Next Wednesday is Halloween. More than ghosts and goblins, some of the scariest things HR professionals might face on Halloween are inappropriate costumes and safety issues. Most problems are preventable and, when deciding how to celebrate Halloween at work, employers should consider the organization’s culture and its approach to diversity, as well as office traditions and customer impact.
Althoudh largely a secular holiday, Halloween does have religious roots and pagan symbols. As such, some people might not wish to participate in company-sponsored Halloween events. Organizations can set the right tone when inviting employees to participate in a Halloween-related event at work by saying things such as:
- 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.
Costume Do’s and Don’ts
Employees should use good judgment when deciding what to wear. Ask yourself: “Am I likely to offend someone with this costume?” If there’s any doubt, choose another costume. Halloween has become a celebration with more opportunity to cross the line. It requires more regulation and oversight, as costumes can breach good taste or be offensive to those in a culturally diverse company. Images of ghosts, skeletons, devils, etc., for example, do not go over well in a health care setting.
Religion and politics are two easy ways to get you in trouble at the workplace. Political costumes can be especially problematic in the midst of a contentiousU.S.presidential election, particularly when Halloween falls between the political debates and Election Day. It might help to remind employees that they still need to be able to work together when the election is over.
If you are going to allow employees to wear costumes and decorate their workspace for Halloween, everyone should follow a few simple rules:
- Decorations should not violate fire or safety codes.
- Employees are responsible for clean-up after the event.
- Costumes should be office appropriate and not offensive to co-workers and peers.
Another consideration is whether to 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 decline. Think about what message you want to send.
Safety First (and always)
Employers must consider possible workplace risks. For example, there are some places where costumes are not appropriate, such as a manufacturing floor which houses heavy machinery and strict safety codes set forth by a local government and by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Even something as simple a pumpkin carving contest could cause cuts and possible workers’ compensation claims.
For more on this or any other HR-related subject, contact Prestige.