Author Archives: bizcombuzz

The Collision of Religion and the Workplace

Dealing with religious matters in the workplace is such hot-button issue that a Harvard lecturer labeled it “one of the last taboos.” Yet deal with the matter businesses must, because religious discrimination is a reality that managers are being forced to confront. The problem is that most companies do not have policies in place to do so.

Recent cases about religious discrimination in the workplace have made their way to the Supreme Court, reinforcing the urgency of this situation. One of the most high-profile suits involved a 17-year-old girl whose job application was rejected by Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a hijab. The fashion retailer claimed her religious headdress went counter to its dress code and brand identity because Abercrombie’s image is clearly defined to market to “cool, good-looking people.”

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the young woman, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which states it is illegal to “refuse to hire… because of … individuals’ race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” However, on appeal, the decision was reversed in favor of Abercrombie. The basis of the reversal was that the woman should have made her need for religious accommodation clear when she originally applied for the position.

This back and forth highlights just how problematic the issue is. Many organizations feel justified to create policies that reinforce their brand, as Abercrombie did. However, employers’ policies do not trump the individual’s right to religious freedom, and that is where the problem lies.

Legal experts note that the law does not require employers to honor every request about religious issues an employee requests; they just have to make “reasonable accommodations.” In the end, however, experts point out that employers always look for a good fit with their employees. Experts point out that employers always look for new-hires who get along and can work with their existing employees. The question is whether this understandable desire for “finding a good fit” could lead to discrimination, and whether “reasonable accommodations” is easy to define.


  1. What could be the advantages of hiring people from minority religious affiliations and backgrounds?
  2. What might be potential challenges?
  3. Why do you think more issues surrounding religion in the workplace are cropping up now?

From Harvard Business Review



Requesting a Letter of Recommendation

E-mails requesting a letter of recommendation for graduate school applications, jobs, or internships should be polished and well-constructed. Follow the pointers below to help compose an e-mail that will make a good impression on a former or current instructor.

  • Request letters from instructors who know you beyond attendance in a class and are likely to remember you, if you took the class more than a year earlier.
  • Write in a conversational yet professional tone.
  • Use a proper salutation, such as Dear Professor Sandoval or Dear Dr. Wilson, if the instructor has a doctorate.
  • Include a photo to help the instructor recall who you are and a copy of the job/internship description if applying for a position.
  • Provide all the information the professor will need to write the letter including: (a) memory jog of the class you took, which term, grade received, classroom participation, and any specific interactions you had with the instructor; (b) current résumé; (c) explanation of the reason for the letter; (d) when and how the letter is to be submitted. Note: never assume a quick turnaround. Professors are busy. Give the instructor two to four weeks to compose the letter.
  • Thank the instructor for taking the time to write a letter in a sincere fashion by avoiding cloying clichés such as “Because I learned so much from your class… “

Your task. Analyze the request for a letter of recommendation below. Then rewrite it using your own situation.

Hey, Liliana!

Howzit? I hope you had an awesome time on that trip you talked to us about in class! Since you were one of my favorite profs EVER 😊I was hoping you’d write me a letter of rec for this job I’m applying for. I really loved your class and learned so much in it. I need the letter like really soon, so if you could send it to by the end of this week, that would be really cool! Call me at 509-667-3422 if you need anything.

Thanks for your help!


Classroom Exercise Letter of Recommendation

Suggested Solution

Cheers! How [Not] to Close an E-mail

It’s not uncommon for fingers to freeze over the keyboard at end of composing an e-mail. How to close? Yours? Best? Nothing at all?  Choosing the right close for an e-mail can be dicey, and the task seems to be a moving target—as technology evolves, so do the standards that guide its use, and e-mail is no exception.

The situation has become so fraught that two journalists, Will Schwalbe and David Shipley, have written a guidebook of sorts that discusses everything e-mail: Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better. The authors have dissected the implications of various closings, and below are some important takeaways to share with business communication students.

Pay attention to relationships. If someone sends you an e-mail with a signoff of Sincerely yours, or Regards,and you reply with xxoo, you ignore the status of the relationship. Consider the level of formality you have with the sender, the length of time you’ve known the individual, and whether the relationship is professional or friend based. Those facts should dictate the type of close to choose.

Audience first. Schwalbe and Shipley’s “platinum rule” is to “Do unto others as you’d think they’d want you to do unto them.” In other words, consider how the e-mail can be the most helpful to its reader.

End with your preferred name. Do your reader the favor of using a signature with the name you prefer to be known by and called. For example, if your full name is Benjamin and you want people to call you Ben, use Ben in the e-mail signature.

Use the right signoff. Unless you’re British, Schwalbe and Shipley advise against using Cheersto avoid sounding affected. If you do not know the individual, use Best.

Below are some of the most common signoffs and what they signify.

Best Seamless due to its ubiquity.
Best wishes Safe choice to indicate friendliness and degree of formality.
Regards Staid, professional, unremarkable.
Sincerely Best for formal correspondence; can sound stodgy in casual e-mails.

Here are some signoffs to avoid.

Have a blessed day Keep anything with religious overtones out of professional communication.
Love, Hugs, xo Only for friends and loved ones.
[Name] or [Initial] Okay for brief, informal e-mails, but should be avoided with first time communications because it can be seen as cold.
[Nothing] As an email chain progresses, leaving no signature is acceptable but can be seen as impersonal.
Respectfully For formal letters, not e-mail. Ever.
Sent from my iPhone Common and explains brevity and typos. But also connotes not caring enough to change the default.
Thx or Rgds For tweens only. E-mail is not a messaging app.

The subtleties of closing an e-mail will evolve as the uses and contexts for e-mail change. Keep posted for updates.