include the fastest-growing company in the st. Louis region, world’s largest African-American-owned company, and “Company of the Year” (Black Enterprise 1999). Author of Doing Business by the Good Book , Steward’s personal accolades include, “Entrepreneur of the Year” in technology (Ernst & Young, 1998) and “SBA Business Person of the Year” (1997).
According to Steward, the foundation of a business is made up of “trust, integrity, [and] faith in one another, teamwork …” These core principles are also biblical. In addition to using faith, success in business entails defining purpose. Steward believes that the primary purpose of a business is to serve others. How businesses serve others can be seen in the outcome. “At the end of the day,” says Steward, “People do business with people who they like and trust.” If a company core values are right, selfless, and service-oriented, “profits will come ….”
Naysayers argue that religion in the workplace biblical or otherwise hinders workflow and work performance. For example, praying before meetings averts attention from the purpose of work, as does Bible study and “witnessing.” Therefore, incorporating biblical principles is not a necessary part of conducting business.
A Christian and president of Ferguson Media, Andrea Ferguson , would not readily apply biblical principles in the workplace the same way it is openly expressed in a church or synagogue. “I don’t think it’s necessary to impart my religious beliefs on others or quote the Bible in the workplace and in meetings,” Ferguson commented. “Rather, I incorporate my belief system to help me throughout the day, when making decisions, dealing with others or even getting new business.”
While the marketing and public relations firm executive says her “belief system” is what makes her stand out, Ferguson acknowledges that biblical principles can “provide a solid foundation on how to deal with any kind of situation, client or project.” Ferguson also believes that the Bible has the ultimate formula for success.
Is there a meaningful way to use biblical principles in the workplace? President and CEO of Four-D College, Linda Smith uses biblical principles to “[manage] Four-D … and address issues with staff, faculty, individuals in the community or business partners.” Even though applying biblical principles is a normal part of the workday, the emphasis at Four-D is showing students how to treat people. Like Steward, Smith has a collection of accolades that speak to her success. Established in 1992, Four-D thrives under Smith’s leadership and commitment to be guided by God.
Since the application of biblical principles in any arena tends to be contingent on faith, business owners like Twanda Joseph amply provide balance. The WiseEffects consultant, trainer, and talk show host believes that being a Christian and implementing business principles are inseparable. “You cannot separate a true person of faith from their faith.” Joseph says. “When you make a person of faith feel as though they have to leave a major part of themselves outside when they come to work, you end up with employees who are only ‘half-hearted’ in their work … They operate by a double-standard and compromise their true character just to fit into the corporate environment. ”
Realizing that it is difficult to distinguish a person from their faith Joseph contends that a company would be better served if employees were allowed to “focus on being a person of character and integrity in the workplace and beyond.”
Rules for Leaders Relative to the workplace, employers and employees consciously or unconsciously integrate biblical principles with business practices. Most often people exhibit character, integrity, loyalty, respect, discretion, philanthropy, and ethics as a matter of personal practice. Less frequent in occurrence is what people attribute most to the Bible: prayer, Scripture reading, direct references to or acknowledgment of God, Jesus or even proselytizing. Rare applications include actions that normally occur during a religious service or event.
Labeled as such or not, Bible-based principles can be actively applied in the workplace within reason. Private companies can initiate or even support religious practices in the workplace. However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 prohibits private companies from the following:
-Requiring participation in religious events / activities
-Employing, compensating or advancing based on religious belief
-Hiring, promoting or terminating based on an employee’s preference not to participate in a religious event / activity
-Proselytizing in an invasive, coercive or harassing way
With some exception, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations are allowed to preserve their underlying mission. Otherwise, making religious practices optional will help private companies remain within legal guidelines.