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Let The Masquerade Begin!

Halloween springs from a number of practices that would be considered highly inappropriate for the workplace: disguises, begging, trickery, and “as reported in newspapers from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s…a form of extortion, with reactions ranging from bemused indulgence to anger.”[1]

creepy halloween costumesPhoto by Eduardo Pavon, Wikimedia Commons

Halloween as we know it today evolved from the ancient Celtic harvest celebration Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”); when the world of the living and the world of the dead were thought to overlap, allowing those who had passed to return and wreak havoc. Costumes and masks were worn to mimic and appease evil spirits and prevent the worst potential calamities. The practice of begging from door to door for treats was a later addition.

Regardless of its ghoulish and inappropriate antecedents, it can be a lot of fun to bring some Halloween traditions into the office. Here at TribeHR, we are looking forward to:

  • a costume contest with prizes for Most Creative, Best Execution, Best Over All, and People’s Choice;
  • a pumpkin carving contest where carving partners will compete in similar categories;
  • lots of Halloween treats, and
  • spine-tingling, scary movies.

Almost everyone loves to dress up in costume; those who don’t, still have a blast watching the masquerade (and snapping photos for future leverage!) So far, our office Halloween celebrations have been a great success: fostering engagement and camaraderie, building stronger working relationships, providing a release valve for day-to-day pressures, boosting creativity and contributing to a positive work environment.

If you decide to bring Halloween into your workplace this year, here are a few basic guidelines to keep any evil spirits out of the equation.

Communicate: Let everyone know well in advance that you have plans for a Halloween Bash at work. Share pictures and videos of prior years’ events so new people know what to expect. Be clear about timing, planned activities, costume limitations, work expectations, etc. Encourage participation without pressure.

Provide options: Some people won’t want to wear a costume. Include some other elements in your Halloween activities so those who don’t dress up can still participate and feel involved. Make sure everyone understands that costumes are for fun and are entirely optional.

Set costume parameters: You might think that adults would know what is (and isn’t) suitable in a costume they will wear at work. You’d be wrong. Be clear about what is not acceptable, for example, avoid costumes that are politically charged, ethnically or religiously discriminatory, too revealing/sexual, or which target a co-worker. If employees are expected to interact with customers while in costume, make sure they take that into consideration. Depending on your work environment, you may need additional guidelines; such as no guns or other weapons as props if you work in a bank or an airport!

Avoid (or strictly monitor) alcohol: Most workplace Halloween celebrations happen during the workday with business proceeding as usual. If you put people in costume and give them access to alcohol, a light-hearted party can quickly deteriorate into a masquerade “rife with decadence, gluttony and a large amount of lust.”[2] This won’t go over well with customers and could lead to a wide range of messy consequences.

Consider making it a family affair: If your workplace demographic includes families with children, working in an hour or two at the end of the day when kids can be brought in to share in the revelry is a great way to increase engagement because “engaging the family of an employee impacts the commitment, connection and the discretionary effort of an employee.” Besides, there are few things more adorable than kids in costume![3]

children in costume sitting on a sofaPhoto by D’Arcy Norman, Wikimedia Commons

Traditions bind families, communities and cultures together. Halloween, having steadily increased in popularity over the past decade, is now the second biggest decorating holiday in North America after Christmas and it’s not just kids who are emjoying it.[4] A well executed, annual Halloween celebration can be a fun, stress-relieving, team-building tradition in your workplace.  I know it is for us!


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[2] Savannah Cox, The Glamorous And Gruesome History Of The Masquerade Ball.

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