Typically considered a lighthearted time of year, the holidays can pose difficulty for those celebrating in a workplace setting. “A new economy and changing corporate culture has left people so terrified about holding onto their jobs that they often won’t partake in any kind of holiday festivities at all,” says Amy Epstein Feldman, co-author of “So Sue Me, Jackass!” “The unfortunate part is needlessly losing all that positive office spirit.”
But during every holiday season, many American workers are unintentionally offended by acts of religious discrimination or simple ignorance in the workplace. “It is essential to understand that not everyone is going to celebrate your holiday; there are many other traditions out there,” she cautions.
Yet while religion may be a frequent offender, Epstein Feldman believes that holiday celebrations shouldn’t become extinct. With her advice, you can rejoice this year while avoiding discomfort or, worse, a minefield of legal issues.
Holiday behavior dos and don’ts
Don’t jump to conclusions
Always wait until the other person brings up his or her holiday traditions before asking about theirs. Approaching every African to wish him or her a happy Kwanzaa will turn your simple assumption into a very offensive act of racial discrimination.
Don’t eliminate merriment entirely
Communally created holiday displays are a good way to make everyone in the office feel included and fairly represented. Ask all workers to contribute something from their traditions, rather than abolishing decoration completely.
Do always be gracious
If your office has a gift exchange, remember that it’s always better to be generic than offensive. Stick to basic items, making sure they are appropriate for whomever the recipient might be, and react politely when it’s your turn to draw a gift.
Do behave with proper conduct
This is important in all situations, whether in the office or at a holiday party. The keyword in “office party” should be “office,” not “party.” Refrain from getting drunk, even if you want to take advantage of the open bar.
Don’t promote offensive humor
Abstain from telling holiday or religious-themed jokes. Your company can take action against you even for a one-time offense.