I’m Sorry, But Merry Christmas!

The following online internal memo was smuggled out by a source at great personal risk:

From: J. Doe, Director, Human Resources, Anti-Deformation Team, Holiday Sub-Group, Display Control Monitoring Section, XYZ Corp
To: All Employees, XYZ Corp.
Subj: Holiday Happiness Moderation and Spontaneity Scheduling; Employee Handbook Update

With the holiday season approaching, the tendency for the average company to relax its usual efforts to ensure zero tolerance of self-expressive activities outside accepted and regulated correct-speak parameters is common. Not so here at XYZ Corporation. We gladly align ourselves, mindlessly and without any effort to express individual courage or personal conviction, with the accepted trend du jour. The trend is good. All praise the trend. The following guideline updates will be available for download on the internal website, “Employee Correct Behavior Handbook” at www.xyzcorpisalwaysright.com within the next two or three working days. However, due to the temptation to stray and forget what is truly important this holiday season, I hasten to update you now, before it is too late and you unintentionally take action or actions that cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Holiday decorations within your personal workspace:

  • Must not cover more than 10% of total wall space in a cubicle, standard 6/8, or more than 5% in a standard workspace, 8/10.
  • Must not be visible in other than direct view angles within a distance of less than 3.7 feet.

Decorations must be non-denominational and cannot contain words or phrases such as:

  • “Brotherhood” (see also chapter VII, Section C, Paragraph 17, Heading “Common Gender Diminishing Phrases,” for further issues outside of those represented by holidays)
  • “The Lord Has Come”
  • “Bethlehem” (unless the reference is to the steel industry)

For gift exchanges:

  • All gifts must include a certificate signed by myself or my deputy, certifying that the gift is presented without obligation to acknowledge or accept the belief system expressed or implied by the gift giver.
  • The gift can be returned, opened or unopened, to the gift giver without prejudice, if the recipient decides that to accept it would represent an unacceptable acknowledgement of a selfless act and the receiver decide that their constitutional right to assume offense supercedes common sense.
  • The gift giver is then free to file a statement of forced inclusion against the gift giver.

Other important holiday points:

  • The playing of any holiday music of a “carols” nature that refers to a God, Supreme Being,” or Frosty the Snowman, is reason for immediate disciplinary action. Songs recorded by Bing Crosby are grounds for immediate termination if the backup singers are referred to as a “choir.”
  • Fruitcake, although not prohibited, is discouraged, at least until we get a lab report on exactly what goes into those things and why their half life is longer than plutonium 90.

The Human Resources Department here at XYZ Corporation encourages it’s employees to enjoy and benefit from all the joy and good tidings of the holiday season, as long as you are willing to subject your personal beliefs and convictions into compliance with policies designed to appease all possible negative responses to you self-expression. I again apologize for the delay in making this available for downloading, but the IT Department has informed me that the “Enforceable Employee Correct Behavior Guidelines” section has filled yet another server, and the additional servers will not be online for a few more days. Happy (politically correct and monitored) holidays, from all of us in the shadow enforcement team at XYZ Corp.! John Doe

“Proud to be guardian of your moral imperatives and controller of your religious expression.”

Fiction? Probably, but not definitely. I recently read that this year, more companies than ever have joined the legions of zombie corporations in enforcing zero tolerance of Christmas and have created more reference-based regulations than ever before in the history of political correctness, or “correct-speak” as George Orwell and I call it. I have to admit that my first reaction to this trend was that it made me feel good to know that we must have solved unemployment, fair hiring practices, EEO/AA issues, as well as world hunger if we actually have the time to get upset or offended at how somebody expresses their feelings of goodwill and joy. One would think in times like these restrictions on goodwill would be discouraged. It is not like we are overburdened with good thoughts. But alas, it isn’t so. “Christmas” is a word increasingly not tolerated in corporate America, or anywhere else for that matter, with the exception of retail stores, online catalogues, malls, and your own home. I was brought up celebrating Christmas, not “holiday,” an important religious and cultural event I love to share. But in a misdirected effort to create a sense of inclusion for all members of all religions and all cultures we have begun by trying to change history and exclude a segment of our religious and cultural population. Since the arrival of the second wave of settlers to the New World (the first wave were the Native Americans and they justifiably consider us invaders, not settlers), the primary source of immigrants was from Europe. Therefore many of the customs and cultural aspects of the American way of life reflect those European roots. Christianity was one of those roots. With that comes the celebration of Christmas on December 25th, not as a “holiday” but as a “holy day.” Tradition tells us that those employers’ traditional efforts to show the correct brotherhood of the season was by giving their workers the day off, with pay. Consider that this harkens back to the days when the average worker was given no vacation or sick days and was expected to work six days a week. So a day off with pay was a big deal. Later as affluence and workers rights expanded, the “Christmas bonus” grew beyond a “day’s pay.” Companies would hold a Christmas party to celebrate the common “holy day” together. The annual added wealth of an unexpected payday or bonus and general good spirits gave rise to increased and expanded gift buying. As affluence increased, so did the scope and domination of the season in our lives. But its cultural origin lies in the belief that the 25th of December represents the birth of Christ, and not the birth of “Holiday” to a substantial percentage of those in this culture. Whether he be viewed as God, revolutionary, or cultural myth, that the “well spring” from which the tradition springs forth. Yet in the spirit of offending as few as possible the legions of politically correct insist upon a program based on the premise that “denying the truth shall set us free.” Our culture is changing, new and diverse elements have been entering in increasing numbers over the last century, and the nation can no longer be considered exclusively Euro-Christian in composition ó and has not actually been for a period longer than we recognize. To all I say, “Welcome, and come share your culture with me, as I hope to share mine with you.” To those whose religious origins celebrate Hebrew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other holy days, or those who celebrate none, bring the happiness and joy of your seasons or special activities to the workplace as I will mine, and together we will learn to share each other’s joy and peace, and not be frightened, threatened, or offended by our differences. Rather, by observing each other and accepting invitations to join and share, we will become better than we could have on our own. We will jointly elevate where we work from a frighteningly bland and vanilla place where we must accept a non-humanistic reconfiguration to one where we work and exchange in the open air of free speech and a willingness not to be offended by those who are not our own reflection. I was brought up an Irish Catholic in a place where Irish Catholics abound: Boston, Massachusetts (we are competitive with Dublin). The spirit of what this “holy day,” Christmas, brings to me is a combination of joy, happiness, fulfillment, and a sense of hope for the future. None of that need be seen as a threat or a form of marginalization by my brothers and sisters of the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other faith, lack of faith, or combination of one to more of the proceeding, in the celebration of that which brings joy and comfort to me as opposed to that which does the same for them. The joy in my life need not result in the diminishment of another’s. We cannot resent or be offended by something simply because we do not “own it.” In fact, if you ever find yourself needing another name on a mailing list for your religious celebration, “special occasion,” or “cultural event,” feel free to add mine. I assure you I will not be offended by your efforts to include me in that which brings you peace and joy or cultural and religious fulfillment. You do not need to “rename” it for my benefit. I will further be enhanced as a human being by showing my willingness to tolerate other than what is reflective of me. After all, if we are not tolerant, then we must be intolerant. Right? I doubt any culture is supported, fostered or enriched by intolerance of others. Ironically, it appears that it is the HR/Staffing community that has embraced the role as Obergruppenfurher responsible for the blind acceptance of the current intolerance to true and total diversity. To be truly diverse, should we not include the acceptance of religious diversity along with all other accepted forms of diversity? We again appear to lack the strength of will needed to reverse this trend of intolerance in the name of political correctness. We not only allow it to persist, we police, warn, and punish offenders. But that’s okay I guess, as we are only following orders. The Constitution declares that there shall be a separation of church and state to prevent religious intolerance enforced by law or law influenced by religious leadership. To that consideration I give total and unblemished support. But business is free to permit individual expression in all areas, and that includes allowing a person who celebrates Christmas to say “Merry Christmas” in their place of work without the HR/Staffing “correct speak” goon squad from saying, “Didn’t you mean [giggle] Happy Holidays? That’s what you meant to say, RIGHT!” (Get the thumbscrews; the Inquisition lives!) But if your company feels morally obligated to protect those who may be offended by the celebration of Christmas or its mere utterance or simple expression through decorations, all it has to do is make December 25th a working day and add an additional personal day to your corporate allowance. In addition you may want to eliminate the “holiday” bonus whose origin lies in a “Holy Day” observance. So doing would deny critics the opportunity to use words such as “hypocritical” when referring to your policies. That is to say, to allow the event, renamed, but deny the origin of the event to those who believe and practice that belief for the convenience of those who do not, but still want the day off, a bonus, and party. But that would also mean the possible cultural rethinking of new names for Mardi Gras, St. Valentines Day, and Easter. That is a lot of lost retail money due to re-branding, and I guess money is a religion unto itself for some. Before the “correct-speak” police arrive at my door to haul me off for reconfiguration and correct my thinking, let me exclaim at the top of my lungs, the most sincere wishes for you and yours ó in the spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood and sharing; across all faiths, belief systems, or naturalistic outlooks ó a totally politically incorrect and inappropriately phrased… Merry Christmas! Tell you what: end world hunger or bring about world peace and THEN come back to me about your concerns regarding the use of the word “Christmas” versus “holiday.” Seems like a fair and balanced set of priorities to me. Have a great Christmas recruiting!

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.