Yesterday Mexico celebrated the Day of the Dead. A holiday that was created as a way of remembering and honoring ancestors. In that celebration there are lessons for entrepreneurs.
When it is holiday time, employees celebrate those holidays at home and sometimes those celebrations or remembrances may find their way into the workplace. When these things happen, entrepreneurs must be careful to act appropriately and not needlessly offend or insult their employees. Recently, people in the United States celebrated Halloween. A few short days later people in Mexico celebrated The Day of the Dead. Some entrepreneurs mistakenly referred to The Day of the Dead as the Mexican version of Halloween. In doing so, those entrepreneurs may have offended their employees, customers and prospective customers.
Instead of looking at The Day of the Dead as simply another holiday, entrepreneurs can look at the holiday as an opportunity to learn a few lessons. Including the following:
- Don’t assume what a tradition means, check it out to be sure.
- Be mindful of the fact that your employees may have traditions with which you are not familiar.
- Be respectful of things your employees hold dear
Don’t assume what a tradition means, check it out to be sure.
It is important for entrepreneurs to always remember that their employees, customers and prospects are all people. People have feelings, emotions and bring cultural traditions with them in all they do. This means when you interact with them, your interactions are not in a vacuum. One way to draw connections with people is to discuss their traditions and things that are important to them. If you try to bond with employees by sharing thoughts and ideas about one of their cultural holidays and you inadvertently misidentify the holiday you may cause problems. These problems include the following:
- employees may think you have no respect for them and their traditions
- you may hurt employee feelings
- you may appear to be racially or culturally biased
These things can all be avoided if an entrepreneur simply did a quick internet search to understand the true meaning, importance and behaviors associated with holidays the entrepreneur does not celebrate.
Be mindful of the fact that your employees may have traditions with which you are not familiar.
Entrepreneurs must be mindful of the fact that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. In addition, not every person celebrates holidays in the same way. Thanksgiving is a popular holiday in the United States. Some entrepreneurs may have grown up celebrating Thanksgiving with pumpkin pie served as the traditional dessert. Those entrepreneurs may be surprised to learn that in many African-American families pumpkin pie cannot be found. In many of those households, the traditional dessert is sweet potato pie. Entrepreneurs who know, understand and appreciate small differences like this one will be appreciated and respected by their employees. They will be seen as more open minded and accepting of the various cultural differences in their employees. Employees perform better for entrepreneurs who respect them and their traditions. This means respecting your employees culture and traditions may improve your bottom line!
Be respectful of things your employees hold dear.
No matter how sensitive, respectful and kind entrepreneurs may be, upon occasion, they may make mistakes and deeply offend employees. When this happens, a smart entrepreneur will offer a quick and sincere apology. That entrepreneur will ask what specifically was offensive and what a better approach to the situation would be. This approach will show employees that the offense the employer caused was not intentional, but instead a mistake the entrepreneur does not want to repeat. An entrepreneur should never advise offended or insulted employees to “get over it” or that “it wasn’t a big deal.” By handling offenses in the right manner, entrepreneurs can strengthen the relationships they have with employees.
Holidays, even holidays an entrepreneur does not celebrate can be wonderful learning experiences. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, always look for ways to grow, learn and be better at business and in life.