December 15, 2016
It’s the season of harmony and festivities as people gather to celebrate the Christmas holiday season.
The last few years have seen companies remove the word “Christmas” from their end of year communications, replacing the word with such terms as “Happy Holidays,” or calling the annual office party a ‘festive get-together.” This is of course an effort not to offend anyone who does not celebrate Christmas owing to religion or culture, and to ensure that the workplace is seen as inclusive and respectful of all employees.
This is of course a positive goal, and any CEO worth his or her salt should be sensitive to the fact that in multi-cultural Canada many of their employees may not celebrate Christmas.
I would suggest that we need to look at this from a different perspective. In celebrating our different cultures and beliefs with our colleagues we recognize the rich diversity that exists among us. Inviting those we work with to share stories of their beliefs creates greater awareness and understanding of different cultures from around the world, and provide us with insight into how our workmates live their lives. This could mean inviting staff with other beliefs to share in the celebration by bringing in stories, decorations and foods that are important to them. Dance away to music that celebrates not just “Jingle Bells” but includes holiday music from countries represented by your employees.
Of course, to create a truly inclusive workplace it is essential to recognize and acknowledge other holidays, such as EID, Diwali or Hanukah. While it may not be possible to host a party for each event throughout the year, there are ways to ensure that those employees feel that their traditions are respected and valued. There are many ways to do this. Ensure that you have multi-cultural calendars in your offices, for example, to help all employees stay aware of important cultural events throughout the year. Use the holidays as a way to educate and to celebrate the differences that enrich us.
And remember that inclusiveness and engagement should be your organization’s focus throughout the year, not just the holidays.
And on a lighter note:
Office parties — fun or catastrophe?
Michelle Branigan is CEO, Electricity Human Resources Canada; http://electricityhr.ca.