This week I was writing a quick gift guide with tips on office and client giving. One of the questions I addressed was
How do I avoid offending people of different faiths during the holidays?
My answer was politically incorrect.
In recent years retailers and marketers have seen a backlash against the phrase "Happy Holidays" and events or sales that avoid the language or symbols of Christmas or Hanukah. We have become a society so afraid to offend 1 in a 100 that we disrespect the traditions of the majority. If you are a Christian wish your customers a Merry Christmas. If you are a Muslim wish them happiness and peace during Eid.
But what if I offend someone with my religion? The best way to not offend someoneis to get to know them. I am a Christian. I send Christmas cards. If I know a client is Jewish or Muslim I will give them the appropriate holiday wishes for their faith as well. They appreciate that I remember their faith and they respect the fact that I have a faith of my own. If you don't know your clients faith why not ask? What better way to show that you care about someone then to make a quick call to say "Dave, I am sending out some cards for the holidays. I am a Christian and I send Christmas cards but I didn't know your faith and I want to include the appropriate greeting."
This advice flies in the face of the "don’t mix religion with business" doctrine that dominates our society, but if you really want to impress your clients take your advice from the marketing department and not the legal department. People want to know you care. Every year I get numerous Asian holiday greetings from vendors and clients- Chinese New Year, Thai New Year, Buddhist holidays, Hindu holidays. Am I offended as a Christian? Absolutely not. In fact, I am honored that in a holiday time that is sacred or special to them they care enough about me to send a greeting.