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How to enjoy a politically correct holiday season at the office
  • 24 December 2015
  • Eric Michaels

How to enjoy a politically correct holiday season at the office

The cultural diversity of the US population is reflected in many workplaces and can make holiday party planning tricky for business owners. For example, unless you have a tight crew of employees who all share similar religious backgrounds, you may feel you want to pursue a more “politically correct” holiday season at the office. If that’s your choice, here are some tips:

Keep decorations seasonal. It’s easy to decorate the office without favoring any particular religious celebration. Snowflakes, gingerbread men, sleds, and pine-needle wreaths evoke wintertime without calling to mind a specific holiday. In a workplace split between different faiths, you might consider inviting everyone to bring and hang decorations celebrating their individual cultures, but going with simple cold weather symbolism is another way to go.

Plan parties with the full calendar in mind. Before planning your holiday party, make a full scan of cultural calendars, so you can pick a day and time when everyone can attend. Your party should be open to all and if you can’t find a date that works, you may want to make it a New Year's party. Additionally, be sure to let your staff know that it’s okay if they decline to attend if their own religious obligations or observances conflict.

Consider dietary restrictions. Before sitting down with your catering service to choose your holiday party menu, keep in mind that employees may have dietary restrictions. Try to incorporate as many culinary styles as possible, including vegetarian options. Many workplaces throw potluck events to make it easier for everyone to enjoy the dishes they prefer. Also, be sure to ask employees about any food allergies they have, and then plan your menu accordingly.

Make gift exchanges optional. The practice of gift exchanges, such as “Secret Santa”, is common at many offices, but it’s best to make it optional. You may have staff members who object to the practice or do not want to participate, so they should be allowed to opt out without being judged. For those who do choose to give and receive gifts, keep the spending limit low, so people don’t have to further stretch their budgets during an expensive season.

Use the holiday season to forge bonds. No matter the cultural makeup of your office, there are ways to bring employees together during the holidays. Ice skating, bowling outings, and other events can make your staff feel more like family by the time the New Year arrives. Companies with great cultures sometimes throw team-building or “bonding” events to allow people to socialize and have fun, resulting in happier employees and a more tightly-knit company.

Don’t forget to have fun. Being respectful and considerate during the holidays is important, but make sure that fun is also part of the equation. When you invite them to celebrations, you are thanking your team for their efforts all year, so be creative and do what you can to make them smile.

As a small business owner, being respectful and sensitive to your employees’ varying holiday observances can result in a politically correct holiday season at the office that can still be fun and a great way for employees to bond.

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