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Is it OK to have a company Christmas tree? HR speaks out

company christmas tree

No trees were cut, bound, lashed, or had melted candle wax dripped on them

Company Christmas tree

With so much sensitivity in the workplace and so much insensitivity in the political arena, I thought I would update a classic post. Every year, I am asked an age-old HR question. “Can we have a company Christmas tree at work”. Questions start coming in hot the day after Halloween and continue mercilessly through December. Now that Thanksgiving has passed, the pressure is on for a decision. The sooner a decision is made the less I hear about it.

The company Christmas Tree at work question is a relatively new phenomenon. I bet this question wasn’t asked in the good ol’ HR days circa pre-1990. Ahh, the good old days of HR. As a minority, I can appreciate the question. As an HR practitioner, I dread it. I never know how the topic is going to go or how much of the executive meeting time this topic will take up. If there is one thing I learned about making company policy, it is that I am not going to make everyone happy. Readers of the blog know I preach a couple of tenants:

Don’t worry about the naysayers

I don’t consider a policy from the perspective of those that I fear will complain. HR should not participate in defensive policy creation. I suggest policy for the good of the company. So, if we want to have Beer Fridays, I don’t worry about the one person that might have too much to drink or the one person that is against drink in the workplace. I suggest a policy that will enhance our company culture (work hard and celebrate responsibly) and hire to that standard. I don’t get it right every time, but I keep swinging. A defensive policy would be “No drinking on company premises, period, end of the story, STFU, talk to the hand, read my lips, etc.”

(I would address the one person that had too much to drink vs. punish the entire company by banning beer on premises)

Explain where the policy is coming from

I make an effort to explain policy. I want to explain the “why” three times, three different ways. HRNasty understands that I and the executive team had a lot of time to review and dissect any suggested policy. We should not expect employees to understand new policy when delivered with a single blow, like an all company email. I want to explain the policy in such a way that even if the employee doesn’t like the decision at a personal level, they can understand the decision from a business perspective. Hopefully, colleagues I work with can think, “I don’t care for the policy, but I understand why the business needs to make this decision”.  So, when I am asked about a Christmas tree in the workplace,

I try to show:

  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • An appreciation of diversity

Below is my effort to the company announcing the decision on the company Christmas tree. It is getting towards the end of December and I hope this will quiet down the rioters, answer questions, and appease the HR gods.


To all employees,

On Monday, we are going to put up an Ornament Hanger of no particular religion, age, gender or sexual orientation. This will be placed in the front lobby as we feel this is the most neutral place in the company. When we say neutral, we mean, everyone will have equal access to its presentation. It will be of the Evergreen variety so we apologize for not representing the deciduous varietals. Don’t worry, it will be a fay-, I mean an artificial tree. No trees were harmed, cut down, dehydrated from lack of watering, tied up, or strapped to the roof of a car in an uncaring way. 

Tree of life (can I say that?)

Those that are inclined to participate in decorating our centerpiece are welcome to do so. We hope the Ornament Hanger represents our company’s diversity. Please (and only if you want to) bring in a single ornament of your choice to help us decorate the Ornament Hanger (which we will return to you after January 1).  Participation is not mandatory and those that choose not to participate will be respected. My contribution will be an ornament that is Fly Fishing related because as most of you know, my passion is fishing. We do not guarantee the safe return of any of the ornaments and take no responsibility for their return. 

It’s voluntary people

On this Ornament Hanger of no particular religion, gender, age or sexual orientation, height or circumference, we will have tags that the local shelter dropped off. Each of these tags will present itself to you with the opportunity to make family’s End of December a little more memorable with suggestions of gifts.  This is strictly voluntary. Because this is purely voluntary, we are not collecting employee names or comparing results (seriously). We have a total of 30 tags so work in teams, singles or departments to make a family in need’s (OR MORE) wishes come true.

Safety first

Please bring your “opportunities to make a young persons End of December memorable” unwrapped and new in box condition. This is for the safety of the recipients as this is an age where  

If you have extra lights or strings of popcorn, feel free to bring them in. We could use a Wonder Woman, King Kong or GI Joe with Kung Fu Grip figurine to put at the top of the tree. If not, a star, angel, or a deer with a red nose would probably work in a pinch. Our only requests are:

  • We hold off on candles so we don’t burn the place down.
  • Avoid use of flock in any color because it is too hard to vacuum and could show favoritism
  • In consideration of employees with allergies, the ornament hanger will not be scented or sprayed with scent

Don’t worry about your little children or pets around this tree, the stand will be bolted into the floor for your safety (and the company liability.)

Have fun!


Disclaimer: For those that are horrified and took this seriously, this is a tongue in cheek piece. This is my attempt at humor to help HR professionals who are being asked age-old HR doosies.