December 15, 2022

Much like the cold winter air, the holiday season, too, seems to send a chill down the spines of executives. What do we celebrate? What holiday do we post on our social media? Do we say, “Happy Holidays?” Is it BAD to say, “Merry Christmas?” How do we not offend or isolate? Here are some top tips to be considerate, kind, inclusive, and lead with empathy this “Holiday Season.”

Making Room at the Table

Executives Leading with Empathy this Holiday Season

First, learn, and lead with an open heart. It’s essential to consider the identities and beliefs of others in your company, your leadership team, your consumer, and your customer. (Sometimes they aren’t the same.) It is more than just not offending anyone, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow yourself. When we are given a glimpse into others’ belief systems, we get a chance to experience beauty and grace.

How do we learn? Most people say we first learn at work by listening. Asking questions of your entire company is a great start. Consider a survey, but remember to disclose the results only if you have permission. Are they celebrating the same holidays as you? What is important to them?

Do Your Homework… Seriously

Second, dig into the history of different holidays. Are they joyous holidays? Are they somber? Also, be curious about your holiday traditions. Did you know the origin of the Christmas tree? I bet you don’t, and I bet if you looked it up, you would be SHOCKED!

Ask questions about how people would like to be honored and respected during the holidays. One thing we can easily do, and have all done, is to stereotype, exoticize, or appropriate the cultures of others, especially during the holidays. Do better this year, and be better this year! Respect and celebrate diversity – hold yourself accountable and show your team genuine interest in their traditions.

Tis’ the Season for Inclusion

Third, be inclusive! Host an inclusive Holiday party; one area forgotten too often is accessibility. Are the activities at your party accessible for everyone on the team? Is the party’s location available for everyone? Is there a cost that would make it prohibitive for people on your team who don’t have resources? Offer transportation. Consider the timeline and dates; holiday parties can interfere with people’s holidays. (Asking about dates for gatherings would also be a great question to survey). We love the idea of hosting a New Years’ party to celebrate our work this year and look forward to the next year and our goals!

Tip: Keep the Party Optional

Keep the party going but keep the party optional! No one knows what others have going on at home, or if they are the sole provider of children with no daycare options. Respect the boundaries of your team – you’ll miss them at the party but when they show up for work in a better headspace because you respected them, you’ll be grateful.

Tip: Consider Removing Alcohol

Remove alcohol from (or establish guidelines for) your company events. Not everyone drinks, and it’s a recipe for booze-led speeches or conversations that may jeopardize your inclusion efforts. (We’ve all seen this train wreck happen – someone has had too much alcohol, and now we all cringe or want to crawl into a hole because of what they said. Have mercy.)

Embrace Floating Holidays

Fourth, evaluate your time-off policies. Vacation during the holidays is one of the things we look forward to the MOST, but these days aren’t one size fits all. Idea – give your company a set number of floating days off instead of a specific “holiday vacation.” Floating days off make holidays and vacations inclusive. Your staff and leadership team can celebrate when they want to, which is the most inclusive way to address time off. Floating time off creates an equal emphasis on holidays. For in-office parties, make sure you are aware of fasting holidays. It’s hard for someone observing a fasting holiday while you are hosting a company luncheon and having a catered feast in the company break room. Check and add a global holiday calendar to your company-wide calendar or CRM system to ensure this doesn’t happen. Be thoughtful when decorating the office to make it winter-themed than holidays—looking at you, Christmas tree!

We’re All in This Together

Lastly, remember that more empathy at work comes when we are continuous learners. Establishing year-round efforts toward building a more inclusive and diverse workplace is essential. Form a committee, and hire people to hold training for the company. Let them navigate this process with you if you have a DEI committee! What happens when we are a more diverse workplace and franchise? We see better franchise sales because people are comfortable coming into your system. We see better employee retention. With continuous diversity, equity, and inclusion training, we see happier employees, franchisees, retention of talent, and better sales overall.

We at Stay in Your Lane hope everyone has a great holiday season, no matter what you do (or don’t) celebrate. Be extra kind during this time; remember, we don’t know what another person has to deal with from prior experience, family dynamics, etc. We also recognize that with this time comes lots of old trauma and baggage. May we, as leaders in our space, be better listeners and learners and make room for everyone at our table.

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