On the first day when I was being introduced one of the gentlemen ignored/refused to shake my hand and I believe we both felt embarrassed and slightly offended. I have learned that this man is devout. I wish to know what issues might cause concern. I wonder about the fact that there is only one washroom for both men and women. Also, I wonder about my wardrobe choices particularly in the summer months (sandals without nylons) and when we need to go outside to look at a site (sleeveless top). One warm day I took my business jacket off (as did all the men) and was wearing a sleeveless blouse and noted that he did not contribute to the discussion. He is a star performer and I wish to enable both of us to obtain our best performance and productivity in a comfortable working environment. Any input or suggestions are appreciated.

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    The Israelis have a ton of experience dealing with conservative Jews and Muslims in the workplace. I'd say that if you don't find any satisfactory answers from us, you should haunt their online forums for some kind of answer. I appreciate your good faith effort to accommodate him. Accommodating any conservative's religion is never easy because of the enhanced likelyhood that someone will quote their religion and draw a line in the sand. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 26 '15 at 17:59
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    This question should be helpful to you: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/15336/…. – Anthony Jul 26 '15 at 18:18
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    @Anthony, I would even say that this is a duplicate of that question. – David K Jul 27 '15 at 19:00
  • I think the supervisor/employee relationship changes the power dynamic somewhat. The other question is about peers. Answers here may well draw from that question, though. – Monica Cellio Jul 27 '15 at 21:08
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    Keep in mind that if you're having to change your wardrobe and wear things that make you less comfortable, you're sacrificing your own performance for his. That's still not optimal, you're just making his problem into your problem. – Erik Jul 28 '15 at 12:36

There are so many different believes and sects within those that you will not come to any results on your own.

You will need to ask them.

Schedule a meting with them, tell them in advance what you told us, so they can prepare and listen to what they have to say. As they may not follow the same religious guidelines, you should schedule a single meeting with each. It goes without saying that for this meetings, you should err on the side of caution and dress very conservative.

Make sure you tell them that you will try to make it work. In the end, you will need to decide what exactly is worth it to accomodate them and what is not. You are running a business (or have been employed to do so). If religion gets in the way of said business, you will have to make some tough decisions.

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    I would talk to HR first and see if they want to attend the meeting. One washroom is an HR thing. It is great OP is trying to accommodate. I don't like the term "try to make it work" as that implies something is not working. "Are there religious beliefs or practices that effect the work place I should be aware of". You don't have to commit to address all of even some. Just asking the question is the correct message. If they come out thinking you are going to all and only address 70% they may think they were shorted 30%. – paparazzo Jul 26 '15 at 18:40
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    I would also suggest you talk to the person who hired you - what was their train of thought for putting you in that position. – AleAssis Jul 26 '15 at 19:23
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    @AleAssis Perhaps she just happened to be the best candidate..? Her gender should not have come into it if she was otherwise capable of doing the job. – Jane S Jul 26 '15 at 21:11
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    Excuse me, but management should hire the best person for the job, regardless of gender. If there is an employee that has a problem with that, for example for religious reasons, that's that employee's problem. On the other hand, we have no indication that there is actually a problem. "I can't shake hands with a woman that I'm not married to for religious reason" is not a problem. – gnasher729 Jul 27 '15 at 18:11
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    If a company has an anti-black racist employee who works absolutely fine because all the other employees are white by coincidence, should that company avoid hiring black people? I don't think they should, and I don't think they would be allowed to. – gnasher729 Jul 27 '15 at 18:26

If you are not a Muslim, then you don't need to live under Islamic rules regarding clothing, or anything else. The workplace is not for religion any more than it is appropriate for politics or other irrelevant personal things. For example if you had an employee who was anti-semitic, would it be your responsibility to make sure they never had to work with any Jews? Of course not, it's the employees responsibility to act professionally and leave their ideological issues at home.

You already know how to handle this situation. If they were homophobes, racists, or misogynists I doubt you would be asking this question, because it's a no-brainer. Treat everyone equally, and handle unprofessional behavior stemming from religious ideology the same way you would handle it coming from anywhere else.

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    While your opinion may be an ideal scenario for you, the reality is that religion and ideology do come into the workplace, so this doesn't really help the OP, who needs a practical solution in order to ensure the team works well together. – Rory Alsop Jul 28 '15 at 7:45
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    Why the minuses? This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It's their attitude that caused the problem, not her. We allow women wear sleeveless blouses in our culture. Why would she be the one to adapt? – Luntri Jul 28 '15 at 8:39
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    @Luntri As Rory states, the downvotes are presumably because this doesn't answer the question. It may be true that the OP doesn't need to do anything, but that's not even what she's asking: she just wants to be prepared for certain issues that could come up. Basically, user11177 is just championing the idea that religion doesn't belong in the workplace which is neither realistic nor useful to the OP. – Lilienthal Jul 28 '15 at 12:55

It's quite likely that the two gentlemen in question have more experience in contact with members of a different religion than you have, and quite possible that they take their religion more serious than you do.

We assume that you have no intentions to hurt anyone's feeling, but on the other hand it will happen due to lack of knowledge. I think you should make it clear to both that if you do anything that conflicts with their religion, they must not suffer silently or get annoyed with you, but MUST tell you what the problem is so that it can be fixed.

  • So as this person's supervisor, would you put ketchup on a hotdog in front of that person? I would call any supervisor doing that grossly incompetent. I find your "minor concession" very strange. "Allowing them to explain" is a concession? Open communication is absolutely essential about everywhere. It's not a "minor concession". – gnasher729 Jul 29 '15 at 23:10
  • Somehow I think I would be very careful hiring you. – gnasher729 Jul 31 '15 at 22:55

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