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10 Office Halloween Costumes and What They Say About Your Coworkers

Topics: Work Culture
Courtesy of Anne Holub

Whether you spend six months planning how to get spoopy like David S. Pumpkins or just slap a bow on your head and call yourself Minnie, the Halloween costume party is a must-do in some offices.

Sorting out how costumes reflect on a coworker’s personality can be tricky, but if you’re lucky, you can gain some insights to their inner feelings. Plus, they could learn a thing or two about you from your costume selection.

Here’s a quick primer on what’s going on underneath that polyester cape:

1. The Legit Cosplay

Your usually straight-laced boss rolls up on Halloween day in a no-lie, fully camera-ready Star Wars costume. While you find a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor, consider the motivation behind this. It’s not a money thing (though that costume will probably come out year after year due to the investment). Instead, he’s showing you that he’s got A: interests outside of work you might not have considered and B: a real “team player” approach. Applause all around.

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2. The Good Witch

Your coworker seems like a real buzzkill most days. She’s always getting on the team about deadlines and budgets. But then she comes in as a “good witch” not a “bad witch.” Instead of scoffing, maybe take a second to consider this: is she really good at heart? Are you guilty of letting deadlines slide and getting in the way of your team’s success? Maybe you need a little moment to thank the good witch for keeping you on task, Dorothy. Get on that yellow brick road already.

3. The Team/Team Costume

“We’re all dressed as Finding Nemo!” or “The Breakfast Club!” or “Dominos!” Instead of rolling your eyes at the “team costume” entries, think about how hard this was to put together for a group of people who are pretty busy as it is. They’re coordinated, possibly demonstrating some after-work team building, and they even kind of pulled it off!

Team costumes don’t have to be cheesy. Instead, think of them as expressions of your ability to play nice with others.

4. The Obscure Movie Character

You know that Jared from IT put a lot of time into that costume, but you just don’t know what he’s dressed as. Rather than passing over him, take a moment to engage in (gasp) conversation about his choice. Maybe this is a way for a shy person to express their personality without putting things too far out there. Use it as an ice breaker! And if you’re Jared from IT, don’t roll your eyes when someone doesn’t get the reference, dude.

5. The Immobile Behemoth

Mary Jane shows up with four boxes full of supplies, and spends the first two hours constructing her costume, which, when it’s finished, just looks like a giant box. Oooookay? Mary Jane isn’t going downstairs for the afternoon Halloween cookies and punch gathering. She’s hiding out in that box and doing her TPS reports. Just leave Mary Jane alone, alright?

6. The Barely Tried

The guy with the sharpied bow tie taped to his shirt. The girl with the nametag that says “Wonderwoman.” The boss with the jack-o-lantern sticker he clearly took from his kid’s lunchbag the day before. These are all partial efforts to say “I participated” but what it really shows is “I barely care.” Do or do not, there is no try. For Halloween, it’s important to either jump in with both feet or just stay on the sidelines. When you do something as cheesy as this, it’s only a signal that you’d like a participation trophy, but you’re not actually doing the work. Think about how that reflects on your budget report you just pulled out of thin air, huh?

7. The Fully Functioning Creation

Beep boop beep! The guy from design has a completely homemade and fully operational Transformers costume that he’s spent a year putting together. It’s amazing. It’s a show stopper. Think about what he’s tasked with at work normally. Do those coupon designs really tap into his creative potential? Maybe he should be put on more challenging and interesting projects!

8. The Offensive

From ethnic stereotypes to cultural appropriation, just don’t do it — in the office or elsewhere. Here’s a shortlist of costumes you shouldn’t even consider, unless they’re a legit part of your own personal cultural heritage (and if that’s the case, it’s not a costume, and you don’t wear it on Halloween). Geisha, sugar skull (i.e. Day of the Dead), Native American, blackface, anything that mocks another person’s sexuality or religion, something “old timey” that wouldn’t be considered appropriate now [see blackface above]. You can ask yourself these eight questions when trying to consider a costume’s appropriateness.

9. The NSFW

If you describe your costume as “sexy ____” just leave it at home. End of story.

10. The Non-Participant

On the other side of the barely tried is the “not even going to leave my desk today” guy or gal. You don’t have to participate in the office Halloween shenanigans, but it’s nice to be a team player. Go down, have a cookie, vote in the contest and give a round of applause for those who participate. It’s nice. And you get a cookie.


Do you have a great Halloween costume idea for the office? Share your story in the comments or share photos with us on Twitter.

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