Halloween in the office is normally a matter of custom, with each workplace having its own long-standing traditions. Most employees use good sense and behave well, but as every HR professional knows, there is always an exception. Still, what could go wrong with Halloween?
Since many HR issues are based in the overall atmosphere of the workplace, employees dressing in certain hot button themes can be a problem. There are three workplace issues that may need to be managed:
Costumes that could cause diversity issues are simply ones based on ethnicity, race, gender, religion, or any other protected category of persons.
For preserving a workplace that is not sexually hostile, any costume with the adjective sexy should not be allowed. In the last several years, this category has grown as campy fun, but that does not make it right for the work place. The rules that would normally apply for workplace dress do not disappear because of Halloween.
Workplace violence may be the most difficult to manage because the harm may be less obvious to employees. In keeping with establishing a workplace that does not condone violence, real or prop weapons should not be allowed.
While the instinct of some HR professionals may be to write a detailed policy or memorandum on Halloween dress, it might be more effective to manage the issue more softly. The first approach could be simply to turn down any hype around costumes by not having contests. Leaders refraining from wearing costumes may be enough to redirect the organization.
As the workplace becomes more complex, things change. As costumes are deemphasized, some employees may react with disappointment and complain about the world becoming more PC. With good management, this can be overcome.