As any horror fan will tell you, the real scary stuff happens against a backdrop of everyday normalcy. In a movie, that might mean the killer popping out of the bushes unexpectedly. In your real life and career, it usually means watching good intentions go horribly wrong.
The scariest office horror stories are the ones that happen when employees are doing their best … but their best isn’t quite good enough. Maybe they lack information or perspective. Maybe no one ever told them that a relaxed dress code doesn’t mean “wear your club clothes to the office.”
Don’t want to terrify or annoy your favorite colleagues? Avoid these things:
1. The Inappropriate Halloween Costume
This is obviously a big one today, and something you probably don’t have to worry about the other 364 days of the year. But on Halloween or other costume-y occasions, it’s important to remember that work parties are more about work than about partying. That means leaving your revealing attire for after hours.
In addition, you should make sure that any costume you choose doesn’t cross the line into cultural appropriation. Not sure whether your idea is inappropriate? The easy shorthand is this: a culture isn’t a costume. So skip the “Native American Princess,” geisha or ninja costume.
2. The Unofficial Day Off
Office parties are basically the grownup equivalent of the day in school when the science teacher rolled in the TV and announced that the class was watching a movie. It’s exciting to get a little break from the day-to-day.
But don’t let it go to your head. You’re still at the office to work and you need to get stuff done. Take some time to connect with your team, but don’t toss out the whole day. Your boss and clients will notice.
3. Having Just a Little Too Much Fun
Ah, shades of the office holiday party. The same rules apply: have fun … but not too much fun. If your coworker who bartends on the weekends gets permission to try out some spooky-themed adult beverages on the crew, enjoy but don’t overindulge.
The same goes for the candy. It might seem like a harmless return to childhood to methodically work your way through a bag of fun-sized Kit-Kats, but you won’t be having too much fun when you get sick to your stomach. Embrace moderation and skip the productivity-killing sugar crash.
4. Being a Stick-in-the-Mud
Professional life is one big balancing act, and that’s never truer than it is on Halloween. While you don’t want to burn a whole workday on holiday fun, you also shouldn’t skip the festivities entirely. It’s called team-building for a reason — if you skip out on building the team, you miss a big part of working with a group. Don’t be surprised if your boss is less impressed by your productivity than annoyed that you’re not participating.
5. Taking Halloween a Bit Too Seriously
Alison Green of Ask a Manager has answered some doozies of reader questions in her time, but this might take the seasonally appropriate cake:
I’ve recently been contacted by a supervisor in our company who has heard that one of his subordinates has been regularly “cursing” both him and his daughter (who also works for our company). By “cursing,” I don’t mean using foul language. I mean she considers herself something of a witch and has been literally putting curses on these people.
These people don’t generally put much stock in that sort of thing, but they are starting to get scared to work with this woman (especially the daughter). Not exactly sure how to approach the “witch”…. Suggestions?
Green’s answer is here. (And it is excellent. Quote: “Tell her clearly that it’s not acceptable to threaten to curse or otherwise harm anyone she works with, that threatening people with harm — regardless of the means — is grounds for termination, and that this is a one-time warning but if it happens again, you’ll let her go.”)
Needless to say, you don’t want to be this person. Threatening coworkers = bad.
6. Producing Ectoplasm … From Your Face
This is a horror story for the whole of cold and flu season.
“Currently working with a person who has had a sinus infection since November 2016. That’s right: wet, chunky coughs, nine hours a day, five days a week, for going on ten months,” wrote 84th_legislature at Reddit. (h/t: The Ladders.) “She does not leave the team area for coughing attacks, she just retches up whatever it is and gulps it back down.”
If you’re sick, stay home. Yes, even if it means missing the Halloween party.
7. Haunting Your Colleagues
There’s a difference between following up and stalking your coworkers. Aim for the former and avoid the latter at all costs.
Hounding folks doesn’t work when you’re trying to get a job and it doesn’t work once you’re hired. Give your coworkers space and they won’t act like they’ve seen a ghost when you pop into the break room.
Tell Us What You Think
What office horror story would you add to this list? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.