Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion is becoming more common in HR departments across all industries.

Making Your Holiday Party Welcoming for All Creeds

15 December 2017
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Winter holidays are a time of good cheer, family, and sharing an eggnog at the office holiday party with the people that make your company possible.

The holiday party brings the company together and is an important factor in employee engagement.

It goes without saying that you want all of your employees and their guests to feel welcome, and it’s important to remember to keep in mind the different creeds and backgrounds of your attendees. Here are a few ways you can make your holiday party welcoming for all without any stress!

Offer a Mix of Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Holiday Party Cocktails

While drinking is usually a big part of company holiday parties, many religions don’t allow drinking certain kinds of alcohol or even drinking at all. There’s no reason not to have alcohol at your holiday party, but make sure you have some Kosher wine with your other available alcoholic beverages.

Regarding those who can’t drink at all, it goes without saying that you should have options like coke and orange juice available. If you want to up the ante a little bit, it would make guests who can’t drink feel really welcome if you had something fun like sparkling cider or interesting non-alcoholic cocktails at the bar. Putting these options in cocktail or wine glasses so it’s not so obvious they aren’t drinking will help them not to feel different or left out, and will help them avoid any well meaning but potentially disastrous ‘why aren’t you drinking’ questions.

Make Sure There are Vegan, Halal, nd Kosher Holiday Party Food Options

Different religions have different dietary needs. Some religions believe that all life is sacred and might be vegan, some who practice Judaism keep kosher, Islam forbids eating pork, the list goes on. Planning to accommodate those who can’t eat certain types of food will make them feel right at home.

An easy way to handle this issue would be to send out an email to your employees before making a catering order asking about specific food preferences and dietary needs. I would advise against asking employees if there are religious reasons behind those food preferences for obvious reasons you can find in any company HR video. Alternatively, you could ask employees to all bring dishes and make the event a potluck!

Don’t Stress Out Too Much Over ‘Happy Holidays’ Vs. ‘Merry Christmas’

Seriously! This is something I think you can relax on. If you’re wishing someone goodwill at a holiday party, I think most reasonable people will be happy to have the kind thoughts and won’t get too hung up on the wording. It is always a safer bet to go with happy holidays, but if you wish someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas a merry Christmas out of habit I’m sure that they won’t hold it against you.

Keep Decorations Non-Denominational, or Decorate for Multiple Religions

If your office has a Christmas tree up, keep it up! It’s festive and fun. However, it wouldn’t hurt to put some Jewish or Muslim ornaments on there. However, I would stay away from religious depictions of actual figures and stick with things like dreidels. Having a cute menorah up won’t alienate anyone, but a manger scene almost certainly will.

Alternatively, you could keep all decorations secular. There are plenty of ways to deck out an office for a holiday party that don’t involve religion at all. Santa, elf on the shelf, wreaths, tinsel, streamers, stars, and other items easily bought at a party supply store will make your office beautiful without making anyone feel unwelcome.

Don’t Assume Which Religion Your Employees or Their Guests Practice

It can be really tempting to ask questions about which religion your employees practice, but if you’re appropriately professional in the work place you might not know for sure. It would be incredibly embarrassing to assume someone celebrated one holiday based on superficial appearance, only to find out they practice another.

Of course, if someone brings up their religion or traditions, then absolutely have that conversation! It’s always fun to get to know coworkers and learn about beliefs that are different from yours. I just recommend waiting until someone else brings it up first.

There you have it! Have a happy and safe holiday party, and take some great pictures to include in your company digital postcard!

Elizabeth Woodard

Liz Woodard is an office veteran who's fascinated by office dynamics and believes that applied behavioral psychology can go far towards managing a company well. Find her at http://www.lizwoodard.com/.

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