When to Say “Merry Christmas”


In the United States, a country founded by Christian pilgrims, and where nearly 80% of the population considers itself Christian, it would seem rational that everyone would feel comfortable with the words “Merry Christmas.” However, most behavior is anything but rational.  [See blog The Rational Mind & the Emotional Mind].  The emotional response is to use the generic “Happy Holidays” in an effort to minimize differences.

Values drive a nation, an organization, and an individual.  This country continues to value Individualization, and, in the process, has gotten mixed up with condemning its historical origins – which is a fatal flaw in any organization.

Tailor Your Approach

One executive shared with me how he greeted his colleague in the workplace hallway with “Happy Holidays!”  It was his effort to be inclusive.  His colleague stopped him, and questioned, “Why do you wish me a ‘Happy Holiday’ when you know I’m Jewish?” (The question begs a “Happy Hanukkah!”).  The rationale implies: when you know someone is of a particular faith, you can tailor/adapt your approach to best suit that individual.  THAT is Individualization, a true American value.

Show the person you know who they are.  Customize.  One of the successful tips I have personally kept from my college job as hotel operator at Auberge du Soleil (Napa Valley, California) was that we kept a digitalized record of each guest’s preferences.  So, when they returned, we could yield to them what we know they preferred.  E.g. no flowers, extra bedding, use of title with name, etc.  Valued customers are remembered.

Tailoring your approach to an individual is called Situational and/or Servant Leadership.

Servant Leadership

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th Century BC) wrote, essentially, that a Servant Leader is one who shares power and puts the needs of others first.  His/Her role is to help people develop and perform to optimal levels.  Servant Leaders adapt their leadership style to the individual or group s/he is trying to influence and lead.  The key is finding what motivates – this is where we revert to values and historical origins.  Servant leadership is achieved on a one-by-one basis; not in a catch-call, cookie-cutter approach way, such as, telling everyone “Happy Holidays!”

May your days be merry and bright!


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner who attends all festive parties, and is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2014




About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on December 21, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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