Halloween at work is now almost as risky as the annual Holiday Party. As Halloween has grown in popularity, so have the risks in celebrating a little too much. Before you write a comment, please know I enjoy Halloween as much as anyone. Walking around in the evening and watching the excitement in children’s faces is always fun. It’s the adults in the office that cause me worry.
Each year Halloween grows in its impact on the workplace. Although unofficial, it is now a day of celebrating and dressing up in almost all workplaces. It can be a day when both personal judgment and organizational rules are suspended. On a diet? Go ahead and have that Snickers anyway. Productivity? Not today. No dogs allowed in the office? The dogs can run around on Halloween, as long as they are in costume.
Halloween is not a big holiday everywhere. I know lots of people who are not even sure Halloween is a holiday for adults. And many are sure that it is not one to be celebrated at the office. And in many places outside of the U.S., it is a non-event. But here we are, about to celebrate it again. Ask any zombie, ghoul or clown and you will hear of thousands of ways that Halloween can hurt your career. In my experience, they can be boiled down to three killer categories.
Three ways Halloween can kill your career with a few guidelines to keep you out of the trap:
1) Dressing up like a bumble bee. It doesn’t have to be a bumble bee but any costume that will set you up for humiliation is a killer. One year not long ago I saw the EVP of Finance at a Fortune 500 company prance around all day in a bumble bee costume. He had a great time but he never regained the respect of the department. Some images tend to stick. There is no time when how others perceive you takes a day off. If you are up for a promotion, this rule is all the more important. If you are in a position of authority, dress up accordingly.
The converse is true also. Don’t make fun of the boss. Don’t dress up as the boss. It may sound like a good idea to you and the co-workers but the boss may or may not have a sense of humor.
2) Dressing up like a Miley Cyrus. It doesn’t have to be Miley Cyrus but she seems to be the poster girl right now for questionable judgment. Any costume that borders on poor taste or is offensive is weird in the office and will be long remembered and can kill your career. Wearing too little is definitely in that category. I know of an Analyst at an investment banking firm who dressed up as a French maid and never recovered. No puritanical judgment here but sexy nurses, sexy zombies and sexy Homer Simpson are all inappropriate for the office.
I shouldn’t have to mention this in 2013 but anything that can be interpreted as racist, sexist, homophobic or offensive is just plain stupid. If you have to ask, the costume is out of bounds and should be tossed in the trash.
3) Getting drunk. Anything mentioned in number one and number two is only made worse after a few drinks. The killer accelerator works when drunk and in offensive costumes.
Is Halloween just for kids to have fun dressing up and trick or treating? Or is it a time to have fun and show your co-workers a creative side? It’s probably both. And why not have a little candy and celebrate instead of same old, same old and have the Grouchy glasses handy. It’s just those costumes and the adult beverages that can linger.
Just remember, in a day dominated by video, don’t let Halloween be the holiday that comes back to haunt you and kill your career.