It’s that time of year again. The season of family gatherings, work festivities and vivid memories is upon us with all its promises, demands, traditions and expectations. In the spirit of inclusiveness we have learned to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” as a gesture of recognition for those who may not celebrate in the Christian tradition. Our developing sensitivity to cultural and religious diversity has picked up its share of critics along the way. The critics feel that their practices, which they identify as authentic American historical traditions, have been disrespected by the Grinch of political correctness.
I think it’s both desirable and inevitable that our traditions continue to evolve in ways that reflect and respect all the varied ethnic and religious streams that are merging into our American culture. Business has been at the forefront of these changes. Companies are obligated, by law and common sense, to cultivate work practices and environments that are mindful of the many feelings that swirl around the nuances of holiday observance. Every employee remains free to practice their particular holiday traditions exactly as they always have at home. In a work environment, however, we need to ensure that one employee’s celebration does not become the source of another employee’s discomfort.
Independent of their cultural traditions, individuals also experience the holidays differently on the psychological and personal level. Many of us are truly overflowing with the joy of the season and eager to savor all of its pleasures while others are gripped by a profound and persistent sadness at this time of year. There are multiple causes of the holiday blues: intense feelings of missing a family member, corrosive family conflicts and disappointments that bloom at this time of year, financial worries exacerbated by holiday spending and many other reasons. Some individuals are temperamentally introverted and anxious in social situations and the holidays may heighten their sense of isolation. Others are suffering from a depressive disorder that may be less apparent at another time of the year.
Just as we try to be sensitive to the various religious and cultural traditions in the workplace at this time of year let’s also apply a similar understanding and empathy to the personal and psychological domains. Let’s be mindful of how hard it is for some coworkers to participate in holiday celebrations and to feel happy and sociable at this time of year. It would not be right for those who are feeling the holiday blues to demand that everyone else stop celebrating. It’s just as wrong for those who are feeling great at this time of year to insist that everyone join in equally or act “happier.” The best gifts we can give each other in the workplace at this time of year are acceptance, patience and sensitivity.
Everyone at Comprehensive EAP joins me in extending best wishes to you and your families for a healthy, safe and peaceful New Year. We appreciate your support and readership of our blog in its inaugural year.