Christmas for many still retains the traditions of yesterday with choirs, hymns and nativity scenes. Yet the workplace is inured with insincere attempts at political correctness to try to not offend others who share the space but not the practice. It continues to get more complex. I believe that I have worked with people from every religion or belief but now the list extends with “I’m a non-practicing Christian” or “I’m a non-practicing Buddhist” or my newest encounter with someone who told me they were a “non-practicing atheist”. I am still not sure if they were joking or not. I suspect not. I am also not sure how one determines actions to not offend a non-practicing atheist. The genesis (no political incorrectness intended by the reference, it is not a direct reference to the first book of the Christian bible) of this blog post came when I was invited to the project team’s Holiday Party next week, but I cannot attend. So I went out to buy some high end desserts that could be shared in my absence by the other team members. The confectionary in the nearby Fairmont Hotel in Montreal offers an excellent selection of on-premise made chocolates and cakes for the the season. All beautifully decorated with Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, Nativity Scenes and the like…
What we believe makes us who we are. It forms our value systems, our ethics and morals (or at least when we adhere to the belief). It shows up in our work, our ability to work with others and our relationships with the client and the client’s team, whether we know it or not. So what approach do we take as the consultant? Let’s look at the options and the potential outcomes.
Happy Holidays is perhaps the most politically correct view for the season. You can confidently approach anyone, shake their hand and wish them and their families well over the season and new year. Its safe and its generic and its for the most part expected. It does not extend the personal relationship of you and the person you are talking to, it builds a nice safe fence and allows you to be polite. The person receiving the greeting will know nothing more about you at the end of the exchange than at the beginning.
Merry X-mas is perhaps the most unusual greeting. It implies that you are probably a covert Christian but in respect for whatever the person you are talking to, you will leave the word “Christ” from the conversation. It leaves the person unclear about your wishes for them and perhaps wondering about what you really meant.
Merry Christmas is clear. You have stated your belief openly and you are wishing the other person the joy of the event that you feel surrounding Christmas. You have let them know something about you, what you believe in and a little better insight into what makes you “tick’. You have declared that one of your tenets of your belief system is that you will be honest. You will disclose something about you that is not on your linkedin page. It is perfectly legitimate in my opinion to have an exchange like this…
“Abdhul, I know you are a devout Muslim and with respect I just wanted to wish you and your family the joy, peace and comfort that I would wish for my own family in our Christmas season”
You can be honest without being offensive. You can be open without recruiting for your team.
One of the greatest relationship builders is for you to openly express respect for other people’s beliefs. Please note I did not say that you had to share the belief but your ability to openly show respect can be a great step forward in building a relationship with the person.
Be open and respectful.
From my family to yours.
May the best you’ve ever seen be the worst you’ll ever see. Merry Christmas everyone!
PS. yes the cake will have Christmas Tree’s on it.