There are often times two stereotypical approaches to the holidays that are represented to varying degrees by different people in our lives.
On the one hand is “the Scrooge,” who wants nothing to do with Christmas or the holidays and has no interest in investing any time and money into the events therein. On the other side of the spectrum lies the abundantly joyful, cheery “holiday elf,” who’s so excited that they even those people who are genuinely excited about the holidays get annoyed.
Every person is different, and inside the comfort of your home you are able to approach the holiday season however you want.
But what happens in public places when people with disparate levels of interest in the holidays are required to share space? What happens when you have to work together with people who might share different viewpoints than you? Something as innocuous as a wreath on your door or an office Christmas tree has the potential to offend or annoy someone. But at the same time, it’s important to invest time and energy into those holiday traditions that bring you a feeling of joy and satisfaction.
Let’s consider what the best course of action is when faced with the problem of how to navigate the holiday season in the office.
The Problem with Holiday Cheer in the Office
Underlying many of the issues with holiday cheer in the office is a fundamental lack of understanding and interpersonal awareness.
The fact of the matter is that unfortunately, many of us work in environments where we lack any great sense of connection to our coworkers. Of course this is not the case across the board, but it’s very common to feel disconnected from the other people at work, and to feel that you are not truly known by your fellow employees.
This can sometimes lead to misunderstandings when people who have conflicting viewpoints are forced to share space. For example, for someone who does not celebrate Christmas, having a garish Christmas decoration may be bothersome or offensive.
However, with the prevalence of Christmas this is not altogether very common, and workplaces generally have policies in place to regulate the type of decorations that are allowed.
Nonetheless problematic, however, is the fact that the holidays are supposed to be a time of spreading joy and excitement, and with a lack of interpersonal connection this can often be lost.
Consider the oft dreaded holiday party. In many workplaces, it can be awkward to attend events that prompt you to spend time with coworkers outside of the work environment. Perhaps you feel that you don't have anything in common with them other than work, and so there is not much to talk about.
Questions like whether to bring a spouse or significant other, whether to engage in conversation with superiors, how much alcohol to imbibe, and other matters of decorum can place an unwanted amount of strain on what is supposed to be a happy event.
The Purpose of Spreading Cheer
Despite these challenges, however, it's nonetheless true that the items we include in our homes or habitual spaces have a very real impact on us, and that the holidays should be a time for investing in community.
Office decorations and bright colors can serve as a helpful reminder that the holiday season is intended to be a time to bring people together around a common human experience. Even in situations like the office, in which fixed patterns of action have been set and relationships are often inadequately developed, simply making the effort to reach out can go a long way.
We can never know what other people are going through and what their personal struggle may be. With a little extra effort put into office decoration or party conversations, we just might have the opportunity to help someone else have a happy holiday.
Because regardless of religious creed or specific holiday traditions, the purpose of the holiday season is to invest time and energy into family, community, and reflection on the year that has passed. If, through our actions, we can help someone else participate in the meaningfulness of the season, then we have the obligation to try.
Make It Meaningful
And in fact, this other-centered orientation is the very remedy that is required in order to avoid all of the various snafus involved in trying to spread holiday cheer at the office.
Once you start to consider your office primary goal during the holiday season as investing the time and energy necessary to understand and develop relationships with the people around you, then all of the issues that arise magically change into amazing opportunities.
When a co-worker with a different perspective and a different background takes offense at a particular greeting or piece of holiday decoration, you get the opportunity to speak with them in humility and try to learn something from another person.
When you end up stuck in an awkward conversation at the holiday office party with someone who might have difficulties reaching out and socializing with people, you get the opportunity to try and reach them and find that thing that they are passionate about.
Or on the other hand, if you are someone who doesn't understand why people get so excited about the holiday season, because you come from a different cultural background or simply because you are not interested, you get the opportunity to try and learn from people who are invested in holiday traditions what they do to make the holidays an enjoyable time.
In summary, everyone has a different way of understanding and handling the holiday season. Some people like to invest in the season a lot, some people don’t like to invest in it at all. Particularly at the office, this can provide some challenges when trying to navigate things like putting up decorations or interacting with people at holiday parties.
However, in the end, with an other-centered orientation aimed towards helping others remember the joy of the season, these challenges come to be perceived as opportunities, and spreading holiday cheer at the office becomes a joy.