What does Halloween have to do with workplace performance and productivity?
Some of my favorite memories of Halloween fun have to do with the workplace — whether as an employee in that workplace, as a customer, or as someone visiting the workplace for some other reason. My own experiences have convinced me that the theories are true: sharing enjoyable times with customers, clients and coworkers does, indeed, improve working relationships and increase customer goodwill.
Halloween celebrations are particularly good for workplace good times because they don’t have the stresses around them like Christmas celebrations are prone to. They’re not associated with alcohol and the many embarrassing blunders that happen around New Year’s celebrations. And there are no politics involved as there may be around 4th of July celebrations. Nope. Halloween is just about fun and a little bit of weirdness. Generally quite safe for the workplace. (Just don’t plan on wearing masks if you costume up for working in or patronizing, say, a bank.)
Let me give you a couple of examples of good uses of the Halloween theme to make better relations and create goodwill in the workplace:
A couple of years ago, we went out to a restaurant for dinner on Halloween. It was decorated for the theme of the evening and most of the servers were costumed. Even the menus were especially designed and the food was described in the terms of the theme.
We were regular patrons of that restaurant, but that night we met more servers than we had known before and got to know all of them much better because all the servers took the time to do something for each of the patrons, whether on their stations or not, in order to show off their costumes and introduce themselves. We got to know some of the cooks, because they had to come out of the kitchen to show off their costumes and their creative themes in the presentations of their special menu items. Patrons talked to one another across tables to comment on the costumes and special fare. For that evening, that local restaurant created a family atmosphere just by using that theme.
Everyone who attended that evening remembered everyone else who participated very well. We all greeted one another as we might do with neighbors whenever we encountered each other there or in the neighborhood. And for a while after, we actually went to the restaurant more frequently than before. All because people wore costumes, made funny food and had a good time together.
If you’re thinking that it’s easy to do that in a restaurant, but that it would be hard to do in an office, consider this example:
In one organization where I was employed, we were constantly encouraged to think of organization as a second family. And, yep, they even did the family picnic thing in the summertime. People were reasonably friendly, but there were the usual office politics and the occasional description of some boss as “the jerk you never want to work for.” It was the kind of office where some employees had cubicles and some shared offices (and of course management always got private office space.)
The first Halloween I was there, I saw how seriously they took their own words about trying to create a family atmosphere. At lunch time, everyone who could do so stopped working and started helping with the decorating for the party that would start a bit after school let out. Everyone was encouraged to go get their kids, costume them up and bring them back for a bash.
There were the usual carved pumpkins, candles, and wreaths and so on. But there was also the largest pumpkin I’ve ever seen. The theme of the party was a take off from the “Peanuts” comic strip’s idea of “the great pumpkin.” Members of management dressed up as “Peanuts” characters and had little picture books the organization had made up to read Halloween stories to the kids. Everyone had candy in their cubicles or offices to hand out to the kids when they did a “trick or treat” tour of the offices. Almost all the lighting was by candles. That evening, we were a family. And we ate too much sugar.
The camaraderie lasted for quite a while. We worked together much more easily and efficiently for weeks after. We talked about whether or not it was possible to distill and bottle the goodwill.
So, are you thinking about what you can do in your workplace for Halloween?