How Businesses Can Offer Holiday Happiness
By Carrie Brown-Wolf
Christmas without a manger. Hanukkah without candles. Ramadan
without a feast. Is this what our culture has produced?
politically correct climate calls communities, schools and
businesses to question their holiday traditions. School choirs no
longer sing “Silent Night” without threat of lawsuits. Community
menorahs are snuffed and mangers vandalized. What should society do?
Ban it all? How does a business host a holiday party without threat
toss the tree or kick the Kwanzaa candles just yet. Communities and
businesses do have options. In general, people look forward to the
new year, new beginnings and new celebrations. Employees benefit
from a healthy holiday party or festive environment to celebrate the
recognizing and appreciating diverse traditions, a business culture
can thrive. An inclusive approach to the holidays sets an example of
respect, tolerance and positive communication. These attitudes and
values transfer into the business realm and increase productivity.
Instead of selecting a secular route, embrace the holidays and a
multitude of traditions that reflect your employees and society at
these tips to create an all-encompassing holiday tone:
Invite individuals to present their values. This must be done
in a positive, tolerant environment, but will allow people to feel
as if they matter. They do. Create a visual space or a board for
people to post quotes that reflect their cultural background in a
constructive attitude. Hanging an oversized calendar is a great idea
for employees to mark holidays and festivals. If you have a web
designer, add it to your Web site and circulate e-mails about
Survey employees to discover their cultural heritage in a
positive, informative manner. This is a terrific time of year to
engage people in personal identity. Make it important. Let employees
know that your business cares about their personal life and does not
want to offend or exclude anyone. Raising the issue of cultural and
religious diversity will begin to eliminate fears and
misconceptions. Talking about the issues and discovering specific
traditions begins an initial step to diversity education. If a
business sets an accepting tone, employees will feel the freedom to
express themselves. However, allow people to opt out of personal
revelation if it is uncomfortable or sensitive for them. Surveys can
vary and be done either electronically, verbally, in written form,
or in a group setting. Be careful not to single out people and make
sure everyone is included. Sample questions might be: How do your
and/or your family celebrate your heritage? Would you be willing to
share this information with others in the company so everyone learn
about new and different cultural traditions?
Decorate and design a party without offending others. Holiday
parties can offer a festive flair without offense. Almost all
cultures cherish and celebrate light during the dark winter months.
String white lights throughout the office and light candles during
formal parties. Bring nature inside and use pinecones, frosty firs
and blue ice to celebrate the winter months. Ice sculptures offer a
unique center piece and spark conversation. Include employees in the
design by asking what they would like to see at an office party.
Tolerate no jokes or offensive behaviors. Be clear that your
company supports all differences and allows no dubious discussions
or negative stereotypes. Off-handed comments can hurt and create a
breading ground for prejudicial behaviors. Offer a training program
or workshop to raise awareness and let employees know what the
company expects and tolerates. Workshops can be specific to gender
issues, race and ethnicity, religious tolerance, or broadly
cultural. Bringing in an expert can set a serious tone while
educating employees in a safe and respectful manner. If this is
beyond the company’s budget, offering diversity resources on the
Internet will help guide people to find answers and to understand
Celebrate all traditions. Offer an environment for employees to
share aspects of their culture. Play ethnic music and offer a
variety of foods at holiday gatherings. Through the survey, discover
what foods are not tolerated by certain cultures represented and
don’t offer them. Post holiday greetings in multiple languages.
Don’t back away from wishing someone a Merry Christmas, but also
offer Happy Hanukkah, or Happy New Year. Say “hello” in Arabic for a
change (Marhaba) or “peace be with you” in Hindi (Namaste). Be clear
the intent is not to speak multiple languages, but rather to
recognize and respect cultural heritage. Create a pluralistic
environment to include and celebrate everyone.
essential to understand both differences and commonalities between
people and their beliefs when working together. Interdependence in
our society needs to be addressed, but not feared. We live in a
global society and businesses should reflect and encourage personal
traditions. Communication, productivity and a peaceful atmosphere
healthy business culture celebrates and recognizes all employees. A
diverse environment produces better results and mirrors our
multicultural society. Unity and respect underline successful
goals. Accepting and learning about each other’s beliefs provides
the freedom to celebrate fully. Celebrate unity!
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about Carrie Brown-Wolf.
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