Giving Thanks for Differences: Thanksgiving and Diversity in the Workplace

We’re entering into the holiday season in our country, full of love and excitement. It’s easy to sometimes become so focused on our personal celebrations that we forget that not everyone celebrates the way we do. It’s exceptionally important in the workplace to pause and take this into account. I applaud organizations, managers and employees who take this a step further and work hard toward understanding and embracing the cultures of those around them, this season and all year long.

The all-American holiday of Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to practice inclusion in the workplace. This year, a time when the country is facing more discord than many have seen in their lifetime, why not intentionally reach out and create connectivity and understanding within your organization? Take a small step to make a difference in the world around you. Here’s how.

Plan a Celebration

Host a Thanksgiving luncheon, dinner, or even a breakfast, depending on your organization’s work schedule. Invite your employees and/or coworkers and tell them you’re only asking for two things: 1) their presence and 2) a traditional dish their family serves at Thanksgiving or important family gatherings. You can also encourage people to share non-food related cultural traditions as well.

Consider the Various Cultures

As you’re planning your event, consider the cultures of employees within your organization. What can you do to make them feel included within your celebration? Here are some ideas.

If you have bilingual coworkers, make a list of the languages. Research, or ask them, how to say “thanks” in their language. Find a way to incorporate this into your table setting, decorations or talks. Perhaps you could create table tents or order napkins with the words on them — or even create a banner.

Here’s another idea. I once saw a company create a recipe book made up of employee favorites. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be meaningful. What a fun “take-away” to have set up on a table! You’d also be creating a reminder of inclusion and acceptance throughout the year each time employees reference their recipes.

You can also hang a banner or poster and encourage employees to leave notes of thanks about what they are grateful for in their lives. Information like this creates understanding within an organization, and understanding and acceptance strengthen teams.

Make the Time Meaningful

So you’ve got the food and decorations planned. How will you engage everyone in this celebration? Here are a few ideas:

  • Encourage employees to talk about how they celebrate Thanksgiving and what it means to them.
  • Play games rooted in different cultures to bring everyone together or even hold a tournament. A little competition and fun go a long way to create happy teams.
  • Use the time to plan your company’s volunteer and giving activities for the next year. Find out the causes your employees are passionate about and start planning to give back.
  • Have everyone vote for the employee they are most thankful for — don’t forget to have them explain why. Have a predetermined judge and give the winner a turkey. Afterward, a senior manager could offer a message and/or gift of thanks to everyone.

No matter what activities you offer at your event, the message will be effective — diversity and everyone’s unique contributions are valued and respected. Happy Thanksgiving from The Marlo Companies!