175 million Americans celebrated Halloween last year…but how should this holiday be approached in the workplace?
“Countless workplaces across the country permit or even encourage Halloween costumes in the office,” says Rob Wilson, human resources expert and President of Employco USA, a national employment-solutions firm. “Some even have costume competitions. Other offices have Halloween parties and put up decorations for the holiday. But, in this day and age, it is crucial to consider how your Halloween costume could impact your employer’s opinion of you, or what legal ramifications these common Halloween practices could pose for employers.”
To that end, workplace expert Rob Wilson has provided the below Do’s and Don’ts for celebrating Halloween in the workplace:
- No Drag & No Donald. “Don’t wear any costume which mocks a certain religion, ethnicity, culture, gender or sexual orientation,” says Wilson. “For example, transgender people often find it offensive when cisgender people dress in ‘drag’ because they don’t want their identity to be seen as a joke. And, in our current political climate, it would be a bad idea to show up to the office in a Donald Trump costume or a peach costume, which is a popular choice for those who want to see the president impeached. Play it safe: Don’t dress up as any current celebrities or politicians, and avoid nun costumes, priest costumes, and certainly any costumes which would involve you making yourself over to look like a person of another ethnicity, i.e. “blackface,” or wearing Native American costumes or Geisha costumes if you are not of those ethnic backgrounds.”
- Don’t decorate with ghastly or gruesome décor. “It can be festive to have a brightly colored pumpkin on your desk or a collection of gourds on the office break table, but avoid things like demons, dismembered body parts and witches. Many people are offended by such imagery or others might find gruesome displays triggering,” says Wilson. “Keep it professional and tasteful. Think harvest, not graveyard.”
- Do keep in mind other culture’s holidays. “Millions of people celebrate the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. There is cultural and religious significance to this holiday, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with this holiday and imagery as you don’t want to curtail an employee’s religious freedom,” says Wilson. “And, as an employee, you also want to remember that utilizing sugar skulls and other imagery as decorations or costumes can be seen as cultural appropriation, so tread lightly when trying to borrow from another person’s culture.”
- Don’t make your celebrations Halloween-based. “Numerous people find Halloween offensive,” says Wilson. “Even if you aren’t opposed to Halloween based on your religious beliefs, you might find a display of tombstones or skeletons to be disturbing, especially if you recently lost a loved one. Keep that in mind when it comes to workplace parties, and rather than have a ‘Halloween’ party, have a Harvest Festival and keep the focus on seasonal delights like apple cider, pumpkin treats and activities like Jack-O-Lantern carving, rather than having ghouls and goblins all over the place. Make it a celebration of autumn rather than death and gore.”
- Do send out a workplace email reminding everyone of the rules. “Employees are probably going to roll their eyes when they get an email outlining all the costumes they can’t wear,” says Wilson. “Some might even complain about ‘P.C. Culture’ and reminisce about the good old days. But, remember, it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to these events. A Donald Trump costume at the office is a distraction regardless of a person’s politics, so asking people to keep it simple and avoid potentially upsetting costumes is an easy choice.”
For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.