Trick or Treat. Negotiating Halloween at Work.
Halloween divides people’s opinions, for some it is an important festival to be celebrated whilst others find it offensive. Its growth in popularity has conjured up a number of issues in recent years and you can always expect to see a Halloween horror-story making the news as of 1st November. The workplace can be rife with these due to differing opinions and it can be a tricky celebration to negotiate with employees.
Typically associated with America, Halloween has gradually grown in popularity across the UK and what was once a young-persons festivity is now taking the adult market by storm. Visits to Pumpkin Farms, Ghost Walks, Zombie Runs and Fancy-Dress Parties are just a selection of activities that are increasingly common at this time of year and the celebrations are creeping into the workplace more and more frequently than before.
As an employer or member of an HR department within an organisation, there are a couple of pointers to bear in mind at this time of year, as we head closer to the party season.
Regardless of the organisation, there always needs to be a level of professionalism present during social events and celebrations. Halloween is a particular event that can be the source of controversy, with individuals crossing boundaries and making questionable choices. Office ‘banter’ towards an individual, increased bullying accusations and discriminatory behaviour can become more prominent at this time of year. It may be worthwhile reminding employees of basic workplace expectations and use this as a gentle reminder across the organisation to emphasise zero-tolerance towards certain behaviours.
Fancy Dress is heavily associated with Halloween. Some organisations may use the festival as a fundraising activity and allow employees to dress-up for charity, others will not even contemplate it as an option. Fancy dress and dress-down days can cause an endless set of problems in the workplace and is often the reason they are discouraged. Is the individual in a customer facing role? Is the outfit fit-for-purpose? Does it pose health and safety risks? Can we allow one rule for one team and not another? These are just some of the problems HR have to contend with when approached with such an idea and are really important to evaluate before enforcing.
Individuals beliefs and opinions vary, if an individual does not want to participate with a Halloween- associated activity on any grounds, this should be honoured. This is particularly important for employers because if an employee feels they have been forced into something against their will, they can make a claim against the organisation based on this. This can quickly turn something that was supposed to be ‘good fun’, very nasty.
What can you do if Halloween plays a trick in your organisation?
If you experience any issues relating to Halloween; discrimination, bullying, conduct, etc.you do not have to face it alone. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set-up an initial no-obligation conversation. These issues are not uncommon and help us here whether you are the individual or organisation.