Ask SGO: How can you foster a sense of inclusion and belonging during holiday celebrations?

Home Resources Ask SGO: How can you foster a sense of inclusion and belonging during holiday celebrations?

While the holiday season can be a time of joy and cheer for some, it can look a bit different for others impacted by this year’s events. It’s important to acknowledge and create space for the complex emotions that surround the holidays from diverse cultures to varying experiences. In this AskSGO, we’re gearing up for the last week of the year to ensure we are fostering inclusion and belonging at work and beyond.

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First, let me start by saying that this time of year can be a lot for many folks, especially when we think about our current climate.

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Folks might not even be in a celebratory mood right now.

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Whether people are reflecting on the global crises, killings, and losses happening on a community-wide scale, some of your employees or colleagues might not be interested in end-of-year celebrations in the workplace or in the communities.

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In addition to the collective grief that many of us are experiencing right now, some of the folks in your office or online might also be experiencing individual grief.

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Maybe they recently lost a loved one, or this is the first year or even third year that they’ll be celebrating a holiday where a loved one won’t be there.

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Being able to hold space for grief and anger are very important.

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But, let’s say you are in a celebratory mood, and let’s say you are holding multiple truths at once, which we do understand here at SGO.

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It’s still important to recognize the fact that not everyone celebrates the same traditions or the same holidays.

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Whether people celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, and the list goes on, we can’t assume that everybody is interested in the same type of holidays that we’re interested in.

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So let’s go ahead and give you a few tips to consider if you’re thinking about fostering inclusivity during holidays and end-of-year celebrations.

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First, let’s normalize a range of emotions.

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It is okay for our employees and our colleagues to feel joy, to feel anger, to feel grief during these times.

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And if we have some resources that we can provide to one another, such as looking into the bereavement policies or seeing what EAP benefits exist.

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That’s a great time to share those resources to folks or with folks who might need that.

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We also don’t want to make assumptions.

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It’s so easy to use dominant celebration language.

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And what I mean by that is when we think about Western cultures, particularly living in the United States, many folks do celebrate Christmas, so it might be natural for folks to say Merry Christmas, especially if you celebrate Merry Christmas.

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I think it’s important that you feel okay with celebrating your own holiday, and there’s nothing wrong with you saying Merry Christmas.

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But when you are in a space with different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different cultures, different traditions, it’s important to recognize that not everybody’s actually going to be celebrating Christmas.

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So, some folks might be shifting to a language of “Happy holidays.”

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Or “Are you celebrating anything in particular that you would like us to think about, or you would like us to celebrate in the office?

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Or you can simply say, “I hope the rest of the year is exactly how you desire it to be.”

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There are many ways we can talk and communicate, but it’s really important to make sure that we’re not using our own language and assuming that everyone else accepts or celebrates the same things that we do.

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The third point that I want to make is how can you expand your knowledge and the team’s knowledge?

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So, beyond some of the holidays and observations that are listed on most of our work calendars, how can we be curious about what the folks within our organization celebrate?

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So, that might look like collaborating or co-creating an interfaith calendar, or sending out a survey and asking folks what what holidays or observances do they celebrate throughout the year?

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That way you’re prepared and you’re aware.

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Lastly, provide support and encourage people to take some time off.

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So, if there’s flexibility hours or some flexibility policies within your organization, and if it’s not necessarily listed as time off on the calendar, how can you encourage that and normalize that among your team?

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If you’re considering having a holiday party or an office party, here are some things to consider.

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The first thing, is you want to remember the goal of end-of-year celebrations.

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While we might have our own personal excitements about the holidays that we celebrate because everyone in our offices, whether virtual or in person, might not celebrate those same things, how can you keep the focus on celebrating the employees?

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Whether that’s celebrating accomplishments through the year or celebrating your organization’s impact and mission?

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Those are themes that you can focus on during your holiday party.

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Or better yet, your end-of-the-year celebration party.

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It’s also important to think of ways employees can contribute to planning a party if you decide to have one.

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And that resonates with folks at your company.

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So that might look like leveraging ERGs or tapping folks and asking them, “Hey, we’re going to be doing some form of a celebration or recognition, we want to make sure that everyone’s needs, desires, and wants can be incorporated at this party, what will folks like?”

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And within that questioning, you can try to make sure that you’re going to diversify everything that goes into the party.

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So the food that you’ll be offering.

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Try to make sure you’re accommodating different forms of diets, whether folks are vegan, vegetarian, maybe they eat only kosher, halal.

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Maybe they’re gluten-free.

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Make sure you’re giving people an option to share that so that if you do have food at a party or at a celebration, folks have something to eat.

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Also, that goes to my next point around drinks. Not everyone drinks alcohol.

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I think we know this by now.

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And so there’s nothing inherently wrong if you choose to have alcohol at your parties.

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But, what we’ve seen over the years for people who try to create inclusive gatherings is that they try to make sure that they have nonalcoholic options.

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And not just water.

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Please, not just water, but other options, such as sparkling ciders or fun mocktails.

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There are many things that you can do to make sure that everyone feels like they’re part of this celebration.

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Next, if you’re having an in-person celebration, you might want to be intentional about where the celebration is happening.

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Okay, so is it accessible to folks? Do you have an elevator? Do you have a wheelchair ramp?

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Maybe send out a survey to make sure that you know what people might need so your event is accessible.

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You also want to think about things like gender-inclusive bathrooms or gender-nonconforming bathrooms.

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Do you have seating options for folks who might not be able to stand for a certain amount of time?

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Is the location you’re having the event at in a space where people can take public transit, for example?

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If you decide to not have an office party or you’re within a hybrid setting, you might want to consider a virtual option.

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This creates an opportunity for more people to come to your event, and people can decide to come in, hop in, hop out whenever they feel like it.

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You also want to focus on team-building activities versus holiday-specific activities.

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How can you make sure that if you do have games around or if you’re doing different activities, either bring a diversity of activities at your event, ask people what they might want to bring as well, or try to make sure that the activities really focus on your teammates and employees who may be having fun, maybe doing donations, maybe asking each other
questions, and not so much about one particular holiday.

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And then finally, maybe think about making the party or the celebration voluntary.

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When people have a choice to come to these celebrations, they can decide if that’s the space that they might want to be in, depending on whatever they might be experiencing or facing.

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So with what I’ve shared, I’m really interested to hear from you all.

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Please share in the comments what other reflections or tips have you all either practiced or witnessed in the workplace or in your communities that have been effective?

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Also, as I mentioned earlier, we recognize that this time of year is especially hard given what’s happening in our world, and so we want to take this time again to acknowledge that and hold space for that.

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Our hearts truly go out to anyone and everyone navigating this period with mixed emotions.