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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Me

Did you know there are at least twelve holidays between now and Christmas – the most recognized holiday in the West on December 25th?

Many people don’t. But it's a non-negotiable for the inclusive leader to dig deeper to expand beyond status quo.

That’s why I’m dedicating today’s issue of Inclusion Is Leadership to the holiday I most look forward to, Diwali.

It's the Hindu festival of lights. This entire period of time is very special for Hindus. The festivities began for us this year in September with Navratri and culminates on Diwali, which falls on October 24th this year. It’s not a fixed date, so it changes every year.

I've always loved the meaning of Diwali; good over evil, the triumph of light over dark. To me, it has meant seeking out justice even when everything around you makes it easiest not to. Kind of like...doing DEIB work effectively. Kind of like being the one voice that stands up to bias and racism when others around you don't.

As I look back on the early years of my career (when I felt compelled to work during Diwali) I think of how far a simple acknowledgment would have gone in making me feel seen, valued and respected.

No one should have to deny a part of themselves by working on the holidays that are important to them. But people do this all the time, especially folks from communities of color, immigrant communities and religious minorities. That’s because we’ve been conditioned to present ourselves as “assimilated” to the dominant group to obtain and keep employment, and to “fit in.”

I know, because that used to be me.

Overlooking the religious, spiritual and cultural celebrations of others (and expecting them to only observe the same holidays as those of the dominant culture) is painful and exclusionary.

And that’s why leaders must demonstrate their commitment to inclusion by making it safe for their team members to express *all* aspects of their identity that are meaningful to them, including religious and cultural celebrations.

Here are ways managers can practice inclusion regarding holidays:

  • Regularly ask team members if they are celebrating any holidays. You can also be proactive and look up holidays yourself. Here’s a useful resource for just that. Just be sure not to assume that your employees observe certain holidays. One way to have this conversation could be: "I'd like to build a team where it's more than ok for people to take time off to celebrate special and meaningful holidays. Do you know of any coming up?"

  • Host celebrations at work (where appropriate). But be mindful not to place the responsibility on the individual who celebrates the holiday to do all the work to make it happen. For example: you could hold quarterly celebrations that include all the holidays taking place in the next three months.

  • In general, repeatedly ensure that your team members know that it’s more than ok for them to take time off to celebrate what’s important to them.

The “the most wonderful time of the year” is going to be different for each of your employees. Recognizing, proactively acknowledging, and taking an interest as a leader is a basic and important step in fostering a respectful and inclusive workplace.

Now, I want to hear from you. What holidays are you looking forward to celebrating? Have you worked someplace where all cultural and religious holidays were acknowledged respectfully? I love hearing your experiences!


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