In December, most organizations throw parties to celebrate the end of a year and to thank employees for their hard work. However, before hanging a wreath, lighting a tree, or planning the holiday party, make sure that your decorations and celebrations convey your value of inclusivity. This entry will provide some tips for creating aa season that pleases your entire staff.
December: So Much More than Christmas
Christmas invokes images of Santa, elves, reindeer, and other secular figures. However, at its core, Christmas is a religious holiday. Though Christianity remains the most common religion in the United States, the number of Americans who practice Christianity has declined steadily over the past few decades. At the same time, religions such as Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism have grown. (In fact, the fasting growing religious category in the U.S. is “none.”) So, while many people in the workplace still celebrate Christmas, the number of people who celebrate something other than Christmas or nothing at all is growing. To convey your value of workplace inclusion, consider ways to celebrate that broaden access. Solely emphasizing Christmas in the workplace may put some people in a position to celebrate in a way that is inconsistent with their beliefs, or be excluded from the festivities altogether. Moreover, solely focusing on Christmas may send a not-so-subtle message that important holidays in other traditions and religions beyond Christianity are not as important as Christian ones. Inclusive leaders create space for many ways of celebrating and traditions being honored.
Guidelines for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations
Have a Party! Some companies fear offending employees so much that they hold no holiday celebrations. While the desire to avoid offense is honorable, there is no need to copy Scrooge or The Grinch. Throw a party! Leaders can use the holiday celebration to show their employees that it is possible to be inclusive and still have fun.
One idea is to separate your celebration from any particular holiday by holding an “end of the year” party. These parties celebrate the employees and provide an opportunity for team-building without conflicting with other holidays. Another option is to invite everyone to bring and share something about what or how they celebrate this time of year. Celebrations can also be educational, and people are often excited to share in an environment where their contributions will truly be valued.
Keep the Decorations Light. Office parties and office decorations should not be linked to any particular holiday. For instance, snowflakes, snowmen (and snowwomen!), and lights are all non-specific decorations that reference the winter season without highlighting any one holiday. (Also, make sure than any employees whose workspaces are visible to the public avoid overtly religious themes.)
Be Aware of Your Dates. Leaders should make note of the number of holidays in December. Avoid scheduling office events on days when employees will be out of the office celebrating their own holidays. Moreover, though most U.S. companies close on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, make sure that your company allows those who do not celebrate Christmas to receive equal time during December (or other months) for their religious celebrations.
Beware the “White Elephant.” If your office plays “Secret Santa” or other gift giving games, establish clear guidelines ahead of time. A manger scene or Christmas ornament would not be a suitable gift for a Jewish employee. So, employees should be given clear rules or gift-giving should be avoided altogether.
The holidays are a time to celebrate and have fun! Rather than destroying fun, inclusion increases fun by making sure that our celebrations include everyone. For more guidance on developing an inclusive workplace or other aspects of equity, diversity, and inclusion, sign up for the Equity Toolkit courses. This progressive toolkit will equip leaders with the skills and strategies needed to be effective in an increasingly diverse workplace.