- Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 06:49
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1994
We like to think that we are free to believe what we choose but if you want to be successful in business, it helps if you believe the same as your customers and your suppliers. This kind of thinking is explicit in some fraternity groups like Freemasons and it is also understood/implied in small towns where local business depends on reciprocal favours. The attitude is strongest amongst cult Churches like the Mormons but exists in all religions. It’s not irrational – if you think someone believes in something that’s wrong, that makes him less trustworthy! How can they be wrong on some things yet right on others? That’s why many Americans (in particular) won’t vote for an atheist.
The only way around this is to either be truly tolerant – even subconsciously – or to think that religious beliefs are not important. If religion is seen as a bit like your preference in music or art, then the beliefs of a religious person will be seen as unimportant. But if a person is a bible-thumping evangelical fundamentalist, how could they trust an atheist or even an Anglican?
It was not that many years ago in the west (before the Reformation) that kings took it one further – believe as I do or you are a traitor! And today, many Muslims seem to think the same. In any society, there has to be uniformity in values or it won’t work. Everyone has to believe in the same things. In the west, many talk about a Christian culture – they mean a way of life, a set of values independent of what religion you might belong to. You can be an atheist and have a Christian culture. So it’s not the religion as such but the way of thinking and the way of life that goes with it. How can you do business with someone who wants different laws (e.g. Sharia law)? If I’m a Christian-culture businessman, I’m quite likely to have a senior VP who’s female. But she will have a hard time getting respect from a Muslim counterpart and can’t do business with them. Muslims have a "culture clash" with the west and its Christian culture (e.g. photo right).
The way around this when you are dealing with foreign countries is to have a translator – not just of language but of religious culture. But inside one country, to do business you must trust (at least to some extent) and you can’t trust a person who thinks so differently that they are alien – they are from a different planet! In practice people either are the same religion – they trade amongst their own – or they think religion is unimportant or so far removed from day to day life as to be inconsequential. But that of itself is a value, a view of the world that is not universal.
This problem makes me conclude that for multiculturalism to work in business, it must really be at a common level – that is, it’s really a single culture and not multi.
First Published August 2011