Office Christmas (Part 1)
We have a relatively new employee at work. Let’s call her KC. She’s probably in her early 50s. She is very obviously Catholic. She doesn’t advertise this. It just comes out in her expressions and anecdotes every so often.
This is her first Christmas season with us. A few weeks back, she said to me: “Do you know if it’s OK if I put up some Christmas decorations in my cubicle? They’d be low-key.”
I said: “Why wouldn’t you be able to?”
She said: “Nobody else has.”
“That’s because we’re all a bunch of old sourpusses.”
“I thought there might be a rule against it.”
“Why would there be a rule against it?”
“Because somebody might get offended.”
Wow, I thought. Are we that bad? Have we been so successful at getting Christmas out of the government buildings and off of government land that the Christians think they’re not allowed to have it anywhere?
And what sort of backward companies has she been working for? Are there really employers out there who won’t allow somebody to put a baby Jesus figurine in their cubicle?
It’s her own cubicle! As long as it isn’t garish to the point that it’s disruptive or overwhelming to the point that it causes discomfort, she should be allowed to do it. If you don’t like looking at baby Jesus, stay out of her cubicle.
People decorate their cubicles with little mementos of their life. It makes them feel more at ease at work. It reminds them of the important things in their life. Are we going to tell people they can’t have that stuff? Because, really, how do you say what is acceptable?
Can I have pictures of the wife and kids? Surely that would be OK. What if I’m white, the wife is black, and there is a racist working for the company? He’d be offended.
Or what if I’m living with my girlfriend, and I have her picture on my desk? And what if there is a fundie sitting in the next cubicle? That picture is a constant reminder to him that I’m living in sin!
Obviously you can’t govern by the rule of “somebody might get offended”.
So what is it like at your workplace? Have there been any extreme examples (too far in either direction) at any of the places you’ve worked in the past?
(Tomorrow: When I was offended by office Christmas.)