Celebrating Halloween at Work: Boos and Don’ts

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Halloween is a big deal where I work. In the time that I have been with the firm, I’ve seen our celebration change to match our maturing corporate culture. Generally folks have been very professional but Halloween can be a scary time for those of us in HR because of the opportunity for folks to cross the line. Employees should use good judgment when deciding what to wear. Ask yourself: ‘Am I likely to offend someone with this costume?’ If in doubt, leave it out!

Here are some Boos and Don’ts of Celebrating Halloween in the workplace:

Consider messaging like:

  • In our workplace, Halloween is intended as a secular celebration.
  • We recognize that not everyone celebrates Halloween. You should not feel compelled to participate.
  • Please do not wear anything that is inconsistent with our equal employment opportunity or diversity policy.

Here are a few simple rules:

  • Decorations should not violate fire or safety codes and do not damage the building (no smoke machines, blocking exits, etc.)
  • Employees are responsible for clean-up after the event.
  • Costumes should be office appropriate and not offensive to co-workers and peers. When in doubt … don’t!

Costumes to avoid: Religion and politics. Wearing a pope, nun, Jesus or Moses costume is not a good idea for the workplace. Don’t wear political masks or dress as political or controversial figures. Also, no weapons or items that might be construed as weapons. I’m looking at you ninjas, lumberjacks, and military-costume-wearing folks.

Another consideration: Do you allow employees with direct customer contact to wear costumes? Some companies may allow it to demonstrate that the company is a great place to work, while others may decide not to. You need to think about your company culture and the message you want to send.

There are good reasons to support workplace celebrations. It’s fun and brings a feeling of community at work. A workplace could choose to limit costumes to children and to invite children of employees to come to work that day and tour the office by trick or treating through the office.  Work together to find a way to support workplace celebrations that keeps everyone safe, fosters diversity and inclusion, and matches client expectations and business needs.