Halloween: Will it be tricks or treats for your workplace?

by Nancy Owen, PHRBat

halloween_sceneDoes your organization have a Halloween Party? Many companies plan some type of Halloween celebration for their employees. And why not? Celebrations in the work place have been proven to build team work and to help increase morale. Employees love a good celebration and they ask for them as much as possible. Whether you are celebrating by having a full out costume contest or just a bake off with Halloween-themed foods, there are a few things you will want to consider so you can avoid a hair-raising experience.

Make sure whoever participates has the option. This needs to be a voluntary celebration. Some of your employees may feel that celebrating Halloween would conflict with their religious beliefs. Employees should not feel pressured into it. Be sure to plan so that employees who would rather not participate will be free to skip the festivities without any negative consequences.

What about clients or customers? Do they visit your location? Would they be offended? They are, after all, the back bone of the business, right?

halloween7If costumes will be a part of the event, BEWARE . . . Did you know that employers can be held liable for issues arising from Halloween Costumes? If the costumes have a political message or are inappropriate or even sexually provocative then you could find yourself spooked for sure when you are in litigation for harassment. It has already happened and continues to happen. And don’t forget safety hazards. Those spider webs and scare crows with loose fitting clothing near hot or active machinery makes for one witchy brew.

If you want to include costumes, set extremely clear guidelines and hold the employees accountable to them. The dress code for Halloween should follow the same standards set by your regular dress code. Employees should cover what should be covered and remain professional. It is all in good fun, so costumes should be tasteful and not scary.

halloween2Communicate the guidelines well in advance and often if necessary. You will want to communicate to your employees in writing and make sure your leadership team is reinforcing those policies. As always, the leaders need to walk the walk and talk the talk. Let the employees know there is workplace etiquette that must be followed. If your leaders are setting the example then you should not experience any hair-raising issues.

How did the celebration go over in past years? Was anyone offended? Did anyone complain? That may give you an idea of what to expect this time around. If it was a hit, great! You can plan for another fun event this year. On the other hand, if it did not go over well in the past, you may want to re-think your plans. After all, you don’t want frightful issues to arise from the dead at this year’s celebration.

halloween8If participation was not the best in past years, you may want to consider a celebration that appeals to the majority of employees. You may even want them to participate in the decision to have a celebration. Consider a pot luck lunch or simply trick-or-treat bags of candy on everyone’s desk.

halloween6Whatever your plans, be sure to first weigh the risks and the rewards of stirring up a Halloween event for your organization. Remember, it can be tricky to offer Halloween treats in the workplace. RIP.

If you’d like information about any HR issue, please email us at HRhelpline@eastcoastrm.com.

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