Q. For the past one year, I have been working for an international organisation that provides studying materials to less privileged students.
Last month, our new manager sent an all-staff email directing us to wear Halloween costumes on a certain day to celebrate the festival.
Majority of us were unwilling to do so because we don’t celebrate the event.
We sent an emissary to make known our reluctance, but he was offended. Is it ethical for an employer to force his culture and practices on employees?
It is not right, nor is it ethical, and you have a right to say no if you are being coerced to participate.
Celebrations of this nature are about commemorating events that we believe in, that have meaning to us, and we have convictions about.
Halloween is foreign to us, and you should not be forced to participate just to keep your job.
One would expect that any manager senior enough to hold an international position should know the dos and don’ts of managing across cultures. Whether your boss meant well or not, he overstepped his mandate.
I am surprised that your manager was offended by your refusal and equally surprised that he expected complete compliance.
He needs to evaluate his attitude, otherwise he may soon have no genuine team to lead.
I understand the need to create synergy in teams, but teambuilding gatherings should focus on events that gel the team, not divide or force participation. When employees participate unwillingly, the consequences and outcome may cause more divisions than unity.
There is so much to celebrate outside strange foreign practices: throw a bash and celebrate traditional foods, dress or dance; or use the occasion to celebrate something meaningful to all of you as colleagues.
Visiting some of the students you support and reading together with them to enhance a reading culture may be meaningful to all, so would visiting the sick in hospital or undertaking other acts of kindness.
People all over the world have different cultures, so to impose one’s culture on another people because you have some advantage over them is not only wrong, but shameful too.
As we celebrate and appreciate diversity, we should always know when and where to draw the line.