You hear all about company culture, and how important it is to have a sense of camaraderie among team members. Having a team that gets along well directly correlates with a team that that is motivated, engaged and productive.
But let’s extend the definition of “culture” just a bit and say that part of working with a diverse group of individuals means learning from each others’ experiences, professionally and personally. As the token Jewish member of the team, I take this task very seriously because I have many different holidays and traditions that my team members may not know about.
Hanukkah was a few weeks ago, and as a new tradition I started last year, we had a little Hanukkah party. We had latkes (aka potato pancakes) and applesauce, and we played dreidel, a traditional Hanukkah game with a spinning top and light gambling. And it always proves to be an educational, bonding experience.
You can make sharing each other’s cultures part of your company culture by:
Having more personal conversations
We talk about work all day, but it’s important that we take time out to talk about other things. Whether during a scheduled social activity, like happy hours or holiday parties, or just casually in between meetings, find times to strike up conversations about life outside of the office. It’s an important part of building a strong team, and you’ll be surprised what you can learn about people who you work side-by-side with every day. When you make an effort to acknowledge another’s traditions, even if you don’t share in them, that person tends to feel more understood and important.
When you make an effort to acknowledge another’s traditions, even if you don’t share in them, that person tends to feel more understood and important.
Acknowledging holidays and other traditions
Perhaps a more obvious tactic to share in one another’s cultures is to know when someone is celebrating a holiday or observing a certain tradition. Wish someone a happy holiday when they are celebrating or avoid offering them a food they are abstaining from for a religious reason. In fact, when I started at the company, they made it a point to change the “Christmas Party” to a “Holiday Party” to encompass all traditions – something I really appreciated and that made me feel so welcome. When you make an effort to acknowledge another’s traditions, even if you don’t share in them, that person tends to feel more understood and important. And every team member should feel that way!
Educating one another
If you don’t know off-hand what the tradition entails, ask questions. I’m happy to explain why I don’t eat bread for a week on Passover or why I celebrate a different New Year in September. Then you’ll know next time how to address it correctly. I can’t expect everyone to just know on their own because they may not have been exposed to these traditions before. So if you’re in the minority like me, it’s a two-way street: Teach them your traditions and learn theirs.
That’s how you create a truly diverse workplace and a solid company culture.