HR Tips for Handling Halloween

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.

About the Author

Erin Palmer


Rolet online

Ollie Bizarro Everything is very open with a precise description of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!



Although I would not be in favor of costumes at work, your article was very enjoyable and made me smile. As you point out, people seem to have many different opinions about the appropriateness of Halloween costumes in the workplace and in my experience these preferences vary somewhat based on geographical location. I do get a kick out of watching kids dressing up and going “Trick or Treat”.
I’m sure you will enjoy Halloween regardless of what costume you choose to wear.


Erin Palmer

I am definitely all about the creative costumes! One year when I was a child, I dressed as a bunch of grapes. I wore all purple, rubbed purple eyeshadow all over my face and my mom pinned purple balloons all over me. It was a great costume… until I tried to squeeze through a haunted house and the balloons started popping. At least I made the haunted house scarier!

Andrea Ballard

I am still traumatized from the year one of my co-workers showed up as Pinhead (a character from Hellraiser). It was terrifying.

Erin – my favorite costume one year was a guy who dressed as the floor of a movie theater. He pasted crumpled candy wrappers, empty soda cups, and pocorn all over his outfit, which was just black felt (to represent a floor). On his head was a crushed, empty popcorn box he had made into a hat. It was pretty clever – and cheap to make! And people had fun trying to figure out what it was. Good luck!

Erin Palmer

Update: I found out that my job has a Halloween costume contest… now the pressure is on! What to be, what to be?


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