Thanksgiving in the US is usually considered the beginning of “the Holidays.” But if you work with international teams, this raises a couple of important questions. Exactly which holidays are we talking about? And, will we actually be able to get our work done and still allow people to celebrate according to their local and religious traditions?
This matters in ways big and small. I was speaking to a client in Canada last week, and they refer to the fourth week of November as “the week we still have to work but can’t get anything done because nobody in America is at their desk.” The US holiday impacts others in ways many people don’t think about.
For international teams, there are over a dozen regional, national, and religious holidays coming up between now and mid-January. Some will obviously impact everyone. Others may affect individuals or smaller groups. If you only focus on the more common or well-known holidays, you’re risking alienating a good portion of your clients or team members if you operate internationally.
Here are just some of the holidays you may or may not know about that happen around this time of year. The links will give you dates to remember and help you understand the cultural significance of the holiday:
- Remembrance Day (or Veterans day, or Armistice Day. In some countries this is a full legal holiday, in some nations it is commemorated but isn’t a statutory holiday)
- Christmas and Christmas Eve
- New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (It’s not on January 1 everywhere)
- Ramadan (which came earlier this year but moves around)
- Bodhi Day
- Pancha Ganapti
- Lunar New Year
- Boxing Day (as a Canadian I can tell you that this date, while secular, is sacred to Canadians. Having to work the day after Christmas is a crime against humanity. Most Americans don’t know this and actually expect people to be productive!)
- Greek and Russian Orthodox Christmas
Here’s the point. Knowing in advance when people will be working—and when they won’t—is helpful. This is also an opportunity to prepare for absences, personal days and holidays that might matter a great deal to your international team members but don’t often occur to those of us who are North American-centric. You can even use this as a team-building moment to help people explain their cultures to each other and enhance understanding.
Whatever you celebrate, do it in a way that enhances your team’s understanding, avoids unnecessary frustration, and keeps the work going.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.