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.

Diversity in the Workplace. Because You Want To.

The word “diversity” is often overused, but still, it’s one of the most important factors when building a solid workforce. The term can be unclear to some who may not fully understand what it means and how it benefits their organization.
Diversity is not limited to skin color; in fact, it’s about so much more. When you think about diversity, consider all differences like religion, age, race, sexual orientation, gender, education, ethnicity, and other attributes that make us different.

Expand Your Talent Pool Options

When you open your mind to a diverse range of candidates, you will find that your talent pool becomes much more extensive. When you don’t embrace diversity and stick to your typical “go-to” candidate type, you could miss out on someone who can help take your company to the next level.

For example, you typically seek young candidates who you feel have the energy and drive to succeed, and you rule out someone who may have the long-time experience needed to help you think big picture.

Remember the movie “The Intern,” with Robert De Niro? Perfect example as you see how the layers of acquired knowledge significantly help the company where he interns.

Freedom to be Themselves

Establishing an atmosphere where your team can see and experience multiple backgrounds and varying levels of thinking compels them to be themselves without fear of negative judgments. Of course, guidelines are in place along with expectations to maintain structure but imagine the possibilities. And picture the positive atmosphere, which almost always leads to a higher level of positive productivity.

Inspires Innovation

When you have a diverse group of individuals who come from different backgrounds but share a common goal, think about combining all their perspectives. This combination of thinking takes your company to the next level simply because you have diverse levels of experience and thought.

Celebration of Culture

The goal is to form an A+ team that gets excited when they help take the company to the next level. This is the perfect opportunity for you to celebrate differences – some ideas and thoughts are:
  • Food is always a common thread - hold an employee luncheon where everyone brings a dish that reflects their culture. You'll be amazed at how the story behind the food, and its history, bring people closer together. Yum!
  • The flexibility of thought allows your team to bring their individual insight to the table. Think of a puzzle that is missing its adjacent piece. When each of us has a different element to present, you'll find it comes together as one perfect completed combination.

Find the Right Matchmaker

Locating top talent is difficult, especially when many are currently employed and not “advertising” their availability. For the most success, it’s crucial to partner with a staffing solutions provider who has the network that is “stealth” to most companies. The right company will open those doors and give you access to those unwilling to risk their current position with the typical job boards.
Diversity, in all aspects, as discussed above, is critical to finding good hires and elevating your company to attract quality candidates who thrive in a diverse and inclusive environment.

Remove Jargon from the Workplace

We should all embrace diversity in the workplace. Still, not everyone realizes some of the best practices we should consider to make it a comfortable workplace, especially when communicating verbally and in writing.

While other cultures may be well-versed in your language, they may not have an understanding of some of the jargon/slang we casually use.

It may be OK to use it in your leisure time, but it shouldn’t be acceptable at work unless you are 100% clear your co-workers “get” what you’re saying.

This way of thinking should also include outside vendors and your customers, or clients, as your whole environment should be all-inclusive.

For instance, some employers may use acronyms as a way of looking “in the know,” but if others have no idea what they mean, much could get lost in translation, which leads to a lack of engagement and a feeling of isolation for those who feel left out. Even if a vendor or colleague understands the business, it doesn’t mean they’re also familiar with all slang.

To follow are some examples of slang, which may surprise you, and should be avoided:
  • The elephant in the room
  • Big boy pants
  • Think outside the box
  • Out of pocket
  • Bite the bullet
  • The beauty of simplicity
Other forms of “slang” language have become a habit and can be confusing, such as “dude” or “ghosted.” There are many others, and if you use that vocabulary around other cultures, it may not be slang to them but simply confusing. The same goes with “y’all” or “dude.”
Think of the following scenario. You’re in a meeting, and the leader of the meeting says something like:

I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with this right now. We need boots on the ground to drill down to what the client needs. I need everyone to be crushing it ASAP.”

The phrase should be something like this:

I don’t have the capacity to deal with this right now. We need everyone to help make this happen and find out what the client needs. I want everyone to perform at their best as soon as possible.

Once you decide to improve communication by speaking more professionally, there are some steps you can take to help ensure all employees are on board with this more inclusive direction.

Get all of your employees together in a room and provide actual examples of how specific phrases or words can be confusing. You can accomplish this through role-play and engaging them by asking for their examples. Use this exercise to create awareness, not be a reprimand. Many of us speak using jargon out of habit, and once we’re aware of how it can alienate others, it’s easy to adjust the way we communicate.

Remind them to speak slowly, or at the same rate as the person they are talking to, making for a better conversation.
It’s important to realize that habits can take time to break and ask everyone to hold each other accountable by gently “correcting” a fellow employee when they revert to talking slang. Keep everything positive and light.

If someone uses slang or jargon excessively, document it and bring it up for discussion in their next review. When everyone gets used to speaking the proper language, you will see the difference for employees who will appreciate this effort.

Acronyms to Phase Out
The use of acronyms has moved from just texts to how some speak verbally. We should use our voices to communicate clearly, and the use of the following abbreviated words can be confusing to those who don’t understand what they mean.
LOL (laughing out loud)
BRB (be right back)
OMG (oh my god)

And, it’s almost a form of laziness to shorten a word that you should speak in full. Texting is one thing, but verbal communication shouldn’t be abbreviated.

It will take some time for everyone to get accustomed to dropping the jargon, but unless everyone understands and feels comfortable with it – cut it out. And, the best advice is to make sure examples are set from the top down so that everyone is part of the solution for effective communication.