Let me begin by apologizing because I know someone is going to be offended by this article. Now that I have that out of the way, when did we become anti “other people’s” holidays? It seems to me that instead of embracing our differences and celebrating we are taking everything away or turning it into something ridiculous in the name of trying to be all inclusive.
For example, when did a Christmas tree become a Holiday tree? Trying not to offend people has become a huge issue in public schools, towns and workplaces. Are we getting carried away here?
Jeff Goodwin, co-owner of catering company, Wm. Nicholas & Co. in Katonah (www.wmnicholas.com) recently shared with me an incident that happened to him. One year Easter and Passover fell on the same weekend. Thinking he was doing something “green” he printed the Easter menu on one side of a page and the Passover menu on the other. One of his customers made it a point of telling him she was highly insulted. She said, “That holiday has nothing to do with my holiday.” Come on, can’t we all just get along?
Nonetheless, we must be cognizant of the fact that there is sensitivity around this issue and thus conduct ourselves accordingly especially in the business environment.
I consulted corporate etiquette expert Laura Katen, President of Katen Consulting, (www.katenconsulting.com) to get out some general guidelines for business holiday conduct. Below are some of Katen’s essential tips when it comes to the topic of being PC in the workplace:
1) Be aware of a colleague's spiritual affiliation or level of religiousness - never just assume.
2) Don't emphasize one holiday over another (decorations, food, etc around the office should be general not specific to one holiday).
3) Always err on the side of generality if you want to make conversation but are afraid to offend. Say "happy holidays" as opposed to wishing him/her a specific holiday.
4) In life, but especially in business, it takes 7 seconds or less to make a first impression. It takes 8 positive encounters with the same person to reverse a negative impression. It is very easy to make a negative impression during the holidays, especially when alcohol is free flowing at celebrations. Limit alcohol consumption and remember you are not there for the free food and booze; you're there to be seen, meet, and mingle and represent yourself/your clients/ your company).
What happens if you wish someone Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays and you realize the person is an atheist? Katen says, “Just let it go. No need to apologize or draw attention to it, after all your intentions were heartfelt.”
If you and your family will be celebrating a holiday this coming month I hope it is joyful. If you are not, I still wish you joy; there is not enough of that going around.