Countless workplace studies have shown that a diverse staff is likely to outperform a homogenous staff. So with all this talk about diversity, why are we still hanging Christmas wreaths at work?

Not everyone at the office celebrates Christmas, and acting as if everyone has the “holiday spirit” squelches the spirit of workplace diversity.

Diversity in the workplace is not “diverse religious expression.” Diversity should express itself in how people approach business problems. Religion is not appropriate at work in the same way that politics is not appropriate; both are divisive.

Corporate events that are tied to religion make people who don’t practice that religion feel like outsiders and therefore inhibit diversity. (And those of you who think Happy Holidays is non-sectarian, please realize that almost all non-Christians I know hear “Happy Holidays” as “Merry Christmas to those of you who do not celebrate it.”)

For me, the Christmas problem starts early – at Yom Kippur, which usually falls in September. This is the most important holiday for Jews, but I have never gotten this holiday off from work. I take vacation days to observe Yom Kippur. And I don’t complain about using my vacation days because it is absurd to think everyone should stop working because the Jews have a holiday.

But as workers, Jews have to observe Christmas. For us, it’s a weird day to be off from work. No stores are open. There’s nothing on TV. Most restaurants are closed. It’s a boring day, a good day to be at work. So when Christmas rolls around, many Jews would be happy to work on the 25th and have a more useful day off. But we are forced to take a holiday.

Given the nothingness of Christmas to most Jews, it is absurd how much Christmas cheer that Jews partake in just to fit in at the office.

Vendors send Christmas cards, co-workers say “Happy Holidays,” clients expect Christmas gifts. Jews partake in all these moments because the best way to succeed at work is to fit in. The bottom line is that Jews are forced to be what they are not in order to fit in, and that is never good when you’re trying to promote the diverse expression of ideas.

I can already hear the uproar: “Christmas is not about religion!” It’s always the Christians who say that. Christmas is about religion because Christians celebrate Christmas.

Jews don’t do Christmas. Muslims don’t do Christmas. Buddhists don’t do Christmas. And no one rants and raves about how religious or nonreligious Christmas is except the Christians. That’s because they feel they have authority over the holiday – it’s theirs.

Here’s an exercise for those of you who have gotten to the bottom of this column and are infuriated (I know you’re there – you send e-mail to me every December): Try to see my point of view. Even if you don’t agree with me, acknowledge that my point of view represents a minority in the workplace. If you cannot step outside yourself and see things from a minority perspective, you will not be able to manage minorities. And if you want your career to be upwardly mobile, you need to be able to manage diversity.

If you want to be kind and generous and contribute to peace on earth in the New Year, help minorities to fit in. Open your mind to experiences that are different than your own. Look at ways your office makes diversity difficult and fix them. You can start by getting rid of those Christmas wreaths.

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  1. Robin
    Robin says:

    At the risk of being VERY politically incorrect (so I will 1st state I understand your view – being Buddhist – and loving Christmas) I disagree with your basic premise that divesity makes the workplace more productive. It depends what you mean by “diversity”; If you hold race and religion to be irreleavent – then diversity in view can increase productivity IF they are grounded in a common set of goals and shared values. If diversity means different goals and core values – it just creates chaos in the workplace.

    For diversity to work – it must included respect for one another including religion and political views. It should include the basic respect for freedom of religion and speech – EVEN IN THE WORKPLACE. The same as “equal rights” in regard to non-descrimination is required in US workplaces – so the other rights like speach and religion are required in the workplace.

  2. chiropractor
    chiropractor says:

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  3. soders
    soders says:

    Well i am a christian and our church have never observed christmas.I see your point clearly i work for a community college they allow a custodian supervisor to turn a shop into the winter wonderland.she starts in oct.and finishes in dec.everyone is forced to attend.all this is done on county time.these people have no regaurds for others religion we do however celebrate easter but i have never been given good friday off to observe it.there was a co-worker who i never knew he was jewish until he retired he went to all these parties and never said a word until he left.i feel if you want to celebrate fine do it but dont force others its not right i grew up not observing so the day is silly to me it makes no sense.

  4. M Sibille
    M Sibille says:

    I understand your uneasiness or difficulty in coping with that which you don’t engage in -I feel the same way about concerts, and similar performances, and yet, being an adult, I sit politely and try not to ruin it for those who do enjoy them.

    I disagree with “”Christmas is not about religion!” It’s always the Christians who say that.” Christmas IS about Christianity, and no Christian should be so misinformed as to utter such nonsense that it is not. To not believe it is, means to not be a Christian.

    Before you get too wound up that “it’s easy for him to say, as a member of the majority group” I attended a high school that was majority black. ALL of the novels in my literature classes were by black authors. We had Black History Week (but didn’t have an “Poor White Immigrant Minute”). Big deal. I read, I studied, I participated, I earned my grades, scholarships, and went on to a “more diverse” university.

    If you truly want to make people comfortable with diversity, let them choose to take the day off on Yom Kippur, Christmas, their birthday, or the “Day nobody elese takes”, but they have to select the day a the start of the year.

  5. C Lacey
    C Lacey says:

    Coming out as a lesbian was easier than coming out as an atheist. You are right on about Xmas, Penelope, but I’d add one more thing: in December there should be xpress lanes in stores for non-xtians.

  6. Neena
    Neena says:

    Diversity is more about acceptance and not trying to pin point things on religion. I am a Christian from India where we celebrate Unity in Diversity. And yes, though the majority of the people there are Hindu, Xmas is celebrated as a holiday season. And no..I dont make a fuss about Diwali being celebrated saying it is celebrated only by the Hindus and is not conducive to “diversity”. So, grow up. Be an diverse by accepting the culture of a place – historically America has had a culture of celebrating Xmas..why change something that people enjoy celebrating? No where else in the world would people do away with a harmless festivity that a majority of the people enjoy.

  7. Robin
    Robin says:

    RE: Neena’s comment

    So happy to see your comment Neena. It sometimes seems as if America is filled with a bunch of spooled rich kids that have to have their own way – €“ totally disregarding what others want! Many of then actually believe that anything they find "offensive" should be outlawed. Simply because they many not celebrate Christmas they are totally intolerant of those that do – €“ and they profess this view in the name of "diversity". I have a more precise name for it – €“ "hypocrisy" .

    I wish a few of these self-centered self-righteous brats would take a few minutes to read the 1st amendment to the US constitution, they might notice it says a great deal about freedom and nothing about taking away freedoms in the name of diversity or equality.

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