How to incorporate Inclusive Leadership during the festive season
Over recent years there has been a huge focus on diversity in the work place and making sure that there are people from all ages, all cultures, all countries and all walks of life. Companies are actively going out of their way to fill their diversity quotas, whilst making sure not to discriminate. People across the UK are welcoming this diversity in the work place and enjoy the opportunity to work with colleagues of all ages and backgrounds who can share their knowledge and experience. However, with great diversion comes a greater need for inclusion – and what better way to include everyone and bond than work social events – but how? Is it possible for such a collection of different people to really feel included and part of the team and especially during the festive season?
What is inclusion?
When you think of inclusion, you might think of being at school and either feeling left out or not fitting it. In the work place – while of course we want everyone to be happy, it’s not about “fitting in”, it’s not about changing yourself but it’s about making other people feel included. If everyone can do that, then everyone else, in turn, will feel included and when that happens, studies show that team members are more likely to innovate and be a team player.
If diversity is the mix then inclusion is making the mix work.
For leaders, you still need to be able to lead and not try to ‘get down with the kids’ – so how can you include everyone? As a leader you need to be able to value the differences as well as the commonalities of others. Leaders need to embrace their employees’ differences and recognise what they each bring to the workplace all contributes to the bigger picture and the end goal of the business – but have you thought about applying this same outlook to social events and particularly the festive period?
The festive period
It is easy for us to get set in our ways when it comes to December – for many of us it’s about eating, drinking and being merry but for others, Christmas in particular has a deeper meaning. Whatever it means to anyone – most work events these days are actually nothing to do with religious or cultural beliefs but rather an employer’s chance to thank everyone for their hard work during the past year, boost team morale and allow staff to let their hair down. Even Secret Santa in the work place is a bonding exercise and just an excuse to give presents to people and acknowledge and appreciate your work mates.
‘Tis the season of good will’ so why not encourage everyone to celebrate their different traditions and to share them with the whole office? It could be that they bring in what they eat at Christmas, for example non-Christians may celebrate Christmas in a very different way to Christians, in America it is tradition to eat a Ham as Turkey is the food of choice for thanksgiving – and vegetarians certainly won’t be opting for a turkey.
In the Philippines, they have a Giant Lantern Festival and in Germany, on 6th December comes and leaves little treats like coins, chocolate, oranges and toys in the shoes of good children. There are plenty of opportunities to embrace these differences and encourage everyone to be involved. While this blog is focussing on this festive season, there is no reason not to apply the inclusion of celebrations all year round – any excuse for a party and to try new food, hey?
There are also other religious celebrations throughout December, so it is good as leaders to be mindful of what religions their staff members follow and not to organise a Christmas celebration on a day that they know they can’t come. This year, the 12th December marks the beginning of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah which begins at sunset and continues for seven nights. It is a remembrance of an effort to restore the Temple in Jerusalem after a period of desecration. Faithful Jews found only enough oil to light the temple lamp for one day, but the flame burned for eight.
Of course, it’s not just cultural and background differences that are present in the work place – but age differences too. How is the 60 year old man who’s been working in the company for over thirty years and the 18 year old intern going to agree on where they go or what they do for a work’s outing? This might sound like a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. As a leader and an inclusive one at that, make sure you have this discussion with everyone. You’re never going to please everyone but you can make your work force feel their opinions and suggestions are valued just but listening to them and talking to them and expressing an interest in what different ideas are. It is allowing people to feel they are able to express their concerns as well, for example if they don’t want to drink, don’t like clubbing, etc.
All employees need to understand what inclusion is but as with many things in the workplace, it begins with the leader and filters from the top. If the leader is including everyone and leading by example then this will continue down throughout the organisation.
Click here to find out more about Inclusive Leadership.