By Carrie Brown-Wolf
Today’s politically correct climate calls communities, schools, and businesses to question their holiday traditions. But don’t toss the Christmas tree or Kwanzaa candles out just yet. Employees benefit from a healthy holiday party or other gathering. Options DO exist. Follow these tips to create an all-encompassing holiday tone.
* Survey employees to discover their cultural heritage in a positive, informative manner. The EAP is in a perfect position to assist. This is a terrific time of year to engage people in their personal identities. Let workers know that your organization cares about their personal lives and does not want to offend or exclude anyone. Moreover, raising the issue of cultural and religious diversity will help eliminate fears and misconceptions. If a business sets an accepting tone, employees will feel the freedom to express themselves. However, allow people to opt out of participating if it is sensitive or uncomfortable.
* Decorate and design a non-offensive holiday party. Almost all cultures cherish and celebrate light during the dark winter months. String white lights throughout the office and light candles during formal parties. Include employees by asking them what they’d like to see.
* Offer a training program workshop to raise awareness. Workshops can be specific to gender issues, race and ethnicity, etc. Again, the EAP may be able to assist.
* Celebrate all traditions. Play ethnic music and offer a variety of foods at holiday gatherings. Through the survey, discover what foods aren’t tolerated by their culture and don’t offer them. Don’t back away from wishing someone “Merry Christmas,” but also offer “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy New Year.”
* Say “hello” in a different language — for instance, Arabic (Marhaba) or “peace be with you” in Hindi (Namaste). However, be clear the intent isn’t to speak another language, but rather to recognize and respect cultural heritage.
We live in a global society and organizations should reflect and encourage personal traditions. Communication, productivity, and a peaceful atmosphere will abound.
Carrie Brown-Wolf is a national speaker and author of “Soul Sunday: A Family’s Guide to Exploring Faith and Teaching Tolerance.” For more information, visit http://www.carriebrownwolf.com. Author’s note: This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of “Employee Assistance Report”. To find out more, visit http://www.impact-publications.com