Hosting Inclusive Holiday Celebrations

Between November 1st and January 15th, there are over 29 holidays observed by seven of the world’s major religions. And yet, in so many U.S. companies all the celebrations focus on one.

With increased globalization, companies are more diverse than ever. That means that workplace holiday celebrations need to be comfortable and inclusive for everyone. Our work on virtual teams has shown us how creative and culturally diverse virtual celebrations can be. But even for teams who work in the same location, it’s important to host an event open to everyone.

Here are a few tips for hosting a celebration that will put everyone in a celebrating mood.

  • Choose your date wisely. Picking a date in December is complicated. There are numerous religious holidays and many people take time off. You may want to consider hosting a New Year Kickoff party in January, where you can acknowledge the previous year’s accomplishments and talk about future goals. It can be a great pep rally for 2020.
  • Make considerate food and drink choices. Include plenty of non-alcoholic options, not just one or two. In addition to religious reasons, many people do not drink due to personal decisions, health or pregnancy. Also, serve vegetarian options, non-pork, and non-combo pork/dairy options for various beliefs and diets.
  • Neutral décor. Nothing’s worse than a ‘holiday’ party that’s really just a Christmas party in disguise. Skip the Santas, Christmas trees and menorahs. Keep decorations neutral and secular.
  • Don’t forget your virtual employees. Diversity is what makes teams great and virtual teams bring together people from all over the globe. If you can’t get together in person, create a team holiday page on your intranet or company social media platform. Each team member can post an informal blog (with photos!) or vlog about their favorite holiday tradition. You can also share holiday recipes or have a cooking demonstration of a traditional food item. This is another great way to celebrate cultural diversity on the team.
  • Make it optional. Understand that some people won’t feel comfortable attending. They may not celebrate holidays or are uneasy being around alcohol. Others may have personal reasons for wanting to skip or it can be a hardship to attend an event outside of work hours.
  • Keep the focus on celebration. Focus on both work accomplishments (launched new product! Completed the merger!) and personal achievements (new baby! ran a marathon!) of the team. Keep the attention on the things you share in common and less on your differences.

As a leader, you know your people and you know what feels right for your team. If your intentions for inclusivity are sincere, then you’re on the right track. Just keep the focus on making employees and teammates feel that they belong and that their presence is valued. Have a wonderful holiday season, from your friends at PRC!

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