Trick Or Treat? How To Avoid Halloween Office Nightmares

Trick Or Treat? How To Avoid Halloween Office Nightmares

With the arrival of Fall the stores have begun to fill with Halloween goodies and what was once an unofficial holiday that lasted for one (or two) days at best seems to have become a month-long celebration.

Which may be a good thing, as it does now give you time to prepare. Prepare for what?When it comes to scaring HR professionals on Halloween, ghosts and vampires have nothing on inappropriate costumes in the workplace. And celebrating Halloween at all can be a stressful thing.

Many organizations do celebrate Halloween by allowing employees to dress up and by hosting parties; in fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more than one in three employees celebrate Halloween with co-workers, and more than one in four dresses in costume.

But the festive atmosphere of this secular holiday can lead some to push the envelope too far. When it comes to costumes, what one person considers humorous, another may view as offensive.

Every HR department has their fair share of horror stories about employees who have worn risqué or offensive costumes to work. And these aren’t just awkward situations—they can lead to legal ramifications for discrimination and harassment. So how can you prevent an HR scare this Halloween?

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Put a Halloween Costume Policy in Place

If you are going to allow employees to dress up, a well-communicated party and costume policy set out well in advance is the safest route.

Develop guidelines for office-appropriate costumes. Remember to be as clear as possible. Giving guidelines helps everyone to understand what's acceptable and appropriate.

How clear do you have to be? Experts say that policies should go beyond the standard "Use good taste and judgment," because each individual can interpret that differently. It’s best to provide examples of costumes that may be considered offensive. Examples could include costumes that exaggerate body parts, those that reveal too much of the body, or ethnic, religious or race-based costumes.

Other things you should consider :

* Request that workers avoid donning political costumes that could be offensive.

* Make sure desk and other office decorations don't violate fire or safety codes.

* Consider whether costumes might seem unprofessional on employees who interact with customers.

* Remember that, in some industries, such as manufacturing, costumes can jeopardize safety.

Be Mindful of Religious Beliefs

In addition to inappropriate costumes, Halloween can cause other issues in the workplace. Some employees may take offense at the very celebration of Halloween. Given that some workers may be offended by Halloween celebrations, consider offering to let them work from home or take the day off to avoid any difficulties.

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With a Halloween costume policy in place and religious considerations taken into account, your organization should be able to enjoy the fun of Halloween without worrying about scaring the HR department.

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