I’ll never forget the year that my co-worker showed up at the office dressed as a male organ. While some of us thought it was a riot, others were offended.
I think Halloween costumes at work are a great way to loosen up for a day. But there are others who find wearing a pregnant nun or a stripper costumes offensive and inappropriate in an office.
Most offices allow workers to dress up. More than one in three employees (37 percent) celebrate Halloween with co-workers, and more than one in four (27 percent) dress in costume, according to a 2007 Vault.com survey
Seriously though, pick a costume with caution.
A SHRM article points out that on a blog called “Ask a Manager,” one black reader inquired about how to tell white co-workers that painting their faces dark so they could imitate basketball stars would offend her. Her question inspired both empathy and disbelief.
An employee at a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit responded that a colleague “and her husband were going to be the Huxtables [of the “Cosby Show”], complete with blackface. They laughed and laughed. I was in complete shock.” Another reader, “Lily,” commented, “My ethnicity is not a ‘costume’ or ‘character’ [that] you get to dress up as for fun on a holiday. It’s who I am.”
Many who responded to the blog suggested that the writer ask the office manager to publish costume guidelines before Halloween. “Say that you’ve heard some people talk about dressing up in costumes that would cross the line into demeaning certain ethnic groups, and you’d appreciate her issuing some guidance in advance,” one blog reader said. “You might mention that doing so would be in the company’s best interest for legal reasons as well, because you would hate to see the company be accused of creating a hostile work environment for something like this.”
The situation is even worse these days when a photo of you in costume can go viral in seconds – branding you a racist or the office slut to office dwellers across the globe.
“What you wear to the bar and what you wear out on Halloween night is not always or necessarily appropriate for the workplace,” Steve Miller, of counsel with Chicago-based Fisher & Phillips, a national labor and employment law firm remarked.
Political costumes can become a problem, too. One guy I know almost lost his job when he dressed up like a beaten up John McCain. His boss didn’t find it amusing at all.
Marya Calhoun, director of human asset management and development at Georgia-based Vericom Corp., said that a well-communicated costume policy is the safest route for an employer.
“We’ve had to give guidance to those who wanted to dress as another employee, their manager or the president of the company,” she said. “Develop guidelines for office-appropriate costumes. Remember to be as clear as possible. Giving guidelines helps everyone to understand what’s acceptable and appropriate.”
Before you choose your costume, you might want to check out this article -- 3 Ways Halloween Can Kill Your Career
So readers, do you think it's okay to wear whatever costume you want to work if it’s all in fun. Or, do you think companies should ban costumes altogether? And does wearing a costume make it okay for your co-worker to act in character?
Oh, by the way, if you are planning to dress up and still don't have a costume, here are Google's Top Trending Halloween Costume Searches: