Corporate Holidays and Diversity

Michelle Benjamin – CEO of Benjamin Enterprises


One aspect of Workplace Diversity that is not often discussed has to do with how a corporation handles corporate holidays. Many of our holidays are religious (Easter, Christmas) or are tied to a specific culture (Thanksgiving) or government (4th of July, Labor Day). So if you have a diverse workforce, how should you handle these corporate holidays to make sure that your workforce feels included and not left out?

First of all, any corporate recognized holidays are corporate policy and need to be followed and adhered to as such. These holidays should be decided upon and communicated to your workforce well in advance of the beginning of the year. It should be made clear that there will be no work performed on these recognized holidays.

Many corporations allow for a number of Flexible Holidays that employees can take throughout the year. These days can be utilized by employees for holidays they would like to observe that are not identified as a “corporate holiday”. In addition to a Flexible Holiday, employees can always utilize any vacation time or paid time off to observe additional holidays.

Many organizations have annual celebrations for holidays that may not be celebrated by the entire workforce. So how can you have these celebrations and not offend or alienate a segment of your workforce?

Make the celebration generic – Instead of having a Christmas Party, have a Holiday celebration or a Year End Celebration. A “Holiday Celebration” can include several different holidays (Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa). A “Year End Celebration” can be used as a time to reflect on the accomplishments of the company over the previous year.

Limit departmental celebrations – Within the organization, different departments may want to have their own celebrations. While these celebrations are well-meaning, they may unintentionally offend others. By limiting these individual celebrations, you can reduce the likelihood that portions of the workforce will feel alienated.

Some of you may read this article and think that it limits celebrations in the corporate environment. While it may, it also ensures that any celebration that occurs is inclusive of the entire workforce. You may think that having a departmental Christmas dinner is not a big deal, but how would you feel if you were part of that department and were Jewish? No one wants to feel left out or the third wheel when it comes to celebrations. By taking into account the diversity of your workforce, you can make sure that doesn’t happen.