Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holidays In House

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Christmas fanatic.  As soon as I'm done eating the turkey, the Christmas music comes on.  I spend all 3 1/2 days of the long Thanksgiving weekend decorating my house.  I have most of my Christmas shopping done by end of day Cyber Monday.  Hell, I have a walk in closet in my house dedicated to Christmas decor.  I'm a bit of a freak.  And that's totally okay, except when it comes to work.

Unless you work for a religious institution, you need to be as secular as possible on all holidays.  This is true even if you are not the employment lawyer.  One difference between practicing in house and practicing at a firm is the fact that you are working with a bunch of people who often don't get the nuance in different areas of law.  No matter how many lawyers you have in your department, you are all the "legal department".  And as such, you - along with human resources - need to put on a secular front at all times.  The last thing you need is for an employee who feels discriminated against feel uneasy about approaching you to report it because you've got a Navity scene in your office.  Or a wreath decorated with the Star of David.  Or anything that has a religious connotation.

What makes Christmas especially hard, beyond the fact that it already is everywhere, is the expectation of some people to participate in some sort of gift exchange with their coworkers and/or boss.  In many companies this is cross departmental fun, and not participating can damage your relationships with those who do.  There is no easy answer here.  I try to keep all of my celebrations involving work light hearted and secular.  I listen to holiday music in my office, but nothing religious.  I don't put up a tree, but I do put out a Santa bowl of treats.  I send Happy Holiday cards instead of Christmas cards.  I bake goodies or bring in candy treats for exchanges.  A few close "work" friends my participate in something more "Christmasy", but I do it off site and don't talk about it at work.  I also make sure that in January I do employment training where I stress non-discrimination and advertise widely that my door is always open.  

There's an understandable frustration with having to be "PC" all the time, and I will counsel other employees to not overdo the PC if it makes them uncomfortable as long as they're not pushing their views or beliefs on others in the work place.  That doesn't apply to legal, even us Christmas freaks.

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