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Ways to Celebrate Various Cultures in the Workplace

written by: •edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 11/8/2010

Managing diversity is best achieved by celebrating the differences between your workers. It means much more than race, religion, or nationality. It includes gender, disability, age, marital status, military experience, sexual orientation, and just about anything that makes someone different.

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    How Can You Celebrate Diversity?

    You can give all your employees a level playing field by honoring whatever makes them who they are—by recognizing and respecting FreeDigitalPhotos, world nature, Filomena Scalise that “otherness" that sets them apart. Try some or all of these methods for celebrating various cultures in the workplace.

    1. Publish a calendar every month on the intranet or, if you’re not networked, create a calendar and distribute it to all departments. List holidays celebrated by other nationalities—the United Nations has an alphabetical list of the national holidays of all of its 192 member countries.

    2. Another useful tool is the Interfaith Calendar produced by an elder of the United Methodist Church. Holidays are listed for religions including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Shinto, Daoist, Native American, Wicca, Scientology, and even more!

    3. Celebrating various cultures in the workplace doesn't mean you have to publish each and every national and religious holiday on your calendar. Choose the ones that seem relevant to your employees, or feature one or two holidays per month. Have fun with it—have you ever heard of a King’s Cake? Ancient tradition called for a brioche to be served on the twelfth night of Christmas—January 6—which was when the Wise Men found the Christ Child. The tradition, according to Lynne Culver of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, began in Arabia and was picked up by Romans. Today, the King's Cake has migrated into February to help celebrate Mardi Gras. You can learn about other customs on Foodtimeline.org. Better yet, run a survey in your newsletter asking your employees what they eat to celebrate various holidays—and then print the results.

    4. Ask your employees about their backgrounds. Maybe someone who was born with a physical disability or who was traumatized by injury or illness at some point in the past would like to share his experiences. Put a blurb in your employee newsletter two or three times a year asking people to submit a brief article about what makes them special. You can help them with preparation and editing if need be. Get people’s permission to share their responses with other employees, and then create a quiz to use as a game during a holiday party.

    5. Establish a diversity bulletin board in an area where most employees visit—the lunch or break rooms, for example. Issue an open invitation for people to decorate it with artwork, poetry, or other exhibits that will teach others about what makes them unique. Someone from another culture could display pictures of a typical holiday dinner plus some of the customs traditionally celebrated. If someone has returned to work after recovering from open-heart surgery, he might be interested in decorating the bulletin board with lists of heart-healthy foods and activities or with pictures (from the Internet) of a cardiac bypass procedure. It can be a place to honor well known holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, or a place to explain holidays that are familiar to people but not really understood, such as Cinco de Mayo or Rosh Hashana. At times, when nobody claims the board, create a display using resources right here on Bright Hub such as articles about the Meaning of Flirting Gestures in Different Cultures or Nonverbal Communication in Other Cultures. How about a display on the origins of words and phrases?

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    Everybody Benefits

    The honor that you pay to others’ differences will build a better, stronger team of employees. In workplaces that take the time for celebrating various cultures, people form stronger bonds with one another and develop greater loyalty toward the company. When hiring practices focus on ensuring an eclectic employee pool, you find increased levels of resourcefulness, determination, and persistence.

    Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos, Filomena Scalise