Holiday’s at Work… Decorations Abound (Part 1)

It’s already mid-November. Where the heck did the year go? But alas, the holidays are approaching – unless you are at any retail store where the holidays have firmly arrived. Anyway… Navigating the muddy water of work-appropriate holiday celebrations is always a struggle. I’ll be highlighting three different holiday-related situations this week: decorations, holiday parties, and work gifts.

I will preface my guidance below with the following: a) I do not celebrate the holidays that the “majority” of the population does. So this is a personal topic to me. b) Being inclusive at work is not optional. Religion is a protected class.

Tinsel, Bells, and Merry Everywhere

My biases aside, creating a comfortable and yet festive environment at work, can be tricky. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays as you do. And even those who do, can celebrate them in a different way. I know that it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people forget that Christmas is not a secular holiday for everyone. If you were born in the 1990s, this is probably not as glaring of an issue to you as you know the “Happy Holidays” phrase and “Winter Break,” but for the rest of us, it’s a big habit we all need to break.

And some personal insight here… I grew up never feeling “different” for not celebrating Christmas because I had many friends around me who celebrated other holidays as well. However, my first holiday season in the working world was a SHOCK to me. And I was working in New York City. The office was full-out decorated with trees, tinsel, poinsettias, ornaments, lights, and so on. And all anyone could talk about was “Merry Christmas” and their family gatherings, and so on. I didn’t feel welcome – not because my holiday’s symbol wasn’t present (more about that below), but because it was so in your face.

So what does one do?

First and foremost, when celebrating at work it is important to make it more about the spirit than any one holiday. For decorating, I would keep it classy and minimal – not void, but not the only thing you see. Draw the line at tinsel. Use colors outside of just red and green. Wreaths tend to get to be a bit too much, and Santa Clauses are a huge no-no (they’re kinda tacky at work too). One very important thing to remember: do not force your decorations on others. I don’t want my cube filled with holly or merry with tinsel. If you want that in your space, cool (well, as long as it’s not offensive and over-the-top inappropriate). But please leave my space alone.

Be cognizant of how you close conversations. I think it’s almost second nature to say, “Merry Christmas” for many – and honestly, that doesn’t offend me personally. HOWEVER, I know several people who always snap back to the person with venom when they are addressed in that manner. “I don’t celebrate Christmas.” Um, awkward. Anyway, do your best to move to a happy holidays, or best wishes. More importantly, pay attention to how you close your emails. Remove anything non-business related (you are still at work people!). Just skip changing your signature to include “Season’s Greetings,” “Merry Christmas,” and so on. You never know who is on the other end of your emails and what their personal opinions/religions are. Remove any potential to offend.

Representing a few of the major the holiday celebrations in your lobby is not a bad idea. But be sure that they are displayed correctly by asking for guidance from someone who actually celebrates each holiday (oh the stories I can tell and the number of employee complaints I have had to listen to about this). In addition, putting in a half-ass effort just to have the holiday “represented,” will lose you points instead of helping your cause. Be inclusive – ask for others to provide guidance and assistance to ensure you get it right.

Ahead… 

  • Part 2: Office Party Woes
  • Part 3: Gift Giving for Your Boss