Happy Holidays: How to be inclusive during the festive season
As the time of year is upon us when many are in the festive mood, have you ever wondered what your employees are doing during the holidays? Do they celebrate with family and friends? Are they all alone? Do they even celebrate at this time of year? What about your neighbours or people within your community? If you’ve never asked any of these questions, maybe this festive period is a great time to start!
This isn’t a blog telling you about the amazing benefits being an inclusive leader can have on your organisation, how many creative and innovative ideas are derived from inclusivity or how an inclusive culture can significantly improve productivity. This isn’t even a blog telling you how nice it would be to make someone in the community feel you’ve thought about them at a time of year when many feel loneliness and despair. This is simply a reminder of some simple and effective ways you can make employees, neighbours and, well anyone really, feel included during the holiday season.
Encourage Open Conversations
We likely all have a diverse group of employees, friend groups, neighbours etc. from varying faiths and cultures who celebrate in a variety of ways so try to create and promote opportunities for them to feel safe to talk openly about their traditions. Ask what these traditions are, why they celebrate them and when are they celebrated. The more these conversations are encouraged, the more insight you gain, the more people will feel welcomed, involved, and included and the better equipped you are to plan inclusive activities. Remember, these open conversations can be impactful to engagement and culture throughout the year. This doesn’t just apply to employees, you can have these open conversations with neighbours, acquaintances, and friends too.
Once you have acquired this wonderful information, the task turns to what you are going to do with it. It isn’t enough to simply have a conversation to gain this knowledge if you aren’t going to do anything with it, so what now?
Plan Inclusive Events
There is no one size fits all for this, as everyone’s organisation or circumstances will vary, but the idea here is to try to plan activities or multiple events that incorporate key elements from the feedback gained from the open conversations. This could include a celebration of different cultural or faith-based events throughout the year, including giving employees days off as part of their annual leave to celebrate specific occasions. If you do have a party around the holidays, plan it with care, try to make it more of an inclusive event, try to make the event less about specific faiths and cultures but one that maybe is a thank you to the teams for their hard work and you can even consider planning the event at a different time of the year when it is less busy. For your neighbours and community members this can simply be extending an invitation to have a nice warm meal with you and your family.
Show Kindness and Respect
You may be thinking these are a given, that you do this all the time and that is fantastic if you do, that’s how it should be, right!?, but just in case you need a friendly reminder, come on, let’s face it, we all get caught up with our own lives at times. This is not a festive time for everyone, it can be a very difficult time or simply just not a time of year that is celebrated within their culture or faith and this should be respected. Showing this respect to everyone is not only inclusive but it is kind, it shows that you care enough to have listened to what that individual or group wants and needs. There are also a lot of things you can do to show kindness; consider volunteering at a charity, welcoming people into your home, providing meals, clothes, toys etc. to those in need. This is a great opportunity to go through your house and see what you don’t need, haven’t used and frankly what you could do without. If you have children, include them in these activities, they are never too young to learn the importance of inclusivity, kindness, and respect, it also can teach them appreciation for what they have and how some aren’t quite as fortunate. As the saying goes, ‘everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind always.’
Spend some time thinking about the past year, ask yourselves some of these questions; what could you have done differently? how could you have been more inclusive? What would you like to have implemented or done that you hadn’t? why hadn’t you? and how can you make it a priority for the coming year? Being reflective isn’t something that should feel like a daunting task and certainly does not need to be a longwinded process but merely a tool for personal development and to help you become a more inclusive person, which by extension is better for everyone. Use this reflective time as an opportunity to address with people areas where you may not have been inclusive, kind or respectful and apologise for it, have more open discussions, let them know that you have reflected and are aware of how your actions may have impacted them and acknowledge that you are making conscious steps to ensure the behaviour is not repeated. Everyone makes mistakes or acts in a manner which they wish they hadn’t, but mistakes don’t have to be designed to hinder us but rather can give us the power to become even better people.
This is my final tip for a small and impactful way to be more inclusive, especially during this time of the year - I’ve saved this one for last, as I know it’s the source of lots of debate, but provides an important closing thought.
There are at least 10 different religious holidays between November and January.
When someone says ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ they aren’t doing this to solicit negative feelings, to be disrespectful in any way or because they are against Christmas, on the contrary. There are at least 10 different religious holidays between November and January and because we don’t know what every person that we interact with believes in, it is simply a way of showing respect.
So, on that note, Happy Holidays Everyone!