What To Expect From Mormon Work Culture?
March 6, 2017 1:47 AM   Subscribe

I (non-LDS) am starting a new job next month in an almost exclusively Mormon company: what do I need to know about how work culture will be influenced by almost everyone - colleagues and seniors - being Mormon?

I'm approaching this from an angle of if I were working in a foreign country: there are obvious, on-the-surface differences which are easy to identify, whereas cultural differences are much harder to detect, yet primarily shape how people perceive and relate to you in reference to their own culture.

So I guess I'm also wondering:
what things could I do or not do - essentially without knowing - that would not be well received?
what things could I do or not do - essentially without knowing - that would be well received?
how will I be perceived: e.g. just another colleague, or possibly an outsider? I know the importance of family in Mormon culture and it strikes me that this could cut both ways i.e. families/ groups can be great if you're in them, but can also be something to feel excluded from.

Anything else I'm missing?

FWIW, I know some LDS basics - beliefs, missions, temples etc - which I've researched out of respect and personal interest, I'm single, don't swear, drink or smoke, and I'm mostly a 9-5 worker i.e. I'm there to do a good job and get on with my colleagues, but I'm not particularly looking to hang after hours.

Note: I'm not asking out of fear or concern - just trying to get a handle on something I don't know much about.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Though I don't know much about Mormon work culture specifically, I was raised Mormon and know of some additional things to pile onto your "good" Mormon compatible attributes (not swearing, drinking, smoking).

Modesty can be a pretty big deal. I don't know what gender you are, but clothing you wear to the office should be able to cover all parts of the body covered by temple garments. You'll want sleeves on your clothes, and everything to go to at least your knees or a bit below. If you have visible tattoos, do your best to not show them. Piercings are also strongly discouraged except for basic women's ear lobe piercings. Despite the magnificent beardedness of our forebearers, clean shavenness is strongly preferred culturally, as well as short hair for men; men must have short fingernails and no make up.

If you gamble, don't talk about it, ditto for premarital sex and cohabitation. Tisanes are fine, but actual tea is a no-no along with coffee, don't do those at work. It looks like caffeinated soda was clarified to be okay officialishly (it was kind of a soft sin for some years after president Hinkley gave an interview saying we avoided it in 60 minutes, but my parents drank a TON) but follow the lead of your coworkers on that one. And hot chocolate is okay. (The actual Word of Wisdom statute says "hot drinks", which in practice means tea and coffee.)
posted by foxfirefey at 2:33 AM on March 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I worked for a company that was primarily LDS. I live near Salt Lake City - so culturally it may be different here than a stand-alone LDS-filled company somewhere else.

I am an atheist. It's pretty obvious I am one. I am not having children. I have tattoos and short hair.

Honestly after being raised Christian and around Christians often, I found my LDS coworkers to be extremely respectful and non-judgmental. I didn't know TONS about LDS before moving here though my aunt was part of the church for a while.

We openly talked about who was LDS and who wasn't, and it just came up in conversation "This weekend at temple" versus "I saw this movie..."

One work conversation was going around the lunch table about who was LDS, my boss got to me and said, "Yeah and you're not." And I replied "Nope!" Then they got around to the new girl and asked and she said "Oh hell no! I MEAN!" and turned bright red and the whole table just giggled. People openly talked about what was going on at temple same as "I went to church on Sunday and..."

That said, this was a pretty friendly workplace for the most part in the first place. Company culture will determine most things.

Things to note: Some LDS companies may have a stricter dress code though ours didn't. My company was business casual. Most people (office was mostly women) often wore dresses/short sleeves/sleeveless shirts. From what I could tell with who I worked with, the temple garments were between them and the church and who they wanted to know, not the workplace to dictate dress code.

Note when offering food/drinks if there is caffeine or alcohol (most LDS people who observe this will ask before eating/drinking things anyway.) Though not all people who are LDS avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Observe the cursing culture. I had many LDS coworkers who cursed, many who had the cleanest mouths, but 90% of the time if a curse word slipped - no one cared or was clutching their pearls. I'd say this is the same for any work culture though.

The same is said from my husband. He knows who is /isn't LDS in his work group. They're all open about it. He's also easily tagged as an atheist and usually gets the "Yeah, cuz you're not Mormon?" right away in conversations.

Really though, treat this like any other workplace. There may be some weird language or some stricter home-life things that you're not used to (words like "temple" "ward" "garments" "missions" etc.) However, you've likely been around other religious people in your workplace often, right? Do you think you'd ask this if they were all Catholic?

It's honestly more comfortable to me because I feel so much less judgement from LDS people than I have from Christians in my life. They're not trying to convert me or anything.

So again, literally judge it on the workplace culture. Don't approach every interaction with "well, they're mormon sooo" in your head, because every single person approaches their beliefs and behaviors differently.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:43 AM on March 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

I've worked at a program that had a partnership with BYU (Mormon university) and I therefore cooperated with professors there and worked closely with lots of Mormon students. So, not exactly the same thing. But I will say that I interacted with lots of Mormons in that position and they were way nicer than the population generally- polite and respectful. No one made me feel judged. The organization itself was not Mormon, however, so I was never asked to follow any religious rules. However of the many Mormons I've met i have to say generally they were a very laid-back bunch with an excellent sense of humor about themselves. (I'm non-religious).

I realize this is a subjective anecdote but hopefully it's helpful.
posted by bearette at 4:06 AM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Subjective anecdote here - I have consulted for many nonprofit organizations that are primarily staffed by Mormons, and have found them to be warm, accepting workplaces that thrive on collaboration and where no one is a "star." The culture has come across as highly all-for-one-one-for-all, so if you are an individual achiever, you might want to tone down the obvious striving behaviors as they will not serve you well. Otherwise, you are about to embark on a job that has the least workplace drama you are likely to experience anywhere, with warm kind people who leave work at work and understand work-life balance better than most.
posted by juniperesque at 7:17 AM on March 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I worked for a company for several years that had a large office in the Salt Lake City area. I had a lot of interaction with the staff there, traveled there and worked out of that office a lot. It was just like any other office. Seriously.
posted by LoveHam at 8:55 AM on March 6, 2017

Every time I have worked with largely Mormon-populated professions in Utah I have felt incredibly judged, passed over for promotions that go to ward-friends instead, and actively proselytized. Me-mail me and I can answer specifics.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 9:20 AM on March 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I feel so much less judgement from LDS people than I have from Christians in my life. They're not trying to convert me or anything.

This is pretty unusual, actually. It's a proselytizing religion explicitly.
posted by listen, lady at 1:33 PM on March 6, 2017

This is pretty unusual, actually. It's a proselytizing religion explicitly.

As an ex-mormon, the typical way that a Mormon will approach this with non-mormons is not the "convert, sinner, or you'll go to hell" approach, but rather the "this is something we feel is important and want to share with you" approach. While I'm fairly certain that they'll invite you to LDS-sponsored activities (including Sunday worship) at some point, you should feel free to decline, and very few Mormons will pressure you into anything.
posted by Aleyn at 1:44 PM on March 6, 2017

That said, I could definitely see coldbabyshrimp's experience happening to you. Mormons have the tendency to look after their own, which might be fine in other contexts, but in a professional setting it can definitely have you at a disadvantage.
posted by Aleyn at 2:35 PM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

From my perspective as an LDS coworker (but not your LDS coworker), I would be flattered that you would bother researching basic tenants of my religion, even if your motivation is to fit in. While everyone approaches their workplace differently, here's what is going through my head:

1. I'm there to work. As long as I can help you and you reciprocate, we should get along great. My management chain is asking for a hundred things and I don't have time to play politics or be jerked around.

2. I have a life outside of work too. If asked, I'll mention my family, friends, church activities, etc. because that's what I have going on. I'm happy to ask about your stuff too and will try to relate as much as possible. Some things are just not my scene, nor are my things yours, and that's okay.

3. People overly concerned about who is "in" and who is not, regardless of the side they fall on, should be rewarded with a swift kick to the butt. There was one situation I can think of where knowing who was a member was good to know (emergency preparedness), but it was handled and that was that. Anything else (I.e. promotion priority, allegations of religious discrimination, etc.) is crap being perpetrated by jerks.

Honestly, if you roll with things with half the energy and curiosity as you've already shown, then I have no doubt you'll do great. And if anybody gives you guff, memail me and I'll crack some heads.
posted by agnielson at 7:23 PM on March 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

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