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Halloween in the Workplace: Protect your Company’s Reputation

With Halloween one day away, employees in workplaces everywhere are gearing up for America’s second largest commercial holiday. Celebrating holidays in the workplace has become trendy, but an amount of professionalism must be relevant so that lines are not crossed. If your company partakes in Halloween activities, it is important to have policies regarding costume and appropriate behavior in place. With suitable guidelines, Halloween can eliminate tension, relieve stress and build team skills amongst employees.

It is not always appropriate for certain professions to celebrate Halloween in the workplace. Legal and medical experts, such as policemen, judges, doctors and others, face controversy and challenges directly with the public on a daily basis and should refrain. However, there are careers where it is necessary to dress-up and take part in the fun, like school teachers. Most other professions are somewhere in the middle, some taking part in Halloween festivities and some not. It is important to remember, for businesses who do take part, that not everyone in the workplace celebrates Halloween. Keeping the celebration optional is the most important guideline, with rules and regulations following for employees who do participate.

Costumes are what headline Halloween in the workplace. Participants in the celebration take pride in their costumes, some taking it too far. With that being said, costumes should also be what headline the guidelines that employees follow to stay professional on this day. Costumes that are offensive, too revealing or violent should not be tolerated. Examples of costumes that may be deemed inappropriate in the workplace are ones like David Letterman. With the scandal that broke about Letterman in 2009, and his affairs with female staffers, this costume would be unfitting for the workplace. Another would be dressing as Paula Deen. Paula Deen sparked controversy in June when she made a derogatory racial slur, and replicating her as your costume could offend co-workers. It’s extremely important to emphasize costume guidelines, as inappropriate outfits can mean repercussions for the employer. From sexual harassment claims to discrimination charges and everything in between, employers are liable if an employee reports offensive dress or behavior in the workplace.

Proper behavior tends to take a back seat to costumes on the list of rules during a holiday, but is still important to emphasize. While Halloween is about showing off your creativity, along with co-workers flaunting theirs, employees must remember they are there to work. Reiterate that Halloween is a workday, and an orderly, work-efficient setting is expected just like every other workday. Employees acting in their costume’s character can also be detrimental to company reputation. While some costumes may not be directly offensive, the way employees act in them may. For example, dressing as a golfer is harmless and fitting in the workplace. However, perceiving that golfer as Tiger Woods and making remarks or gestures relating to Woods’ 2009 sex scandal would be highly inappropriate. Corporate leadership has a responsibility to set the tone and culture for the celebration. And, proper or improper celebrating can have a positive or negative impact on personal and organizational reputation.

Halloween is a good way to celebrate a fun time of year while building company spirit in the workplace. There is, however, a right way to do it. Instead of banning activities while questioning what is appropriate, be informed and celebrate the right way. Setting and following office guidelines this Halloween will allow employees to enjoy themselves, and co-workers, while in their professional setting. Remember, however, a company’s brand cannot succeed without a reputation that matches.

Image by The Office Professional

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