Workplace Halloween Costumes: what NOT to wear

Does your company have a workplace Halloween costume contest? While many companies use this opportunity to have fun and build morale, it’s easy to cross the thin line between showing off creativity and making others feel uncomfortable.

With this in mind, it’s worth laying down a few workplace Halloween costume rules to ensure everyone has a great time.

  1. Keep it classy. Avoid any outfits that are skin-baring, risqué or gory.
  2. Stay clear of tragic events and religious innuendos. While you may easily be able to throw together an outfit that represents a Holocaust victim, a church missionary, or a Muslim with a hijab, just don’t.
  3. Don’t be offensive. Think outside of your sense of humor to consider whether or not your costume might offend someone. If somebody needs a double take to see if you’re really wearing what they think you’re wearing, you’ve pushed it too far. For example, it’s never okay to dress up in blackface, wear something transphobic, or display a costume that objectifies women or men in general.
  4. Avoid culturally-based costumes. Dressing up as a particular culture is easily offensive if you’re not part of that culture. Stay clear of the kimonos, Native American headdresses, or costumes that represent Mexicans crossing the Wall.
  5. No terrorists. We should all agree that anyone representing a mass shooting is a bad idea. Also, no weapons – fake or real – are appropriate for a workplace costume.
  6. Don’t wear plastic body parts. You know what I’m talking about, the plastic bum that sticks out when you bend over — or perhaps something more crass. Workplace costumes should never insinuate any form of flashing or reignite traumatic feelings of harassment.
  7. Consider your job. Even though it’s Halloween, think about the message you’re conveying if you’re dressed as a pack of cigarettes while teaching school or informing a patient they have cancer while dressed as a clown. In other words, be sure your workplace costume is job-appropriate.
  8. Think about your future. Don’t dress as anything that could one day come back to haunt you. Who knows when you’ll decide to run for public office and a “blast from the past” photo ruins your campaign.
  9. Be sure you can still do your job. Sure, it’s great to be the house that fell on the Wicked Witch, but will you really be able to help a customer without access to your hands?
  10. Don’t dress up as your coworker. While it may be funny to some, your coworker may not find it quite so humorous.

Now, here’s a little advice for employers.

Halloween traditions can be fun and memorable and a great way to break out of the monotony of work, but don’t make participation mandatory. Allow workplace costumes to be optional, as some employees may feel that Halloween traditions conflict with their religious or cultural beliefs. Also, avoid calling non-participants “party poops” if they choose to sit out from the festivities. It’s just not worth the backlash.

For more tips on how to make your workplace Halloween festivities a great experience, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Workplace Halloween costume

Dressing up for a workplace Halloween costume contest? Here are 10 tips to keep you out of trouble.

Laura Lancaster

Author Laura Lancaster

Along with being a Master of Human Resources, Laura is a master of communicating and provides her clients with world-class customer service. She can really cut some rug on the country swing dance floor and enjoys musical theater in between motorcycle rides.

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