12/12/2013 03:18 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2014

How to Embrace Ethnic and Spiritual Diversity at Work During the Holidays

This time of year can be a great opportunity for those in the workplace to bond, develop friendships and make the job just a little bit more fun. For some, though, it can be a source of stress or feelings of solidarity if the holiday they observe or culture they embrace isn't recognized. On the other hand, it can be difficult to acknowledge every holiday or culture without appearing as if the company is only doing so because they are obligated.

It's a delicate balance between making all employees feel welcomed and embraced throughout winter festivities without being the company that just wants to be politically correct. At the same time, fun and celebrations don't have to be sacrificed along the way. Take a look at these three ways to embrace ethnic and religious diversity at work during the holidays.

Create other opportunities
Many companies choose to gloss over holiday celebrations so that no one is offended but in the process they are also letting a bonding opportunity slip by them. You should always take advantage of a chance to bring levity or fun to your group, even when it takes some extra care and attention. You can of course host the traditional holiday party that leaves the occasion open to interpretation or you could choose to use December as a time to celebrate non-holiday events, like profit sharing, bonuses, awards ceremonies and more. By replacing the typical holiday party with an equally eventful occasion, you're providing a celebration opportunity for all employees, regardless of what holiday they celebrate. This is also a good idea if you have employees who are observe a religion that doesn't celebrate holidays at all.

Celebrate diversity
If you decide not to shy away from holiday celebrations, be prepared to embrace them all. Rather than seeing it as a chore to do so, view it as the true opportunity for diversity that it is. To set out the right way from the beginning, involve many employees of diverse backgrounds and religions in the planning of events so that many interests are represented.

Help employees embrace diversity
It's just as important to help employees embrace diversity as it is to provide opportunity for it. By asking employees to share their holiday observations, you're also making them vulnerable to the reaction of their peers. By no means is this necessarily a negative thing, but there should be some respect established for employees bringing their unique holiday observations to the workplace. One way to do this would be to compile fun interviews with many employees about their holiday traditions ad include them in a newsletter or as a video. This avoids putting employees on the spot to share about their beliefs and traditions while still providing an opportunity to do so.

However your organization decides to recognize diversity this holiday season, the most important thing to keep in mind is that although a holiday observation or tradition may be unfamiliar to you, it's likely very important for the person sharing it, so it should be respected as much as if it was your own tradition. You'll be surprised how fun and exciting it can be to embrace diversity this time of year. Keep an open mind and your employees will be more likely to follow suit.