In my neighborhood, Halloween is the big holiday of the year. We have Easter parades, of course, and nicely lit palm trees for Christmas, but Halloween is the blow-out, overdressed, crazy over the top opportunity to show off. But what about dressing up in a Halloween costume for the big day when the office is your destination and the party is in your workplace?
Well, as usual, that depends. And, as usual, it depends on what you want to convey. If this is a sponsored workplace tradition, it’s important to take part. Your team expects this of you and you can’t sit this one out without looking a little disapproving. But even if your boss shows up all Luke Skywalker or Lady Gaga, it doesn’t mean that you are best served by adopting the same attitude. That is never true; you should not always do what others do.
1. Whatever you decide, it should be planned in advance. Don’t wake up on the morning of the day in question and start groping around for things that look like a cowhand or a clown might wear them. It just looks half-assed, and that’s not what you want to convey. I hope.
2. Flexibility is good, however. Most often, there are pockets of social enthusiasm in workplaces, and you need to move among them with ease if you want to move ahead. They might be stratified (all the upper level people wear funny hats, while the clerks go wildly complex), or departmental (did you see the Harry Potter video that Marketing created?). Your challenge is to invent your own strategy that somehow fits both.
3. The party can come to a screeching halt, however, in the form of a crisis involving something that requires your serious attention. In that case, having to remove layers of cat makeup before calling a meeting will not add to your credibility. Nor will talking to your boss or anyone else’s, the press, a subordinate, or a customer, while wearing it along with the usual whiskers and perky ears. So, easily removable (mask) has always made sense to me.
4. You can make your reputation as a Creative Type on this particular occasion. Or a Resourceful. That is actually a very good thing, no matter what your field is–stuff like that can stick. Detailed execution, beyond the reasonable, can be tricky, however. Just make sure your work is way ahead of schedule before you sew all those feathers on Big Bird.
5. Taste is a big deal. Racial or other stereotypes, large expanses of exposed skin, political statements, social stereotypes, and the other usual suspects have a tendency to stick to you in a bad way. If your costume involves a female wig and you are male, makeup to change your skin color, fishnet stockings, any kind of sexual apparatus or organ facsimile, a mask intended to look like a current or former president, or anything that looks like anyone’s religious garb, you might want to rethink that. If you truly feel compelled, you might want to rethink your career goals.
Office parties always look so benign. They aren’t. These rituals are important, how you handle them is important.
Here’s my best advice: Go for the Highly Creative conceptually and Neatly Executed, Not Overdone. And Removable–like a cereal box (grains are rarely controversial), with passable business casual underneath. Mask instead of make-up. Wear it for the festivities, park it in your office and periodically offer to let others try it on.
Just in case it is true that a sugar high makes you excitable, a little foggy, and talky, try to stay away from the treats at the office. And do not jump out from anywhere and yell “Boo!” to anyone while at the office.