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When Your Workplace Is Too Professional For Fun

I hope you get to have a little bit of Halloween fun at work today. After the crazy year we've had, we deserve it!

But what if your employer doesn't "do" Halloween? A new survey finds roughly 70% of employees surveyed celebrate Halloween at work by wearing a costume, bringing food and/or having a party.

However, more than one-quarter of employees surveyed (28%) work for employers who do not let them celebrate Halloween at work. So much for your super-cool roller ghost costume, right?

While you were walking into the office this morning dressed like the Oscar Mayer wiener, chances were good that an employee working for another company saw you and wished their employer would let them wear a costume, too!

Most business articles discuss the HR risks of offensive Halloween costumes, but what are the risks of not allowing employees to celebrate Halloween -- or any other holiday, for that matter -- in the name of "professionalism"? This is the office that won't tolerate any sort of celebratory distraction, whether it's employee birthdays, major holidays or any other, random milestone. Employees are there to work, not to play! They can celebrate things on their own time, off-site.

What's going on with the workplace that won't allow employees to celebrate at work? Most likely, management views Halloween -- and other holidays -- as a big distraction to overall productivity. Perhaps an employee complained years ago about a co-worker's offensive way of celebrating, and management decided that workplace celebrations are too much of a legal risk.

Congratulations, your workplace has become like today's playgrounds, where the fun stuff has disappeared. Goodbye, tall teeter totters and big, fabulous merry-go-rounds. All we're left with now are three-foot high monkey bars and one short, boring slide. And don't you dare think about climbing up the slide, either!

Sigh. It's so easy to lose our sense of fun. We have to work at it now. The workplace needs random bouts of celebration to keep employees interested in the work, and by extension, interested in the company. Workplace celebrations are an investment in employee morale and well-being. Besides, a little dinosaur ping-pong never hurt anybody.

What if you're a new manager who would like to change your workplace's entire approach to holidays and milestones by, you know, celebrating a few of them?

Start small, and build from there. It's going to take some time and patience to change an office culture that has completely forgotten how to have fun. Maybe you could purchase a sheet cake once a month to celebrate that month's birthdays, for example. You could plan a holiday cookie exchange, a potluck or create a coloring book mural. Anything that says that having some fun at work is okay.

Ask employees for their input too. Once the initial shock wears off -- you mean, we can actually have some fun AT WORK now?! -- they will offer great ideas that you can build on over time. It's worth the effort.

If you're interviewing for a job, you might ask what employees do for fun occasionally. How does the company celebrate milestones and events throughout the year? Is this a fun place to work? The answer could tell you a lot about the company culture, and whether or not it would be a good fit for you.

If the office next door isn't having any Halloween fun, then stop by to ask if they would like some candy. It's an act of neighborly good will, a way to meet your fellow professionals. In the process, you're letting them know that there's a world of fun outside their four, ahem, very professional walls.

They already suspect fun is happening at your workplace, however, since they saw you walking across the parking lot this morning dressed head to toe like a hot dog. Always remember, you're one of the lucky ones who can dress like this without management having a giant beef with you. That counts for something, right? Happy Halloween!


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