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Days of Significance: How to Be an Inclusive Leader during the Holiday Season

One of the most exciting things about the end of the year? The diversity of holidays!

Of course, days of significance happen all year round—but it’s now, in this special season, that a wide range of cultural and religious holidays can be experienced in quick succession.

Starting in October and continuing through February, some celebrate a season of giving, while others may dedicate time to reflect on the past year.

There are many holidays that your colleagues might celebrate, including:

  • Diwali, a festival of lights typically lasting five days in October or November and celebrated by those who observe Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism
  • Veteran’s Day, a U.S. holiday on the anniversary of the end of WWI, to honor people who served in the United States armed forces
  • Thanksgiving, a national holiday in the United States and Canada to give thanks for the past year
  • Hanukkah, a festival of lights lasting eight days in November or December by Jewish people
  • Kwanzaa, a celebration of African-American and Pan-African culture from December 26 to January 1
  • Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th by Christians
  • Boxing Day, a gift-giving day celebrated the day after Christmas in Great Britain and Canada
  • New Year’s Day, the first day of the new calendar year on January 1
  • Lunar New Year, a celebration on the first day of the lunar calendar (this year it will be January 22) to honor one’s family and ancestors and predominantly celebrated in Asian cultures

It is crucial to be familiar with and respectful of these celebrations and to appreciate the diverse needs of your colleagues in order to maintain an inclusive culture at your organization. When important holidays go unrecognized, DEI goals can be undermined.

How can we honor these important holidays and commemorate diverse cultures and religions at work?

  • Ask employees what they want and collect feedback on what they feel is important.
  • Include a note or mention in leadership communications, such as newsletters or Town Halls.
  • Use non-denominational holiday greetings and holiday decorations (i.e. “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”).
  • Provide educational opportunities, such as a Lunch and Learn, about celebrations.
  • Host an event or activity, such as a potluck or holiday trivia game. Make sure that people know attendance is optional.
  • Have a diverse planning committee for events.
  • Keep events and learning opportunities during the workday to ensure you aren’t conflicting with any holidays or celebrations.
  • Offer flexibility on working hours and allow for ample travel time to and from the office.
  • Offer “floating holidays” so that employees can reallocate holidays to have flexibility to celebrate holidays – IBIS does this too!

This time of year provides us all with an amazing gift: the opportunity for people from diverse backgrounds to celebrate and honor their accomplishments and culture.

Everyone benefits from an inclusive culture.

IBIS offers various trainings that can help you and your colleagues promote a sense of belonging and inclusion for employees from diverse backgrounds. Reach out to learn more about IBIS’ Inclusive Leadership and Inclusive Culture training programs.

Jinny Choi is the Growth Manager with IBIS Consulting Group. She brings experience from a wide range of industries including IT, government, travel, youth services, and education.