It’s that time of year again. Time for Halloween and all the candy, cheesy ghost stories, and inappropriate costumes that come with it. While Halloween can be fun and exciting, the fallout for employers can be all fright.
Office Parties. While workplace costume parties can lighten the mood in the office, employers should be proactive in dealing with the potential issues that can arise.
First and foremost, employers should communicate simple and clear rules or guidelines to their employees in advance of any party. Employees should be reminded that professionalism is still expected of them at work, both in their conduct and their costumes. This is especially important if your employees will interact with customers during the workday, as an offensive or inappropriate costume could cause more than just internal employee relations issues. Employers should give their employees examples of what is potentially inappropriate, so that there is no guesswork involved for the employee.
Inappropriate costumes can include those costumes that reveal too much skin or, depending the type of workplace you operate, those that have the potential to compromise safety. This category can also include costumes that touch on hot-button political or social topics, such as an employee lampooning a high-profile political figure or dressing as a nun or priest. While some employees may be unaffected by these costumes, employers must be sensitive to how all their employees may deal with the notions raised by such costumes.
Managers also should be specifically counseled ahead of time to avoid any costumes that may be borderline risqué or offensive. Managers are the face of your company, and if an employee sees a manager engaging in certain behaviors, the employee may think it’s OK to follow suit, or may think the employer is playing favorites. Managers should know they act on behalf of the company and that they have a special responsibility to set an example in all aspects of their job, including how they conduct themselves at office parties.
What happens outside the office, stays outside the office, right? The hangover from Halloween parties can also bleed into the workplace on Monday morning, regardless of whether the party occurred inside or outside the office. It’s likely your employees may get together as a group and attend a party after work. They also may just encounter each other outside work. Hey, it’s a small world. One of the most common ways Halloween can pop up in the workplace in November is through comments about what one employee wore (or didn’t wear) at the party on Friday night. Others in the workplace may think the fact that the person wore the costume outside of the office makes it OK for them to make comments about the employee’s costume, either to each other or to that employee, which are sexually suggestive or just downright offensive. Employees should take this opportunity to remind their employees that harassing comments or gossip do not belong in the workplace and that engaging in this conduct can result in discipline.
Remembering these few simple rules can help everyone get through Halloween without turning the workplace into a complete horror show.