How to Appreciate Diversity During the Holidays
Tips for Improving Office Holiday Parties for Everyone
The celebration, commotion, and commercialism surrounding Christmas can normally preoccupy many during the holiday season. But while over 90% of people in the U.S. celebrate Christmas, with over two-thirds having somewhat or strongly religious observances, it’s important to recognize—especially in the workplace—that there are non-Christian festivities also taking place at this time of year.
In an office space where there are people from all different religious and non-religious backgrounds, employers must remember to create a diverse and inclusive environment that makes each person feel seen and appreciated.
“We must never assume that everyone shares the same holidays as us,” said Shahrzad Arasteh, a career counselor and author, in an email to The Balance. “Whether our environment naturally reminds us that ours are not ‘the’ universal holidays or traditions, or it’s something we have to be more intentional about remembering, a first step is not to make assumptions.”
As you consider your holiday celebration plans for the workplace, there are other crucial steps you should take to ensure you’re fostering diversity and inclusion.
Include Employees in the Process
No two employees or workplaces are exactly the same, so by connecting directly with your staff, it can help give you a clearer picture of the cultural makeup of your office. This could be accomplished with a survey asking employees what holidays are important to them, or have one-on-one conversations, depending on the size of the company. By involving employees in the holiday-related decision-making process, and discussing their feelings about the season and how they like to celebrate, you can give your workers a sense of value and ownership.
Create a Holiday Party Committee
Religious decorations and celebrations focused on Christmas or Hanukkah may make employees who have different backgrounds and traditions feel bombarded or left out. One way employers can counter this is to form a holiday party committee made up of people who reflect the cultural, religious, and secular diversity of the organization. This allows for a broad range of opinions and a more collective decision on what a holiday party should entail.
Lead by Example
If you’re the boss or manager, along with forming a diverse holiday committee and being respectful with decorations, there are ways you can lead by example, should the opportunity present itself. For instance, if you happen to be brought up in a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you can prepare one of your customary dishes, include the recipe, and even dress in your traditional attire to celebrate the end-of-year holiday season.
Leaders who create a more comfortable, inclusive work environment tend to have a more positive impact on employee performance, engagement, and loyalty.
Reflect Company Culture
An office holiday celebration should serve as an outward manifestation of your company’s culture. If you and your team value inclusivity, collaboration, and togetherness, a holiday celebration is a great opportunity to let those values shine.
Plan for Remote Workers
Creating a diverse and inclusive atmosphere during the holidays can extend beyond the office—especially at a time when remote work has become the norm. If your workforce is remote during this holiday season, career counselor Arasteh suggests arranging a virtual gathering where several people volunteer to share their holiday tradition or memory. “It can be a chance to learn more about different holidays and cultures, connect with each other meaningfully, and demonstrate curiosity, respect, and appreciation for the diverse experiences and people in your team,” she said.
Demonstrate Empathy and Compassion
Keep in mind that because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on individuals and families, not everyone is going to be in a celebratory mood this year. Many people will have family members missing from their dinner tables, so this is a time to exercise empathy and compassion. Don’t treat it as a snub if they decide not to accept your invitation to the company holiday party.
Ask for Feedback
Not everything is going to be perfect, particularly if this is your first time organizing a more diverse, inclusive holiday celebration. While most employees will likely appreciate your efforts, you may also face some resistance from others. To make sure all feelings are addressed, keep the lines of communication open and engage in continuous feedback from the planning till after the event through anonymous surveys and one-on-one conversations.
The Bottom Line
Being inclusive used to mean simply sending out greeting cards, exchanging gifts, and changing the name of office Christmas parties to “holiday parties.” Now, however, there is a greater need to take the time to build understanding and awareness about one another through education, empathy, and communication. This is what should signify the season as we host our next workplace celebration.