When you think of the holidays, what comes to mind? A most sacred religious time? A Corporate America-induced spending orgy? A time of joy, reflection, jubilation and comfort? Maybe, indifference or even anxiety?
The holiday season brings about a mixed bag of emotions and expectations, formed, among other things, by religious beliefs, life experiences and cultural identity. Whatever the holidays mean to you, understanding and appreciating the beliefs and traditions held by others can positively impact your work and personal life.
The month of December presents a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what the holidays mean to your peers. Properly done, this can enhance one’s own level of cultural competency: a skill of tremendous importance in any field, especially in our diverse nonprofit sector.
We view cultural competency as a blend of different attributes, the combination of which enables understanding, appreciation and the ability to effectively communicate and work with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Those exhibiting high degrees of cultural competency will excel at working with individuals – both internally and externally – from diverse backgrounds.
Some Tips to Have Fun and Learn
Below, we offer a few ideas on how to best maximize this learning opportunity, enjoy the holidays and foster an appreciation for the diversity that helps the nonprofit sector thrive.
- Don’t leave all the planning to one individual. No matter how well intentioned, one person may overlook some subtle spiritual sensitivity and unwittingly offend others. Seek out a committee that is diverse in age, race, religion and tenure to plan any holiday events.
- Provide all staff with an equal opportunity to share their perspectives on the holidays.
- Try not to place too much emphasis on any particular religious sect, leaving others with feelings of alienation and insignificance.
- Just because your nonprofit isn’t overemphasizing any particular holiday, don’t ignore all holidays. Perhaps the only thing worse than a one-sided celebration in a diverse office is no celebration at all.
- Most importantly, have fun!
Let’s Do Lunch
At first glance, implementing these suggestions may seem time consuming, but they do not have to be. The lunch break can provide time for holiday committee meetings and a venue for employees to share their diverse customs and beliefs with their peers.
Of course, an added bonus of these lunchtime activities is that they will typically occur during lunch! Many religious and cultural celebrations are deeply connected and influenced by the food shared at such gatherings and bringing this element to the office can give others a tasty appreciation of a variety of unique cultures and religions.
And Do Make It Personal
If limited on time, try hosting a holiday-themed pot luck where everybody brings in a dish rooted in their family’s traditions, hopefully some of which are vegetarian.
Please consider these recommendations and enjoy a healthy and safe Bodhi Day, Boxing Day, Chanukah, Christmas, Festivus, Human Rights Day, Kwanzaa, Rosa Parks Day, St. Nicholas Day, Winter Solstice, New Year (Chinese, Islamic, or otherwise) and any and all other days that are special to you and yours!