Though I am an adult, I love dressing up on Halloween. To be honest, I relish any excuse to put on a costume. I’m the friend who begs you to have a themed birthday party so I can wear a feather boa or pirate eye patch without feeling ashamed.
Halloween can be a lot of fun, but it can also cause some potential problems in the workplace. No one wants to see their boss in a hula skirt and coconut bra. HR professionals can avoid a lot of hassle by planning and creating specific Halloween policies.
Be ready for conflicting opinions
You’re not likely to get a consensus on how your employees feel about Halloween. There may be people begging for a party while others find the holiday offensive. Prepare yourself for the mix of opinions that you will likely be confronted with. Regardless of what you decide, I wouldn’t make participation mandatory. Forcing your employees into clown wigs will not make for a happy staff.
Make costume guidelines that match the culture of your company
If you work for a company that has happy hour on Fridays, dressing up for Halloween is probably encouraged. If you work in a very serious corporate environment that has client meetings all day, you might decide that dressing up would be a distraction. Whether or not to allow costumes depends entirely on your company’s culture. If you do allow employees to dress up, make guidelines for them to follow.
I used to teach Mommy and Me classes. Dressing up was encouraged for the entire week of Halloween. I came in the first day dressed as a fairy, ready to teach my one year olds. It seemed like a safe costume choice for the audience, but one look at my blue wig, crazy eye makeup and gigantic wings made all twelve babies begin hysterical crying. Later in the week when I dressed like a lion, my four year olds loved it. Your costume guidelines should consider who your employees are and what they will be doing.
Decide whether or not to include families
Nothing is cuter than a baby dressed as a tiny owl. Or a toddler in a pumpkin costume. Or a child dressed like a cowgirl. Basically, any small person in any sort of costume is sure to be adorable. Working parents might want to show off their little elephants and California rolls (which is what my nephew and niece wore their first Halloween). You have to decide whether or not to allow children in the workplace.
Some offices allow their employees to bring their kids for some cubicle to cubicle trick-or-treating. Let your employees know whether or not their families can be included in Halloween celebrations. Again, your company’s culture and business practices will be a huge factor in whether or not this is appropriate. Though children in costumes are sweet, they also might be distracting. Some employees might not want to be interrupted with trick-or-treaters when they are trying to work.
Personally, I will come to work on October 31st in an appropriate costume (any suggestions are welcome). However, I won’t judge my peers that choose to dress in their normal clothes. Halloween is subjective, so though I find it delightful, I don’t expect you to. Even if I am the only person dressed up, I’ll wear my costume with pride. It can’t be worse than the year that I worked a ten hour shift at a hotel only realize when I got home that my wings were on upside down the entire time.
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: Erin Palmer works with Villanova University on programs such as Masters in Human Resources. She happily writes for a living and enjoys mentioning that fact to people who think that Writing and English majors will never find a job. She loves to meet new people, so reach out to her on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.
The photo on page 25 shows your marketing department playing ping-pong in the cafeteria. The caption next to your director’s shirt reads, “No tie required, but ironing is encouraged.” Another picture includes your shipping department filling out their March Madness brackets and the description reads, “Playing for fun only, no money changes hands. Aren’t they a well- groomed looking crew?” The receptionist’s picture has an arrow pointing to her legs with this tag: “Nylon hose is optional. We left that back in the 1970s and we welcome your comfort.”
These pictures are not pinned up in the storage room behind the 5-gallon water bottles or in the lunchroom where they’re sure to be bleached by the sun’s rays. Rather, they are strategically and playfully illustrating the company’s culture and policies in a book created BY the employees to get buy-in FROM the employees.
Is this book a small toy company’s employee manual? No, being creative and engaging when it comes to company culture and policies is not confined to small, edgy design firms. Any company, from Fortune 500 manufacturing and leading technology giants to your local start-up can benefit from tossing their stale, facts-only, what-not-to-do handbooks in favor of something human and real. This method allows you to create a culture handbook with greater transparency and buy-in.
When you have a culture handbook that is filled with photos of the employees sharing comments about a positive, productive work environment and what that really means to them, you are establishing and sustaining your company culture. It’s a fun (and sometimes funny) way to engage people in culture creation.
It’s not Human Resource’s job to craft a company’s culture, it is a privilege given to each department. Assign them the responsibility for a 3-4 page spread. They should take photos of their team members, write out what they do, and how they contribute value to the hum of the company. Of course, each department’s contribution must pass the “corporate” legal experts, but it will do so in a way that supports commitment over compliance.
You can even address your company mission (and pet-peeves) in a playful way. For example, let’s say one of your missions is that you want the company, as a whole, to be helpful – to each other, your clients and your vendors. That’s a great mission, but what does it mean?
What things are you doing, saying and projecting that are measurably helpful? Is it helpful to leave a half-dozen dirty coffee mugs in the sink right next to the working dishwasher, expecting someone else to load it (does your mom work here)? What does it do to the company culture when no one takes responsibility for the overflowing trashcan? Is that behavior congruent with your “helpful” company mission?
What if you had a photo of the used “K-cup” in the coffee maker and crafted a pithy caption that illustrated how important it was to take responsibility and be helpful? It would be far more effective and better received than pointing fingers and putting up obnoxious signs on the kitchen wall. The fact that the mugs, the trash, and the K-cup made it into the handbook at all sends a strong message.
When the culture handbook is published, not only does each team want to see their own pictures, they want to look through everyone else’s photos and read policies in the form of fun captions in the language of your company. Your culture handbook will still comply with Federal and State regulations, but it is now an engaging document that people will want to read and even want to embrace.
Photo credit iStockphoto
A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about HR. He said that my job must be really difficult since no one trusts HR.
I always find this topic quite interesting because it’s true.
I was in a meeting around culture and inclusion at my employer and I was the “Lone HR Ranger” and there was a lot of beef about how people don’t trust HR.
So, with this is mind, I said to my friend:
“I don’t think there are a lot of people in my field who would admit to this, but I think people distrust HR because in most organizations HR serves management first, rather than the associate.”
I find this to be so incredibly true in my experience. Very rarely do we take the extra time to find out both sides to the story. We don’t create a 360-degree vision while solving employee relation issues. Sometimes the metrics speak for themselves: Are they meeting their numbers? Are customers complaining? Are they actually working? In those cases, fine, I get it. That’s clearly a performance management issue there. Case closed.
But, stepping back and thinking through conversations I’ve had with friends who don’t work in HR at my employer and with friends at other organizations, people flat out do not feel comfortable bringing issues to light to HR because they believe their job will be in jeopardy, no one will listen or the story will be turned around on them.
I personally find myself on the fence around this issue.
There isn’t a perfect answer. One side of me says, “HR is here for the employee.” The employee is obviously defined as management AND non-management. The “employee” is anyone who works for the employer. I’m not writing this because I feel like I have the answers. In fact, I don’t have any answers at all.
However, here are some things to think about:
- We have to create a 360-degree vision around employee-related issues in HR.
- How well do we honor the confidentiality of the employee? Are we giving them reason to not trust HR?
- Do we create a sense of safety so they feel like they CAN trust HR? How often have you received a phone call where the employee doesn’t even want to tell you his/her name?
- Are we listening as an ally with the employee? I mean, really listening. Listen first, talk second.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again, I do not have the answers and this is only my experience. So tell me – does your HR organization work mostly for management or the associate or BOTH?
Can HR be trusted?
Photo credit iStock Photo
My primary online community (other than this one, of course) is a place called Metafilter. I”ve been involved there for more than ten years now. In addition to cataloging “the best of the web,” the site hosts a question/answer forum called Ask Metafilter. Unlike Yahoo Answers or so many failed similar sites, the responses to queries on AskMe are almost uniformly thoughtful, on point, and informed.
For instance, in response to a typical Dear Abby-type question regarding an acquaintance asking to stay with a MeFi member in their NYC apartment for ten days, Andrea Donderini, aka Tangerine, posted a response that I’ve thought about for months. She said,
This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.
In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.
In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.
The writer cuts a cultural distinction that subtly affects all of our careers, workplaces, and families. Too focused on making the Ask, and you’re seen as a boor. Too focused on timing the Guess just right, and you’ll get run over.
Add that framework to an understanding of the power dynamics in any typical workplace, and you’re well on your way to clarity regarding some of the reasons conversations regarding performance, pay, and other delicate matters get weird.
I can think of dozens of examples where this difference has played out at work, with friends, online, and in volunteer situations. I bet you can, too. A recent example: My “Guess Culture” HR intern had her feelings hurt recently because, in response to a request for some time off, my “Ask Culture” assistant was much more blunt with a “No” than my intern would have been. To my intern, the “No” served primarily as a rebuke that she had made a request at all, and was much more embarrassing than it would have been to my assistant. And discussing it was just pouring salt on the wound – far more painful than just leaving it alone. My assistant is both very assertive and very extroverted, so everything in her wanted to process the upset – while my intern simply wanted to all go away.
When we think about diversity, it’s easy to forget that there are many, many, layers to our differences. The worst thing you can do is to assume that someone wants to be treated as you’d like to be treated – by paying attention to these subtle style differences, you show respect and a willingness to meet your coworkers where they are, rather than where you are.
And you’re welcome for the introduction to Metafilter. Don’t get too addicted!