The holiday season is upon us once again, a time often filled with lights, laughter, and delicious food! At the same time, opportunities arise in professional settings for unintentional discrimination if we are not careful. I want to raise awareness on how companies can be inclusive this holiday season by spreading awareness to your teams.

Did you know that from November through January there are more than 15 religious and secular holidays? A thoughtful approach grounded in respect for diversity provides several practical solutions for each occasion. Yes, this will require planning and preparation, but with the right efforts, you can ensure everyone enjoys this holiday season!

6 Ways to Make a Positive Difference

  1. Survey Your Employees
    Before planning a party, creating a gift swap, or decorating the office, find out what your team prefers. Ask what holidays are important to them and how you can best recognize and celebrate accordingly. Solicit information and assistance. Understanding what and how your employees want to celebrate is always the first step in creating an inclusive holiday season. And be sure to make your survey optional or include the ability to decline questions on religious affiliation and other sensitive topics.
  2. Offer Floating Holidays
    The traditional federal holiday schedule, the basis for most time-off policies, does not encompass every important day, nor can it. Floating holidays give individuals the ability to take the days that are significant to them. If your company does not offer them, consider revising your current policy to foster a more welcoming and inclusive environment.
  3. Educate and Share
    Use this time to educate everyone about the many significant celebrations that occur this time of year. Showcasing the history, meaning, and related traditions is a great way to celebrate diversity all around. Be sure and include your employees in the planning to ensure you’re getting the details just right (creating an interfaith ERG can be a great way to increase understanding and tolerance on an ongoing basis).
  4. Remind Everyone – It’s Not Personal
    Do you bristle a little when you hear Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Do you feel rejected when someone refuses your offer of home-baked cookies or stiffens when you offer a hug? It is easy to default to this feeling, but it’s rarely personal, especially this time of year. Take a breath and remember that the phrase Happy Holidays is a sign of respect, not making assumptions but providing a way for us to be polite and wish each other well.
  5. Offer Food and Drink Alternatives at All Events
    This one is a must for all office catering but especially important for this time of year. Religious, cultural, and dietary restrictions influence people’s preferences in numerous ways. From a vegan casserole to non-alcoholic to drink, make sure these options are presented equally and not relegated to a smaller, secondary table. Depending on the event, a potluck can be a good choice since people can bring foods that match their preference.
  6. Make Everything Optional
    Secret Santa, decorations, parties, lunches – make them all optional. No one should be forced to attend, and all declines should be accepted gracefully. No gentle nudges about missing out on the fun. Respect the choices people make.

In a way, the holiday season is no different than any other time of year. We should be respectful of others and strive to create workplaces that are welcoming and friendly to everyone. DE&I is a year-round effort. But there is no denying that the sheer number of events makes this season a little extra – extra full of opportunities to share our culture and traditions with others and to learn how much we are alike, even as we celebrate our individuality. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season filled with new joyful experiences and the comforts of tradition and family!

At ATR, our mission is to make the world a better place, one job at a time. Let’s work toward a more inclusive workplace together.


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