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Merry Happy Everything!

It’s that time of year – when multiple joyous religious holidays collide, and when people with good intentions can find themselves in the middle of potentially toxic misunderstandings and intolerance. This phenomenon, known as the “December Dilemma”, occurs across the United States gaining all kinds of media attention as December wears on. Last week, Chicago Sun-Times Religion columnist Cathleen Falsani commented on Gap’s new Holiday ads, the Washington Post reported on the American Humanist Association marketing strategy for the 2009 holiday season and The Detroit News covered electronics giant Best Buy’s acknowledgment of a Muslim holiday.

The December Dilemma isn’t just affecting this year’s marketing campaigns, it is also extremely influential in U.S. workplaces. Our Executive Vice President & CEO, Joyce Dubensky, and I held an hour long webinar earlier this week on this timely issue.  We explored what factors make the holidays so dangerous, looked at all the competing interests at play and provided real strategies for how an organization can overcome the December Dilemma. It is important to be respectful and inclusive of everyone’s religious traditions and, at this time of year, it essential to remember that Christian timeframes, symbols and traditions are not “neutral” considering the fact that 22% of the population that does not identify as Christian. This assumption plays out in many ways. As we discussed in the webinar and a recent article in the Telegraph pointed out “shutting the office over Christmas” is just one example of how some non-Christian employees might experience unintentional discrimination.

At the end of the hour, the webinar participants brought up other instances of indirect discrimination they had witnessed in their workplaces including the use of seasonal greetings and holiday decorations. I wanted to ask you, blog readers, to weigh in on what you have seen in your own workplaces. Let us know what you have seen that has either been respectful or disrespectful of different religious traditions around the holiday season. I also want to share a Tanenbaum resource with you! We have developed a December Dilemma fact sheet that can help to create an inclusive workplace during this holiday season. Merry Happy Everything!