October 29, 2009
Dressing up for Halloween at the office -- yea or nay?
I've always been fairly ambivalent about office Halloween celebrations.
One the plus side, any festivities your department has scheduled (haunted house, costume contest, orange-and-black cake, people bringing in their kids to treat or treat) can provide a nice distraction on an otherwise dull Friday.
On the minus side, if you're trying to put a pressing project to bed before the weekend so the coming Monday isn't quite so miserable, you may not appreciate gathering round the jack-o'-lantern with your coworkers in superhero garb, especially if attendance is mandatory.
On the web community Early Retirement, one worker at a "fairly corporate" company had this to say:
"Because much of our staff is right out of school, they dress up for Halloween. My manager told me that dressing up is 'required' and that it would look bad for anyone who does not dress up. I find this ridiculous. Not only is dressing up for Halloween past the age of 12 a bad idea, I have to take time out of my personal life to go find a Halloween costume to wear...never mind the money this will cost me."
I don't consider this a curmudgeonly statement. Many people have lives they like to tend to outside work, lives that don't necessarily include rummaging for the most cost-effective, office-appropriate Halloween attire they can find. (This mandatory-Halloween-festivities manager will probably require everyone to participate in a $25 Secret Santa gift exchange in December, too.)
For those who look forward to wearing a Halloween costume at work, Laurie Ruettimann of the hilarious blog Punk Rock HR offered this tidbit:
"Use some common sense. Don't wear a diaper, a white T-shirt, and a bonnet as your Halloween costume. I speak from experience on this one. It's just creepy."
Ruettimann then gave HR pros license to send home any costumed employees who show up "looking like a sexy goth cheerleader or a pimp."
As you can imagine, Ruettimann's post prompted a heated online discussion about everything from expecting your HR department to play Halloween party planner (an idea that was frowned upon) to bringing your costumed kids to the office to treat or treat. That last point prompted one HR professional to leave this scathing comment:
"If you want to bring in your kids and show off how cute they are in their costumes, I'm all over that. I love seeing cute little Halloween costumes. But to expect your coworkers to bring in candy and let your kids go cubicle to cubicle while people are working their tails off trying to keep the company afloat? C'mon, folks!"
Here I'm torn. If you've never worked in an office where parents bring their kids in to trick or treat, I can see how this practice might sound oppressive. But I've worked in offices where people put out sweets for visiting kids in costumes, and it wasn't a big deal, no matter how large one's workload. Those who didn't want to bake or buy a bag of candy didn't. They either took off early, shut their office door, or retreated to a quiet conference room that afternoon.
That said, I'm a firm believer that Halloween costumes and party attendance should be optional. Ditto for supplying candy for your coworkers' little trick-or-treaters. If ever there was a year to let employees get their work done and not mandate that they spend more of their hard-earned cash, it's this one.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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