An HR Case for More Inclusive Messaging Around the Holidays

“Happy Holidays!” 

If you’re tired of hearing this particular phrase, buckle up: It’s likely only going to get more popular. But if you ask us, that’s a positive change that reflects a much larger movement of much-needed inclusivity well beyond the holiday season. This more inclusive, albeit generic, phrase – along with the likes of “Season’s Greetings!” — is being employed by more and more employers as we collectively nudge closer to a work culture that accepts and celebrates the differences of its team members. 


Historically, companies wouldn’t think twice about tossing out the phrase Merry Christmas or hosting an end-of-year Christmas party. When business leaders (and/or those who are charged with communicating to employees and planning events) personally celebrate Christmas, it’s all too easy to assume everyone else does as well. And for the many non-celebrating employees across the nation – a 2019 Gallup poll found that for every 10 Americans, one does not celebrate Christmas – having to “go along with it” has, unfortunately, been business as usual. 


Is 2021 the season all religious-specific language is ixnayed from corporate-speak? Highly unlikely. But the good news is more companies are moving in this direction because traditional in-office work as we’ve known it has shifted to remote, and even globally, for many of us. 


If you work for or lead a company that tends to refer to one particular religion throughout the year, it’s time to rethink your practices. Our team can help with that! 


We’re not saying individuals can no longer express their personal beliefs or wish a co-worker Merry Christmas (or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanzaa, etc.) if they know that co-worker personally celebrates. But here are what leaders and HR professionals must understand:

  1. We live in an increasingly diverse and globally connected world.
  2. We can no longer make accurate assumptions about an entire team, big or small. 
  3. We particularly shouldn’t “cast a wide net” when it comes to something as personal and polarizing as religious beliefs. 


At the heart of this matter is representation. If you push out communication on behalf of your company, then what you say represents the beliefs and values of your company not just of you personally. Countless research has found that employees feel more connected to their work (and do better work in general) when they share the same beliefs and values of the organization. By referring to one particular religion, there very well may be a team member who finds this uncomfortable, insensitive, or discriminatory. This, our friends, is a major people operations fail that can ultimately hurt your bottom line. 


Some may make the argument that if the vast majority of their team celebrates a particular holiday, they shouldn’t have to avoid or change festivities to please the few people who hold different beliefs. It all comes down to the type of culture you want in your workplace. Is it one of inclusivity or one of conforming? Do you view your team members’ unique perspectives and differences as strengths, or as something to ignore? If you aim to promote a team player mentality, using language that speaks to everyone (and excludes no one) is vital.


Sure, Happy Holidays may seem overused or a bit generic, but there is beauty in considering the beliefs and feelings of your people… and framing your messaging accordingly. Chances are, team members who do celebrate a religious holiday won’t even notice. And those who do not celebrate will appreciate this small but impactful step towards inclusivity.  

Could your seasonal messaging – or all employee communication for that matter – use an audit? The Montani team is available to consult with business owners and HR leaders to ensure you are fostering a culture of inclusivity. Connect with us today.

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