The year end holiday season is upon us. It can be a time filled with great excitement, joy, and celebration. Yet, it can also be a time when employees feel excluded, forgotten, and uncomfortable.
With many people working together on a team, there are usually a variety of different backgrounds, religions, and cultures. There are people who celebrate the same holiday, different holidays, or no holidays at all during the last two months of the year.
|Did you know? |
“90% of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that empathizes with their needs.” (Businessolver)
As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone on our team feels included, respected, and that they belong. Part of that is keeping in mind that not everyone celebrates the same holiday – or celebrates in the same way – that you do!
When every employee feels valued and respected, they’re more engaged, feel like an important part of the team, and they perform better.
Not only is it the right thing to do to create a more inclusive culture for your whole team, it’s a smart business decision, as well!
|Did you know?|
“According to Gallup, highly engaged teams are 21% more productive than those with low engagement.”
Recently, I reached out to my audience asking 3 simple questions about creating a more inclusive holiday season to get a broader perspective. Here’s what I asked:
- What’s the most inclusive way you’ve seen the holidays celebrated? Why did this make an impact on you?
- What’s one thing companies should consider when celebrating the holidays? Why would this make a difference or an impact?
- What’s one thing companies should avoid doing during the holidays? Share your personal experience.
Today, I’d love to share the results of my inquiry with you, as well as some additional thoughts and findings I’ve gained from digging deeper into this important topic.
A word of warning before we begin. There may be times throughout this post where you feel triggered by something you read. I encourage you to explore why you feel upset. There are usually strong lessons to learn when we are most uncomfortable. But these are important conversations we need to have – and growth often comes on the other side of discomfort.
Let’s dive in!
3 Ways to Create a More Inclusive Holiday Season for Your Whole Team
#1: Don’t Make Assumptions
This is the one suggestion I heard consistently from my audience – “don’t make assumptions.”
It’s easy to assume that everyone around you celebrates in the same way you do, especially if you grew up in an area where most people did or you only spend time with people who are similar to you. Whether you now live somewhere with a more diverse population, you’ve diversified your circle of friends, or you do business online where you’re connecting with people from all around the world, you must be careful not to make assumptions about how others live their lives, which religion they practice (if any), and what holidays they do (or do not) celebrate.
One of the anonymous respondents to my questionnaire wrote,
“Not everyone celebrates, and not everyone celebrates the way you do. Making assumptions about how people live their lives is a no-go.”
Besides, you know what they say about making assumptions, right? 😏
You may not even realize you’re making assumptions until you become more aware that they pop up when you least expect them. When asked what you should avoid doing during the holidays, another anonymous respondent replied, “Always asking if things you’re buying are for Christmas gifts.” They’re not.
How would someone respond to this if they don’t celebrate Christmas without being rude? When we make assumptions, we can leave the other person feeling unsure of how to respond. Instead, get to know your team members and fellow co-workers so that you can ask more appropriate questions without making assumptions.
I love what Tracy Dunbar, MBA, PHR shared in this LinkedIn article about celebrating the holidays:
“Creating an inclusive workplace is not a set of programs or initiatives produced by Human Resources; it is an ongoing set of interactions that say, ‘I see you.’”
Stop making assumptions and start engaging with your team.
#2: Review Time Off Policies
Holidays are a great time to review your company’s time off policy. Is it inclusive? Does it offer the same type of opportunities for all employees equally? Are there opportunities to do better for your team members?
“I think it’s great when companies can let employees have some ownership in which days they get off as company holidays.
For example, if someone is Jewish or Muslim, they might want to be able to take different religious holidays off from work than what is often standard at many companies in the U.S. where certain company holidays like Christmas or Good Friday are designated as holidays because of the Christian faith.” Mallory Whitfield, Diversity + Inclusion Keynote Speaker
I think Mallory makes such a great point here. Christmas is a Christian holiday. It was founded on Christian principles and beliefs. So how do people from different religious backgrounds feel about celebrating a holy holiday that’s not holy to them?
I think the blog, Five Things People Say About Christmas that Drive Me Nuts, by Penelope Trunk Careers sums it up perfectly, when she wrote,
“I don’t want a day off on Christmas. I want a day off for Yom Kippur, which I usually have to take a personal day for. Why do I have to take a personal day for Yom Kippur but no one has to take a personal day for Christmas? This is not equal treatment for religious groups.”
This is a great opportunity to develop creative, flexible, and inclusive policies that take diversity into consideration. Something as simple as allowing your team to have “floating holidays” to celebrate the holidays (or non-holiday time off) they prefer versus standardizing the holiday list around your own cultural or religious celebration preferences is a great place to start.
Creating inclusive time off policies is also an excellent way to attract and retain a more diverse team.
|Did you know?|
“Racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35%.” (McKinsey)
Implementing more inclusive time off policies is something that small businesses can easily do that doesn’t add a big expense to the bottom line – but that will go a long way in making each and every team member feels included.
#3: Celebrate Diversity through Education + Awareness
Finally, an excellent way to make sure your whole team feels seen, validated, and respected is to take the time to learn more about them. Everyone has their own opinions, thoughts, and feelings about the holidays. Who best to learn from than the people on your own team?
An anonymous respondent wrote to me, saying, “Not everyone celebrates Christmas. It seems obvious, but as someone who doesn’t, it’s shocking.” When we get to know our employees, we have an incredible opportunity to show them that we care, that they matter, and that they belong.
Something else to keep in mind is that 21% of the U.S. population reports no religious identity or faith tradition, including atheists and agnostics, according to Gallup.
Take the time to get to know your team. Ask your employees which holidays are important to them – and then celebrate those holidays together throughout the year. This is also a great opportunity to focus on and build awareness around recognition days that promote human rights for those who report no religious identity or faith tradition.
By celebrating diversity through education and awareness, we are able to create a more inclusive environment for all. It increases our understanding of one another, enhances engagement, and ensures all team members feel validated.
|Did you know?|
“Companies with a highly engaged workforce show 21% higher levels of profitability, score 17% higher on productivity, and have 4x higher revenue growth.” (Gallup)
I’m going to leave you with one last thought. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
You don’t just wake up one day, decide that your company is going to be inclusive, and then execute it to perfection. There will surely be slipups, mistakes, and imperfect attempts. But each and every step matters and makes a difference in the lives of your employees.
I loved this anonymous respondent’s memory of the first inclusive holiday party they attended, which demonstrates this beautifully. “I was in first grade and we had a HanChrisKwa party. Granted, there are way more cultures and traditions than those three, but it was one of the first times I was exposed to having a blended event and I’ve remembered it. I liked learning about the different foods and practices, and it was exciting new information.”
This party, although not representative of the many different cultures, religions, traditions, and holiday celebrations in the world, was a great effort at starting to create a more inclusive experience for all the children. Was it perfect? No. Was it a start? Yes. And it had an incredible impact on this small child who has carried this memory into adulthood. That’s the power of taking imperfect action. That’s the power of working toward a more inclusive company.
Set the intention, share it with your team, ask for their help and support, then start shifting the culture of your company together, one step at a time. Seek feedback from your team, raise awareness, and when you do make a mistake, own it, learn from it, and do better.
I encourage you to choose just one item from this list to incorporate this year. One change can make all the difference toward creating a more inclusive holiday season for your whole team this year!