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Do business and religion mix?

By Speider Schneider | Business, Social Media | Aug 1, 2013

I’m a little choosy about who I follow back on Twitter. As with my other opt-in social sites, I’m not into quantity but quality. Having the right connections are good for business and, after all, business is why we network, in most cases.

When I go through my daily Twitter followers, I click the email notification and read the new follower’s profile description to learn a bit about them. Are they in my industry, have they actually tweeted, do they only tweet quotes from dead poets and crazy people (which is redundant if you know any poets)? Are all their tweets saying “thank you!” to someone and nothing else? Is there nothing but links to diet pills? It’s a telling tale if the language they use for tweets can’t be translated by Google and do they include religious beliefs or odd hobbies in their profile description?

As attested by the plastic, metallic ink Flying Spaghetti Monster badge on the back of my minivan, I respect everyone’s right to believe in anything they choose. So, why publish your belief system to the world? I would understand if Twitter was a dating site but what are you telling me when you state your religion? Are you not willing to connect with me if I don’t follow the same beliefs? Your belief system makes you more reliable of a connection or professional than other belief systems? In business, there is only the belief that you can deliver your services at the highest level possible.

At a business-networking event, I was speaking to a young lady who, from out of the blue mentioned she would only use suppliers of her religious belief because, “they don’t steal”.

I was shocked. I hadn’t mentioned my religious beliefs and didn’t know if she was assuming I wasn’t a follower of her beliefs or wanted me to affirm I was also a follower. What could I say to her except, “yeah, there’s no (insert religion here) in prison!” She turned away and so did I. To me it was the loss of a possible client, to her, the loss of a reliable vendor.

In business, we cannot be separated or grouped by culture, nationality, color, sexual preference, gender or creed and anyone who does, faces a diminished group of prospective clients. In a global economy, there will be players of all different kinds of beliefs and the only consideration should be, who will best solve my design needs to increase my business.

 

Does a religious identity help your business?

It’s hard to know what people want to see… and don’t. The recent U.S. elections had, more so than ever — at least in my lifetime — brought out candidates with religious proclamations as part of their platforms for serving one of the most diverse nations on this Earth.

As with any personal information, you need to ask yourself several questions when considering what to put out there for possible connections and prospective clients:

  • By voicing my political/religious opinion in my social networking or marketing, am I creating professional trust with those whom I want to connect?
  • Will I lose followers, friends and potential business? Do the positive returns outweigh the negative?
  • Is this something that holds potential to jeopardize future opportunities? Am I putting too much information out there for everyone to see?
  • Are my opinions and beliefs creating so much of a distraction that people forget what my business is about?
  • Is this what I want to be known for over all other things? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
  • Does this align with my brand, my style, and my messages I want people to remember?
  • How important is it people know this information?

A hiring manager warns about any information that is too personal, showing up on your profile that will show up on web searches.

“Even though the First Amendment protects your speech as a private citizen on matters of public concern, such speech may fall outside of First Amendment protection if it impedes your employer’s effectiveness or efficiency, or otherwise disrupts the workplace.”

 

Dog is God spelled backwards?

While sitting in a reception area, awaiting an interview, I was greeted by a big, friendly, black Labrador Retriever with a wagging tail and a slobbering tongue. As I love dogs and miss my late dog, I started petting him maniacally and when the person who was to interview me finally came out to the reception area, she found me sitting on the floor, playing with the dog. Actually, I think I was lying on the floor, playing with the dog.

“WOW! She exclaimed. “You just passed the first test of getting hired!” Yes, the office dog loved me and that was a huge step in the interviewing process. While chatting with the hiring manager, she let down her guard and told me how she passed over people whose web searches either showed no love for dogs or identified them as “cat lovers”.

While I think that may be illegal, it just serves to show how something so small can stand against you in the business world. Even hobbies can destroy your chances of professional work.

While searching for an assistant at one of my positions, I stopped and wondered why one applicant would list his hobbies of martial arts, cage fighting, weapons, survival techniques and conspiracy theories, but when I saw he was an avid Pokémon collector, I got scared and skipped to the next résumé.

This is why many experts will tell you not to include hobbies or too much personal information on your résumé. The same goes for your profile in the digital age.

“I live with my wife, five year-old daughter, two dogs and love spending weekends working in my garden.”

Seems innocuous, right? Maybe you think it shows you are a reliable family man and stable? Some employers might think that a five year-old daughter means days off when she’s sick or having to take time off for school functions. They may not like dogs and if you love working in your garden, then you aren’t going to be happy spending weekends in the office. It would be better to end your résumé with, “I have no life”.

 

Down to Earth faith

We are all human and with that, as certain religious scholars would argue, we are born into sin. All one has to do is witness the contents of a used diaper to know babies are foul, evil beasts! As we grow, we fill our brains with preconceived notions about other humans, measured by our personal likes, dislikes and playground traumas. As my basic distrust of humans and paranoid behavior is one of the major pillars of my schadenfreude religion, I quickly judge people once I’ve cross-referenced them through the internet.

I’m not the only cyber-stalker out there. When you apply for a job, the employer will Google the hell out of your name to find out who you really are. Your posts on Facebook, blog rantings, Disqus comments, Yahoo comments, comments on major news sources, photos, tweets and everything else you’ve put on the web is there for anyone to see. If you use online dating sites, the same thing applies for you to see who the sweet, kind and sensitive pathological psychopath is that you are considering falling asleep next to, naked.

My eldest son came home from school one day, upset that an obnoxious schoolmate had threatened to Google my name and find an embarrassing photo of me he could plaster across the school. I laughed and told him this kid wouldn’t find anything because I use the nicknames I’ve received through life for all of my online inputs. Sure enough, the kid couldn’t find a single thing. Likewise, an employer or stalker would have to dig twenty-seven pages into Google to even find my real name as people with the same name have done things like become famous actors, discovered devices for heart replacement surgery, saved thousands of children in Africa, solved life’s mysteries and other stuff that trumps working at MAD Magazine, if you can believe that.

Still, going by nicknames throughout my life, due to a family that couldn’t remember my real name, calling me by my cousin’s or uncle’s name or, as in the case with my parents… the family dog’s name, has been a blessing. After years of therapy for all of that, I realize, in the age of the internet, they did me a favor. Anonymity on the web saved my son embarrassment at school. The other kid wasn’t so lucky when his father’s name was Googled. Those who live by the search engine, die by the search engine!

The family dog’s name can be found on the first three pages of a Google search. As for me, you won’t find much and that’s the way I like it.

 

Do you list your religious/political/sporting affiliations on your social media profiles? Has personal information ever stopped you getting work? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, stained glass image via Shutterstock.

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  • Tim Wasson

    I mostly agree, but find this combination of sentences kind of bizarre.

    “As attested by the plastic, metallic ink Flying Spaghetti Monster badge on the back of my minivan, I respect everyone’s right to believe in anything they choose. So, why publish your belief system to the world?”

    Aren’t you publishing your belief system (or lack thereof) to the world by putting this in a blog article and putting FSM on the back of your car?

    Is it ok simply because you’re mostly anonymous on the blog article? Still, I can’t imagine you’re mostly anonymous when pulling up to a client meeting with the FSM on your vehicle.

    • http://speiderschneider.blogspot.com Speider Schneider

      Interesting thought, Tim. However, I don’t drive to client meetings (all done over the internet) and someone stole the FSM badge off my car.

  • Not Ashamed

    I’ve never commented on a blog post in my life, but this one compelled me to respond. There are a lot of points with which I agree, such as concerns over providing personal information on a resume. I would never dream of putting anything personal or political on any material used to generate leads or clients.

    Applying for a job is an entirely different story. I am a dedicated employee who will pour my heart and soul into the company for which I work. My work ethic has nothing to do with my religious beliefs. However, if I’m going to spend 10+ years working in the same office, then I want to make sure it is the right environment. I am a Christian, and though I’m not the type to push my beliefs on other people, my beliefs can come out in general conversations with co-workers. For example, I thought it was funny to tell my coworkers what my son said during his bedtime prayers, cause it was hilarious.

    I am comfortable working with atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, agnostics and just about everyone else, but I also want them to be comfortable with me. I don’t want to “walk on eggshells” around someone worried about offending them. I feel comfortable telling my Buddhist coworker about what happened at church, and he is comfortable talking to me about temple. For that reason, I make sure my resume and portfolio hint just enough at my religious beliefs. If that makes a potential employer uncomfortable, then I probably wouldn’t be comfortable working for them.

    Thankfully, I share the same name with about 7,000 other people. I can’t even come up with anything when I Google myself, and I know what keywords to use. But even if someone did find me on Facebook or my personal Twitter account (vs. my professional Twitter account), there is nothing I wouldn’t want him or her to know. I am married with kids, I love camping and I love Jesus. If you have a problem with that, then don’t hire me.

    • http://speiderschneider.blogspot.com Speider Schneider

      “For that reason, I make sure my resume and portfolio hint just enough at my religious beliefs. If that makes a potential employer uncomfortable, then I probably wouldn’t be comfortable working for them.”

      Everyone has their beliefs, so why be concerned that you need to “hint” at yours? Stories of a child’s prayers are nothing to be concerned about and no coworker should be offended by that unless they have extremely thin skins and no tolerance for the beliefs of others. On the other hand, if a coworker is an atheist, do you believe they would be offended if you repeat that story often? Would you be offended if that atheist told a “funny story” about how their child said something about there being no God?

      See how that works?

      • Tim Wasson

        As I mentioned in my other comment, I really, truly believe you’re speaking with good intentions, and I agree with you on almost all points, but I feel like it’s a little hypocritical to say things like, “Everyone has their beliefs, so why be concerned that you need to “hint” at yours?” when you did exactly that in regard to the FSM (in a blog post and on the back of your car) and your story about how a Christian approached you at a business function.

        In my opinion, the best thing you can do in regard to religion in the workplace (or when meeting potential clients) is just to shut up about it. It seems you agree in theory, but are having a very hard time actually doing it. Practice what you preach.

      • Benjie

        Fascinating that you felt the anecdote was about a Christian, rather than being about a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or an Atheist.

        Honestly, I don’t think Speider really worships a flying spaghetti monster. Well, I’m pretty sure…

  • Benjie

    Personally, I prefer to keep my views private. There’s a time and place to be partisan, and the office isn’t it.

    That said, I’ve never been offended by water-cooler chats over politics and religion, as long as they’re chats and not lectures.

  • arobertjacques

    Good article. On the other hand I feel like I’ve read (or maybe I’m making it up) that hiring managers will dismiss candidates for whom they can’t find any personal info, operating under that ridiculous, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why are you hiding it” doctrine.

  • Benjie

    That’s terrible. It may be illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion (at least in all reasonable countries) but I’m sure it happens all the time.

    • Tim Wasson

      Yeah, it does. I was recently passed over as being a bad “culture fit” at a company that seems similar to the on mentioned in the previous story. Our interview went great until it turned to the institution’s religious beliefs, at which point I declined to speak to mine and was quickly shuffled off.

      Honestly, it was probably illegal, but if my beliefs made them uncomfortable or vice-versa, it’s probably for the best anyway.

    • http://speiderschneider.blogspot.com Speider Schneider

      Yes, it does, and in big corporations, HR does their best to shove it under the carpet when it comes from an executive or manager.

  • http://speiderschneider.blogspot.com Speider Schneider

    I always have to wonder why people believe they must kill or punish “non-believers” in the name of God… as if God is too busy to attend to that himself/herself.

    I had a VERY devout boss who loved to go to Hooters for business meetings and act like a horny 14 year-old boy. When I suggested that sinning on purpose during the week would not be forgiven through prayer on Sunday, followed by a vivid description of what he would face in Hell (along with horrid sexual tortures he would have for eternity), he freaked out and fired me. I wonder if he asked forgiveness for entering one of my designs into a competition under his own name?

  • http://speiderschneider.blogspot.com Speider Schneider

    Speaking of which, here’s some depressing job news for one man and his choice of churches… http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/alabama-state-champion-coach-ad-fired-being-member-102348634.html

  • http://speiderschneider.blogspot.com Speider Schneider

    Benji is correct, Tim. Nowhere in the article will you find one religion named, nor do I allude to any religion. If you choose to “fill in the blanks” on your own accord, then it’s akin to the Rorschach ink blot test, but not due to anything I have written.

    As for the FSM, it’s a silly little thing that puzzles most people and admittedly, does poke fun at the badges of fish, fish with legs and “Darwin” within, or “Gefilte” or zombie fish or other badges that are either religious or bashes at religion. I doubt even 1% of those who see it know what it is. As a present from my kids, who know I have a love of the “odd,” I was more than happy to place it on my vehicle, between bumper stickers from the assorted tattoo parlors I have visited (breaking a certain law in Leviticus) and my surf shop labels (breaking my neck, one day).

    I actually am quite devoted to my religion and the tenants it holds for living one’s life. One of those is love and understanding of others. As that is a true pillar of all religions (not what is twisted by those who take it upon themselves to judge others or pick and choose certain passages from religious texts, while dismissing other passages not to their liking or purposes), it would make it difficult, if not impossible for you to identify my religious beliefs, and that is the way I prefer it.

    And I must honestly say, and I’m sorry to put you on the spot here for your “reaching” in trying to whip me for the FSM on my car, but how many business meetings are held in a company parking lot or how many clients await a designer in the parking lot for a meeting? How would they see the badge on my car?