Managing Diversity Issues During the Holidays: Simple Steps That Help Boost Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity in Your Organization
Today, many hospitality industry workforces comprise a broad spectrum of cultural, national, ethnic, and religious traditions, and the task of fostering an atmosphere of tolerance and inclusion is often easier said than done.
As such, the holiday season often poses a particular challenge for managers in the hospitality industry. Over the span of just a few short weeks, many of the world's religious and cultural groups celebrate one or more days of sacred significance in their tradition.
The delicate task of marking all of these holidays with equity, fairness, and respect -- and ensuring that no one feels left out or slighted in the process -- can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Here are some guidelines to help you steer your organization through the holiday season with sensitivity, cultural awareness -- and a sense of festive fun.
Assemble a diverse holiday planning committee.
One way to make sure that your organization's holiday plans meet the needs of your multicultural staff is to recruit a team of employee representatives to help lead the planning process. By bringing together team members who represent an array of faiths, ethnicities, and cultural traditions, you'll stand a much better chance of forging a holiday observance plan that's truly inclusive.
Be flexible, fair, and consistent in planning a holiday work schedule.
Well before the holiday season kicks off, solicit input from your team about their scheduling needs. Harriet Hankin, diversity expert and author of The New Workforce, recommends establishing a set of guidelines that all employees must follow when requesting alternative hours or absences. This will help you be as equitable as possible in allotting holiday time off.
When appropriate, acknowledge multiple traditions.
Your first concern during the holiday season is making sure that no one feels left out or slighted. However, the truly diverse workplace goes beyond that, making sure that everyone feels respected and celebrated. You can help embrace diversity by asking employees from different backgrounds to share their traditions with the group. For example, you can host a multicultural potluck or ask different groups to decorate holiday bulletin boards in the staff lounge on a rotating basis during each week of December.
When in doubt, stick to the non-specific.
Holiday season sensitivity means that your organization does not impose or endorse a certain way of celebrating the holidays. At the same time that you take every opportunity to honor or acknowledge multiple traditions, it's probably safest to stick with more generic choices when it comes to workplace decorations, music, activities, and so on. For example, winter-themed décor and festivities are usually a safe bet.
Don't forget to have fun.
It's easy to get so caught up in the process of treading cautiously through the holidays that you forget to appreciate the shared joy and fellow-feeling of the season. Talk openly to your staff about your organization's commitment to diversity. Create policies that clearly demonstrate respect for all traditions. As long as you approach the challenges of the season with a mindset of sensitivity and awareness, your team won't have to forego any of their hard-earned holiday fun.