What a whirlwind, right? With Thanksgiving in our rearview mirror we're ready to hunker down for the December holidays. These times are to embrace gratitude, love, acceptance, peace, and grace. At home, with friends, with strangers, and even at work. We spend on average over two-thousand hours a year with your work family, of course we must pause to celebrate our togetherness. So, how to thoughtfully celebrate and ensure inclusivity within your team?
I've been in many workplaces (families) where it seems as though every birthday, workiversary, milestone, and holiday is celebrated. There have been retirement parties where the guest of honor was "surprised". There have been ridiculous Christmas parties that have gotten a little out of hand with the entertainment. I've seen ugly sweater contests, baby showers, of course birthday parties, and even St. Patrick's Day! I think I've eaten my weight in cake two times over in my lifetime.
Although many can do without the pomp and circumstance, I LOVE IT! The best part about these parties is the people. My coworkers appreciate the 20-minute break in the middle of the day to sing "happy birthday" and clap for their fellow co-worker (even if that was the 3rd birthday party that month). In every workplace throughout the years, one thing remains the same, the look on all the employees' faces.
A sense of gratitude, happiness, and joy fills everyone no matter what or who is being celebrated. It is a chance for co-workers to learn more about each other on a personal level, create joined memories, and have a laugh. Some events are celebrated by the entire company where others are by department and some between co-workers. Whatever the method, be mindful of the overall message.
My role in HR of course, has been dubbed the PARTY PLANNER. Those of you in HR, completely understand. In this role, it is necessary to be fair in how events are planned and executed. It may be an entire company event or departmental get together.
As a manager, with a smaller team, I strive to celebrate each team member on a more personal level. For instance, on my teammate's birthday I would decorate their desk, get them a little present and a card. This small token goes along away. You may need to brace yourself if you have someone who celebrates their birthday all month! It happens, I may be one of these people!
When it comes to the holiday's I've crafted a tradition where I get a small token (gift) for everyone in my office (about 10 people). Not from a title but from me as an individual. These gifts make the day of my co-workers and make me feel happy that I've spread some holiday cheer.
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” — Buddy the Elf
When preparing to celebrate within your office, remember each individual's preference. Be sure to be mindful of inclusivity. You will want to be aware of each individual's religious beliefs. Some members of your team or organization may not celebrate Christmas because the holiday does not align with their beliefs. Best approach, ask each new hire to fill out a celebration participation sheet (completely voluntary) or kindly ask them "how do you prefer to celebrate in the office". Ask that they indicate their preferred approach on celebrating within the office. Be mindful and considerate when asking for feedback. If the employee doesn't celebrate their birthday and do not want recognition, follow their preference.
Now that you know how to be mindful of how team members prefer to celebrate in the office, you can plan your celebrations. Here are some ideas:
The Holiday Party - There are some mixed emotions around celebrating December holidays with a Christmas party. However, do what is best for your team/workplace. If the consensus is everyone wants to have a Christmas party, throw a one. You can get creative here with having a pot luck. You could theme it Holidays From Around the World and have everyone bring a dish from their background or heritage. This is a good way to involve everyone and try some new food.
Gift Giving - If you are giving gifts, keep them small. Make sure that you're not over gifting and making the person receiving the gift feel uncomfortable. Keep it under $50 and ensure that it is thoughtful.
Ginger Bread House Competition - Each department is eligible to submit a ginger bread house creation to the contest. Have a panel of judges from each department. The winning department will receive a group gift like a pizza party, lunch, creative sweatshirts or even just bragging rights! This is a great way to show holiday cheer with a team project...and of course many laughs.
Decorating the Office - Take an afternoon for everyone to participate in decorating the office space, completely voluntary participation. This is a great way again to create a team atmosphere. You could take it one step further and provide hot chocolate and cookies!
Cubical or Office Door Decorating Competition - Any employee who wants to participate can decorate their office door or their cubical in any holiday fashion they choose. They could turn their cubical into a little holiday log cabin or they could decorate their office door like a gift. The winner would receive a prize. You could even do 1st, 2nd, 3rd place prices or hand out prizes for most creative or most practical.
No matter what you choose to do, make sure that everyone has the opportunity to feel involved and represented. Again the holidays are about togetherness, gratitude, love, and peace. Make sure that is the message of your celebrations across the company and you've done your job!