Christmas and Easter are known prohibited dates for meetings. But major religious holidays for other groups—such as Yom Kippur for Jews, or Ramadan for Muslims—aren’t as widely observed and can get overlooked even though they are important to those of that faith. Or meeting organizers may see those dates on the calendar but assume that few, if any, attendees likely observe those holidays so it’s fine to forge ahead.
But such ignorance, or willful disregard, can turn people off at a minimum and, ultimately, could be very damaging to an event.
“To those of us who observe any holiday, when events are held over them, it says ‘Jews [for example] are not wanted, or not respected,’” says independent planner Joan Eisenstodt, founder, Eisenstodt Associates.
Adds Jaclyn Bernstein, president and partner, ACCESS New York Metro, a destination management company, “If it can be avoided, it should be. Or make accommodations like, if you have a meeting starting the day after a holiday, and people won’t fly the night before, have a late start time.”
The repercussions of overlooking important religious dates can be disastrous, says diversity consultant Carole Copeland Thomas. “If a number of people won’t attend, that’s a financial hit, and if the organization is covered by the media, then you have the impact of the general public’s opinion and even possibly a boycott.”
Bernstein even took it a step further. “We live in a very litigious world, and someone might say, ‘There’s a company event on my religion’s holiday, I took the day off so I’m missing that meeting and now I feel harassed by my employer.”
Rather than letting things come to that, Eisenstodt and Bernstein suggested reviewing interfaith calendars, consulting religious organizations or even college campuses.
Says Eisenstodt, “We owe it to people to be respectful of their religions, and to understand how they need to be included.” For more information, click here.
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