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The 3 A’s to Leading with Holiday Inclusivity

The holidays are here! And so are workplace festivities designed to spread cheer and cohesion through the holiday spirit. Inevitably, these festivities surface religious differences among employees which can be a source of tension, hurt feelings, and tricky inclusivity issues. 

So what is the true meaning of holiday inclusivity? The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discriminations and rules that employers must “reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious practices.” This is a good guide, but leaves much up to interpretation. Indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the practical decisions made around holiday inclusivity. However, there are key principles to follow. While considering holiday inclusivity as a leader or manager, abide by these three A’s: asking, awareness, and authenticity. 

Asking.  

In general, a great way to make people feel valued and respected is to ask questions. This holds true when the subject is holiday inclusivity. Know your employees by regularly soliciting their opinions through everyday conversations. You also might choose to send out a survey to gain specific information, particularly if your company is large. You could ask, for instance, “What holiday celebrations are important to you?” or “How can we recognize your traditional celebrations this year?” or “Are there any foods or drinks you cannot eat this holiday season?” Depending on your needs, this survey could be kept anonymous. 

Awareness.  

Awareness is key as a leader. Whether it be self, business, or cultural awareness, one of your jobs is to simply be aware. When it comes to holiday inclusivity, take responsibility for doing your research. You don’t have to know everything, but you should know the basics. Here are some practical ways of increasing your holiday awareness: 

  1. Familiarize yourself with traditions of various holidays. 
  2. Use a global calendar to take note of and acknowledge holidays you might have overlooked. Simply mentioning an employee’s holiday and asking about their celebratory traditions can make them feel valued. 
  3. Have some understanding and awareness of different religious diets. For instance, many Buddhists and Hindus are vegetarian. Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, and Muslims typically don’t eat pork. Let these dietary restrictions guide the menu for workplace holiday celebrations so that your employees’ religious differences are reflected in the food, and all can feast and enjoy. 
  4. Be aware of views on alcohol. Many religions have restrictions on alcohol, and some employees may feel uncomfortable at a party where alcohol is served. It’s possible that this isn’t a problem, however, it’s best to navigate the use of alcohol with reasonable sensitivity to religious differences. 

Authenticity.  

You’ve probably heard about the importance of authenticity at work. Specifically, it’s important that employees feel that they can bring their full selves to work without being penalized or feeling unsafe. We don’t want to put employees in contexts that make them feel obligated to participate in activities which cut against their worldview or faith traditions. We also want to make space for people to express their holiday spirit. The goal with inclusivity is not to make sure everyone suppresses their preferences, but that employees’ expressions of their distinct preferences are not only tolerated but appreciated! Here are some concrete examples on prioritizing authenticity during the holidays: 

  1. Let employees decorate any workspace that is theirs and not shared with others. 
  2. Make holiday festivities optional. 
  3. If a holiday activity is even partially mandatory, go above and beyond to make it inclusive. 

Inclusivity will always be a balance of promoting both authentic individuality and ensuring company cohesion. While you don’t always celebrate the same holidays, you can appreciate and celebrate diversity and foster a shared respect among employees. When it comes to holiday inclusivity, leadership can pursue that respect through asking questions, being aware, and valuing authenticity. The best part is, when leaders take this approach, it spreads through the entire company – leading to more authentic care for others and a more inclusive workplace.  

The holidays are here! And so are workplace festivities designed to spread cheer and cohesion through the holiday spirit. Inevitably, these festivities surface religious differences among employees which can be a source of tension, hurt feelings, and tricky inclusivity issues. 

So what is the true meaning of holiday inclusivity? The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discriminations and rules that employers must “reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious practices.” This is a good guide, but leaves much up to interpretation. Indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the practical decisions made around holiday inclusivity. However, there are key principles to follow. While considering holiday inclusivity as a leader or manager, abide by these three A’s: asking, awareness, and authenticity. 

Asking.  

In general, a great way to make people feel valued and respected is to ask questions. This holds true when the subject is holiday inclusivity. Know your employees by regularly soliciting their opinions through everyday conversations. You also might choose to send out a survey to gain specific information, particularly if your company is large. You could ask, for instance, “What holiday celebrations are important to you?” or “How can we recognize your traditional celebrations this year?” or “Are there any foods or drinks you cannot eat this holiday season?” Depending on your needs, this survey could be kept anonymous. 

Awareness.  

Awareness is key as a leader. Whether it be self, business, or cultural awareness, one of your jobs is to simply be aware. When it comes to holiday inclusivity, take responsibility for doing your research. You don’t have to know everything, but you should know the basics. Here are some practical ways of increasing your holiday awareness: 

  1. Familiarize yourself with traditions of various holidays. 
  2. Use a global calendar to take note of and acknowledge holidays you might have overlooked. Simply mentioning an employee’s holiday and asking about their celebratory traditions can make them feel valued. 
  3. Have some understanding and awareness of different religious diets. For instance, many Buddhists and Hindus are vegetarian. Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, and Muslims typically don’t eat pork. Let these dietary restrictions guide the menu for workplace holiday celebrations so that your employees’ religious differences are reflected in the food, and all can feast and enjoy. 
  4. Be aware of views on alcohol. Many religions have restrictions on alcohol, and some employees may feel uncomfortable at a party where alcohol is served. It’s possible that this isn’t a problem, however, it’s best to navigate the use of alcohol with reasonable sensitivity to religious differences. 

Authenticity.  

You’ve probably heard about the importance of authenticity at work. Specifically, it’s important that employees feel that they can bring their full selves to work without being penalized or feeling unsafe. We don’t want to put employees in contexts that make them feel obligated to participate in activities which cut against their worldview or faith traditions. We also want to make space for people to express their holiday spirit. The goal with inclusivity is not to make sure everyone suppresses their preferences, but that employees’ expressions of their distinct preferences are not only tolerated but appreciated! Here are some concrete examples on prioritizing authenticity during the holidays: 

  1. Let employees decorate any workspace that is theirs and not shared with others. 
  2. Make holiday festivities optional. 
  3. If a holiday activity is even partially mandatory, go above and beyond to make it inclusive. 

Inclusivity will always be a balance of promoting both authentic individuality and ensuring company cohesion. While you don’t always celebrate the same holidays, you can appreciate and celebrate diversity and foster a shared respect among employees. When it comes to holiday inclusivity, leadership can pursue that respect through asking questions, being aware, and valuing authenticity. The best part is, when leaders take this approach, it spreads through the entire company – leading to more authentic care for others and a more inclusive workplace.  

Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Dec 15, 2021
Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Dec 15, 2021