Holiday Etiquette in the Workplace

Deck the Halls… Feliz Navidad… Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer…
Hanukkah Song…
When the holidays roll around, which they seem to do quicker every year, we shift into holiday mode at home and the office.
When we manage the holidays at home, we usually follow traditions and know what to expect with the flow. It usually involves family and friends who share common interests and know how each other likes to be treated regarding religion, how they like to celebrate, and gift giving.
It gets a little trickier for business, and lines can blur, especially in more relaxed work environments. It can be easy to unintentionally offend employees, customers, and vendors when you don’t know their expectations.
The holidays are the perfect opportunity to show your appreciation, but it’s easy to make poor choices that can ruin relationships.
What can we do at the office to please everyone, especially when we are so proud of our diversity? And what if I’m a smaller business that doesn’t boast an HR department and instead outsources those tasks?
And it would be best if you never guessed how someone celebrates the holidays. For instance, sending out a card that says “Merry Christmas” may be nice, but it could be off-putting if someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Most will understand that it’s not intentional, but taking that risk could show a lack of respect.
Set up policies so that everyone is on board. This action may sound harsh around the holidays, but in reality, having etiquette policies at your company will ensure everyone knows what to expect and keep activities consistent. Employees may feel like family because of the culture you’ve created, but it’s essential to be careful to respect boundaries.
To follow are some suggestions to be inclusive while keeping things fun. No matter the beliefs, this should be a wonderful time of year for everyone.

Bonus Versus Holiday Gifts

Gift-giving can be fun but also very stressful. If you give your family a gift they’re not crazy about; you can wiggle out of it because that’s your social world. But, if you give the wrong gift, again innocently, to someone in business (employee, vendor, colleague), it can offend.
Giving money as a holiday business gift is the most accepted. However, it’s not always possible due to budget constraints. Another option is to give everyone a “free” day off with pay; again, it’s based on your budget. As in personal spending for the holidays, you don’t want to “overspend” and hurt your bottom line.

Secret Santa and Other Office Gift Exchanges

Your office tradition may be to draw names and that person buys their selected person a gift. This can be fun, but it’s imperative to set guidelines. When everyone knows the “rules,” it puts people at ease. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when approaching gift-giving at the office.
  • If You’re the Boss. Receiving gifts from your employees is fun but can also be dangerous. Most of your staff will do it from their heart, but others striving to gain your favor may consider it a competition. The best choice could be to make it part of the policy to say you won’t accept gifts. Another option is for everyone to chip in on a gift, but that’s another way to make an employee uneasy. It could be they cannot afford or don’t feel like it.
  • Put a Cap on the Spending. If everyone agrees to a gift exchange, create a spending limit (i.e., $25 or lower).
  • Steer Away from Personal. Avoid too personal gifts unless you know 100% that the gift would be something they would want. If you’re not sure, don’t buy it.
  • Alcohol is Usually a No. Again, if you know someone who drinks wine, it could be OK, but the general rule of thumb is to avoid purchasing alcohol. There have been many negative instances where alcohol is involved, as issues that no one is aware of could be there.

The Holiday Party

If you feel the need to hold a holiday party, which can be a lot of fun, there are many things to keep in mind as there are so many negative stories. Here are some quick tips to keep it positive.
  • Consider a luncheon versus an evening event, as it’s easy to cut out the alcohol, which can be disruptive and expensive.
  • Don’t ask the employees to chip in. If you’re going to do it, make this a free luncheon for all.

The bottom line is that there are many options to celebrate the holidays that will work for everyone.

We talk a lot about open communication in the workplace. Talk to your employees as a group and ask them for their input. They may want to keep it simple and celebrate having a good job and working in a culture of diversity and kindness.