Be inclusive in the workplace during the holiday season by following these strategies and tips

Workplaces can be inclusive by knowing and educating employees about the different backgrounds of their colleagues and being mindful of differences.
Written by: Bria Morgan and Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Alicia Rohan

stream diverse hands raised 5Workplaces can be inclusive by knowing and educating employees about the different backgrounds of their colleagues and being mindful of differences.The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a diverse campus and celebrates the rich diversity of its students, faculty and staff by promoting inclusivity. The holiday season is a time of celebrations, togetherness and traditions. However, in today’s diverse workplace, everyone may not celebrate the same festivals and traditions. Therefore, given the wide range of ways people celebrate the holiday season, it is important to avoid giving the impression that one or some holidays take precedence over others. 

Paulette Dilworth, Ph.D., vice president of the UAB Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, provides tips and strategies to ensure that you are creating an inclusive environment and planning appropriate activities and gatherings.

Educate, then celebrate

An inclusive holiday season should not be limited to decorative flags and potluck dishes from different cultural and religious backgrounds, according to Dilworth.

“It is important to consider that some of your employees may be non-religious and provide opportunities to celebrate days that focus on advocating for all human rights,” Dilworth said. “Hosting panel discussions, poster board presentations and a shared slide show that allows employees to learn about underrepresented faith-based systems or religions are some good ways to educate the employees about the diverse groups and their traditions.”

Know your office 

Dilworth says it is crucial to know the members of one’s office and their backgrounds. An easy and effective way to do this is by engaging in data collection through surveys, email and direct communication.

“The goal of collecting this information is to spread cultural awareness and foster inclusion during the winter holiday season,” Dilworth said. “Ask participants to share the dates and methods of celebration of those holidays. However, be sure to communicate to employees that sharing information about their faith or winter holidays is voluntary, so they do not feel pressured.” 

Do not ignore faith and religion 

According to Dilworth, ignoring faith and religion can be harmful. Faith and religion are important components of many employees’ lives and an important facet of diversity, impacting how they approach their roles, their interactions with their colleagues and students, and other aspects of their identity.

Dilworth notes, however, that being inclusive of underrepresented winter holidays does not mean Christmas should or should not be celebrated.

“Inclusive excellence calls for collaboration and cohesion,” she said. “Expanding the winter holiday festivities that your office celebrates asks participants to be mindful and compassionate toward all faith-based holidays.”

Host a two-part event and serve inclusive food

If you decide to host a holiday gathering for employees, Dilworth suggests hosting a two-part event where the first phase of the celebration should be free of alcohol consumption and feature secular music. 

“This could benefit employees from different religious groups, people who have experienced substance abuse disorders or people who prefer to abstain from alcohol consumption,” Dilworth said. “The event could feature words of appreciation, positive remarks and moments of reflection. But always respect an employee’s decision not to participate in a holiday event or other celebration.” 

Food is an important part of any celebration and sends a strong message about inclusion. Therefore, in holiday celebrations, be sure to provide food that is inclusive of the cultures and faiths that are represented in the workplace and provide options that are inclusive of dietary restrictions.

“You can be food-inclusive by including meals that are kosher, halal, vegan or gluten-free,” Dilworth said. “Additionally, be mindful of the placement of food dishes. For example, you would not want to place shrimp or pork near vegan dishes.”