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  • Writer's pictureAlyscia Raines

To Halloween Or Not: A Guide to Respectfully Celebrating Halloween at the Office

October 30, 2020

Alyscia Raines

Founder and Principal Consultant

ADR Consulting Group LLC.

As the leaves turn colors, the temperature drops, and pumpkin spice lattes reign, you know that Halloween is near. Halloween can be traced back to thousands of years ago when the Celtic people celebrated Samhain, marking the end of the summer season and harvest. Fast forward to today, in the United States, Halloween has evolved into a day of costumes, candy, and celebration. In 2019, an estimated 180 million people participated in the spooky holiday, with a quarter of the candy purchased annually for Halloween. So how about in the it appropriate to celebrate Halloween?  Keep reading below to consider how to keep the festivities fun and also respectful, without causing harm.

Inviting your team to dress up can be a fun way to provide a little friendly competition and overall spirit in the office (this works remotely too!) However, if you will be allowing employees to dress up for work it is important to set some expectations. Here are some examples of guidelines that you can share with your team:

  1. Cultures are not costumes- It is important that guidelines are set that includes avoiding wearing blackface and dressing in traditional garb that is not your own (such as headdresses representing Native and Indigenous cultures). Such costumes are offensive, can cause harm and will negatively impact the efforts your office has in place for maintaining an inclusive and welcoming environment. Instead, offer suggestions of permissible costumes like superheroes, pirates, and ghosts. It is a good idea to consult your company’s Equal Opportunity Policy, Staff Handbook, and Diversity Statement for additional guidance. If your company has recently made commitments or aspires to be anti-racist this is a great opportunity to demonstrate that commitment. 

  2. Avoid these ones too- With Election Day quickly approaching, it may be very tempting to dress as political officials that are running for office. Remembering that many different political views and ideologies in the workplace may be present, it may be best to avoid politically influenced costumes altogether. Additionally, note that the costumes of Jesus, The Pope, and other religious figures can be offensive to those practicing various religions in the office and can be seen as sacrilegious. When in doubt or questioning whether your costume may offend someone, it may be best to avoid altogether. 

  3. Pay attention to the environment- While the topic of what is deemed professional can be murky and centered in eurocentric and patriarchal value systems, there is still something to be said for remembering that you are at work. The costume you might be wearing at a bar might not be the same one you want to wear at the office. Know your audience, clientele, and company culture and select accordingly. As an example, you may not want to dress as the Grim Reaper if you work at a hospital. Mind your environment.

Whether you choose to hold an office celebration or not, it is important to make sure that everything is voluntary and there are not any repercussions for those who choose not to participate. In what has been a challenging year for many reasons, it is advantageous to find moments of lighthearted fun and dressing up in costumes is a great method. Just be sure to set clear expectations and ensure that your celebration is not in conflict with your committments of being a welcoming and inclusive workplace.


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