how to ensure a religious new hire won’t proselytize at work

A reader writes:

I just completed a second interview with a job candidate who is looking like a great fit. However, she doesn’t have much recent job experience, so has used her demanding and rigorous volunteer work with her religious organization very heavily to highlight her strengths and flexibility. While I am impressed, some of my fellow managers have reservations about whether she might proselytize at work or be intolerant of coworkers who are gay or atheists or otherwise not in line with her belief system. I haven’t seen evidence that that would be the case with her. Plus, people who don’t talk about religion during interviews can still turn out to be zealots, so her candor isn’t something that is a red flag to me.

I know that it is illegal and wrong to consider her religion or religious activities during hiring. That being said, if we make her an offer, is there a discussion we should have preemptively (i.e., here is your employee handbook, which by the way states that we are a diverse workplace and respect and dignity in the workplace for all employees is taken seriously) or should we wait and see what happens? All of my employees deserve to have their workplace be one of respect and dignity, and that will include her if she is hired. I want her to be happy and feel welcome, and I know that singling her out for her religion is not the way to do that. Am I overthinking this?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • What gifts do employees actually want?
  • Etiquette when people borrow my office
  • Do I need to train students to answer the phone professionally?

{ 349 comments… read them below }

  1. Lilo*

    Alison’s advice is dead on here. Unless she brought up her religion inappropriately in the interview or had other red flags, it’s borrowing trouble (potentially discrimination, depending on action) to treat her differently because of it.

    FWIW, I’m on the board of my son’s Methodist preschool and an active member of the JCC, including some volunteer activities, and actually belong to neither religion.

    1. yellow haired female*

      Yeah, exactly this! I’m technically christian but a very liberal one. I do have past volunteer history at a more conservative church that I no longer agree with, but currently belong to a denomination that is LGBT+ affirming, allows women leaders, etc.

      I would be very taken aback if someone lectured me before starting work that I’m not allowed to “evangelize.” I was certainly not planning on it! In fact, I would probably reconsider working there because I would wonder if the company were intolerant of religious people.

      I think everyone is on their own path and search for meaning, whether religious or non-religious.

      1. Ann Onymous*

        I’m also part of a liberal Christian denomination, but I’m always a little hesitant to let people know I’m a Christian because they may wrongly assume that I’m intolerant or bigoted towards certain groups of people.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Evangelicalism has campaigned for the past forty years to monopolize the word “Christian.” Sadly, they have largely been successful. This is, to pick a trivial example, how “Jesus is my boyfriend” is “Christian” music, while a Bach cantata is something else. Worse, they have persuaded the culture at large of this. I respect the liberal Christians who refuse to budge on the word, but the alternative strategy is to duck the issue and name the specific denomination. This is far from perfect. Lots of people don’t understand the significance of “Episcopalian” or “UCC,” but it sometimes works.

          1. Sara without an H*

            I always have to fight the temptation to get into discussions of “Christian” music, then hold forth on my enthusiasm for Gregorian chant.

            This will probably lengthen my stay in Purgatory.

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I once had a Very Awkward Learning Experience when I learned that when classical music people talk about cantatas and when small town enthusiastic church people talk about cantatas they mean very different kinds of musical performances, and once should inquire further before signing up to join the choir to perform in one.

          3. AJoftheInternet*

            My client and I have been having this discussion because he serves private schools that label themselves Catholic or Christian, but saying “Catholic or Christian schools” in his marketing makes my teeth hurt. I’m not even Catholic; I just hate that there’s an implicit division there. I really want to say “Catholic or other Christian schools,” but that’s a little less parsable.

          4. Mike*

            Interestingly, this is very common in Korea. In several academic papers I have edited for Korean authors, they reported the religious affiliations of their respondents as “Buddhist,” “Confucian,” “Christian,” “Catholic,” and “other.” The first time I encountered this was when a Korean fellow said that South Korea was the most Christian nation in Asia. I said, “No, that would be the Philippines.” After a second he laughed and said, “Right, I meant ‘Protestant.'”

        2. yellow haired female*

          same same. I try to throw it in there like… “but I go to a really liberal church!” if I have to mention it at all.

      2. Maglev to Crazytown*

        I am a relatively devout Catholic. My coworkers are generally aware that I cantor for my church too (and think it is very cool since public speaking terrifies people enough, much less solo public singing), as it has come up in the context of having to turn down going out for a group wings and beer night because I had rehearsal scheduled.

        I have a small patron saint prayer card tucked in a subtle place in my office (where I can give it a glance and a deep breath to help in keeping my calm), and otherwise I keep my faith personal and to myself.

    2. marvin*

      I think the writer kind of answered their own question here: “people who don’t talk about religion during interviews can still turn out to be zealots”. I appreciate that they’re trying to protect their employees from being discriminated against, but the way to do that is to create a larger culture where employees feel safe reporting harassment and know something will be done about it. Obviously it would be different if they had direct evidence of the new hire being a bigot, but that would have to be based on their actions.

    3. alienor*

      The ickiest proselytizing experiences I’ve ever had haven’t come from the people yelling about hell on the street corner, they’ve come from the people who seemed fine until they said “Hey, can I ask you a question?” and it turned out to be an opener for stealth proselytizing. (Not unlike those people who start out being friendly and then you realize that they’re trying to turn it into hitting on you, except the “date” they want you to go on is to their church.) So I don’t know that not doing it in the interview means that the person won’t do it in the office either.

      That said, I do agree that there’s no justification to treat her differently (and indeed, it would be illegal to do so) until something happens.

      1. Starfox*

        My coworkers & I had three randos come up to us on a lunch break asking if we would do a survey. We said sure & they went straight to asking about our thoughts on life after death & then got everybody upset by ranting about gay/bi people.

    4. Chickaletta*

      Just here to sympathize as a fellow liberal Christian. It can feel weird to tell people that I’ve sat on the board of my church and all the volunteer stuff I’ve done for them. I feel the need to also say “but we have gay priests”, “our choir master also owns a popular gay bar and has a second facebook page just for his drag persona”, or “I fully support a woman’s choice to choose”.

      1. whingedrinking*

        I’m an atheist who semi-routinely has to say, “…but I’m an atheist because it boils down to the fact that I think God doesn’t exist, not because I’ve been personally traumatized or abused by religious people, and in fact if I believed in any faith it would probably be the one I was brought up in because I didn’t even know being homophobic or anti-choice was a ‘Christian’ thing until I talked to ‘Christians’ outside my parents’ church.”

  2. BossLady*

    For the question about college students answering phones – most college students have had a vastly different experience than workers who grew up while landlines were still common. I realized my rising college student and my younger high school student were woefully unprepared for normal business phone usage last summer and made a chart they had to complete, including making 3 personal phone calls, making 3 phone calls to businesses to ask for operating hours or ask a question, answering 3 phone calls, taking messages, leaving messages (with all the appropriate callback info). It was hilarious at first; my very capable kids were embarrassed at their inexperience, but we were able to practice, and they quickly caught on. I would DEFINITELY include this in the onboarding of interns. It’s not that “kids these days” are incompetent, they just have literally no life experience with calls!

    1. Nesprin*

      I mean, I’m an older millennial and I’d struggle with these tests.
      Normal business usage of a phone is almost as not a thing as using a fax machine- it’s faster to text or email, and there’s no chance of transcription errors.

      1. kr*

        Whoa, no, not at all. This must be field dependent because my job takes me across multiple industries and phone use is common in most of them.

          1. Purple Cat*

            If there’s an industry I would peg as not wanting anything written down, it’s definitely lawyer!
            In my finance role, phone calls are practically non-existent. Team meetings, all day long, but to actually have to call in the way OP describes, nope! I’m actually dreading updating our banking information because we want/expect customers to call and confirm and having to talk on the phone that much is giving me major anxiety.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              “If there’s an industry I would peg as not wanting anything written down, it’s definitely lawyer!”

              I appreciate the cynicism, but this is for the most part untrue. Believe it or not, lawyers trying to pull something shady is the special, not the general case. Don’t get fooled by selection bias in the news.

              For myself, whether the phone or some other medium is best depends on the circumstances. If I am asking questions of a client, do I want to rely on their literacy skills? If I am dealing with another office, a phone call has immediacy, where an email can easily disappear into a black hole. Phone calls often are better for strictly pragmatic reasons.

          2. Delta Delta*

            Yep. And there are times when you just need the phone instead of something written. I actually got to the end of the day Friday last week and called someone and said I called because I just couldn’t physically send another email. she laughed and said she felt that way sometimes, too.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I think a lot of things that would be phone calls have now been replaced with Teams calls for me, but I definitely still have phone calls.

          1. allathian*

            Yup, same here. If my work phone rings, it’s 100% guaranteed someone trying to sell me something. I reply with “this is a work phone, please put this number on your do not call list” regardless of what they’re trying to peddle, and hang up. It helps that I’m not required to interact with the public in my job, and that I don’t work in procurement, so there’s no business reason for them to call that number.

            I haven’t used a landline phone at work since 2001. I’ve always either used an employer-assigned cellphone, or in the early 00s, computer-aided dialing at call centers for outbound calls. We’ve used Lync/Skype for business since about 2014 and switched to Teams last year. I get about one unscheduled Teams call per month. In our organizational culture there’s a strong preference for giving people a heads-up on IM first, though.

        2. BethDH*

          Phone calls are a big part of my work, but *unscheduled* phone calls from outside my department are unheard of.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        Speaking as a librarian, it’s very much a thing. Without phones, we’d be in a world of hurt, and so would our patrons.

        1. WulfInTheLibrary*

          Speaking also as a librarian but on a college campus, we hardly ever use the phones…because our patrons are all students and they don’t use the phone.

          1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

            Wow, I am on a college campus and we get so many phone calls. And I am in the office that is almost forbidden to do anything over the phone.

      3. Meow*

        I’m surprised to hear that. I was born in 1991 and we had a landline in our home until I was a teenager. I got my first office job in 2010 and up until 2020 I worked in organizations that still used phones in the office. Now I’m in my 30s and it’s hard to imagine my peers or those into their 40s who entered the workforce in the late 90s/early 2000s not knowing how to make a personal call or call a business. You might not love doing it or feel super comfortable (I feel that way sometimes) but I’m sure you know how, and I think that’s the difference between millennials and folks in their teen years or early 20s and that’s why it’s important to be more explicit in helping them understand norms around it since there are still jobs where phones are used.

        1. But what to call me?*

          Well, there’s having a general idea how to do it and then there’s being able to do it well, meaning in a way that will come off as professional and also effectively communicate the information you want to communicate.

          I’m a couple of years older than you, and sure, we had a landline growing up, and I knew how to use it to call people I knew, but I never had a reason to call a business and it was rare enough for unexpected calls to be meant for me that I always just let the answering machine take care of taking messages. Then I spent my 20s in a series of jobs (and grad school) where email communication was the norm.

          Now I’m in a job where I’m expected to be able to answer the phone professionally and call people whenever I need to, and I hate it because I know I’m bad at it. I don’t have the right wording and I’m likely to sound awkward, so I get stressed and embarrassed, which makes me even more awkward. But as a grown woman in a professional role I’m expected to know how to do that kind of stuff, because people assume all adults can do that kind of stuff, so it’s not really something I can ask to be coached on without feeling and looking ridiculous. Even if I did ask, what would I say? ‘Hey, would someone please take time out of their busy day to teach me how to make a phone call?’ So instead I just muddle through.

          (And I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to mute a call, even if it occurred to me to do so.)

          1. M&M*

            I don’t think it’s true at all that you can’t ask for coaching or advice! I’m in a field where phone calls are pretty common and I would absolutely coach one of my direct reports on phone etiquette if they wanted help. I know what it’s like to feel awkward and flustered, but learning those key phrases you mentioned will really help smooth that over. Good luck!

          2. SarahKay*

            If it helps, I got taught to answer “Good morning / afternoon, BusinessName, this is SarahKay speaking”. Then for making calls it’d be “Good morning/afternoon, this is SarahKay calling from BusinessName. Could I speak to ContactName regarding insert-topic-here?”
            We were told that the greeting before the business name is important, as people typically miss the first word or two of a phone call, so this way they still pick up the business name and your name.
            Beyond that, might there be You-Tube videos on how to make and receive calls? And for muting your phone (very useful in the case of a coughing fit, speaking as someone with a lingering Covid cough) there are almost certainly instructions on-line if you search your phone model. Good luck!

          3. TheLinguistManager*

            Here’s what I’d say: “Hey, this is a bit of a weird request, but do you have any feedback on how I answer the phone for the office? I feel like I could be doing it better but I can’t put my finger on what exactly is off-kilter.”

            And yeah, that sounds awkward, but you gotta lean into it. If your team or workplace is a place where it’s safe and usual to ask for feedback, this won’t ping any sensors. For further camouflage, bring it up during a self-eval period or at a review.

      4. Valancy Snaith*

        Uh, no. Perhaps your specific industry or company, but “normal business usage of a phone” is alive and well. There are tons of workplaces where texting or emailing take much longer or are otherwise insufficient.

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          What? Most of the Millenials and younger I’ve worked with know how to use a landline — you may have to show them how to switch between lines and whatnot, but they know what to do with one. In fact, one showed me the particulars of the ones at the dog daycare.

          Stop assuming they don’t know because cells are more common; it’s not a good idea.

          1. Lydia*

            What are you responding to, exactly? Valancy Snaith didn’t say anything about Millenials or any other group not knowing.

        2. Tau*

          I’ve found that a lot of general business here is nearly impossible to manage by e-mail – definitely forget about contacting your doctor in any way that’s not calling, but also stuff like your local plumber, your local electrician, pretty much all the craftspeople (tradespeople? idk how to translate the nuances here) I’ve found are often hard to impossible get in touch with except by phone.

          That said, this might be a German thing.

          1. allathian*

            Probably is. I call my dentist, because they don’t have a secure app for that. My primary care physician’s office does. Sometimes I’ll call, but often it’s more efficient to use the app. If I’m at the office, I’ll definitely use the app for privacy reasons.

      5. Amy*

        I’m a millennial and I get frustrated by rounds and rounds of emails. Many problems that might take 50 emails can be solved with a 5 minute phone call. Count me in as pro-phone.
        It’s definitely not a dinosaur in my office, especially with clients.

        I just had a client tell me over the phone that she really didn’t mesh well with the last trainer we sent to her site to train on our product. I’m sure she never would have put that in writing, where many people are more circumspect. But it was important information for me to have. I needed a live phone or in-person convo to get it.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          Phone calls are great for candid conversations. I work in government in a capacity where effectively all of my email is public information subject to data requests, I am especially careful about what I email but even without that wrinkle phone calls get you information no one wants to put in writing

      6. Chirpy*

        I’m an older millennial who grew up with a landline (though I’ve personally never had one as an adult) and I had to train a teenage staffer how to use a rotary phone and answer professionally at work 15 years ago…

        1. Claire*

          Where and why did you get a rotary phone in the year of our Lord 2007? I thought those didn’t even work over phone lines anymore, though now I have no idea why I thought that.

          1. Tick Tick Tick Tick is a Four*

            I still have a rotary phone in my basement. The doohickey that separates the Internet signal from the phone line doesn’t fit on the plug the phone goes into, but it’s there. It’s great when I’m in the basement shower and my “excellent-timing” spouse calls our landline because I didn’t answer my cellphone, then calls again, then yet again, so I don’t have to go dripping upstairs to answer the phone. I just shout over the buzzing noise that I’m in the shower and will call back. He’s a first responder, and it amazes me that anyone who handles accident victims panics when I don’t pick up on the first ring.
            But yes, rotary phone still works here.

            1. SarahKay*

              OT, but my friend and his family briefly lived in his recently-deceased aunt’s house, which had an enormous basement that was absolutely full of … STUFF. Ornaments, broken furniture, paperwork, more ornaments, old furniture, old tools, you name it. It basically looked like the setting for the start of the creepy sort of horror film where something would be lurking down there.
              It had an old-fashioned rotary phone down there that he assumed was likewise defunct until one day: IT RANG. Apparently he was so startled (ie spooked) he practically levitated up the stairs into the main house. Where his perfectly normal house phone was also ringing.

              1. allathian*

                Cool! S0 the phone in the basement had been ringing every time someone called on that line and nobody knew…

        2. Chirpy*

          It was an organization that just didn’t update their technology often (this also wasn’t in the main office, it was an off-site location.) You should have seen their cash registers, which were honestly worse than the rotary phone, half the buttons didn’t work so it was a glorified cash box and you had to use a calculator…

      7. inko*

        Elder millennial here and I’ve used the phone a ton at work (much to my displeasure because it makes me anxious, but that’s a me problem). It depends very much on what your job actually is, I think.

      8. allornone*

        It depends. I hate the phone, and will usually email (and sometimes text) unless something is really important. That being said, one of our VPs and our CFO are almost unreachable through email (the CFO will respond, but almost never reads the entire email he’s responding to, and the VP will literally take weeks to get back to you). But if you call either of them, they will almost always answer and be more than helpful. Yet another manager doesn’t do phone or email but is always available through Teams. My boss hates Teams and just prefers to meet one-on-one. People have preferences, and with multiple modes of contact available, get to act with those preferences.

      9. Lawyer*

        Disagreed very strongly. Text and e-mail is NOT always as efficient as a voice conversation. That is particularly true if you there is likely to be misunderstanding (e.g., negotiating complex agreements). And phone calls cannot be subpoenaed or end up on the front page of the New York TIme.

      10. Gato Blanco*

        >Normal business usage of a phone is almost as not a thing as using a fax machine- it’s faster to text or email, and there’s no chance of transcription errors.

        This is so not true for so many jobs. I take it you’ve never been a secretary or worked a corporate customer service position internal or external? Phones get used all day long in these jobs.

      11. NotAnotherManager!*

        Industry-dependent. We absolutely use the phone heavily, and there are definitely things that must be conveyed via call rather than in writing or VM. We also use internal IM and email. InfoSec/confidentiality/compliance requirements bar the use of personal phones, email, or text for business communications.

    2. Grace*

      Yeah. It wouldn’t occur to me to use a mute/hold button because I don’t think I’ve ever used a phone that had one, for example – my cell phone doesn’t. I can handle making calls and leaving messages (you deal with enough medical specialists, you get used to that one), and I imagine I could work out taking one (write down their name, what they need, relevant info, and how you’re supposed to get back to them?), but some things just aren’t going to be obvious if you’ve never used a landline.

      1. COHikerGirl*

        Your cell has mute. I think even my flip phone had mute. Hold, too, probably (mine does, especially easy if someone else calls while I’m on a call).

    3. MigraineMonth*

      Since I work remotely now, I don’t think I’ve used a phone in my current job for anything other than calling the help desk for IT issues. I don’t have access to my landline work phone, and even though I’ve shared my personal cell number, no one has called it. We have email, IM’ing and four different flavors of video calls/meetings; having a phone hasn’t been necessary.

      1. EngineeringFun*

        45 yo Engineer here. Only 3 coworkers have my personal phone number. Teams me if you you need to talk. I did give my number to a vendor that I used a lot. Big mistake. He calls me weekly to waste my time.

        1. rayray*

          Tip for anyone reading, sign up and get a google voice number. You can set it so calls go to your regular phone if needed, but you can also set it so they can’t call you at odd hours either. Keeps your personal number safe.

          1. LarryFromOregon*

            Some organizations bar the use of Google Voice for work calls, due to Google’s propensity to use every scrap of data for marketing and advertising. They have a reasonable worry that use of Google Voice could be found to violate HIPAA of other information-security regulations or standards.

            1. LarryFromOregon*

              Correction: They have a reasonable worry that use of Google Voice could be found to violate HIPAA or other information-security regulations or standards.

    4. Jay (no, the other one)*

      We still have a landline because I needed an old-fashioned fax machine for work until last year and I haven’t gotten around to cancelling it (faxed prescriptions satisfy HIPPA. Emailed prescriptions from my personal account do not). My kid (now 22) never used the landline phone. When she was 19 and away at college, I forced her to start making her own phone calls for medication refills or doctor’s appointments. I doubt she has to use the phone for work – she works in social media marketing so everything is done via EMail and chat. I’m just glad she actually goes into an office part of the time and has the chance to learn office norms. Sort of – she’s in SoCal working for a company that makes casual, beach-y clothing, so the dress code is – loose.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Jay, don’t sweat it for your daughter. She’s learnt the norms for her company.
        I mean, I remember telling my parents that as a birthday present I wanted a smart outfit because I would soon be needing one for job interviews, and my Dad was pointing out black skirts and white blouses, until I told him I had no intention of applying to work in a funeral home. I’ve got by perfectly well wearing the stuff in my quirky colourful style – and if ever I’ve not made it past interview stage because of my outfit, then that’s probably for the best.

    5. yetelmen*

      A couple of years ago, I supported a student-led project based learning initiative where high school students were working in their communities to solve an identified problem. The teacher was only there to facilitate, so the students had to reach out and contact local businesses, etc. When we got the evals back from the students, one of their responses to the most valuable part of the course was “I learned how to talk to people on the phone.” I felt like I had made a real difference in this world!

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Also where to put the stamp on an envelope, and how to endorse a check. Things I often did while a teen, that come up for my 20-somethings once a year or so.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Talking about endorsing a check, my teenage grandson got a check from my mother for his birthday. I told him how to do it, and reminded him legal signatures are written in cursive. (I don’t really know if that’s a hard and fast rule anymore, but was when I was coming along.) He looked at me in panic and said he didn’t know how to write in cursive. I seriously didn’t realize they don’t teach that in school anymore.

        1. Lawyer*

          I told him how to do it, and reminded him legal signatures are written in cursive.

          There is no such requirement.

        2. Burger Bob*

          Or even how to write a check in the first place! I know checks are becoming less and less common, but I’ll never forget when I called in response to a medical bill to ask who I should make the check out to (the mailed bill didn’t specify), and the person on the other end didn’t seem to have any idea what I was talking about! Checks don’t come up often for most people these days, but on the rare occasion you need to write one…you need to know how to write one!

          1. Polly Hedron*

            Yes, I recently asked for a new [paper] check register at Bank of America. The thirtysomething staff member had no idea what I meant, even while I tried to explain that it was a little booklet to record checks. I had to find a manager to get the register.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          A relative sent my kids checks for a holiday, and they had no idea what they were. It was kind of hilarious, but we solved it quickly.

          We rarely use checks, but the schools still require them (or cash) sometimes.

      2. allathian*

        Yup, I’ve taught our son to put stamps on Christmas cards, he’s done that since he was about 7.

        I’ve never had a checking account, although I was 15 when I got my first ATM card, and I applied for my first debit card on my 18th birthday. I got my first credit card through our student union when I was 20. Now kids as young as 12 can get debit cards. I got checks as gifts for my high school graduation, and I had to handle them when I worked retail. Very few people use them now and most retailers no longer accept them.

    7. Avery*

      I’m a Millennial and my experience only sort of fits what’s described here.
      I have experience making personal calls or quick calls to confirm hours, make an appointment, etc. (It’s still not my favorite thing to do, but some of that may be social anxiety rather than some generational gap.) Leaving messages… I usually didn’t have to leave my number, because answering machines/voicemail catch that automatically, but I’ve handled that in my daily life too.
      Prior to starting my career, though, I had very little experience making work calls that were longer than a simple question. Unlike what some have said in this thread, that’s very much still a thing in the jobs I’ve done–the legal field, yes, but also more general administrative work has included a LOT of phone calls for me.
      The kind of “training” you describe may have been helpful, but what really helps me is having examples of what good practice looks like and having a script for phone calls where that’s reasonable (ex. you’re going to be calling a lot of people asking them to donate to your nonprofit employer–maybe the details will be tweaked in each call, but the overall script can be the same). That’s what I’d advise those worried about kids from younger generations not knowing their phone etiquette do–model good phone etiquette with them listening in, and provide scripts if you can.

      1. No Longer Looking*

        Please be aware that not all answering machines capture your number. I’m not only referring to the tape-based machines I grew up with either – at my last job, if a call came through the front desk switchboard and was then transferred to my desk, all I got was the front desk extension. It was probably just a case of a poorly-programmed board, but it was still frustrating if someone didn’t leave a number, or didn’t leave it clearly.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Yep. We don’t have caller ID on our home phone, so if you don’t leave a number, you won’t get a return call.

      2. Bee*

        A script is SO helpful – and honestly, comfort making/answering business calls generally comes from having internalized that script. I stopped being nervous answering calls at my first job once I knew what I was going to say!

        I do think doing practice calls to other businesses etc is a great way to get some rehearsals in under low-stakes circumstances, too.

        1. Sales Geek*

          Back in the 1990’s my (tech) company decided to get into the office phone business. So we all got fancy new phones with all the bells and whistles.

          This was followed up by “phone call training” with scripts and a mandate that we had to update our voicemail greeting *every day*. Think “Hello, it’s Monday, November 21 and you’ve reached Sales Geek at the BigCorp office in . I’m not available to take your call so please leave a message and I’ll get back to you by the end of the business day.”

          The daily stuff didn’t last long but we were told to change our greeting if we were on vacation, attending an out of town conference or otherwise not in. And we had to list at least two backups (usually a peer and our manager). That last requirement lasted well past my retirement in 2016.

          We also got training on how to leave a message and this has stuck with me. For example, it was recommended to start the message with our name and phone number, then the body of the message followed by a repeat of our name and phone number. It was believed that most people getting a voicemail grab a pen/pencil (and now our cell phones) to record the name/phone number.

          I’m now the executor for another family member’s estate (it’s my 4th time as an executor) and this kind of training helps me sound more professional when leaving messages with the zoo of financial institutions associated with the latest estate.

          Probably the only big change is the prevalence of texting. Personally, I found that a text or two can easily replace hours of meetings or an email chain that could go on for days.

      3. But what to call me?*

        Oh, yes, scripts are wonderful. I’ve written out a few for the parts of office phone calls that tend to be difficult for me (e.g. remembering to mention who I am and what company this is, how to describe the reason I’m calling more nicely than ‘hey, you’re 30 minutes late to your appointment, get your butt in here’, how to end the call without awkwardly trailing off).

    8. Erie*

      That first letter is so weird – it’s like it’s sent from another planet where people don’t encounter religious people very often and have no idea that they’re just ordinary people like everyone else. It’s almost offensive, honestly, and I’m not even religious.

      1. Claire*

        Or it could be sent from this planet, where many people’s only experience with very religious people is when those people do things like actually laying hands on a Jewish person’s head in the office hallway and praying for them to return to Jesus.

    9. alienor*

      When you think about it, everyone has to be taught to use the phone at some point – I grew up with a landline and remember my mother explaining that you had to say who you were and ask for the person you wanted to speak to (and then later my boss at my first retail job explaining the approved corporate greeting when answering the store line). It’s just that now people learn later.

    10. Artemesia*

      oh please give phone training. I well remember the temp who when the new CEO called to talk to me said ‘oh I haven’t seen her this morning, I don’t know if she is around.’ when I was on vacation. This gave the big shot the impression that I rarely showed up for work and I don’t think he ever got over that first impression although I mentioned that I had been out of the country when he called. I think he wondered why the secretary would not then be aware of my whereabouts — People answering the phone need to know what to say and what not to say.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        I mean, it sounds like she didn’t know you were on vacation? I used to work as a receptionist and callers would ask me where people were all the time. Staff were supposed to let me know about vacations and sign in and out at the front desk, but most never did. So if I got a call asking where someone was, “I’m not sure, I haven’t seen them today” was often the only answer I had. The moral of this story seems less “receptionists must be taught how to phone” and more “people should let the receptionist know when they are out of the office and why.” And if she did know you were on vacation and forgot or whatever, that’s still not a phone etiquette issue.

    11. SadieMae*

      As a Gen Xer, I have no problem using the phone, though I also prefer email (for multiple reasons). When I was an office admin, I had an older boss, though, who was always convinced that emails would get lost. He firmly believed phone was best, always. Of course, most of our clients wanted emails (this was around 2015!), and I kept telling him that. Eventually he decided that, OK, I’d be allowed to send emails…BUT I would always have to call the client afterward to make sure they got the email. I even told him about “read receipt,” but no dice. I felt like such a doofus making those phone calls!

      Of course, this was the same guy who insisted I print out all his emails…then he would hand-write replies on the printouts…then I would transcribe those replies into a reply email but not send it yet, because before I sent it I had to run it by him so he could make sure I’d transcribed it correctly. Then he wanted me to print out the email I’d sent and file it. We had these huge file cabinets full of printed-out emails that were already backed up anyway and easy to find. It was as if he felt they didn’t exist unless they were on paper. Pretty wild.

      1. SadieMae*

        Oh, and in case you’re wondering, if the client needed any documents, those were printed out and snail mailed. (And then I still had to call to make sure they’d been received.)

    12. Sara without an H*

      Actually, even back when most people had landlines and phones were a common means of social communication, I found that students really didn’t know how to answer the phone in a business context. I had to train them that it was fine to answer their phones at home with “hullo,” but at work it had to be “Tiny College Library, how may I help you?”

      A lot of people who’ve been in the work world for a while forget that business norms are not often obvious or intuitive. I like your idea of a training chart for basic telephone skills — if I were still working, I’d steal it.

    13. DiplomaJill*

      I’ve started having my elementary age kids make their own hair appointments and such so that they learn basic transactional phone calls!

    14. TeaCoziesRUs*

      I’ll be curious when my kids get old enough to use a cell phone what their skills are. They’ve had a lifetime of hearing me answer phone calls, make calls, leave messages, etc. (And yes, I feel very put on the spot by the Progressive commercial about voice mails thankyouverymuch.) Here’s hoping my X-ennial passive training sinks in. :)

      1. BossLady*

        Haha your mistake is thinking that “using a cell phone” means calling. My kids have had cell phones since maybe 6th or 7th grade and never made voice calls with them.

    15. Burger Bob*

      Bless you for taking the time to teach them! I work at a pharmacy in a college town, and a shocking number of college student parents are still handling every single phone call for their 21 and 22 year old children who are close to graduating and going out into the world on their own, even just the simplest of calls like, “I would like a refill on my [medicine].” It always makes me wonder how long they will continue to do this task for their grown children. At what point will they teach them how to do it themselves? It’s an incredibly valuable lesson, just as much as learning how to do your own laundry. More people should take the time to teach basic phone skills. They don’t always come naturally to people!

  3. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    Way back in 1985, I (Jewish, non-practicing) got a new co-worker – a Jehovah’s Witness. I told him that as long as he didn’t inflict his religion on me – yes, that was the exact phrase I used, “inflict” – we’d get along fine.

    He didn’t, and we did.

    We became good friends, actually. We’d go to lunch together and occationally hang out after work.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I’m not sure if you’re giving this story as what to do or what not to do? Because this strikes me (another nom-practicing Jew) as wholly inappropriate on your part. I’ve worked with and gone to school with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I’ve never been proselytized to (by them or actually anyone). I would find it super hostile to open an introduction to someone with such aggressive language.

      1. Temperance*

        I work with a few JWs and I only know because their personal restrictions were relevant in what we were doing (couldn’t do a holiday-related event). I did work with someone in the past who was also a Witness and she used it as an excuse to get special treatment, but that was just her being a jerk and not part of her religion.

        1. to varying degrees*

          Same. The Jehovah Witness’s I have worked with most of our colleagues didn’t realize it until a birthday party or holiday happened.

          Why invite an issue when none yet exists?

      2. Ellis Bell*

        He’s taking the piss (mocking) himself with an example of what not to do even though it happened to turn out okay. I thought it was funny!

      3. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        I’m a JW and I definitely agree. I don’t bring it up at work unless it comes up (ex. My office is very much into birthdays, and every now and then they ask me for mine and I politely decline). So for me, if I happened to bring up that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, like if you asked me what I was doing for the weekend and I mentioned I was going to a convention, and then you told me this, I would find it very off-putting and would probably keep you at arm’s length.

        And really, if you do find religion coming up as a topic at work, all you have to say is “I’d rather not discuss religion at work.” The same as if you didn’t want to discuss politics at work.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. I’ve worked with a few JWs in my career, and they were the kindest, most pleasant coworkers imaginable, all of them. I never would’ve known anything about their religious affiliation if it hadn’t been for my office culture, where birthdays (for those who are so inclined) are celebrated.

          We also celebrate Christmas, and our end of the year party is explicitly called a Christmas party. But I work for the government in Finland, a country with two official state churches (Lutheran and Orthodox), so it’s unlikely to change any time soon. But at least those who don’t celebrate the holidays or don’t want to participate in the party for other reasons aren’t penalized for it. At least I’ve never been penalized for it and I stopped going some 6 or 7 years ago (the older I get, the less I want to see my coworkers get drunk, and the less tolerance I have for late nights in a noisy environment).

          I’ve found that if you treat others with respect, the vast majority of the time they’ll reciprocate. Those who don’t are jerks, regardless of religious affiliation.

      4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Given my personal experience with JWs, which caused a rift in my family with my father being proselytised to, my mother’s own brother refusing to attend her non JW wedding and my mother being ostracised for years, this did not strike me as hostile in the least.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          But of course, it’s wrong because it’s assuming that the JW is going to proselytise. This was just a visceral reaction based on my personal experience of JWs – but I’m coming back now to say I realise that it was a personal not professional experience.

          If it turned out that one of my colleagues was a JW, I wouldn’t say anything at all, since I never discuss religion at work. They would be placed on a “one strike and I go wild shutting it down” list in my head, but it wouldn’t affect my ability to work with that person day-to-day.

    2. Water Snake*

      The office environment has changed a lot since 1985. A lot of the things we might have said back then wouldn’t fly in today’s office, such as using the word “inflict” with reference to religion. We also now understand that preemptively telling a coworker not to proselytize based on their belonging to a particular religious tradition is a way of singling out somebody based on their beliefs and can be a form of religious discrimination. While I am glad your approach worked for you in 1985, it’s not appropriate in 2022.

      1. Lydia*

        I daresay some people would disagree that it’s not appropriate in 2022. See: that letter from last week where the writer was being touched and prayed over. Although, that sort of crap is not something I’ve EVER experienced with any of the people I knew who were JW.

    3. Brain the Brian*

      I (from a multi-religious, nonpracticing household) had a very close friend in high school who was a Witness. Truly a good person, and we got along very well. I learned a lot from her about how not to assume that someone’s religion will automatically make them an annoyance.

      1. allathian*

        I had a classmate in junior high who was a JW. Unlike most of my classmates, she at least talked to me. I wanted to be her friend, but there was always a certain distance. I don’t think she was allowed to have friends who weren’t also JW. I sometimes wonder how she’s doing now.

    4. madge*

      This cracked me up, although I’m surprised he hung out with you. I’m in a family of devout JWs (elders, pioneers, former circuit overseer) and JWs are specifically cautioned against socializing with “worldly” people (non-JWs). They are also specifically directed to witness at work and school, considering those spaces their “territory” for the preaching work. I was spoken to by the elders for not wanting to push back against evolution in third grade because it was an excellent preaching opportunity.

      I get why your words are off-putting to some here, but for anyone who has experienced the level of control the religion has over its followers, it’s absolutely understandable to cut that off at the pass. They aren’t bad people; they’re just doing what they honestly believe is the kindest thing.

      1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        I mentioned in another comment that I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you used language like that with me, I would absolutely be put off and it would affect our working relationship if you used language like that with me if I simply brought up the fact that I was a JW. I personally don’t bring up my religion at work unless it comes up (I also work from home so there’s not a lot of chit chat) but all you have to say is “I would prefer not to discuss religion at work” if anyone tries to talk to you about religion when it’s not wanted, or if someone who was talking about politics tried to discuss it with you at work.

        1. LolaBugg*

          Hi there. I always wondered if any other witnesses read AAM. Great username too haha.

          As a lifelong witness, I’ve tried very hard not to be annoying at work. If someone asks about my faith, I am open about it, but I don’t pepper it into conversation unless I know it would be welcome by whoever’s listening. I’d be sad to know that I was being judged simply by my religious affiliation when I try very hard to follow professional norms regarding inclusion.

          1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

            Hi there! Yup, absolutely read AAM; wonderful advice (and sometimes hilarious stories that I’m glad didn’t happen to me).

            I agree; I definitely try to keep talking about religion only to when it comes up. I’d hate to be judged just for being a JW when I try to act professionally.

      2. Lydia*

        I don’t think that’s universal, though. I worked with a woman who was a devout JW and she A. did not talk to us about her religion except in broadest way and even when I talked to her about it, did not proselytize to me, and B. did go with us on occasion to events after work that were neutral. Like we went to dinner and then to see an author speak at a local book shop once. Even when she had to take time off work to do door-to-door, she referred to as taking time off for her “volunteering” obligations.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, my experience at work has been similar. My JW coworkers did attend celebratory events that weren’t religious holidays or directly related to celebrating another person or themselves. So no birthdays, baby showers, Christmas parties or retirement parties, but they did attend our summer party, because that isn’t related to a holiday as it’s just the start of the vacation season, and any parties that are held to celebrate the completion of big projects and kickoff parties.

        2. madge*

          I’m happy to see there are so many moderate JWs in offices. I was in for 30-ish years and that’s very different from how we were taught (left ~2010). From this and last year’s convention videos, it’s clear that JWs are encouraged to speak up at work, including one where a woman refuses to attend an LGBTQ+ rights event with the rest of the office, explaining that marriage should be between a man and woman only. I wouldn’t want to expose an LGBTQ+ colleague to that judgment.

          1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

            If I remember that video from our convention correctly, in the demonstration, the woman was being pressured by her co-workers to participate after saying “no” once, which should have been enough. The point is to suggest ways you might go about handling it; you’re supposed to use common sense as well.

            The way I might handle it would be to say “While I obviously believe that all humans should be treated with dignity and respect, I consider gay rights a political issue and I therefore will not get involved.” And then kind of redirect that way.

  4. fish*

    For the religious coworker: at my org we ask *all* hires to demonstrate a commitment to DEI (and not in a box-checking way). I think of this as the same for any other concern you may have about a hire – make it be part of the interview process with a smart and targeted question that asks about past behavior, not just future abstracts.

    No: “So do you hate gay people”

    Yes: “To what extent have you worked on teams with diversity of race, gender, and sexual orientation, and what have you learned from those experiences?” (taken from an old AAM)

    1. fish*

      To clarify: you want this for all employees, right? So ask everyone. As you note, bigots may or may not have certain items listed clearly on their resumes.

      1. fish*

        A) Most people aren’t the minority in all three of those factors. All are important.

        B) For those who are, it’s a really easy question to answer.

        1. Sasha*

          Even if you are *a* minority, the question is about diversity. So still important to answer.

          I know a disabled Indian Hindu first-generation immigrant woman who is an absolute dick about First Nations people, for example (she’s a former boss).

      2. ecnaseener*

        Probably by talking about times you’ve worked on teams with diversity of race, gender, and sexual orientation, and what you learned from that…? I don’t understand how being a minority would change that — unless you meant THE minority being someone who belongs to every single race, gender, and sexual orientation already and therefore has nothing to learn from anybody.

        1. marvin*

          Actually I tend to find these kind of questions quite difficult to answer if you’re one of the “diverse” people in the equation. Unless you give a really vague answer, you have to decide how much you want to disclose about your identity. And then, if a lot of your experience is of being the token marginalized person and having to educate your coworkers about treating you with basic respect, that’s difficult to address in an interview setting, particularly if the interviewees do not share your identity. I don’t really go into interviews with the hope of coming across as a walking learning experience.

          I’d prefer to answer a question about what I’ve done as an employee to create a more equitable culture for clients, or coworkers, or the public, or whatever makes sense for my actual job. Belonging to a marginalized group isn’t the same thing as having the skills to implement DEI practices.

    2. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      I like this. It also emphasizes that diversity is the expected norm, and if people are not okay with that, they should seek employment elsewhere (provided they have that self-awareness, that is…)

    3. yellow haired female*

      Genuine question, what if someone has just moved from an area that isn’t very diverse? Just because they don’t have experience working with a diverse population doesn’t mean they’re bigoted themselves. We had an intern who was from a predominately Chinese portion of New York City, and she hadn’t really worked with non-Chinese people in the past.

      1. fish*

        I find this question tends to get pretty thoughtful answers, from people with a wide range of experience.

        People who have truly not worked on diverse teams before but value diversity tend to say something like, “Honestly I haven’t but I really wish I could, I like to learn from people, and diversity is really important to me.” In a pretty heartfelt way.

      2. Niniel*

        Yes, this is a very good question. I grew up homeschooled in a small town that simply is not diverse. I legitimately did not interact with a POC until I was in college. I still have never had a Black coworker, simply by accident/the field I am in. I could not have answered this question in a way that would satisfy some employers who are dedicated to DEI. How can you demonstrate DEI when you grow up in a place or are in a field that does not practice it on the whole?

        1. fish*

          As you’ll note, the question is not “have you ever had a Black coworker.” Interesting to see people thinking only of race when the question clearly specifies other factors. And if you’ve truly never had someone from a minority race, gender, or sexual orientation in anything you’ve ever been part of *and* you’re unable to articulate a desire for that…yeah. Maybe you’re not the right candidate.

        2. kr*

          I would hope that in this day and age you have still done some reflection on equity and inclusion issues (ESPECIALLY if you’re in a field that struggles with it) and could speak to those reflections and your values around it.

        3. Joielle*

          I mean, maybe you can’t! And maybe that means you’re not the ideal candidate for some roles/companies. At a minimum, you could say that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people and that’s part of why you want to work for this org – because you think diversity is important and you appreciate the deliberate way they’ve built a diverse team. Or something like that.

          If you want to gain experience working with diverse teams, you could seek out volunteer opportunities with orgs that serve diverse populations.

        4. Irish Teacher*

          I wonder could you think of diversity in its wider application? Like I grew up in a country where virtually everybody was of the same ethnicity (heck, the economic situation in Ireland in the 1980s was such that there were barely any Irish people left here; I’m exaggerating a little but…emigration numbers were really high. Certainly, very few people were immigrating. The migration was very much in the opposite direction). I’m pretty sure everybody in my class at school was Catholic.

          On top of that, the Catholic culture at the time meant divorce was banned, so even things like single parent families were banned (into the ’80s, if a woman got pregnant outside marriage, the expectation was that she would either marry fairly quickly or place the child for adoption). When I was in secondary school, the attitude towards gay people was more pity than open hostility, but…that’s still a form of biogry and while I am sure some of my classmates were gay because it would be pretty unusual if nobody was in a year group of over 100, they weren’t open about it.

          But…I had classmates from the Travelling Community. And my primary school had a school for students with intellectual disabilities attached to it and while they were completely separate during class time, they had break and lunch in the yard with us. And of course, I had classmates from all economic backgrounds from people living in poverty to the daughters of doctors and lawyers and one girl whose parents owned a significant number of the businesses in the town.

          And certainly most people have experience of working with those of the other gender.

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Even if you’ve never worked with someone outside of your own identity groups (race, gender, sexual orientation, birth language, ability level, etc), you’ve still worked with people who approach life differently from the way you do it. Answering the question above with an understanding that people are different and that’s natural and good is a good first step. So something like “My interactions with people from different cultural groups has been limited so far, but I think it’s very important to treat people well and listen to their concerns, and I’m committed to learning and growing” would be a pretty good answer in my opinion.

      3. Zephy*

        Some of those Chinese people probably identified as men, or were older/younger than she was, or had disabilities of some kind.

    4. Temperance*

      I would probably add religion and culture to that question, and tweak the wording somewhat.

      “At Acme Corp., we pride ourselves on a working environment that is inclusive of people with different cultural backgrounds, gender identities, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations. Have you worked on similar teams in the past” is inclusive and isn’t assuming that the person you’re speaking with is white and cishet.

      1. fish*

        I’d tweak the tweak somewhat – it’s not just about getting a yes/no answer if they have or haven’t, it’s about getting them to reflect on the experience and their values. Hence the “and what have you learned” at the end.

        Also, I get where you’re going but if you add too many things into the mix, it blunts the impact. I think picking three is punchier.

      2. KHB*

        If I got that from a job interviewer, my question to them would be “What do you mean by priding yourself on being inclusive?” Because way too often, in my experience, companies that say that are more interested in the “performative inclusiveness” – somebody at HR puts together an email about Native American Heritage Month, but nobody seems to care about how men consistently talk over women in meetings. And I’m not sure the interviewer would get any closer to sussing out whether I secretly hate gay people.

        1. fish*

          I’d prefer to have coworkers who don’t hate gay people at all.

          But professionalism isn’t really about what’s in your heart, it’s about behaving within a set of norms to accomplish tasks.

          If someone secretly hates gay people but can keep that truly secret and be reasonably pleasant, that’s not my ideal, but good enough for me. So I’d say the question screens as I’d like.

      3. ecnaseener*

        The original question doesn’t assume anything about the candidate being white and cishet either. It asks about experiences of working on diverse teams. One person doesn’t make a team diverse, no matter what characteristics that person has.

        1. fish*

          + 100

          Lots of people seem to be missing this and just going “but I’ve never had a Black coworker and it’s not my fault!!1”

          1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

            I wonder if I could make a career of traveling around and working with everyone who says that for a week at a time so they’ve now had a Black coworker. /s

    5. Lost Librarian*

      I would have no idea how to answer this question! How am I supposed to ascribe meaning to my coworker’s sexual orientation in the work setting?
      And if I’ve almost exclusively worked with middle aged white people, is that held against me?
      Have you *seen* the demographics of librarianship?

      1. fish*

        Yes…and it includes A LOT of lesbians.

        Not sure why being asked to reflect on one’s values and experience around inclusion is so upsetting to some here.

        1. Lost Librarian*

          I see a difference between my personal values and the demographics of my coworkers.
          I don’t make hiring decisions, so I don’t tet to decide who works next to me.
          And I don’t need to know anything about my coworkers on a personal level. I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t give a damn about my coworker’s partner/kids/pets/weekend plans. I just care thag said coworker does their work.

          I’ve had 1 lesbian coworker, and I don’t know what I was supposed to take from that experience that would inform my response to this prompt.

          1. fish*

            Being out at work isn’t about making people be interested in my wife’s weekend dance competition. It’s about just being able to relax into being myself instead of scrubbing every utterance of my life and personality and panicking that I might mess up someday. But we’re in 2022, it’s WAY late to be explaining that to you.

            So yeah, if you don’t get that and you have nothing to reflect, maybe you’re not the right candidate.

            1. Lost Librarian*

              I don’t get how I’m supposed to answer the question. Genuinely.
              “Yes, I’ve worked with coworkers of a variety of ages, ethnic backgrounds, education experiences, and across the LGBTQ+ rainbow.”
              Okay…? And I don’t wish them harm? I genuninely don’t understand what the “right” answer is to the question.

              1. fish*

                To restate the question, what did you learn from that?

                You really only learned that you don’t want to hurt people with different backgrounds?

                1. Lost Librarian*

                  I didn’t learn anything in particular from my one lesbian coworker.
                  She was a fine coworker, no better or worse than anyone else who worked the circulation desk with me.

              2. kr*

                You appreciate that working with a diverse group brings a diversity of perspectives that makes your work better? You’ve made a point of learning about equity and inclusion so that you’re able to be a better ally for people who need it in the workplace? You’ve learned over time about what people with marginalized identities experience in the workplace and you’ve worked to learn ways you can help counter that?

                If none of those things are true, you are probably not the candidate a company that asks this question is looking for.

                1. fish*

                  And as a librarian you are responsible for serving patrons of diverse backgrounds! A librarian who doesn’t care about diversity is…alarming.

                2. Lost*

                  I guess my job/workplace functions differently from other people’s.
                  The work is the work, and one’s personal experiences have little to no bearing on it. Filing is filing. Alphabetizing is alphabetizing.

                3. kr*

                  Lost: May I ask, are you white? Are you cis? People who are not often feel very differently about that. Work isn’t just the tasks you’re doing. It’s the culture, it’s who gets listened to and who doesn’t, it’s who gets what feedback and what opportunities, it’s a whole ecosystem not just a series of tasks in a job description.

                4. nnn*

                  Wow, a lot of people here who have never done real reflection on DEI and resent the idea that they should have to.

                5. Calliope*

                  I mean if you have a totally ministerial job and are interviewing for a totally ministerial job, cool. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you can just say you’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with a lot of different coworkers and diverse members of the public. Many librarians do things like recommend books to diverse groups of patrons and participate in circulation decisions so yeah, if you can’t articulate how you approach DEI as part of that I’d be pretty reluctant to hire you.

          2. Joielle*

            The answer to the question, then, is something like “I have worked in teams that are somewhat diverse and I’ve found that having different perspectives present in the workplace has been a major benefit when solving problems or choosing new programs. But also, one of the reasons I would like to work for your company is that you prioritize diversity and I think that’s really important. I would love to have the opportunity to work with an even more diverse team and tackle the important DEI issues in our field.”

            Hopefully that’s true for you! And if not, hopefully you can access some DEI trainings to help expand your knowledge and understanding in this area.

            We ask a question like this in our hiring and a few weeks ago I interviewed a guy whose answer was “Uh……. I had some Hmong friends in high school.” (Which would have been at least 20 years ago based on his resume.) Reader, we did not hire him.

      2. KHB*

        I have the same question. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure I even know all of my coworkers’ sexual orientations. Some are open about talking about their spouses/partners, but many are not.

          1. Private lives are private*

            Many of us don’t talk about our partners simply because we like to keep our private lives private.
            I’m a white cis-het woman with a white cis-het male partner.
            I don’t talk about him at work because it’s no one’s business.

            1. fish*

              But do you censor every single thing you might potentially say in your mind to make absolutely sure you’re not mentioning anything about your life?

              I can’t believe this turned into defending the benefits of being out at work.

              Finding a lot of people who aren’t my org’s ideal candidate! Question working as designed!

              1. Be Gneiss*

                How did you make the jump from “KHB doesn’t know the orientation or relationship status of every coworker” to “KHB’s coworker’s are censoring every personal detail from their conversations.”

                1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

                  Because those of us who have lived being closeted at work know how that process goes and what it’s designed to look like from the outside. For example, I’ve had people tell me to my face they’ve never met a bisexual so they think bisexuality is made up, and I’ve thought, “this is why I don’t trust you enough to come out to you.”

              2. Confused*

                But I don’t see how your question equals the outcome you want?
                If what you want is for people who are willing/comfortable working with folks who are different from them, why wouldn’t you ask that?
                “We at Teapots inc value our employees and their ability to be their authentic selves at work. Are you confident you can respect gender identity/religious diversity/coworkers across a wide range of ages/etc?”

                1. fish*

                  That’s terrible question. You want people to reflect on their values and experiences, not answer a yes/no checkbox where only a serial killer would say no.

            2. kr*

              If you’re in a office where you don’t know if anyone is gay but you do know that many of your coworkers have opposite sex partners, it’s pretty likely that your gay coworkers don’t feel comfortable being out at work because of the culture.

              Sure one or two people might just be intensively private. If you’ve got a group of 50+ people that’s probably not the explanation. Horses, not zebras.

              1. Observer*

                If I have 100 employees in the company I work for, and I don’t know the orientation of them, are you telling me it’s because they are all gay and self-censoring.

          2. LilPinkSock*

            Or it may be an indication that many of KHB’s colleagues are private people. I don’t think that I know the relationship status or orientation of all my teammates either, and that’s not for any sinister or problematic reason.

          3. Chirpy*

            Some people just don’t think their own orientation is anyone else’s business at work. It may not be a cultural thing. One’s orientation doesn’t usually affect how they do their job, and some people are just more private than others. Legitimately it shouldn’t matter, and nobody needs to be outed just for “diversity’s sake”.

            (Or, for example, asexuals often get excluded from both straight and LGBTQ “inclusive” spaces and they just aren’t willing to risk it.)

          4. Hound Dog*

            Uh, how? Some people just don’t talk about their lives outside of work. That’s not a work culture problem – it’s a “you don’t have any reason to know and I don’t feel like sharing” issue.

          5. fish*

            Have any of you fun what-if people actually tried being closeted at work? Have you literally never even once over 10 years made some mention of your opposite-sex spouse?

            I am a private person who has been both closeted and uncloseted at work.

            There is a world of difference between “I like to be private” and “OMG I can never, ever talk about it I must censor every thought I have.”

            1. Observer*

              I have a lot of coworkers, where I have not idea if they even have a spouse or SO, much less the gender. Thus, I would have no way to know what their orientation is.

              Same for religious tradition, etc.

            2. Hound Dog*

              Yeah. Hi. I’ve been closeted at work because at best I would have lost my job and at worst I would have been put in a hospital. I am also a private person. At my current job, which is incredibly inclusive, I’ve *maybe* mentioned my sexuality 3 times in 4 years. People are not gonna remember that about me.

            3. Sadie*

              Yes, this. Thanks for saying it. All these what ifs are stingily trying to be exceptions but they are just proving a rule.

          6. Observer*

            So that in itself definitely seems like a problem with your work culture and something to reflect on.

            Why would a healthy work culture require that I know the orientation of all or most of my colleagues? Sure, I’ll probably eventually figure it out about people who I work with closely, because it eventually comes up normal chit chat.

            But there are a LOT of people who I work with not so closely. And for the most part I don’t know their orientation, religious tradition or even their political affiliation. And apart from some obvious stuff (eg someone is clearly Black) I don’t often know much about their ethnic / racial background.

            Why is this a problem?

          7. Jen*

            Or it’s no one’s business except their own. I don’t need to know someone’s sexuality as long as they get their TPS reports in on time.

        1. ecnaseener*

          The question isn’t “exactly how many of your coworkers are LGBT?” It’s a very general question about working on diverse teams.

        2. Beancounter Eric*

          To be brutally honest, I really don’t care what my coworkers sexual orientations are, and frankly, don’t really think about it……deals more with race, but I think it still applies:

          Leo McGarry : The President’s personal aide. They’re looking at a kid. You have any problem with a young black man waiting on the President?
          Admiral Percy Fitzwallace : I’m an old black man and I wait on the President.
          Leo McGarry : The kid’s got to carry his bags and…
          Admiral Percy Fitzwallace : You going to pay him a decent wage?
          Leo McGarry : Yeah.
          Admiral Percy Fitzwallace : You going to treat him with respect in the workplace?
          Leo McGarry : Yeah.
          Admiral Percy Fitzwallace : Then why the hell should I care?
          Leo McGarry : That’s what I thought.
          Admiral Percy Fitzwallace : I got some real honest-to-God battles to fight, Leo. I don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.

          Who someone loves… long as it’s consensual, why the hell should I care?


          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            While entertaining, Aaron Sorkin is not nearly an authority on the nuance of this subject.

      3. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        Have you *seen* the demographics of librarianship?

        Have you ever thought about why those demographics are the way they are? When I was Investigating Careers as a teen, I was told that Black people don’t read so Black librarians are unnecessary.

        One could consider how to increase diversity of librarianship, in terms of collections, community outreach, raising literacy rates, and employment. Or, one could not consider any of that at all.

        1. Lost Librarian*

          Yes, I’ve thought about it extensively. My point is the sample question provided asked about what teams I’ve worked on. Nearly all of my coworkers working in several different libraries have been white het middle aged women.
          That doesn’t tell you anything about whether or not I could be a fine coworker to non white, non het, non middle aged people of any gender identity.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I would think you could answer with that point about thinking about it, that you’ve mostly worked in an industry that is predominently white het middle-aged women and that you have x concerns about that and you have learnt that lack of diversity is problematic for y reasons.

            I think you could say what you’ve learnt from working on a team that isn’t diverse and the impact that lack of diversity has had on your ability to provide services. Are the books ordered likely to reflect the preferences of white het middle-aged women, for example? I have never worked in a library, so I don’t know if that’s a good example or a poor one, but if you’ve thought extensively about it, you can probably come up with way better examples of its impact than I can.

      4. Pool Lounger*

        I’m a librarian and many of my coworkers have been in the lgbtq community, and that’s in the south. I’ve also worked with people from several religious traditions, from JW to pagans. And while race has been less diverse in my workplaces, I’ve worked with white, Black, and mixed-race people. It’s tough to imagine having only ever worked with straight cis non-disabled people of your own race who all share the same religion. If you truly never have, you can discuss why not (demographics of your region or whatever) and explain why you want a more diverse environment. You could also interrogate whether the reasons you’ve never worked in a more diverse environment has to do with racism/sexism/etc in the profession or area, or whether it’s the opposite (I’ve worked in spaces that were 100% queer, because people felt safe that way and the work dealt with queer issues). If there’s been no diversity there’s usually a reason you can discuss.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          +1. The question is meant to open a conversation and see where you are on the spectrum of understanding DEI – not necessarily the textbook information, people may have a variety of exposures to that depending on their field. But understanding how to work on diverse teams, interact with diverse ideas, contribute positively to a culture. It’s an open ended question that reveals someone’s mindset.

      5. ADidgeridooForYou*

        The question isn’t asking you “have you ever worked with an [insert minority group here],” it’s asking how you’ve actively tried to make your environment more inclusive for everyone involved. Even if you’ve exclusively worked with “middle aged white people” (who, by the way, have likely belonged to other marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ or disabled communities), what are you doing within your library to make it welcoming to customers of all backgrounds? Do you regularly center Black voices (and not just during February)? Do you make it a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community? Do you bring in speakers to talk about different religions and holidays (and, for that matter, have inclusive decorations that aren’t just Christmas in December)?

        The library is actually such a great place to center inclusivity since its entire purpose is to educate.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah you want to ask both religious and non religious people about this, as well as all different types of backgrounds. It can be strange what types of intolerance people think is okay. I worked with an atheist colleague in a religious school setting, and initially thought nothing of it as there were loads of atheists and agnostics, myself included; and they were not proselytized to at all (which I thought was the only danger). Well, the first time we had an all school mass she was just not-very-subtly gasping in shock at people going up for communion (attending the mass is required for everyone but the going up for communion part is voluntary for actively practicing Catholics), and she wasn’t being quiet or subtle. The worst bit was when the science department got up and she was practically hissing “but they’re scientists?!? They can’t think God is real?!” Its not religious or not-religious that you have to screen for, it’s intolerance.

    7. Dona Florinda*

      I like this very much, and it can even be used as part of the interview process. And like fish said, ask EVERYONE this.

    8. fish*

      I…I did not intend for this comment to raise a brigade in defense of workplace closeting.

      If you’ve never been closeted at work yourself, miss me with the “private person” BS. It’s fundamentally different.

      Also did not intend to raise the “I’ve never had a Black coworker and it’s not my fauuuuult” brigade.

      Some very thoughtful replies mixed in though!

    9. Roland*

      I think this is a really great question, and it’s pretty disheartening that so many people are criticizing it because they think you’re grading on a yes/no “they have had a black coworker or not” before scale.

  5. Free Meerkats*

    Re: gift cards. For a decade while they were still alive, my in-laws sent us a gift card every christmas for a restaurant that literally doesn’t exist anywhere west of Georgia – we live near Seattle. We just regifted it every year to spouse’s brother, who lived in Florida.

    1. Artemesia*

      Well clearly it was your message to get your tails back home and take them to dinner at Cracker Barrel. The only thing I miss about Nashville is Cracker Barrel — since we retired to Chicago.

  6. yellow haired female*

    I totally agree about the phone answering! I grew up answering a landline (I’m in my early 30s), but I have awful phone anxiety. You know how they say you either “fight, flight, or freeze?” My brain chooses “freeze” and all sense of what I should do and say goes out the window.

    Having a specific script of what is expected, including to put people on mute when asking a question, will be so helpful! I sometimes write myself a script when I have to call someone….

    1. SarahKay*

      Especially as people may think they’ll be fine, until confronted with the real thing. Some thirty-odd years ago much-younger-me couldn’t understand why people left such bad messages on answer-phones (which were much less common then) – and then I called and got an answerphone unexpectedly. I, too, stuttered and stammered and left a bad message.
      After that I learnt to be prepared with what I would say for both a real person or an answer-phone, but it did teach me to be much kinder about things which may appear easy on the surface but perhaps actually do need practice or training.

      1. Jen*

        Having to leave an unexpected voicemail is the worst. I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling with this.

      2. But what to call me?*

        Once I even froze up when I unexpectedly got a voicemail when calling back about an invitation to a job interview. I just had to hang up without leaving my name and hope they either didn’t have caller ID or would think it was a bad connection, because there was no salvaging that.

        1. allathian*

          When my call goes to voicemail unexpectedly, I’ll hang up without leaving a message (before the beep), take a moment to collect my wits, write a short script, call again, and say what I need to. When I’m expecting voicemail, I’ll prepare a script before I call. If I’m particularly nervous, such as when I’m calling a potential new employer, I’ll always prepare a script before the call. I guess it helps that I worked in call centers several years before I graduated, so I can read a script without making it too obvious that I’m reading a script. And I can go off-script on the fly to account for what the other person’s saying.

          I work for the government in Finland, and when we’re hiring, the hiring manager’s phone number is usually listed on the job posting. Since it’s there, applicants are allowed (or maybe even expected) to call. Last time I interviewed for another government position, I called the hiring manager to express my interest and ask for a few clarifying details before submitting my application, and I referenced the call in my cover letter. That time, I fully expected my call to go to voicemail, but the hiring manager answered, I asked my questions and sent in my application. When HR called, it was just to schedule an interview, I’d passed their phone screen by calling them.

          I’m gen X, my family had a landline and I definitely learned to answer the phone and take messages as a kid. One of our chores was to answer the phone when it rang, just to practice, sometimes even when our parents were at home. My dad’s a boomer, and as he’s grown older his phone anxiety’s grown worse. Now he almost never calls anyone, and rarely picks up if we call. My mom is effectively his social secretary, she books the maintenance appointments for their car and all of his medical appointments, as well as her own.

      1. madge*

        I always have scripts for phone calls! I can’t make them otherwise…and I used to be a receptionist. Gah. Text, email, your social of choice, ANYthing but the phone, please, haha.

  7. KHB*

    On gifts, are we talking about gifts from the company as an institution, or from the boss personally? Individual managers might not have the authority to give their employees more time off (unless it’s under the table, like “go ahead and leave a couple hours early on Friday, and I won’t tell”). And I’d find it kind of weird and uncomfortable to get a gift of cash from my manager’s own pocket (unless it was to correct what we all acknowledged was an inequity, like if the manager got a big end-of-year bonus for a project that everyone on the team worked on).

    The best gift my manager can give me (beyond treating me well and having my back throughout the year) is to see and appreciate what I do. A thoughtful card praising my specific successes from the past year – and thus showing that he understands what my specific successes were – would go so, so far with me.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Money and time off definitely sound more like company gifts to me.

      My employer doesn’t give company gifts beyond a catered lunch, but a lot of the managers will use their own money to buy their staff something. It’s widespread enough that it feels like an expectation. Some managers also expect to receive gifts from their employees, but thankfully that’s less common.

  8. nnn*

    Even before we get into generational issues, all new employees need some degree of phone training.

    What do you dial to access voicemail on this system? How do you transfer a call on this particular phone? Do you dial 9 for an outside line? What if you’re calling 911? Do you want employees to use a specific script to answer the phone, or for their outgoing voicemail? If someone calls and asks to speak to the big boss, do you want employees to unquestioningly transfer the call, or screen it somehow, or something else? Are employees expected to answer every time the phone rings, or can they use their judgement to prioritize? What are employees authorized to do if they suspect the call is a scam? What are employees authorized to do if the caller is harassing them?

    Even with people who are used to phones, you have to go over how things are done in this particular workplace, so you may as well also throw in anything that you’ve observed people actually needing to learn.

    1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Exactly this. I’m personally really tired of the generation wars, like…. no, it’s not like when we grew up, but that’s because WE CHANGED IT. Why are people now angry or smug that our old tech is now old and not really in use anymore? Isn’t that what we were aiming for?

      1. Claire*

        Agreed. I’m GenX. I’ve worked at my current job for more than ten years and legitimately do not know what to dial to get an outside line. I’m not even sure how to access my voice mail from the desk phone. If I ever had to transfer a call I’d give up, hang up the phone, and hope they called back and asked for someone else. And I can’t make the red light quit blinking.

        This isn’t even a terribly complicated phone. I just don’t use desk phones anymore because better options are available.

    2. Llama Llama*

      Correct! I started my job 15 years ago and knew the basics on answering phones. However there was enough intricacies that my company trained us on it all. We were trained in phone etiquette too (how to answer phone, no cold transfers, etc)

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      GenX and consider it a win when I successfully conference people together without hanging up on anyone. And they just changed our VM retrieval, and I don’t do it often enough to figure out the new one (VMs are sent to our email as well).

      I’ve been using a phone since I could reach it – my parents were small business owners, and I’ve been answering business phones since I was about 7.

    4. Cat’s Cradle*

      Truth. I managed a volunteer organization for a while and trust me, age was no indication of how my volunteers did on the phone. In fact my college-age volunteers did really well following the given script requiring them to answer the phone with some variation of “thank you for calling Organization. How may I help?”

      It was some of my retirees who would just pick up the phone and answer like they were at home with just a “hello” and maybe “this is (name).” I could NOT get them to mention the organization in their greeting.

      It came down to habits. The college students didn’t have much experience answering phones so they had to be taught but didn’t have other habits to unlearn. Meanwhile my retirees, who were largely women who’d been SAH spouses, had decades of home-answering habits they had to overwrite and, for some, that wasn’t going to happen for a volunteer position.

      Answering a business phone is a skill and someone who hasn’t done it before isn’t likely to intuit the nuances.

  9. ecnaseener*

    I had to reread this letter to look for where the concern about proselytizing even came from — was that volunteer work actually missionary work / going door to door with proselytizing pamphlets / etc? Doesn’t sound like it was. Unless LW left out key details, that’s quite a leap their colleagues took.

    1. irene adler*

      Thank you!
      I get that the OP is trying to protect their employees. And that’s good.
      It’s just that one could nix a lot of potential hires with the OP’s line of thought.

    2. newbie123*

      When I read it, it sounded possibly like an LDS mission – I’ve seen several young applicants put that experience on resumes, especially when it involved “managing” other missionaries or a secondary language.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I don’t see any evidence that it was a mission. I stand by my “unless LW left out key details.”

    3. Lydia*

      I don’t know if this is at all universal, but I worked with a woman who was JW and referred to the time she took off work every couple of months to do her required proselytizing as “volunteering.”

    4. fhqwhgads*

      If whatever the org was is one widely known for proseletyzing/requring proseletyzing, then it’s not a giant leap for the coworkers to be concerned about it. If they’re assuming she absolutely will, they don’t have reason for that.
      Still, the way to deal is the same you would with any candidate: you make sure they’re on board with your hopefully existant and not just for show DEAI policies.

  10. I should be working*

    Please do train people on your company’s phone norms. First, as other people have pointed out, many younger people may not have much actual phone experience at all. Also, many companies and industries have their own preferred phone language to use on business calls. This makes the case that all new employees should receive at least some phone training, not just the younger ones.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Absolutely +1. There are even some industries — colleges among them — where disclosure of certain information over the phone is illegal.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I don’t think a bonus is necessarily an indication that the employee isn’t already being fairly compensated.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Or, in the case of my company, the ability to roll over the full balance of my accrued PTO into the new calendar year and not have the share over a certain number of hours deducted because I was too bloody busy to use all of it this year. And every damn year.

    1. Sunflower*

      It depends on the company. My boss can’t authorize bonuses. Gifts come out of their own pocket. My boss generally gives us token gifts plus take us out for lunch during work hours or a fancier dinner off hours (we take a vote).

    2. Samwise*

      Raises are better than bonuses.

      Bonuses are one and done.

      Raises keep on giving, and they goose your retirement fund as well.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I think it depends very much on the circumstances of each employee. When I was younger with meager savings and carefully managed monthly cashflow, a year-end bonus really helped afford holiday gifts for family and friends. Now that I have some cushion built up, a raise would be preferable for the reasons you mention (but my company does those annually at another time of year).

        Or both. Both would be nice. Both would be very nice.

    3. Happy meal with extra happy*

      And the responses to your comment are why this is such a fraught topic, lol. The easiest answer in the world for what should be gifted (money) and there are two comments decrying it.

    4. tangerineRose*

      We want time off and more money. It’s not that tough.

      Would also be nice to have more input into stuff at work that affects us. Maybe have some stuff streamlined sometimes.

  11. IsbenTakesTea*

    I know from the long history of letters and comments on Ask A Manager that proselytizing isn’t limited to religion—diets, alternative medicine, toxic positivity—and plenty of non-religious people are bigoted in their own way. The advice would remain unchanged: as long as there weren’t any direct flags in the interview itself, treat them as you would any other applicant, but any harassing talk should be shut down immediately if and when it comes up. For example, I know some people who, due to their personal experience, would be sorely tempted to give a pre-emptive anti-proselytizing talk to vegans they hired—which would be wildly unprofessional!

    You might keep your harassment radar set to extra-sensitive, which is only human, but giving people the benefit of the doubt is the safest and most professional way to go.

    1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      This is really well said, and makes me wonder about how to phrase a rule that neatly divides between conversation on the one hand and proselytization/haranguing on the other.

      1. Zelda*

        Like so many things where people want a bright line– this behavior is fine and that behavior is not– the real answer is always “It’s more complicated than that.” Context *always* matters, including workplace and regional culture; the identities, histories, and relationships of people directly involved; the identities and histories of people who may overhear; etc. etc.

      2. IsbenTakesTea*

        An interesting thought exercise! Really I think it comes down to what is welcome by the listener—some people don’t want any related discussion directed at them or even in their vicinity, and others only object when judgment enters into it. As a manager, you really can only know the former once someone brings it up to you; it’s much easier to unilaterally jump in at the latter.

      3. bamcheeks*

        I think it’s a pretty straightforward one about consent, really. Most people will quite happily tolerate a little bit of conversation about stuff that doesn’t interest or actively bores them— other people’s pets, kids, sports teams, personal bests, church music, whatever— but know when it tips over the line into something that’s really pt respecting their lack of interest or attempts to set boundaries. The key thing about consent-based interactions is that they don’t focus on fixed rules for the proselytiser, but on the impact they have on others.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Well said. Bigots come in many flavors and proselytizing is one of the great human temptations.

      What bothered me about this letter was this: …some of my fellow managers have reservations about whether she might proselytize at work or be intolerant of coworkers who are gay or atheists or otherwise not in line with her belief system. While several upstream commenters have suggested that the OP should monitor this employee’s behavior, it sounds as though OP should also be alert to the possibility that their new employee may be, if not harassed, at least treated as “other.”

      I, too, would like an update from the OP.

  12. NeedRain47*

    I’ve worked with multiple people before who used faith-based volunteer work on their resumes, and it was totally fine, zero proselytizing. We’re bible-belt-adjacent, too. I think most people know this isn’t okay at work and wouldn’t try it.

    1. Samwise*

      On our staff of 20+, 15 are practicing religionists (mostly Christian). Some of them *very* devout and active in their church.

      You would never know this about any of these folks unless you have worked with them for a long time and knew more about their non-work lives.

      Southern state, the sort of place where people often say “have a blessed day” instead of “have a good day”.

      Don’t let fear of proselytizing lead you and your colleagues into making unwarranted assumptions about candidates /new hires. Do not let this stereotype lead you to pass over a good candidate, or treat new hires any differently than other employees. Religion is a protected class; in trying to prevent proselytizing you may step over that line yourself.

  13. Jennifer Strange*

    The first question is why it’s important that all organizations have anti-harassment policies as part of their general on-boarding for ALL employees, and why said policies include clear guidance on how employees can report harassment (and that reports are taken seriously). It sounds like LW’s co-workers don’t have any reason to be concerned other than the candidate’s religious work, but as long as there are guidelines in place it should be a moot point regardless (either the candidate doesn’t do anything and all is well or she does and the company can nip it in the bud one way or another).

  14. Angstrom*

    Many religious groups and denominations — UUs come to mind — are known for promoting tolerance and diversity. Assuming religious = intolerant without evidence does everyone a disservice.

    1. JB*

      Thank you. I was raised in the UU church, and in an extremely left-wing congregation. When I brought it up to people and they didn’t know what UU was, I started describing it as “like Quakers, only less religion”. (I cracked up at least one Quaker person with that description. They agreed with me, too.)

  15. Fluffy Fish*

    OP of religious employee, what you’re asking is if you should single out an employee based on your assumptions and bias. I suspect framing it that way would cause you to take about 1o steps back and re-evaluate.

    That said, stating “we are a diverse workplace and respect and dignity in the workplace for all employees is taken seriously” to ALL new hires is fine if your company highly values that.
    One, it lets them know something about the culture of their new workplace.
    Two for individuals belonging to marginalized groups, it’s nice to know your employee doesn’t tolerate bad behavior that might be directed at them.

    1. LabTechNoMore*

      This was my reading too. I’m sure my being visibly Muslim has nixed my candidacy due to religious intolerance masquerading as protecting employees from projected bigotry. (Surprise: I’m also gay, so I doubt I will be a problem with LGBT employees. Not that the people passing on me actually know or care.)

    2. Observer*

      So that in itself definitely seems like a problem with your work culture and something to reflect on.

      Yes. And that’s why the OP wrote in. They hadn’t seen the religious affiliation as a problem, but some coworkers did, so they wanted a reality check.

      Which they got.

        1. Observer*

          Uch! I replied to the correct post, but with the wrong quoteback.

          I meant to reply to this: “what you’re asking is if you should single out an employee based on your assumptions and bias. I suspect framing it that way would cause you to take about 1o steps back and re-evaluate.”

          I was pointing out that this was a correct framing which the OP apparently had an instinctive understanding of.

    3. CheetoFingers*

      Given the info in the letter, it seems like a lot of assumptions to me as well (depending on the nature of the volunteer work). I’m a member of the LGBTQ community and am impacted by religion very negatively at times, but I can’t just assume that every religious person in my workplace is going to harrass me. A preemptive discussion seems a bit discriminatory to me unless she was working for Exodus Intl. or (making this up) Puppy Killers for Jesus.

  16. Clefairy*

    For the borrowing of the office question, since it sounds like OP genuinely has no problem with people nipping in to use it when they are stepping out but wants a better system that doesn’t involve them awkwardly trying to reclaim their space when they are back…why not invest in a whiteboard that can be hung on the door, where you explicitly state when you’re leaving, around how long you’ll be gone for, and when you’ll expect be back and need your space back? If the folks borrowing your office can see all of that info when they step in, I bet they’d make a point to intentionally be done when you’re due back

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I really like this idea! A quick “office open 2pm – 3pm” would let people know they can plan for their one hour long meeting to be in the office (and that they need to wrap it up on time) or let someone who gets a personal call at 2:47 know they can duck into the office for a few minutes to talk in private, etc.

      There still be a few occurrences of waiting outside the door while people scramble if the OP is in meetings that end early, but overall I think a whiteboard could solve most of the problems.

  17. Lacey*

    Almost every place I’ve worked had an onboarding module about inclusivity, what constitutes harassments, and what to do if you’re being harassed at work. Then there’s a couple little quizzes.

    No one asked me what my religious views were. They just assign it to everyone.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      We have an anti-harassment training that’s mandatory to do at least one every two years, across the board, and is part of onboarding.

    2. UKDancer*

      Same here. We don’t ask about peoples’ views, you join the company, you are required to do the induction including the diversity and inclusion module. It’s just a matter of routine. I’ve worked in a few companies and they all seem to take that approach. I think it’s the most sensible one.

  18. Marna Nightingale*

    In my experience, “mute” is a lie. It’s fine for sparing callers ordinary background noise or for asking quick questions, but if you need to say something you do not want them to hear, put them on hold, even if it’s just for thirty seconds.

    Re phone training in general: you might not “have to”, they will probably work out the basics, but you should. It will save you time, trouble, money, and unhappy callers.

    My bias here is that I used to be a road-service call-taker and dispatcher, which is admittedly on the high-stakes end of phone answering, but —really good call taking is a skilled job.

    You need to be able to:

    greet people appropriately,

    speak clearly and in an easy, confident tone,

    recognize common scams,

    read their mood from their tone, especially if your business is one that people who are in some kind of trouble often call, so you don’t blithely ask someone calling to remove a deceased family member from their account what their weekend plans are,

    accurately take down the information they give you,

    notice the information they DON’T give you and ask questions,

    understand that some questions are sensitive and ask accordingly,

    work out the urgency of their call and whether or not it’s appropriate to ask them to hold (dear everyone, if you’re going to ask people if you can put them on hold *give them a chance to say yes or no*. Emergencies exist), put them politely on hold, remember who is on what line and where you’d gotten to,

    Recognize a serious emergency when it’s on the other end of the line (it is a call-centre truism that there is NO CSR position where you will not, eventually, find yourself, out of the blue, with a serious medical or psychological emergency on the other end of the phone) and have some idea what to do about that, which is usually “keep them talking and have someone else call 911”,

    make good choices about what information to share and what information to withhold,

    understand when you’re going to be sending someone to voicemail and give them a concise but courteous and informative idea of how that works (“you will get their voicemail but they’re quite quick about returning calls/will get back to you today/return calls within three business days),

    be able to manage a stream of mildly inconsequential conversation during delays,

    apologize sincerely but not effusively for things that they, personally, did not do wrong without committing your organization to anything that’s above their pay grade,

    escalate calls appropriately and to the right people, and,

    last but very much not least, understand the phone system well enough that they transfer people where they mean to transfer people and don’t accidentally disconnect them or send them to auto-attendant Hell.

    A lot of this is learnt on the job, but even just talking through the skills required and asking people what they might need support on goes a very long way.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      ^ +1,000 ALL OF THIS. Recent personal experience has led to “read tone” taking a strong emphasis for me personally….nothing like someone trying to engage you in chipper cheery conversation when you’re calling because your family member just died and you’re mainly just trying not to cry on the phone :/

      But really, all of this is truly excellent and I wish you trained everyone at my job!

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        Oh, Lord, Ginger, I’m so sorry. Having to make all those calls is the WORST.

        Well, no, the loss is the worst. But having to tell several dozen strangers, from scratch, and deal woth several dozen rounds of standard procedures for dealing with a client’s death is definitely in the top five worst parts of the aftermath.

        It is my personal opinion that if you have a sufficiently trusted person who is able and willing to pretend to be you on the phone that this is a completely legitimate form of minor fraud and should be legal.

  19. 1question456*

    for gifts for employees, i definitely agree w alison on cash and PTO. BUT i will say i have enjoyed getting a work shirt or crew neck sweater or fleece IF the logo for the workplace is small and its otherwise a neutral item.

  20. Delta Delta*

    I guess I’d wonder what the candidate’s volunteer work was. If it was coordinating programs or leading committees or working on envelope-stuffing, those are all things that likely have very transferrable skills that probably have little to do with religion except for the fact they happened at a church. If the volunteer work was more about proselytizing, then that seems like an issue.

    I’m empathetic with someone who has to show the experience they have. Maybe this candidate only has this experience for whatever reason but now needs to get (back?) into the workforce. Perhaps view her candidacy with that lens if she’s otherwise also a good candidate.

  21. Anonymous Cat*

    Re: phone lessons: Even when landline phones were common and answering machines a novelty, people still needed lessons in how to communicate on the phone.

    I remember minor etiquette lessons about how to answer the phone, saying who I was and requesting to speak to X.

    Or if I was a guest and happened to be closest to a ringing phone and had permission—answering “Smith residence” and then handing it to a Smith.

    (If anyone is wondering why I didn’t just let a Smith answer it, you had to answer the phone before the ringing stopped. No caller ID to figure out missed calls!)

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Always. I was a temp admin/receptionist in the 90s and even though I’d grown up with phones as the dominant form of communication, I still needed to learn a lot about having a good phone manner — not to mention needing to know the basics of different phone systems and expectations for every office I worked in.

    2. Samwise*

      Yep. Got lessons on how to properly answer the phone back in the 1980s. Every place I worked had a script.

  22. squeakrad*

    Re OP# 1
    I would be more worried that someone’s main experience is volunteering more than her religion. I have found that this experience doesn’t always translate.

  23. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Yes, definitely train your student works on phone etiquette! I spent summers in high school and college working for my mother’s company (a small training company) and a big part of my job was to answer the phones. I got some good training from the full time staff who usually did the job and was for the most part very professional, but there was that one time when my mom wasn’t in her office so I used the all-office intercom to announce to her that grandma was on the phone. Mom was none too happy about that one. :-) So you may need to train your workers on discretion, a very important part of the job even if they’re not working for their moms. There’s a lot more to answering phones than simply knowing how to use the equipment.

  24. Coin_Operated*

    I don’t know how out of place this would be for a hiring manager, but as an lgbtq+ person, when interacting with people who tell me they are religious, I take it upon myself to find out if the organization or religious congregation is intolerant of lgbtq+ people. For churches, this is really easy using something like, but if it’s a non-profit affiliate organization (like Lutheran Community Services) finding out which denomination the organization operates under can help too. (For example, the ELCA vs. Missouri Synod). What I will say, any church or religious affiliate organization that doesn’t specifically highlight their intentional affirmation and inclusion of the lgbtq+ is most likely intolerant, and that is pretty well documented by groups working to progress religious organizations into affirmation. Even then though, that doesn’t mean the person you’re hiring is intolerant or will be towards any lgbtq+ people, but I personally wouldn’t be very comfortable around them knowing they were attending an intolerant faith community.

    1. Jen*

      What do you mean by uncomfortable? I don’t think personal discomfort rises to the level where religious discrimination would be justified. I would say that it is a completely different story if you observe any prejudice from the candidate themselves.

      1. saint sebastian*

        Not to mention, queer folk exist in otherwise intolerant denominations. The Catholic Church as a whole is not very welcoming to queer folk, but I’m a queer Catholic, and many of my friends are, too.

        1. yellow haired female*

          +1. I switched to an affirming denomination (although like I said in another comment, my church isn’t listed on that church clarity website, so I guess Coin_Operated would assume that I’m part of an intolerant faith community despite having LGBT+ ministers and members), but I have a lot of friends still in the denomination that I left who are totally open and affirming.

          1. fish*

            I don’t know if you realize this, but you come off as extremely defensive on your comments across this post. I’m glad you’re part of an affirming community and feel good about your choices.

            That doesn’t negate the pain queer people have felt from various religions, and doesn’t mean you can’t step back listen and learn.

            If I always get an electric shock from objects of a certain shape, I’m going to be cautious around objects of a similar shape pending further investigation.

            1. yellow haired female*

              What? I’m sorry religious people have hurt you, I truly am. But that doesn’t mean Coin_Operated is correct in only wanting to associate with people whose church appears on a random list–especially since, in my city, NO churches appear on the list, even though many of them are open and affirming.

              That in no way negates the experience of queer people. Interesting that you assume I’m straight as well…. There’s a reason I switched denominations…..

          2. Coin_Operated*

            Church clarity isn’t always updated, I realize that. What I am saying is that churches, regardless of the protestant denomination, will generally be very outspoken about their views on affirming lgbtq+ people, you can usually find that on their websites. If they are not, it usually means for marketing purposes, they don’t want to be outwardly vocal about their anti lgbtq+ affirming doctrines (especially large, non-denominational mega-churches like Hillsong, etc…). I don’t know much about lgbtq+ affirming Catholic churches, though I do know there are affiliate organizations in the Catholic church that are lgbtq+ affirming and pushing for that in the church broadly. I’m just at a point in my life where I only closely associate with people who are fully affirming of lgbtq+ relationships, and if they are part of a faith community that does not fully affirm lgbtq+ people, I keep them out of my close social circle. Nothing more.

      2. Coin_Operated*

        I understand that from a hiring manager’s perspective. I’m speaking about if I found out a co-worker of mine was part of (and I was able to confirm) a faith community that was not affirming of lgbtq+ people, at least until I had more context as to why. It’s not really something I’d feel comfortable bringing up to them anyway unless they did something to me personally, so I’d just be careful around them until I knew more.

        1. allathian*

          And that’s totally reasonable. There’s absolutely zero obligation to let any of your coworkers into your close social circle. If there’s pressure from the employer to do that, then it’s a huge red flag to me of a potentially toxic office culture.

    2. Chirpy*

      Still, it’s down to the individual. I’ve been to denominations that officially had very intolerant leadership but individual members were much more welcoming, and ones with inclusive leadership that were spotty on the church/ individual level of implementation. I mean, yeah, someone from the ELCA is more likely to be liberal, but not always. And I’ve known plenty of people who eventually left their conservative churches because of the lack of inclusivity, but sometimes it takes a while to get to the point where giving up a whole community becomes an option for them.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This would be extremely out of place (and I think illegal?) for a hiring manager to do. You cannot make hiring decisions based on religion.

      1. fish*

        No, but you can make hiring decisions based on how you think employees will respect each other. You can clear this up if you implement a policy to gauge this respect from *all* candidates in a systematic way.

        1. Observer*

          No, but you can make hiring decisions based on how you think employees will respect each other.</I.

          True. But you cannot (legally) make that assumption based purely on their church affiliation.

          You can clear this up if you implement a policy to gauge this respect from *all* candidates in a systematic way.

          Absolutely. Can and should.

    4. Nudibranch*

      In hiring, wouldn’t asking about denominations be a discriminatory question? I would be concerned if my interviewer asked that.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It’s like asking whether the candidate has kids. It’s not actually illegal to ask, but it is illegal for the information to impact your hiring decision in any way.

        So don’t ask, and then you don’t have to worry about trying to not-know things you already know. Or about a candidate using it as the basis for an accusation of discrimination. Even if you actually passed on them because of some objective work related criteria like typing speed, the fact that you asked could cause trouble for you later on.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yet sometimes even something simple like “typing speed” when the job does not actually require rapid typing can be used to discriminate against the disabled. I had it done to me, where the company suddenly added a “typing speed” requirement to a job description, after I interviewed, specifically to avoid hiring a person that only had the use of one arm.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Well, yes of course it would matter whether it was a real or made-up criteria.

            Obviously making up any kind of criteria after the fact in order to exclude someone would be clearly illegal. It would also not be in the category of potentially discriminatory interview questions, but rather intentional, active and blatant discrimination.

    5. yellow haired female*

      Out of curiosity, I searched for my church on that site. We have LBGT+ ministers and members, but we aren’t listed on it. As in, my church isn’t even included at all, even listed as “intolerant” or whatever. In fact, none of the churches in my city are listed as “clear,” and I know for a fact that many of them are open and affirming.

      I’d be careful of saying someone is “attending an intolerant faith community” just because their church’s website doesn’t explicitly mention it…. My church barely has a functioning website, which is probably why we’re missing from the site altogether….

      1. to varying degrees*

        Not to mention there are quite a few denominations where there is a split within them. Lately every four years when the United Methodist Church has its conference it’s always a topic if this will be the year that they formally seperate.

        1. yellow haired female*

          True. My denomination is labeled “open and affirming,” but also allows individual congregational autonomy, so I assume that’s why it was left out of church clarity? All of my denomination’s predominately white churches are open and affirming, but unfortunately, that Black congregations are not.

          1. Coin_Operated*

            church clarity goes by each individual church. Thye usually scan church websites for information, but also each church can edit and verify their lgbtq+ policy with them too.

            1. yellow haired female*

              Ahh, got it. Yeah, my church’s website doesn’t say anything except our address and how to log on for online worship, lol. They’re always looking for volunteers to fix it, but no one has any experience, and ever since I deleted my employer’s entire website, I have shied away from any kind of website design….

              Maybe I can see about submitting that my church is open and affirming? I’m not technically in leadership, although I’m about to be on the board.

      2. Coin_Operated*

        In that example, sure, I’d log that under “not enough” information, but in 2022 in the political climate, it’s a pretty big disservice to the lgbtq+ community to not be outspoken about whether or not one’s congregation is a safe space for them. If you’re not publicly stating your congregation is fully affirming to lgbtq+ people, and that information isn’t easy to find out with full clarity, I’m going to assume your faith community is not a safe place, and by extension, the participants of that faith community are not safe, unless otherwise told.

        1. Chirpy*

          The denomination I grew up in is vocally affirming….at the top. I was pleasantly surprised that there’s even asexuality inclusion resources on the official website. Individual churches /members however, can be a mixed bag though. Some are truly good at it, some are just…not.

        2. yellow haired female*

          You’re allowed to make that assumption, but in my city, you apparently wouldn’t associate with any religious people, because there are no churches listed on church clarity… and I live in a big city.

          The problem might be that most of the liberal churches are mostly full of older people who have absolutely no technological capabilities to list anything on the website. The churches with the fancy websites in my experience tend to be the conservative ones with lots of young people and money.

          1. Coin_Operated*

            I highly doubt that, and not all churches are listed there. It’s not an end-all-be-all, but it is a useful tool, and I personally know a lot of lgbtq+ people who have found their churches, but even in my very, very liberal PNW city, I still have to watch out. There are two MAGA supporters in my neighborhood who have threatened my lgbtq+ neighbors with their guns, it’s a very dark time for us right now.

            1. yellow haired female*

              For sure, I’m really glad the website exists. I want to try to get my church on it if I can, especially since no churches in my city are listed! If anyone is looking there, I want to give them somewhere to go….

              1. Coin_Operated*

                Yeah, I did the same for my church because they weren’t listed as affirming either when I first started going, but I found out through their website that they were, so I updated that. I think anyone can, you just create an account and can submit an edit to verify.

    6. LilPinkSock*

      That would be very out of place for a hiring manager, since it could quickly lead to making hiring decisions based on actual or perceived religious affiliation.

      1. Coin_Operated*

        right, i don’t think you could use it in hiring, this may be just me thing, but it’s information I would gather to keep an eye on in, if I were hiring, and had lgbtq+ employees, but it wouldn’t be info I’d use in hiring unless they were part of a clearly known, vocal antagonistic homophobic denomination like the IFB or something similar (which the SPLC lists as a hate group).

        1. LilPinkSock*

          You still probably couldn’t use a candidate’s involvement with the IFB in a hiring decision, unfortunately, since my guess is that it would still count as discrimination based on religion. Personally, I wouldn’t be sad if I never had to encounter a fundamentalist Christian ever again, especially in the workplace–I’m mixed race, and that is one of the things their creed hates.

          1. yellow haired female*

            Hmm I wonder how that works… I assume that you couldn’t discriminate based on someone belonging to a “hate group” unless that person has actually engaged in “hate speech” themselves.

            But I’m curious….

            1. Coin_Operated*

              The reason is that by participating in hate groups, the employer can argue that said activities go against the company values if those groups are known to profess intolerance and hatred that goes against the values of the employer, so this would also include religious organizations and churches that are known to spread anti lgbtq+ doctrines. You can’t fire them for participating in “religion” per se, but you can fire them if their religious organization publicly proclaims values that go against the employer’s values, and since many, many churches have websites with sermons that are live-streamed out to the public, a lot of that can be verified.

              1. Claire*

                No, I actually don’t think you can fire or refuse to hire someone based on their membership in a religious organization, even if that religious organization “publicly proclaims values” against the employer’s values. Otherwise quite a number of organizations would be able to refuse to hire Catholics.

        2. Kotow*

          The problem with saying “it wouldn’t be info I’d use in hiring” is that we don’t always consciously let things like religion/pregnancy/sexual orientation impact our decisions. There’s a reason why job seekers who are pregnant are told not to disclose until after having an offer in hand. It’s because everyone logically knows you’re not supposed to consider it, but people subconsciously consider it anyway. Inclusivity and acceptance is also a word that people define differently and there is so much individual variation. When this topic comes up, it’s always Christian-focused (with good reason) but that’s certainly not the only group that can be intolerant of the LGBT community.

          On an individual level, sure you can use that information. Personally I think it’s misguided, but there’s nothing illegal about it; adults should be able to choose who they let into their inner circle. But as a hiring manager, I think the risks of improperly using that information against an individual are too high.

    7. Tesuji*

      All of this is wildly inappropriate in a work context.

      It’s fine for anyone to have a list of approved churches, and not want to be friends with anyone who does not attend one of those churches.

      If you can’t work with anyone who attends a church that isn’t on your list, however, you’re the problem there. This is true whether your list is based on being LGBTQ-friendly or LGBTQ-unfriendly… lists of approved churches have no place in workplace decisions.

  25. LilPinkSock*

    LW2, you ensure a new hire won’t proselytize by making each new hire very aware of your organization’s policies and positions on DEI before and on their first day of work. Everyone starts their professional relationship with your company with the same set of expectations and knowledge, so there’s no reason for anyone to say “I had no idea that behavior wasn’t acceptable” or “I’m being inappropriately singled out for [insert demographic here]”. Then, any behavior that is in opposition to those clearly-stated policies is quickly and firmly shut down.

    Personally, I keep my Christian faith and liberal politics mostly to myself at work, since that’s just not the right venue for those topics, and I’d be very sad to think that I’m treated any differently for either.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes, I mean this is what we do. When people join the company they’re given a copy of the corporate values (one of which is inclusivity) and the policies around all sorts of things (including D&I) as part of the staff handbook and have to sign to confirm they understand and will abide by the company handbook.

      Then we make everyone do some basic introductory training on a range of topics including our approach to inclusion (as well as things like anti-fraud policies and how to use the corporate file plan to save documents).

      We apply this to everyone and that way nobody can say they didn’t know what the rules were.

  26. Former Retail Lifer*

    #4 – You most definitely need to teach them about phone etiquette, ESPECIALLY VOICEMAIL. I manage an apartment building with a ton of older Gen Z and younger millennials, and their phone etiquette is just…weird to me. They have a tendency to call a million times in a row instead of leaving a voicemail. If I call them back and they don’t pick up, I leave a voicemail. However, they call back and say that got a missed call from this number but they haven’t (and won’t) check their voicemail first. In fact, a lot of them never even set up their voicemail or clear it when it gets full. Given their extreme aversion to voicemail, I’d assume they do everything differently and give them some training. Plus, they’ve probably never used a landline and a multi-line system in an office is confusing to those of us that grew up with landlines, so I can only imagine how confusing it is to them.

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      I have to say I am with them on voicemail. Having to sit through the excruciatingly slow robot voice then the inevitably too-fast rambling message three times to get the relevant info written down makes me want to break things.

      1. allathian*

        Oh yeah, I hate voicemail with the fire of a thousand suns. Thankfully my employer doesn’t really use phones much internally and my job doesn’t involve talking to people outside my organization (when that happens once in a blue moon, it’s email all the way), so it hasn’t come up. Voice calls on Teams are a thing, but voicemail isn’t an issue there. Most people IM me first to ask if I can take their call if I’m flagging busy. The only time I get unscheduled Teams calls is when I’m flagging green. My work voicemail just has the robot voice, because I can’t *bear* to listen to my own recorded voice (I get away with that because my boss and coworkers don’t call my work phone), and I’ve disabled voicemail on my personal phone. I guess I’ll have to reactivate it if I ever decide to look for a new job, but I won’t do that until then. I’m gen-X, so my unwillingness to use voicemail has nothing to do with my age.

  27. Dances with Flax*

    Re – Holiday gifts from employers: Credit card companies allow you to buy gift cards that can be used anywhere that their credit cards are accepted. My agency gives those out and they’re very much appreciated! Not only are they very versatile, they totally eliminate the possibility of giving gift cards that are utterly unsuitable to the individual (e.g., a gift card to a store that sells ONLY clothes that the recipient would NEVER use). Simple and usable by everyone!

    1. allathian*

      They’re great, but they do have tax implications in many jurisdictions. If gift cards can be freely used anywhere, they’re subject to income tax.

  28. Erie*

    That first letter is so weird – it’s like it’s sent from another planet where people don’t encounter religious people very often and have no idea that they’re just ordinary people like everyone else. It’s almost offensive, honestly, and I’m not even religious

    1. Just no*

      “they’re just ordinary people like everyone else”

      What do you mean by this? The LW appears to be talking about a very specific type of religious person — likely a Christian evangelical. LGBTQ+ people are right to be concerned about evangelicals who are trying to legislate them out of existence.

      1. Name (Required)*

        “likely a Christian evangelical. LGBTQ+ people are right to be concerned about evangelicals who are trying to legislate them out of existence”

        Sounds kind of phobic to judge a whole label based on the actions of a few.

        1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          A few? Have you seen the rash of anti-LGBTQ laws spreading across the US?

          “On top of the looming threat of physical violence and attempts by anti-LGBTQ groups to slow and reverse progress made on LGBTQ rights, a study published by UCLA’s Williams Institute in September showed 46% of LGBT workers had experienced unfair treatment at work in some point in their life. Further, 57% of those who reported unfair treatment believe it was motivated by religious beliefs. ”

          Link to follow.

      2. Observer*

        LGBTQ+ people are right to be concerned about evangelicals who are trying to legislate them out of existence.</I.

        Of course. But the thing is that it's just not true that "evangelical" = "trying to legislate xxx group out of existence". (It's not just LGBTQ+ folks who certain evangelicals don't think should exist…)

  29. Just no*

    Many comments here seem pretty ignorant of the struggles that LGBTQ+ people face in the workplace (and, of course in the larger world — especially trans folks). It’s pretty hard to see such comments *the day after* the shooting in Colorado Springs.

    1. yellow haired female*

      Which comments are you referring to? The ones about how you shouldn’t discriminate against certain religions in the workplace?

      1. fish*

        I am struggling for a nice way to say this. Your comment reads as turning a statement of sorrow about the murders of one group of people into a passive-aggressive knee-jerk defensiveness about perceived slights to an entirely different group of people.

        When someone says “I’m sad about my people being murdered” the right response is “I’m sorry” not “You are wrong because I think people were being rude to some other people.”

        1. yellow haired female*

          This thread is about actively discriminating against Christians in the work place. The question posed is “should I treat this employee differently because of religion?”

          I truly hate the way some religious people have harmed people of the LGBT+ community. But that doesn’t make it okay to discriminate against christians, either.

          1. Ginger Pet Lady*

            No, this thread is about ensuring that religious discrimination against LGBTQ+ does not carry over into the workplace.
            Way to play the victim in the face of very REAL religious (the shooter is Mormon) violence against marginalized people!
            (Christians, when people tell you to stop being bigots, that’s not discriminating against you. When people are cautious about bigotry when they meet overly religious people, that’s not discrimination, that’s just caution based on very real events.)

            1. Ihadtolookitup*

              Just to clarify — his mother, whose life he repeatedly threatened with explosives and weaponry, is the one who appears to be Mormon.

            2. yellow haired female*

              I’m sorry, but making hiring decisions on the basis of religion is discrimination. The question literally asks if it’s okay to discriminate because someone is religious, and the answer is “no.” That’s not “playing the victim,” it’s answering the question.

              I am usually one to roll my eyes when christians cry “discrimination,” but in the case of the letter, we’re talking about discrimination.

              1. LabTechNoMore*

                This is where I stand too. I’m all for shutting down the persecution complex and fighting against encroaching religious fascism. But the scenario posed here is flat out religious discrimination under the guise of LGBT inclusivity. You cannot presume an entire group of people are going to be discriminatory; that is the definition of prejudice.

    2. fish*

      Yes. I remember being young and closeted early in my career. I would like to think we have turned a corner but a lot of these comments show me we haven’t.

      Sending you and our community love today.

    3. Educator*

      I agree with you. It’s painful to see so many commenters rushing to make sure that a member of a historically privileged group does not face “discrimination” when the letter writer appears to be concerned with protecting all members of their team, including those who face life-threatening oppression every day, from feeling unsafe at work. We can’t discriminate against anyone for their beliefs—unless those beliefs are turned into actions that hurt other people. So it is just impossible to ignore the context that many evangelicals are actively working to take rights and dignity away from LGBTQ+ folks (and women, immigrants, etc.)

      1. Observer*

        Except that is happens to be that the religious group that the OP’s potential hire was from is actually a group that has faced its own persecution. Not that I’m fond of them (or their habit of proselytizing). Bit the simple facts are that the OP was not coming to protect “poor, discriminated against cis, white, Christian guys”, but someone who probably has faced some pushback for her membership.

        Beyond that, the real problem that the OP was facing was the twin assumptions that anyone who is religious is likely to be a bigot, much less bring that to work and that someone who doesn’t mention their religious beliefs can be trusted to be non-bigoted. And that’s just a dangerous pair of assumptions.

      2. LabTechNoMore*

        historically privileged group

        To be fair, we don’t actually know which group in question is being referenced. It could just as easily be from a marginalized religion that LW is making prejudicial assumptions about.

      3. Tom*

        RE: “historically privileged”

        Permit me to point out that in the late 4th century, this was a charge that could have been leveled at polytheists by supporters of Theodosius’s decision to make Christianity the only legal religion.

  30. Dragon*

    In the early days of the telephone, operators were teenage boys. That didn’t work well at all, with the boys misbehaving and saying totally inappropriate things to callers.

    So phone companies switched to using women as operators, and keeping everything all-business. “Teapots Incorporated, how may I direct your call?”

    1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      So instead of the operators distributing the verbal harassment, it became the operators receiving it.

      *Sad trombone noise*

  31. CharChar*

    LW3: For the office question, the behaviour of people indicates you need more private spaces in your building. You may not mind if people borrow your office, but you *are* a manager and as careful as you are, there may be a document there that someone thinks will be kept private (sick note, resignation letter, etc).
    An office needs private spaces for people to use for a phone call or quiet work, my office has small rooms and meeting rooms for this.

  32. Old Brown Shoe*

    Regarding the pearl-clutching letter about the possible proselytizer. I find that to be demonstrative of un-diversity. Look at it this way: if a man came in for an interview, and had on his resume volunteer work for a gay rights organization, would it be OK to ask what to do, what if the guy shows up for work in purple eyeshadow and a pink tutu dancing around the office to Judy Garland records? I think it is important to recognize diversity flows in more than one direction, and we shouldn’t stereotype people with different beliefs. If your office culture is no talk of politics or religion, then deal with that situation if it arises.

    1. CheetoFingers*

      I think OP1 should not single out the candidate, however they are not pearl clutching. They are living in a country where the government endorses Christians holidays, where Christians legislate people’s rights away based on their religion, where gay and trans people are gunned down regularly, and where they have begun talking about separate but equal classrooms. Your analogy is flawed because gay people have never had the power to oppress Christians they way they prosecute gays.

      1. Old Brown Shoe*

        Hmmm. I think a certain cake baker might take exception to your comment that “gay people have never had the power to oppress Christians [the] way they prosecute gays.”

  33. Jasmine Clark*

    some of my fellow managers have reservations about whether she might proselytize at work or be intolerant of coworkers who are gay or atheists or otherwise not in line with her belief system.

    Ohhhhh the irony.

    These managers are making negative assumptions about her when she has shown no evidence to back that up. That is in and of itself intolerant!

    So many people have this “tolerance” blindspot where they aren’t able to notice when their own thoughts and attitudes are intolerant, yet they are adamant about pointing at other people and telling them to be more tolerant.

    All this person did was talk a lot about her volunteer experience, which happened to be religious. She talked about her volunteer experience because she doesn’t have much paid work experience, so it makes sense that she would talk about that. There’s no reason to believe she would be intolerant or would proselytize at work.

    I remember reading a story many years ago (sorry, can’t remember where) where an employee was fired because her boss found out about an organization the employee had donated to or supported in some way, and the boss didn’t agree with the organization’s mission and values. The boss fired this employee because she worried that the employee might treat other people in an intolerant way while on the job, even though the employee had never done so. So the boss fired the employee for something the employee hadn’t done — being intolerant — and that act of firing was itself intolerant, which is the very thing the boss claims to be against.

    To sum all this up: Before firing someone, or choosing not to hire them in the first place, make sure the person has actually done the bad thing and it’s not just you assuming they’re going to do it.

    LW has the right mindset. As a religious person myself, I really appreciate LW’s thoughts here and I wish more people had an attitude/mindset like LW.

  34. Alliesaurus*

    One of the craziest interviews that I still remember from years ago was at a restaurant as a college student. My resume included references to religion due to past work/volunteer experiences and my high school graduation info showed I’d been homeschooled. The interviewing manager asked me multiple questions along the lines of: would I be comfortable working with people who had different beliefs? would I end up proselytizing (not in those exact words) to my coworkers and customers? would I have trouble socializing with my coworkers and handling rush times/holidays when there were lots of crowds or would I find it too overwhelming since I’d been homeschooled?

    I had multiple job experiences, including a year in an office before I’d move states, and great references. I remember being shocked by the interview questions and leaving with no doubt I would turn down working for that guy if he did offer it to me.

    He never did call, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. (And shortly thereafter found a much better office job where I happily stayed for years.)

  35. GlowCloud*

    This question about the religious interview candidate could have been a textbook example from the Unconscious Bias training module we do at work.

    Just because someone is religious (unless they actively belong to a known hate-group like Westborough Baptist Church), it doesn’t indicate anything about their expected behaviour either positively or negatively (churches don’t screen their membership for quality either). there is no logical inference you can make about someone based on their broad religious affiliation.

    Regarding training people how to use the phones – Of course you should train them! There is a specific protocol you want them to follow, that is not intuitive, and you’ve already seen that most people don’t know how to do it already. Nobody transfers calls on their home phone line, so they need to be shown how it works.

    You might be thinking, “Duh! How do these people not know how to use a phone?!”, I’m thinking “Duh! Why is this person not training them to use phones already?!”

  36. Nancy*

    Yes, you have to teach new employees how to take calls for your company. My first admin job was in the 90s, so before cell phones and texting, and email was not widely used. Still needed to be shown how to answer specifically for the job, how to place someone on hold, how to transfer calls, etc. Answering personal phones and answering work phones are very different.

    1. Elm*

      Right?! I grew up largely before cell phones, and their system sounds way more complicated than anything I’ve ever used.

      I used to be a teacher, and I had to show many Gen Z-ers over the years how to use landlines, period, especially corded ones. I mean, the cord going to the mouthpiece isn’t something you’re born knowing, any more than I was born knowing I had to turn a rotary dial all the way to the right before it worked. As we get farther from traditional phones, companies using them need to train more and more.

  37. Elm*

    I’d sure hope the culture of inclusivity was evident from the moment they applied! If it’s a big part of the company, that should be considered a selling point AND a way of weeding out people who can’t handle it.

    I wonder if people haven’t been given interviews because they attended religious schools or something. Some of my most progressive, liberal friends went to those schools, while many of my former friends who turned out to be biased jerks got traditionally liberal degrees (e.g., theatre) at traditionally liberal colleges.

  38. Smurfette*

    As an Orthodox Jew I’d be pretty offended by your colleagues’ assumptions about religious people, and our presumed inability to observe workplace boundaries and basic good manners.

    I’ve also worked with MANY religious people of different faiths over the last 30 years, and none of them have behaved this way. Including my former boss who is a Jehovah’s Witness.

    On the other hand, I have an atheist friend who is quite fervent in his beliefs and not so good at respecting other people’s beliefs and boundaries.

    If you did this thing (“here is your employee handbook, which by the way states that we are a diverse workplace and respect and dignity in the workplace for all employees is taken seriously”) I would probably make the mistake of thinking that you were telling that *I* wouldn’t be discriminated against.

    Your colleagues are the problem here – they’re judging people based on scant information and buying into stereotypes.

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