5 ways to leverage this holiday season to build community at work
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Around this time of the year, I begin to get calls and emails from managers desperate to figure out how to celebrate the holidays inclusively. This year is no exception.
One CEO forbade their employees from posting any kind of decorations, or even mentioning the holidays. “We just told everyone that since some people might feel left out if we had a Christmas party, we were going to do nothing.” He was surprised when I told him that might not have been the best idea.
Be aware that not all employees are Christian and not everyone celebrates Christmas. But pretending Christmas and other holidays don’t exist doesn’t make people feel more included.
The holiday season is here. The Indian festival of lights, Diwali, is this week. Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Kwanza, Christmas and New Years are on the way.
While each holiday is different, they are all celebratory and so close together they contribute to an environment of excitement. Whether or not you celebrate any of these holidays, it’s hard to miss the increase in energy and activity.
Here are five ways you can demonstrate diversity, equity and inclusion leadership and make this an inclusive time for everyone.
1. Ask several employees from different backgrounds and beliefs to be an inclusive holiday/end of the year planning team. Take them out to lunch so they learn more about each other. This will make it more comfortable to collaborate and create a great plan.
After trying this, the CEO of a healthcare organization said that it was the best end of the year/holiday event they’d had in his 10 years at the organization.
The team created ways for employees to share symbols and stories about the holidays and important events they observe. Items were placed on display with a written description describing the tradition along with the name and contact info of who provided it.
2. You can also have a New Year’s or end of year party, instead of a holiday party. This type of party can get everyone on board with the company’s mission and vision for the New Year. It’s a good way to help employees get to know each other better.
An organization I worked with in the hospitality industry used their end of the year party as a way to congratulate everyone for working together through a tough year. They built community, improved morale and toasted to a great new year as a stronger team.
3. Be respectful of special dates when planning events and meetings. Don’t plan a lunch or breakfast meeting during Ramadan if you have Muslim employees.
Be aware of important religious holidays where it’s customary for people to not be at work. Learn and practice traditional greetings for holidays. Employees who celebrate those holidays will appreciate that you were interested and took the time to learn.
One of my clients developed their own branded calendar with all the holidays and brief explanations. They distribute it to their employees and take it to conferences and trade shows.
4. Use a facilitator to lead end-of-year dialogue circles where people can review the year and collaborate on strategy and vision for success in the New Year. Provide special foods from different cultures, which always relaxes people and stimulates conversation.
5. Let go of assumptions of what you think people know about your holidays. Educate people about the origins and meaning of what you celebrate. Don’t be surprised by how little people may know about your tradition. Be willing to share information.
Invite people from different traditions to your celebrations at home. I’ve been to Diwali events, end of Ramadan feasts, Christmas parties and observances from many different cultures. I’ve invited people to Jewish holiday celebrations.
I always welcome invitations to other people’s traditions, especially if food is involved. Next month, I’ll be attending a special harvest time dinner at a local mosque along with people from my synagogue and a local church.
And remember that there are some people that choose not to celebrate any holidays because of personal or religious beliefs. Respect those decisions and find ways to make them feel included and share in their success.
These are only five of the many ways you can use holidays to support diversity, equity and inclusion.
No matter whether it’s a holiday you celebrate or not, if someone wishes you well in their holiday tradition, say “thank you.” They’re spreading love. Let’s use this time as a way to build community in our workplaces, get to know our neighbors and think about why we are grateful.
This time of year can be very stressful, or it can be a great time to build a community that values diversity, equity and inclusion. Let me help you relieve this stress. Call or email to set up time for a discussion. I want the holiday season to be glorious for you and your employees.
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