Why Christmas Is Destroying Corporate America

Last Updated Dec 6, 2010 1:38 PM EST

The biggest problem with Christmas is its role in the workplace. No matter how hard corporate America tries to make Christmas not about Christmas, it fails. And as a result, the holiday alienates employees and, I would argue, squashes diversity.

So if your company makes Christmas a workplace event, it's making a mistake - and I'll give you my reasons why this is a terrible idea in a moment. First, let's talk about diversity, which is important to a company's performance. In fact, the Harvard Business Review has published enough studies about improving diversity that it's compiled a book of its articles on the subject.

Here are some highlights about the correlation between corporate diversity and corporate performance:
  • Companies that promote diversity from the top down are more valuable to their stockholders because diverse companies do better on NASDAQ. (The Financial Review)
  • Teams that are diverse come up with more innovative and effective solutions than teams that are homogenous. (Alliance Consulting)
  • Diversity among employees decreases recruiting costs and decreases training costs. (Manpower)
It seems there should be no debate that Christmas does not belong in the workplace. The people who disagree do not understand what it's like to be a minority, and they fail to accept that Christmas is not a universal holiday.

So, back to my anti-Christmas list: Here are five reasons you shouldn't make Christmas a workplace event:

1. Forcing people to take Christmas off is discriminatory.
Why do people have to take Christmas off from work? Why do I have to take a floating holiday for Rosh Hashanah and my friends don't have to take a floating holiday for Christmas? I don't want a holiday on Christmas - it's a great day to go to work. Nothing is happening. The non-Christians get to catch up on work. And it's a great day to meet like-minded co-workers, perhaps even a mate.

2. Holiday parties are alienating.
A "holiday" party is a way of saying, "It's a Christmas party that we need the Jews to come to." So just say Christmas party and admit that you are using company money to alienate employees who do not celebrate Christmas.

And, newsflash: Chanukah is a nothing holiday for the Jews. It's a celebration of a war. It's not even a requirement in the Torah that Jews celebrate Chanukah. We just make a big deal of it so the Jewish kids don't feel ripped off in December. If you want to do something fun for the Jews at work, celebrate Purim: It's Halloween for the Jews (although most people dress up as Kings and Queens from antiquity) and it's the only time Jews get drunk.

3. Jewish ornaments on Christmas trees are offensive.
Really, I can't even believe that I'm writing this, because most Jewish kids grow up hearing from their parents that you cannot have a Christmas tree if you're Jewish. But still, the Christians, who seem to think it's reasonable that everyone can enjoy the tree-as-symbol-of-Christ's-birth have taken to putting Chanukah stuff on company Christmas trees.

The only thing that would be more offensive would be if my boss told me a Jewish joke. And guess what? I have had many bosses tell me Jewish jokes because they didn't know I was Jewish. And the difference is that it's in private. And also, when I say, "Um, I'm Jewish," the bosses say, "Oh. Sorry. I didn't know." (Note to ignorant bosses: The proper response is not "I didn't know," but, "Oh, sorry, I just realized that was racist.")

4. Christmas is not a time of joy for everyone.
Are you pissed that I'm not chirpy about Christmas? Well, you know what? When was the last time you were chirpy about Purim? And when have you heard anyone complain that you were not happy enough for their non-Christian holiday? It seems that only the Christians feel the right to bitch that someone is not happy enough during their holiday.

So look, it's true, I'm not happy. But you're lucky because this country would suck if we had mandatory happiness for religious events. And the same is true for companies: Mandatory happiness for events that are unrelated to the company is absolutely bad for company performance as it crushes the freedom employees should feel to express diverse viewpoints.

5. Lazy thinking about diversity encourages lazy output.
Real diversity is not about race; it's about mindset. And it requires working hard to understand what makes someone think the way they do, even if your first inclination is to think they are a whack job.

So instead of being grouchy about this post, please think about how you can work to understand it. Think about what it's like to be a minority. Think about how you can understand where someone is coming from without agreeing with them. That's what'll make you valuable in a world that requires diversity to generate top performance.

And then, when you're convinced, take charge of workplace diversity on your own, by expanding your own perspective. Start changing the way you talk by reading this list: The Five Things People Say About Christmas That Drive Me Nuts.

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