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Chaplain's program

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Question: I work for a company that is owned by a very religious person. He has decided to start a "chaplain's program," which consists of a minister coming into the office once a week to talk individually with each employee.

Although we have been told that we do not have to participate, that is very hard to do when the chaplain comes into your office asking "How is your family? Do you have any problems you want to discuss with me?"

I find this to be extremely invasive and do not know how to handle the situation. Can anyone give me any ideas?  -- Anonymous


I think the chaplain should be placed in an separate office or area where employees could have the option to come to him instead of the other way around.

In a very professional manner, tell the chaplain that you appreciate his coming by but will he please do you a favor? Instead of coming into your office would he just stop by the door and say "Hi, how are you?" That way, if you need to talk, you will know he is available and can invite him in and you won't feel like your office time has been invaded.

I would recommend treating the chaplain as any other person who might casually ask you how you or your family is doing. Smile politely and say "I'm fine, thanks," or "We're great!" Then, go on with your work.

If your boss seems uncomfortable with you not participating, make it a point to sit down with him and speak honestly, but respectfully. Tell him who your confidants are: your husband, your mother, your friends, and explain to him that your spirituality is a very personal issue to you, just like other family matters and decisions that you deal with only within the family.

Hopefully, he'll understand, and appreciate your respect and honesty.

Wow - talk about persumptuous. Although I think that this type of thing is GREAT if it is done within context of a special Church Meeting or some other 'outside' interest, it certainly does not belong in the workplace. I am sure that your owner thinks he is doing you all a tremendous service but not everyone is on the same level of spirituality as their neighbor and this might tend to make many people feel terribly uncomfortable. Many larger workplaces offer programs to employees that they can use -- OUTSIDE of the workplace, like AA or Stress Management or emotional help... but that is volunteer AND it is confidential. I would also even think that what your owner is doing might even be illegal under some state laws. I certainly hope there is no ill-will placed on any employee who refuses to partake of this service, because that would definitely be against the law.

My advice to you, if this makes you uncomfortable, is to definitly say "no, thank you" or "thank you for asking but I have nothing to discuss". But the best solution is to discuss this with your Human Resources department to find out why this is even being offered. Good luck.

This is creepy and offensive--however if you feel that way, too, you should probably keep that to yourself. It's ok to tell your boss or the chaplain or whoever that you hold your religous beliefs (whatever they are or are not) very privately, and prefer to keep them separate from your work environment.

A simple thank you for your time, but I have a person in which to confide in.

Wow! This is a nice service to offer associates. I myself am involved in ministry along with my husband who is a pastor. If I were the manager, or even the chaplain, I would be concerned with the privacy of my employees and would definitely offer this service in a private manner. I agree with the 2 comments made above, that the service should not be invasive of the individual's comfort level and it should be offered in a way that does not conflict with the operation of the business or personal beliefs (as it could become an issue of harassment in the workplace or misuse of company assets (i.e., time), and therefore, could be removed as a "benefit" altogether). I think if people utilize this offer you will see a big difference in the morale and attitude of the office. Don't be afraid to talk with your manager or the owner about your concerns and make some suggestions. Chances are he hasn't thought of these details and hopefully would welcome the input.

I consider myself a person of faith but even so, I don't think I would like this kind of "service" at work. If anything, the employer should just make people know this service is available and provide contact information. I have a pastor and if I need counseling, I would go to him. I agree with the others that you should just smile and say "I'm fine, thank you -- how are you?"

Corporate Chaplaincies are becoming very popular in today's business world. They are not illegal, discriminatory, nor (most of the time) are they invasive. More often than not they increase employee morale as well as productivity because they provide an avenue for employees to discuss issues that many employees would not otherwise talk about.

That said, you should not feel bad or intimidated to answer the chaplains questions honestly and respectfully. E.g. "How is your family?" "Fine, thank you." "Do you have anything you want to discuss?" "No, thank you." End of conversation. 999 times out of 1000 The chaplain and the owner of the company will be fine with that. Everybody wins when we communicate openly, honestly and respectfully.

If this is helping some employees, than the service is good and will help toward morale in the office. If you feel uncomfortable, I agree that a simple "Thank you I am fine" will suffice. This would be no more than if the H.R. Manager ask you the same question.

If it becomes more apparent, then you should discuss the situation with your H.R. Manager or your boss.

By the way, I have never heard of this being done before in a business office. New territory being paved?

Find yourself another job - this guy is a nut case! There is no really way for you to gracefully excuse yourself without being obvious and looking bad in the eyes of your boss. You will always stand out as the person who "refused" to participate. It's a losing battle.

Honestly, what he is doing is against the law - the Federal law. Of course, if you tell him that, you will really be in a pickle!

Wow, I am so in shock! I'd make a bet that this is illegal. I am just as shocked that this "chaplain" agreed to such horrible invasive idea.

That said, I believe that you absolutely must tread very very very carefully, sometimes people who are "very religious" are not very tolerant. I think Dona has the answer and if your boss has the audacity to question you, nicely tell him that you have a spiritual advisor that you have an excellent relationship with; whether that spiritual advisor is religious or not is the business of ABSOLUTELY NO ONE!

Although I consider myself a person of faith, I would find this extremely offensive at work. It's wrong to put your employees on the spot and expect them to deal with this chaplain each time. I think your boss is way out of line. He shouldn't expect everyone in his employ to share his religious views. Besides, most of us who feel a need to talk to a religious can find them at our local churches. I would simply tell the chaplain that you're not part of the program and respond with an "I'm fine, thanks."

I view the business owner setting this up as a nice gesture. It is, however, presumptuous to have the chaplain come to your door. I would mention to the business owner or your supervisor that you find it disruptive for the chaplain to visit each person individually. Ask if each employee could visit with him at their own option. If this does not work, speak directly with the chaplain and ask that he not visit your office when he is in.

The service offered is not illegal unless participation is mandatory.

My Solution: Create a sign up sheet. This sheet should have: Name and Time at the top. You could probably do this in Word or Excel. Once you create this form, set up a 30 minute meeting with your boss. Explain the need to have a sign up sheet, which is to allow everyone who is interested an opportunity to speak with the Chaplin. Show him your version of what the sheet should look like. This should open the door for dialog. During this dialog, you can also suggest setting up a conference room where the Chaplin can sit and wait for the people to come to him during their scheduled time verse the Chaplin going to the employees. This eliminates interruptions and will be more productive. Hopefully, when you explain the need to be productive in the workplace he may jump on the idea. Good Luck and let us know the end result.

I would prefer to be anonymous.
It sounds like your boss wants everybody to have contact with the chaplain and that's why the chaplain visits every office. And this is an invastion of your privacy. You should see if your coworkers are comfortable with this arrangement. If yes, leave it alone & deal with the chaplain in the way you have. If no, then a group of your coworkers should suggest a different arrangement: the conference room where you make an appointment to see the chaplain.

What an awkward situation! No one wants to offend the boss, but it's not fair of him to put people on the spot.

I believe it's wrong to push your religious beliefs on anyone else, regardless of the setting. I deeply respect the spiritual beliefs of others, but think that spirituality is a personal, private matter and should certainly be kept out of the workplace. I myself am an agnostic, and hope others respect that as much as I respect their religious beliefs.

Although you've been told you don't have to participate, you are being forced to by the manner the chaplain is using to "pop in" on everyone. Tell your boss that you feel put on the spot and pressured to participate, even though they say you don't have to. I think you should be tactful but honest. He probably doesn't realize that not everyone welcomes this type of contact. You shouldn't have to deal with this week after week!

I ran this situation by our Human Resources department, and one of them said, "Interesting...he's just asking for trouble. As long as he keeps it voluntary - and they should keep the minister in a private area. By confronting the employees, even a friendly confrontation, it's no longer voluntary. Sticky situation..."

I consider myself a relgious and spiritual person. I don't particular think that asking a chaplain to be onsite is a good idea but, I can see the good intentions of the owner. I can see how it can offend some people especially if they are of a different faith, but he still means well. If you are uncomfortable exchanges pleasantries with the chaplain, I'm fine and so is my family, no I don't have anything to discuss, then you should speak to the owner. He seems like a well meaning person. I doubt he would get upset if you didn't participate. Don't assume you know his intentions or how he would react if you don't participate. Talk to him before you assume he'll have a problem with you not participating.

The sign-up sheet idea is logical, but runs into HIPAA problems because anyone signing sees the names of everyone who signed before (even more of a problem if you 'Post' the sign-up sheet in a central area) - Medical offices have changed their sign-in format to accommodate this by having each signature/sign-in line peel-off, like a computer label, (with a duplicate 'carbon' sheet underneath for their records). Of course, the list must be constantly monitored by someone who removes the peel-off strips between sign-ins.

I feel this is extremely inappropriate for the workplace. Is the boss providing "spiritual" support for non-Christian employees? I wonder what everyone's response would have been if the spiritual advisor was from a non-Christian religion. Perhaps the best response to "how is your family doing" if posed is, "very well and how is your family doing?"

Call Human Resources. Pronto.

If you need a doctor, you make an appointment, if you need a dentist, you make an appointment,
if you need counciling, you make an appointment. All of this should be done out of the work environment. Good intentions are not always handled the right way. So, what if you do need to talk, you get emotional and cry, and then all the co-workers see you have a problem. That just makes a situation for gossip, etc. There are days when I enjoy coming to work just to "forget about other issues." If it's a work related problem, the employee should be talking to the supervisor. I am a Christian, yet, I think your boss is creating a bad atmosphere within your office.

What a landslide of comments! Interesting! You should not be pressured into anything, but I think you can just smile and say, "no, thank you" to any counseling. If your boss is providing this service on company time, I think that's generous. I've used my EAP benefit twice, and it's helped me enormously, but it's a struggle to get counseling after work hours. If he hired a Lutheran chaplain and all of his employees are Hindu, then I'd think something was a little off, but it doesn't sound like this is the case. And I don't agree that spirituality has no part in the workplace. Our spirituality (however we define it) has a huge impact on our business moral standards, our work ethic, how well we treat others. I think society is discovering that more we try to bifurcate these issues, the colder, lonelier and more morally bankrupt we become.

We all know that prayer and references to God have been banned in educational institutions. With that being the case, how on earth does the owner of the company think that religious counseling is acceptable in the work place? And what denomination is the chaplain? I would lay odds that a Catholic or Protestant, etc. would dig in their heels for all they're worth at even the thought of baring their souls or accepting counseling from a Baptist preacher or Episcopalian minister. This is a very major faux pas on the part of the owner of the company. I think an anonymous letter to the owner, telling him everyone realizes religious converts sometimes are very gung-ho about spreading their new-found faith but if he doesn't want to risk losing key employees, he should reconsider this over-the-top situation he's created.

I think the intent behind the idea was probably a good one. However, I don't think the idea itself a good one. Why should the employees not involved in the program have to stop working, long enough to politely respond to the chaplain's questions,in the first place? Chaplains belong in a church, not work.

I think this extremely invasive. Seems like your company must be very small and the all employees must be of the same faith. I do believe in GOD and have respect for all faiths, but I am not a christian. Chaplins belong in the church not at work.

I don't remember an issue generating so many responses, it seemed to have struck strong feelings - one way or the other - in many people.

Anonymous, Will you please update us on what is happening? Thanks!

Ok, enough already.
This is a grown-up situation, and calls for a grown up attitude. If it's not for you, don't feel guilty. Just say no.
You won't please everyone no matter what you do.

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