For many years, I have written the ongoing tale, the Jewish Guy Who Wears A Chai, about the potential minefields HR professionals must navigate during the holiday season. In order to address what can be real risks, I have employed a touch of sarcasm, and by a touch, I mean a ton.
This year, I am going to park my snark and focus on what the holidays are primarily about but which increasingly employers tend to guardrail against: faith. In many workplaces, we invite employees to be their authentic selves, except where faith is concerned.
We support employee resource groups based on race, gender and sexual orientation, for example. But a bible study group? Almost never!
We encourage employees to be kind to each other. But, please, don’t wish a colleague a “blessed” day.
Diversity initiatives have various themes from ethnicity to gender identity. But religion is rarely one and, if religion is included, it often means, effectively, “other than Christian.”
This holiday season I know of a few employers who are having a “December Dinner” or the equivalent. That way they won’t offend anyone. How wrong they are.
For many of us, faith is an important part of who we are. And, an employer’s celebration of the holidays is but one small way to recognize this reality.
When employers remove any reference to or symbols of Christmas, they are sending a message of exclusion in their aim for inclusion. For example, don’t remove the Christmas tree; instead, add a Hanukkah menorah and Kwanzaa basket, too.
Of course, not everyone celebrates religious holidays at this time of year or at any time. We want these employees to be and feel included, too.
We can help maximize inclusion in our holiday celebrations if we find a way to demonstrate a common denominator of all faiths or people of good faith but of no particular faith. One such way is for the employer to make a contribution to a non-religious charity.
Consider, for example, pediatric cancer, victims of domestic violence or animal welfare. Can anyone reasonably object?
By picking a non-religious charity, we include all. By focusing on charity, we highlight what is a common denominator of all faiths of which I am aware: caring for others less fortunate. And, by others, I include our animal friends in shelters waiting to love and be loved.
So, this year, pick a charity and make a donation in honor of your employees. Make sure to involve employees in the selection of the charity.
When we help others, we feel better about ourselves. Doing good feels good.
It also feels good to wish people well. So, indulge, I will.
For those of you who celebrate Christmas, may the peace and happiness of Christmas be yours.
For those of you who celebrate Kwanzaa, may it be a joyous holiday.
For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, I will be lighting a candle with you to celebrate our resilience. And, yes, I will be wearing my grandmother’s “Chai,” the Hebrew letter than means life.
For those of you who celebrate holidays at other times in the year or don’t celebrate holidays, I wish you well just as well.
I end with the essence of this year’s blog. To quote Sir Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
This blog is not legal advice.
Follow me on Twitter at: @Jonathan__HR__Law.