Difficult Choices in the Workplace

October 15, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On October 15, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported on the challenges in following their religious beliefs within their office environments. It also discussed the moral dilemmas some face that seem to go against their deeply held beliefs. For example, "when Courtney 'Mac' McGregor, a bishop in the Mormon Church, worked as a research scientist at pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-LaRoche, he faced a painful dilemma. For his research on rheumatoid arthritis, he needed to use a fetal enzyme. But his church looks upon abortion as sinful in all but extreme cases. McGregor's conflict isn't unusual. In an evermore multi-ethnic, multi-religious American society, religious beliefs and workplace values can often clash. But for many, faith also provides the framework to make better employees and managers. For McGregor, now 59, the answer came not from consultations with other church officials--he didn't consult any--or from conversations with his wife, who left the decision to him. Rather, his answer came during prayer when he realized that 'I did not participate in the choice of the abortion.' Rather, his choice was whether 'to throw away' the enzyme or 'get some benefit from it.' McGregor decided to work with the enzyme." Another example comes from "Mahmoud 'Mike' Morad, then a real estate consultant with an affiliate of American Express. Morad's religion--Islam--required him to pray five times a day--twice in the midst of his workday. In addition to questioning the practicality of praying amid ringing telephones and office chatter, Morad, now 44, was concerned that by praying at work he would reveal his participation in a religion widely associated with terrorism. He could have lost sales, setting himself back professionally. 'At first, I was self-conscious,' he said. Nevertheless, he prayed, either in an empty room or in his car. Initially, he hoped nobody would notice. 'Then, I became proud and hoped others would ask what I was doing. It was an opportunity to talk about religion and values,' he said. 'The idea behind prayer is learning to do things on time. To be prompt five times a day means my commitment to God is fulfilled.' That commitment spilled over to customers and co-workers, who praised Morad's efficiency. As for possible fallout, "People may have decided not to do business with me because I am Muslim, but I would rather attribute it to chemistry. If that's the reason, so be it.'"