If it’s your first October in the workforce, several questions might run through your mind:
- Am I supposed to dress up at work?
- What can I wear to the office Halloween party?
- How extravagant will my coworkers’ costumes be?
- Will my boss care about my costume?
Whether you’re heading to the office on October 31 or attending the annual office Halloween party, be sure to get these questions answered before the event. As a general guide, avoid these 5 scary mistakes many professionals make at their first Office Halloween:
- Environmental Faux Pas Firstly, do background research before the event. Inquire with your boss or an experienced coworker about formal and informal company policy on Halloween, even if you’ve already received an email encouraging employees to dress up. Ask for photos from last year, or search coworkers social media photo albums from previous years. These can help you note the overall organizational culture and costume style from past Halloweens. Secondly, don’t assume that you can wear a costume to work on October 31st (even if it’s just cat ears and whiskers). In some offices, even a subtle costume would be inappropriate.
- Cultural Appropriation Cultural appropriation has been a controversial Halloween topic for years. This happens when someone’s costume pulls from a culture other than their own, causing offense, hurt, or discomfort to others. Avoid dressing as a different culture, race, or ethnicity at all costs. Some aspects of cultural appropriation are more nuanced, so if you have a costume in mind, be sure to search online to check that no part of the costume is appropriated.
- Offensive Costumes A costume doesn’t have to be culturally appropriated to be inappropriate, however. Costumes that are political, overly revealing, gory, stereotypical, or poking fun at someone should be left at home. Safe options include beloved pop culture icons, such as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the cast of Orange is the New Black, Snow White and her seven paralegals, or emojis. If you’re questioning whether your costume is appropriate, switch to something safer.
- False Assumptions Remember that not everyone celebrates Halloween. Avoid calling out coworkers who choose not to dress up and refrain from pushing someone to wear a costume or join in on the festivities. Be sure to keep the workplace, office parties, and networking inclusive and welcoming.
- Behavioral Blunders For many, Halloween is a time to let loose and have fun. If you’re attending an office Halloween party, remember that eyes will be on you (especially if you’re a new employee). Avoid intoxication or unprofessional behavior, even if colleagues are having multiple drinks. Use rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft, to get to and from the party. When posting photos from the event, check with colleagues before tagging them, as some people prefer to keep social media accounts strictly professional. When some of us see “work party,” we get too excited about the “party” part, and forget about the more important “work” part. We’re not telling you to be too serious or to talk shop--just keep your professional guard up.
Halloween is a favorite time of year for many. Remember- always check up on company culture and policy before dressing for a work event. As long as you remain culturally, politically, and socially sensitive, your office Halloween event won’t be too scary.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Photo credit: slworking2