It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and employees across the country are getting into the holiday spirit with seasonal decorations, baked goods, gift exchanges and festive parties.
The holidays are a perfect opportunity to celebrate and relax a bit with colleagues, but when you work with people who have diverse backgrounds and beliefs, it is also important to keep cultural sensitivity in mind. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and everyone in your organization should feel comfortable with the festivities. By being aware and making conscious efforts to be inclusive, you can ensure that all of your employees enjoy holiday celebrations.
3 Ways to Build Cultural Sensitivity
1. Use Your Words
Sometimes wording can make all the difference. When writing holiday cards, planning office get-togethers or other related activities, avoid using specific phrases that refer to religious holidays, such as “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.” Instead, opt for writing “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” on cards and calling the office event a holiday or end-of-the-year party. You could also consider celebrating in an unconventional way– an organization-wide outing to the ice skating rink or an off-the-wall themed party.
2. Give Goodwill
Exchanging gifts can sometimes create pressure or tension within a workplace. Relieve the stress and find an inexpensive and fun way to give presents. Host a “white elephant” or “Yankee swap” gift exchange where everyone brings an anonymous, wrapped present, and people are able to trade or steal the gifts they choose throughout the game. You can determine a reasonable price limit and any rules (for example: something you have at home or something to display on a desk) ahead of time. Gifts should also uphold standards of cultural sensitivity, with no religious meaning.
If you want to do something different from the regular office gift exchange, you could volunteer at a local nonprofit with co-workers or collect a few dollars from each person to donate to a good cause.
3. Offer “Floating” Holidays
The most recent issue of the EDSI professional development newsletter, The Performance Report, suggested giving employees paid time off for “floating” holidays, giving them the flexibility to celebrate their own cultural and religious traditions throughout the year.
How do you encourage cultural sensitivity within your organization?
Learn more about EDSI’s diversity resources.