Of course its that time of the year when the masses are out buying Christmas presents, decorations, and all of the items that come with the holiday season. But what some people do not take into account is that not everyone celebrates Christmas. There are those that celebrate other holidays such as Hanukkah or who have other religious faiths such as Buddhism or Muslim that does not go along with the traditional Christmas fare. In an office setting especially, you may work with others who do not celebrate Christmas and may get offended or overworked at all of the festivities and holiday celebrations that take place during this time of year.
Case in point. When I worked as an Human Resources Manager for a busy Call Center here in St. Louis, we had over 200 employees crammed into one room separated by cubicles. Employees could decorate their cube or area in any way they wished as long as it was free of profanity and did not offend anyone. Most of the year, we didn’t have any problems associated with the decorating of one’s space, but this one particular year, it got out of hand. Christina*, a very religious Catholic woman decorated her space and made a makeshift nativity scene in her area. She also took Christmas lights and strewn them about her workspace. The person who sat across from her, a fellow named James* was a Muslim and did not celebrate the Christmas holiday of course and was not feeling the massive nativity scene across from him. What was worse was Christina’s Christmas lights were touching his cubicle and he didn’t like it.
I had been off for a few days and came back to the office and everyone was in an uproar over the situation. There were those who were offended by Christina’s blatant show of Christianity and others who agreed with her and began putting their symbols of religion up in their areas. I pulled both of them in my office one-by-one to discuss the problem. But the bottom line was this: The items displayed in one’s cubicle had to be kept to a limit as to not distract others and keep down clutter AND could not be items of such that would offend other co-workers.
Christina was mad because she had to take down her nativity scene but it was in the handbook and we had to go by the rules.
When working in group situations, you have to be mindful of other’s beliefs. She didn’t think it was fair, but rules are rules.
While in your workplace, remember that not everyone believes the same thing you do, especially when it comes to Christmas. Keep the following do’s and don’ts in your mind in order to avoid what could potentially be a sticky situation:
- Avoid religious conversations during the holiday and all around the year. Speaking about religion in the workplace could set off a firestorm. It also could be something that is against company policy.
- Decorate but don’t go too far. It’s okay to decorate. Put up a small tree on your desk or display your Christmas cards, but don’t let it get too out of hand.
- Don’t assume everyone celebrates Christmas.
- Be open to learn about other cultures and celebrations, including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. You don’t have to celebrate them, but keep an open mind that others do.
- Don’t exchange gifts unless you have an understanding it is okay within the office to do so and is within company policy.
We live in a nation that allows us to think on our own and have our own beliefs. It is not a crime to think about others and be mindful of differences. I would like this time of year to be a wonderful time of year for EVERYONE, no matter their religious backgrounds, beliefs, or celebrations.
Have you experienced any Christmas horror stories at work? Please comment below and tell your story! 🙂
*names have been changed