How to Plan an Office Party for Your Diverse Team

Diversity & Inclusion | Business Management & Strategy | Best Practices | Employee Relations

Around the holidays, employers can run into a few bumps when planning a company holiday party. What might count as a fun time for some might be considered exclusionary or even offensive for others. How can you plan an office party where everyone feels equally welcome?  

Years ago my colleague Jane, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, had a small handful of observances that we, as courteous colleagues, tried to be mindful of at work. Oddly, the most challenging and humorous of which was remembering not to say, ‘Bless You, Jane’ when she sneezed.  The punch line: Jane had allergies.

Given her faith, the company holiday party was not something she could easily participate in without violating her beliefs.  We weren’t obligated to take any actions, but we put our heads together and came up with the idea of having a solstice celebration- instead of a traditional company holiday party.  For our small team, it was an easy fix.  We were able to make room for everyone and had a great winter solstice celebration.

For organizations with large numbers and a diverse team, it’s not such a simple proposition when planning a company holiday party.  While it may not rise to the filing of a lawsuit, it can become an unexpectedly divisive issue amongst colleagues and management.

One way employers can negotiate the hot button landscape is ensuring that employees have the perception that management has exercised planning and acted with consideration.  An easy example is in choosing diverse food options for the party. Failing to give consideration to those who may have Orthodox Christian, Judaic, Muslim or Hindu dietary limitations may leave them feeling excluded; their needs disregarded.

Top tips on how to plan an office party for your diverse team:

  1. Create a social committee with an intentionally diverse makeup – allow everyone a chance to make their voice heard. 
  2. Ask about dietary needs beforehand
  3. Whatever you call your party, at least have Kosher options, as they often may meet Halal standards
  4. Get creative – solstice works for some; others may have great ideas to source from
  5. Keep personal views and religion out of the workplace party by going non-denominational
  6. Use the season for a charity event like a food or coat drive – having a final celebration
  7. In office potluck – encourage everyone to participate by reimbursing them for the cost of ingredients

Actions speak louder than memorandums. When you're trying to figure out how to plan an office party, it pays off to make diversity central part of your effort. That way, you'll make sure that everyone has a great time.

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