For children, Halloween is a fun time to be imaginative and become anyone you want to be. Adults have co-opted this holiday for their own purposes, and some even bring their fantasy selves to work in the form of a dress-up day. Is it a good idea to dress up at work for Halloween or a big mistake? The answer is “it depends.” It depends on where you work and what you plan to wear.
Workplaces Where Dressing Up Is Part of the Job
In some workplaces, dressing up is expected and considered part of the organization’s culture. For example, if you’re a teacher, and everyone dresses up as part of a “book character dress-up day” around Halloween, you wouldn’t want to be the one teacher who doesn’t play along. That will make you look uncreative at best and lazy at worst.
On the other hand, if you choose inappropriately provocative attire or otherwise misfire with your costume, you’ll be in even worse hot water. Fishnet stockings are not the best choices for a school teacher, even if your goal is to look like Fantine from Les Miserables. You may also want to think twice about donning the persona of a political figure, even an historical one. In other words, coming in as Hitler or Syrian President al-Assad isn’t likely to win favor.
Another group that may be expected to go all out for Halloween is wait staffs in casual restaurants. In that case, depending on your clientele, it’s possible you can actually embrace your sexy alter-ego and not risk your job. However, keep in mind, if you win “sexiest costume of the night,” expect that image to be a part of your workplace persona long after Oct. 31 passes.
Another factor to consider: will your costume elicit controversy and conversation you’re not prepared to manage? If you dress up as “Obamacare” or Speaker Boehner, don’t be surprised if people on the opposite end of the political spectrum have some choice comments. Just as it’s not generally a great idea to discuss politics at work, similarly, it’s not a great idea to wear your politics to work, even on Halloween.
When Dressing Up Is Unlikely to Win You Friends
Do you really want your insurance broker or attorney handing you important papers to sign while dressed as Gumby or Big Bird? The same rules go for most client-facing roles where the business at hand is serious, and the attire needs to match. Even if Halloween is your favorite day of the year, do not call your judgment into question by being the only one who takes it as an opportunity to break out of the traditional dress code to go a little crazy.
Sometimes, the role you play at work will dictate whether or not you should dress up. For example, the call center team members who never see clients may be able to have some fun on Halloween, while the front-facing sales staff need to play it more conservatively.
How to Decide How to Celebrate – Or Not!
If you’re new at work, ask your boss or a trusted co-worker if people dress up for Halloween. If you’re a sleuth, you can peruse back issues of the company newsletter to see if Halloween is depicted in past communications. If dressing up isn’t on the agenda, don’t let it put you in a bad mood; it’s possible you can celebrate the day in other ways at work by wearing a fun accessory. Just make sure you don’t distract your co-workers with a flashing necklace or by carrying around something that moans or you’ll attract the kind of attention you don’t want.
Want to know a great way to get in the spirit of the holiday in many offices? Bring in a baked good or other sweet treat to offer co-workers. As long as you’re not pushy, and recognize some people are dieting, have food allergies or aversions or don’t believe in Halloween, you can’t lose.
We are showing you how to eat, drink and be scary this Halloween season.
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Originally appeared on AOLJobs.com.