my boss goes overboard for Halloween

A reader writes:

I’ve worked six years for a man who goes way over the top with Halloween. Our office becomes a haunted dungeon with spooky lighting, a disturbing soundtrack, gothic pictures and dust covers, and toys that use sensors to jump out at people and make loud noises. For reasons I don’t understand, my boss loves this.

I hate it. I have PTSD from a bad childhood and the whole thing increases my anxiety. Especially the soundtrack can make me spin out. If I didn’t have an office with a door, I wouldn’t be able to work here.

I’ve thought of asking him not to do it. He probably would stop if I asked — but then he would resent me for years. Maybe forever. I don’t want the damage to my career. I’ve heard several people say they don’t like it or are afraid of the toys, so I’m not the only one. But no one wants to burst his bubble, and there are a handful who enjoy it. I have some earplugs I bought for a music show I ended up not going to and I think I’ll bring them in so I won’t have to hear the soundtrack when I leave my office. Do I have any other options?

I answer this question — and four other Halloween-related questions — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago. You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Do I have to wear a Halloween costume to work?
  • My office keeps pranking my coworker who’s afraid of clowns
  • Wearing a Halloween costume to an interview
  • Does it look childish to take Halloween off?

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. Iga*

    Sigh. There are so many people like LW who have PTSD or trauma that is not technically PTSD, but still severe.

    Those of us who are fortunate enough not have endured that really, really need to stop and think about how things we find NBD might actually be very damaging for someone else.

    It’s high time people had proactive empathy for their fellow man and stopped simply reacting to other fellow travelers on this blue orb.

    1. Just Elle*

      Seriously. My local grocery store has all the employees dress up for Halloween. And I mean, Dress Up. I was shopping last weekend and turned to the right and there was a really, really terrifying looking clown stocking shelves. I about jumped out of my skin, and I’m not even someone who has legitimate fears around such things.

      Why would a company, or even an individual, want to make day-to-day-activities like grocery shopping terrifying for a percentage of the population, just so the other percentage can have fun at their job? And its not like they put a warning out front so people could choose to avoid it, it was just like… SURPRISE! SCARY CLOWNS!

      1. Myrin*

        I can’t stop laughing about “there was a really, really terrifying looking clown stocking shelves” – like, I agree with everything you say and I probably would’ve had a mild anxiety attack if I were faced with such a thing IRL, but that imagery and the way you described it is just hilarious to me.

      2. Pescadero*

        “Why would a company, or even an individual, want to make day-to-day-activities like grocery shopping terrifying for a percentage of the population, just so the other percentage can have fun at their job?”

        It generally isn’t done so folks can have fun at their job.

        It’s because while it is terrifying for a percentage of the population, it is entertaining for an even larger part of their shopping population and they believe it increases customer satisfaction.

        1. Koala dreams*

          I’ve seen retail employees dress up in clothes or accessories that the store itself sells, so I assume it’s for marketing purposes. I don’t think they do it just because it’s fun.

      3. WellRed*

        Why does it need to be done on any other day than halloween? If they insist on this, at least people that might not want to encounter this can stay in on Halloween.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          True… But by staying in, I encountered calls at the door from at least 50 kids in costumes and makeup… Which was not only scary in some cases (!) but also exhausting as I had callers from 5pm till almost 8 (by which time I’d run out of bribes to give them – that’s how I know the numbers).

          And annoyingly, the one caller I was expecting and waiting for (Amazon) didn’t show up!

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Is it sarcasm? Because that’s what Halloween is, kids trick or treating.
            Turn off your light and don’t open the door.

          2. Quickbeam*

            I had an Amazon Prime delivery right in the middle of our Halloween trick or treating (my town has it on Saturday) . It was late and he was petrified. I gave him candy.

    2. Witchy Human*

      It’s hard to do that for everything preemptively, though.

      “I shouldn’t buy this motion-activated dancing witch because it will annoy my coworkers” and “never subject employees to things that are very loud or designed to be startling” should be obvious, but “I shouldn’t put spooky dust covers on books, play certain music or hang gothy posters because of an employee’s traumatic experiences” is not.

      That’s not to invalidate how the LW feels–but triggers can be both valid and non-intuitive. The test is how the boss reacts if he’s asked to tone it down.

      1. Ophelia*

        I think there’s also a distinction between things that are ambient and unavoidable (spooky music, toys that jump out) vs. things that are–for lack of a better word–contained (book jackets, a poster not visible from public spaces, etc.). I’d say that for work in particular, avoiding things that are ambient/unavoidable, whether that’s because they could be trauma triggers, or because they might be irritating, or cause a health issue (air fresheners, perfume, smoking, etc), should be the rule of thumb.

        1. Jamie*

          I am all for avoiding things if it’s causing a problem for someone, but in places where no one has an issue with air fresheners there is no reason to have a stinkier than necessary bathroom. Or ifno one has an adverse reaction to scents I don’t think people should have to avoid all fragrance just because of a rule of thumb.

          1. Aquawoman*

            That puts the burden on the person with the health problem every single time. I know several people who are sensitive to the air freshener someone was using in the bathroom but no one raised it in a way to ask it to stop. Why not have the default be no fragrances and then if everyone buys in to having fragrances, they can?

            1. Jamie*

              If you want others to accommodate a health issue you need to let them know. When things like that come up for me I consider that my responsibility.

              There are so many things that could cause an issue for someone, things most decent people are more than happy to accommodate once they know.

              1. Vicky Austin*

                Yes, this is the way the ADA works. Your boss is under no obligation to sit down with you on your first day of work and say, “Do you have any health issues or disabilities that we need to accommodate for you?” And let’s be realistic, most bosses won’t. If you need accommodations, it’s up to you to advocate for yourself.

            2. Observer*

              Because there is no such thing as “no smells”. And difference fragrances hit different people differently. Same for smells.

            3. Vicky Austin*

              Also, some people have to use fragrances for their own health reasons. For instance, if someone is incontinent, they may have to wear perfume or cologne so they don’t smell like pee.

              1. Flash Bristow*

                Really? Can’t they just wear better protection?

                Otherwise you’re standing at the copier next to someone who smells strongly of perfume AND pee…

              2. Rebooting*

                No, we won’t. We’ll use incontinence products and request accommodations to be able to clean ourselves up if those products aren’t sufficient. Layering scent on top of leakage doesn’t stop you smelling like urine; it just makes you smell like urine and lily-of-the-valley or whatever, and that’s still not a good smell.

      2. JSPA*

        Yep. If the issue is pretty individual, it’s up to the individual to make it known / make the “ask.” Same as for all the other things that people are always allowed to be phobic about…but not because [object X] is objectively scary.

        Not for everyone to be psychic, or never do anything unexpected because it could be a problem for some hypothetical person somewhere in the known universe.

        Especially if what’s generic “spooky music” to you is “Bruckner” or “Holst” or “City of Lost Children soundtrack” to me.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah. I think the problem is that some things are common enough that we can try to come to a social agreement to not do them unless everyone opts in (burning incense, jump scares), but other things are specific/individual enough to require the ask (friend of mine was triggered by the smell of Dawn dish soap, but there’s simply no way to expect an office to know that in advance, so she understood that she was going to have to either use another kitchen or say something), and… we’re nowhere near agreement as to what is in what categories. Even among people who take this seriously.

        I would avoid jump scares and gore, but gothy decorations wouldn’t even register–but other people have different boundaries (in both directions!), and part of the problem is negotiating not just what can and should be accommodated, but what things everyone “should know” not to do when there’s no general cultural consensus there. It would be nice if there were easy clear-cut rules, but there aren’t, or aren’t yet, so some of this requires a conversation.

        (I mean, just think what happens in the AAM threads when food in the office comes up. There is literally no food that I could eat in the office that someone hasn’t objected to somewhere, so we have to go ‘don’t burn the popcorn and don’t microwave the fish and otherwise, just talk to your coworkers because there’s no way around it.’)

    3. Quill*

      Jump scares get me every time because my adrenal gland doesn’t have middle gears anymore. One of the many reasons I prefer the child friendly aspects of halloween.

      1. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

        I am the same way! Yesterday my coworker accidentally kicked her desk and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I really can’t deal with things popping out at me unless I signed up for them by, say, going to the movies to watch a jump-scare type horror movie.

        1. Quill*

          This is why I’m so much more a fan of supernatural horror in books and don’t do movies. Nobody can jump at you through a page!

        2. Shocked Pikachu*

          I have big startle reflex. Do you the dough that is sold in tubes ? And you peel the wrap and then either push spoon down on it or hit it on the counter. And it pops open. I bloody hate those things. I know it’s coming, I totally know and it still gets me. Every. Single. Time.

          1. Jamie*

            YES!! I thought I was the only one! It’s like a damn jack in the box…you know it’s coming but yikes every time!

            But crescent rolls are delicious…sigh

            1. Jaydee*

              As a child, my brother and I had a jack-in-the-box, and it startled me every time it popped. It took ages for me to learn that it played “pop goes the weasel” and popped at the point in the song where the word ‘pop’ would be.

              You’d think knowing the *exact* point when it would pop would help, it still got me. I would just know that I could crank faster through “all around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel” and then get progressively slower through “the monkey…thought it…was all…in…good…fun…” and then flinch as it popped.

          2. Liz*

            yes! me as well. I’m also afraid of blowing up balloons. And popping them. I won’t do it, and i can’t be around anyone else doing it. I think I must have had one pop in my face as a child, although i can’t recall any specific incident. But generally it freaks me out big time.

          3. Jill March*

            Funny tangential story:

            I worked at a grocery store in high school and while gathering carts, I noticed a car with a an elderly woman slumped over the steering wheel. Concerned, I tapped on the window. She sat up startled, opened the door, and frantically explained that she had just been shot and that she could feel her brains coming out of the back of her head.

            A tube of dough in her groceries had suddenly popped and a clump of dough had landed on the back of her head.

            1. I love Jesus but I drink a little*

              Weird. Snopes maintains that it an urban legend but you actually experienced it. I wonder how many times it has happened in real life.

          4. Jaydee*

            I’ve gradually gotten better with this over the years, but it still freaks me out. Like when we were first married, I made my husband open all of them. Now I can do it…but I hold the can at arm’s length and push the tip of the butter knife into the seam sooooooooooo carefully.

            1. Gerber Daisy*

              A butter knife is still too close for me. I use a wooden spoon and whack at it from as far away as possible.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              My mom”s trick: Peel the wrapper then whack the seam against a counter corner. Hit it hard & fast and there’s no startling pop — just the feel of a whack you control.
              I think my mom got out her aggression on those things.

              1. Johnny Tarr*

                Ha! I’ve heard these called “whop biscuits” – you whop them against the countertop to open them.

          5. AdminX2*

            The only way to handle those is pull the paper then WHACK it on the edge of the counter until it pops. You control the can!

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        OMG, this is me now, too! I feel like I *used* to have those middle gears. Where did they go? (looks under the couch)

        1. Shocked Pikachu*

          The passage of time has worn them out… ;) Anyways, I am getting little depressed by this post because I am realizing all these aversions and weird feelings (not necessary fears just uneasiness) I have developed in past couple of years and I realize I am turning into a flipping mess. Except the startle thing, I always had that.

          1. nonegiven*

            I knew a woman for whom sounds had been irritating her for no apparent reason. For some other reasons, she switched from drinking tap water to bottled water. After just a little while she realized sound wasn’t irritating her any more. Now, I know bottled water is usually tap water from elsewhere, but whatever was in her local water must have had something in it that the bottled water didn’t.

    4. Susie Q*

      I think this is impossible. You never know what is going to be triggering for everyone. And it’s unrealistic to expect people to do this.

      1. Just Elle*

        I agree that we can never possibly know every single trigger for every human we interact with. But, in my experience, taking a moment to stop and think before acting can mitigate 90% of them. Especially if you’re someone who thinks being scared is fun/funny, just recognizing that you’re in the minority would go a long way.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, there are a bunch of very common ones, and normalizing taking care of those makes it easier for people to request help for less common ones.

        2. aebhel*

          Yeah, the problem here isn’t so much that people are failing to predict totally unpredictable triggers, it’s that (at least in some cases), scaring people is the *point*. Unless someone signed up for a haunted house or a horror movie, that’s obnoxious at best.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Just because you can’t predict every single possible trigger doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least keep an eye out for the ones that are major and easily predictable.

        Clowns bother a fair number of people. So do spiders, jump scares, and gore. Those are decent things to warn for.

        1. Arts Akimbo*


          There’s not being able to predict everything, and there’s “I know this list of things bothers a lot of people.” It’s just kind to be considerate of the latter.

          1. Quill*

            I dunno, clowns have coloration often associated with venomous animals (bright primary colors) and they manage to hit the uncanny valley, there’s probably a couple biological reasons that get misapplied to them.

      3. MarsJenkar*

        Question. Are you saying that because we can’t predict all potential triggers, we should address none of them?

        If so, that’s a classic Nirvana fallacy right there. If not, well, you should rethink your phrasing, because that’s what it sounds like to me (and apparently others as well).

        What’s generally being suggested here is addressing the more common and blatant instances, and by doing that much, encourage employees with the less common instances to speak up.

        1. JSPA*

          We should address all of them–and make it explicitly policy to do so, without argument–but not necessarily do so preemptively. Knowing that any ask will be taken seriously, and not get you mocked or shamed for…I dunno, being creeped out by puppies or babies or ducklings or hexagons or the sound of hard candy on teeth or candy floss whatever other random thing…will go a long way towards helping people speak up in comfort.

      4. Mockingjay*

        Maybe instead the environment should be considered?

        Where I expect spooky things: retail/hospitality establishments, haunted houses, costume stores
        Where I don’t expect spooky things: my office
        Level of spookiness: retail/restaurant should be more fun than scary. If the serving staff is wearing cat ears or the springy lighted pumpkin headbands, cool. Haunted houses – you know what you are paying for. Costume stores – I’d lean toward fun if the clientele/stock includes small children.

        Also consider the difference between spooky and horror: spooky is a ghost hanging, orange lights, jack o’lanterns, trick or treat. Horror: dismemberment, blood, gore. I can live with a little spooky at the office. Not horror.

        Aside: I walked in this morning and my (annoying as usual) coworker immediately announced loudly across the cubicles: “Looks like I’m the only one here with Halloween spirit!” Yes, her face paint looks cool. Great for her. I’ve got deadlines and three back-to-back conference calls this morning.

    5. ...*

      Some people also just don’t like being startled and surprised. And work isn’t the place to purposefully scare/startle/freak people out. It just ISN’T. Why can’t we just stick to candy and some animal ears? I enjoy halloween but like, chill, people.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Expressing my heartfelt agreement with this! I love the fun and fantasy of Halloween and don’t mind a little spookiness in decor, etc. But anything that genuinely scares people gets a big “NO” fom me. Being forced to deal with things that jump out at me unpredictably and having me ears assaulted with a scary soundtrack that includes blood curdling screams and moans all day at work? No freaking way!

    6. Amethyst*

      Thank you. I have PTSD & an anxiety disorder & I LOATHE the creepy Halloween stuff, particularly the jump scares. My startle reflex is already highly exaggerated as it is, & I literally cannot handle being scared more than 3 times, tops. That’s being generous & assumes people didn’t intend for me to be scared in the first place. I would be in hysterics after that & would need to be sent home so I can manage my panic attack in a safe place.

      Just reading LW’s description of what she experiences on a daily basis leading up to Halloween was enough to make my anxiety rise to the level of “You need to calm down right now or you’re going to work yourself into a panic attack.”

    7. Cha-cha*

      There seems to be an undercurrent of “quiet people are virtuous, noisy people aren’t” running through this thread. I’d like to push back on that. I don’t think it’s realistic for people to expect that there won’t be loud noises in the modern world. Some fireworks are illegal but aside from that I think you can’t expect the world to accommodate you.

      Of course it’s sad that the poster upthread lost her dog after being exposed to fireworks, but what if instead a car had backfired? If the dog is that skittish, maybe the solution is to build a fence around your yard?

      My ancestors come from a country that celebrates its national day in March. I don’t identify especially strongly as a hyphenated American, but we have happy family memories of setting off fireworks on that day, and I would be upset if someone tried to take those away. It seems like cultural appropriation to say that all fireworks need to be on July 4th.

    8. Alice in Wonderland*

      Loud noises and jump scare decorations can be really upsetting for those that are on the Autism Spectrum or have sensory processing issues as well. Spooky lighting could be difficult for individuals who have low vision who have to use the area as a thoroughfare or schedule meetings with him, as well as the aforementioned difficulties for those with PTSD and other anxiety disorders. I mention the other disorders this could affect to highlight exactly how problematic this level of decoration could be. None of the above are necessarily visible disabilities either, meaning that he wouldn’t know how many in the office were affected. I suspect LW would not be alone in their concerns.

      1. Marmaduke*

        I have epilepsy and PTSD. I was shocked yesterday at how many porches (and one store I visited!) include strobe lights and/or a soundtrack of pained screams and moans in their decor. To me, something like that should be limited to opt-in environments. If that’s the sort of soundtrack the OP is being subjected to… I can’t even imagine. I’d be a wreck.

  2. NowWhat465*

    I used to live outside Salem and would always take Halloween as one of my personal days or WFH just because the commute was such a nightmare (and I didn’t feel like sitting next to a vampire while trying to catch up on emails).

    Most people won’t notice, though my coworkers caught on because they knew what town I lived in and how much the tourists inconvenienced the locals.

    1. NowWhat465*

      Also a lot of people in my office either take off or leave early on Halloween anyways for their kids, to get set up for trick or treaters, avoid traffic and slowdowns because of children in the street, or they have a Halloween event to go to. It’s not seen as childish, it’s seen as adults managing their own lives and schedules.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, I know a ton of people who leave early on Halloween to go trick-or-treating. I deliberately scheduled fieldwork to avoid Halloween so we wouldn’t inconvenience people who wanted to participate in the holiday. To me, that’s not a big deal.

        Also, we almost moved to Salem. During the decision process, everyone I spoke to was like, “Ooh! Halloween!” and I am not into it at all. I was partly dreading the tourist invasion. I would have stayed home right along with you.

        1. CMart*

          Yep – Halloween is sort of a generally accepted “not much work gets done” day at my office. It helps that it’s the last day of our fiscal year so mostly we’re all just biding our time until tomorrow when we all start sprinting for the next 6 weeks.

          Lots of parents who want to take their kids trick or treating before it gets dark. Lots of people who want to be home to hand out candy. Lots of people who look around at those two groups and go “no one is in the office to help me with my work, might as well take it easy too.”

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I used to have a job with a territory. Part of it involved driving through Punxsutawney. You can bet that I made sure I scheduled myself in the other direction on Groundhog Day.

    3. Ophelia*

      I actually took today off because I’ve got two little kids, so that means 2x the school events and kid logistics, and when I saw what a nightmare my schedule was going to be, I just decided to use a vacation day to keep us all sane.

    4. Umiel*

      I used to take off the day after Halloween so I could recover from the Halloween partying. Now when I take the day off it’s just to recover from being old and tired.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      I take vacation days for my birthday and Halloween. I wold work on Tgiving before I work on Halloween. I don’t tell anyone about the birthday, but for Halloween I leave a helper to take my place – one of Gru’s Minions last year, a Minecraft creeper this year. I’d be fine not leaving the helper (and I wouldn’t leave anyone scary, like a clown), but I have a tween kid – I need the time to finish his costume and recover.

      Context: my office does a light ‘feel free to dress up’ but no organized decorating or big parties for Halloween. There was a in-house lunch get together I think.

  3. Bagpuss*

    Yes. That one and #3 about the coworker with the clown fear are horrible.
    (If I worked with the guy who is scared of clowns I would 100% warn him of what is being planned)

        1. Kendra*

          It may not be something he has a medical diagnosis for, you’re right. But there’s a place between “this thing we want to do would be very unwelcome,” and “this thing we want to do would be actually illegal.” where hopefully people would choose NOT to be total jerks, even without the threat of legal action.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Oh, I agree completely! Total jerk move, and I wish people like this would cut it out. I’m just not sure it qualifies as a disability under ADA.

      1. Data Nerd*

        I am also coulrophobic. Severely. Print ads for IT threw me into a tailspin. My senior (not my direct supervisor) thinks it’s hilarious. I finally told her off and my previous deputy head (one level up from her) made her knock it off, probably by telling her I would press harassment charges. But it’s not documented, because I work for local government, not a place where you often encounter clowns in makeup, and I don’t need any accommodations other than somebody making my senior not leave clown stuff in my cubical. So I don’t know that I could press harassment charges.

    1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

      And the part where the boss is a driving force in this clown prank? Why are there so many terrible managers out there? Alison’s been writing this column for a decade!

      1. EPLawyer*

        That’s what got me. It’s bad enough that co-workers thinks its HIGHLARIOUS to make this poor guy jump. But then to have a boss be the driving force. Nothing says your boss doesn’t support you like the boss being the one leading the charge to drive you crazy.

        Honestly not only would I tell him, I would go to HR myself. Provided he doesn’t say “yeah, I know, I am exagerating my fear because the others think its funny, it’s cool.” But anything other than that, report it yourself. Because the next letter is going to be “We had this guy that everybody loved, one day he just walked out and never came back. Won’t return our calls or emails, I don’t know why. It was such a fun office with him around too.”

        1. Blueberry*

          I’m making a note of your plan in case I ever am unlucky enough to encounter a situation like this.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think that the two are comparable. The boss is not trying to make anyone miserable and would stop if asked. So not great, but mostly thoughtless. If they would then resent it, immature.

      #3? Horrible. Deliberately scaring someone, REPEATEDLY is just sadism.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. Fear of clowns is a known, somewhat common phobia. It isn’t “rational”, that’s why it’s a phobia.

      Deliberately triggering someone’s phobia, not just once but repeatedly, is bullying, abusive, and generally a real jerk move.

      Someone needs to talk to HR about it before they have to quit from stress and it becomes a lawsuit.

    4. Tina*

      Hell, I’m dating a professional clown (I’m massively coulrophobic), and he knows perfectly well that if I ever run into him while he’s working, I will scream and run away, and if I’m coming over at an agreed-on time and he still has his face on when I get there, I will never come over again. His clown is even the ‘friendly’ rather than deliberately creepy kind.
      Finding random paint and gear around the place occasionally is bad enough, I’d straight-up die if I met a clown at work.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    The PTSD story still upsets me. Most people don’t want to actively harm others with their fun, so asking to tone it down by removing the soundtrack and limiting sensored toys really shouldn’t bother many. You’re not all “Halloween is cancelled!” by requesting something being changed to make yourself feel safe in your workspace.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Nah. It’s for anyone who wants to celebrate. Not everyone has kids, not everyone who wants kids can have kids either. So it’s pretty icky to say this.

        1. Snark*

          What? No. The point was, even if you’re super ride or die for Halloween, it is not something inherently celebrated during the day or chiefly by adults, so if you can’t bedeck your office with skeletons, that’s probably fine because Halloween is about handing out candy to kids, and maybe going to a haunted house or having a costume party or whatever. It’s not a daytime holidy.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It’s different for everyone. So it’s really about being respectful of everyone in the shared space in the end. Lots of places decorate for the holiday without going extra-spooky.

            There’s over the top for everything, which is rarely a good look but to tell someone to “go home and celebrate with kids” is pretty callous.

            1. Snark*

              Callous? Again, no. Particularly for this holiday, there’s no imposition in someone celebrating it outside work hours, and calling that callous is a little much.

              1. Joielle*

                It’s the kids thing that’s callous, which I think you know. I don’t have or want kids myself, but there are plenty of people trying or unable to have kids, and to tell them “go home and celebrate with your kids”… well, I’m sure you can see how hurtful that is.

                1. Kendra*


                  You can’t always tell what will be a triggering comment or action for someone else, so there’s no real shame in stumbling across one accidentally. But once you’ve been informed of it, you should stop doing the triggering thing, rather than doubling down and insisting that you’ve been misunderstood, or they’re just being a stick in the mud about your Halloween fun, or whatever.

            2. Yorick*

              The point is that you can celebrate Halloween outside of work. Whether it’s with kids or at a costume party at a bar, you can still get your Halloween fix even if it’s forbidden in your office.

          2. Snark*

            Really confused how you went from what I said to chiding me about “not everyone has kids,” but that was pretty close to the sandwich rule, so give people the benefit of the doubt, particularly when they’re generalizing.

              1. Yorick*

                But this is still a sandwich comment. Snark’s point wasn’t really about kids, and I don’t think it was directed at you, but rather at people like the boss in the letter.

                1. J.*

                  “Go celebrate at home and with children” implies that there are children at home? It may not be what Snark intended, but it’s not a totally wild/left field way to take that comment.

                2. Blueberry*

                  Nah, Snark’s comment was directed at any adults with the temerity to celebrate Halloween, and I don’t think it’s beyond the pale to push back and say “No, I’m not doing something wrong by celebrating a holiday while over 18” or “Well, I don’t happen to have kids but I’m not doing something wrong by having fun you decided to disapprove of.”

                  It’s absolutely not necessary to celebrate Halloween by traumatizing people, at work or elsewhere, but it’s also not necessary to command adults to only have fun under certain circumstances in order to prevent that traumaticization.

            1. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

              “… with children, as it is meant to be.”

              Maybe because you said “as it’s meant to be?” As if that’s a rule it something…?

          3. PollyQ*

            Maybe it used to just be a children’s holiday, but over the past 20 years or so, it’s very definitely become an adults’ holiday too.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I usually see a couple of kids in costume on their way to school on Halloween itself. But I see bunches of adults in costume on their way to parties for at least a week prior. Adults are the main participants of the Village Halloween Parade, if I recall correctly. There’s even a Halloween-themed bar on my street. Seems to me that it’s very much a holiday for everyone who wants to join in, no matter their age.

          4. yala*

            Y’know what the best thing about Halloween is?

            There’s no one specific Halloween Rule that everyone has to follow. Everyone celebrates it differently and that’s great. Halloween isn’t *just* about “handing out candy to kids” or any of that stuff. Heck, we NEVER get trick-or-treaters where we live, and it’s still a big holiday for us.

            It is, in fact, a daytime holiday. And a nighttime holiday. It’s a holiDAY–the whole day.

            1. Artemesia*

              This. It is a fun holiday and a chance for adults to dress up — lots of people love it and there is no reason people shouldn’t have fun in the office on a day that is pretty vanilla in terms of offensive — but not for everyone. A person who is seriously triggered by typical halloween decor should probably be allowed to WFH that day. It is reasonable to not have things popping up at one all day so modifying the decor is a reasonable request– but beyond that, the world should not have to cater to everyone’s tastes at the expense of everyone else’s pleasure. I find athletic rivalries tedious in the extreme and hated being in an office when the home team was in the ‘big game’ — the level of noise and distraction was enormous. But my problem and why should I spoil their fun?

              1. AnotherAlison*

                This is not specifically directed at you, Artemesia, but one thing I find interesting is that it seems like the vocal majority think Halloween is not offensive, and yet people here are generally more easily offended than I am about most things on all other topics.

                First, it’s not a holiday celebrated by many on the religious right, so that’s one group to get offended. Second, people are known to have poor judgement. We are inviting people to dress up at work, full well knowing there are people who still think dressing as another ethnic group is fine (or trans people, or overweight people, etc.). Plus the PTSD aspect mentioned in this thread. I mean, I couldn’t care less either way, but to say it’s a vanilla holiday seems strange to me. Sure, put a few pumpkin cutouts on your door if you must, but it’s a weird thing to celebrate hard at work.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I do think Halloween (depending on the severity of celebration) is generally not offensive. Dressing up in costumes (people have masquerades year round), asking for candy, watching scary movies (horror movies come out year round), going to a party (people party all the time) among others things are not generally not considered offensive. But I think you might be conflating not celebrating something with being offended by it. I don’t celebrate many holidays centered around different religions but I am not offended by them if people do celebrate and decorate for it.

                  I know many people who are varying degrees of religious that celebrate halloween, some religious people that don’t celebrate but are not offended by it, and some people that are religious but do actually find it offensive.

                  Just because some people take certain celebrations to the extreme is not a reason to ban the particular holiday or celebration. Similar to what Alison says if one person is abusing a perk it is no reason to cancel the perk for everyone but rather just for that individual.

                  I think when modestly celebrated it is a vanilla holiday, and agree it should not be celebrated hard at work. Right now I am wearing an orange button down with black slacks to show my halloween “spirit” without being unprofessional.

                  I also think that AAM is generally a place for people to ask for advice on issues they are having. Not many people write in to say my office decorated for halloween, we put up a few cobwebs, some pumpkins, and people wore some cat ears and witches hats, everyone had a good time.

          5. Jadelyn*

            It’s not something inherently celebrated at night or by children, either, especially not universally so to the point where it’s reasonable to say “go celebrate at home with kids as you’re supposed to”. Why the sudden urge to play Halloween Police?

          6. Uranus Wars*

            Am I the only person who didn’t read Snark’s original comment as saying it was only for kids. I inferred “It’s a holiday that is generally celebrated outside of the office and shouldn’t be pushed on people who don’t want to celebrate”. This 2nd explanation might be a little more specific but I think we’re getting into sandwiches territory here.

            I also think this might depend on where you live, too. Almost everyone I know who participates in Halloween does it at 4 p.m or later on the actual day or for trunk or treat/trick or treat (unless it’s a daytime fall festival on a weekend).

            1. SimplyTheBest*

              I feel like it’s hard to read one should celebrate halloween “with children as it is meant to be” as anything other than “Halloween is for kids.”

          7. Librarian1*

            It’s not “meant to be” celebrated only by children. Plenty of adults get really into it.

      2. Justin*

        It’s for adults too.

        I can see the value of saying “at home,” but the point is just not to force it on people who don’t want it.

        I suppose you think sitting here at my desk with a costume is immature, but, well, it’s okay if we disagree on this.

  5. Essess*

    OMG – if I had coworkers that deliberately “pranked” me continuously to terrify me at work, I would be at HR demanding it cease immediately. HR should be cracking down on that so fast it should make the coworkers’ heads spin.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      That has the benefit of being both an appropriate response and one that comes with the fun of him terrifying them back. At least, it should with competent HR.

      1. Jadelyn*

        …next year I’m just going to dress normal and when people ask why I’m not in costume, I’ll tell them I am. I came as something I knew would scare everyone: an HR person.

    2. yala*

      A coworker and I once had a phobia prank-war. He’s terrified of jellyfish, I’m terrified of spiders. So we’d do things like have a jellyfish book at the bottom of a stack to process, or leaving spider rings on the front computer keyboard when switching places.

      But it was mutual and we were both having fun with it, not mean-spirited. We both knew it was happening, and we never took it to far. I was the one that caved eventually. They sent me to shelve a cart of DVDs and I found one of those giant spider decorations wrapped around it. Had to give it to him for commitment, and again, there were no hard feelings, and it was mutually consented spooking.

      What LW’s coworkers are doing just sounds vile.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        He had something similar between two department heads. He was afraid of spiders and she was afraid of snakes. It was definitely mutual and their creativity on pranking each other was impressive. Honestly, I think they spent more time laughing with each other after each prank than the praknee did being scared.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. Tormenting someone with a specific phobia is not cool I wonder if he has not made is clear, that it is a real thing. Some people make a game of this sort of thing and some people are genuinely terrified. This is one for HR to put the kibosh on .

      1. EPLawyer*

        Oh you’re not really scared, just like you are not really allergic to some particular food. Go ahead do the thing you have the phobia of. You’ll get over it.

        A phobia is an irrational fear, trying to be logical about it — does not help. Pranking someone about their phobia REALLY does not help.

        I have a strange phobia: Gephyrophobia. It affects my daily life. Someone people laugh at it and call me a baby or a wuss. Really folks, I would like to not have this fear. but making fun of me doesn’t make it easier to deal with.

        1. MarsJenkar*

          Had to look that one up, and while I don’t suffer from the fear of bridges myself, I can see why some people might fear them. (Caniphobic here, BTW.)

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          My brother had this as a child. Don’t know if he still does– he is very quiet about it. But he used to tremble every time we crossed over a bridge!

        3. Anongineer*

          Oh I absolutely HATE driving over bridges! But that’s more to do with the fact that:
          A) I studied them in college and learned how they’re rated and how many are structurally deficient (don’t look this up at all ever if you don’t like bridges) and
          B) I went to college with people that now design them. QA/QC process is there for a reason!

        4. Jules the 3rd*

          Yeah, my OCD is focused on harm to my kid, and for some reason bridges were / are (in my head) places of Extreme Danger. But it’s literally not possible to get to grandma’s without going over the river (and through the woods…) – weirdly, that song helped.

  6. Snark*

    It is unsurprising to me that a man this invested in turning his office into a spooky dungeon for Halloween would be sufficiently juvenile to resent someone for years, maybe forever, for requesting a non-triggering workplace.

    PTSD is an illness. I think it follows, therefore, for you to use the ADA process to request reasonable accomodations for your condition. And, of course, it would be a massive liability for your employer to be seen as retaliating against someone in a protected class for taking advantage of ADA-required reasonable accomodations.

    1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

      I can’t tell if the OP is accurate in her assessment that he would resent her “for years.” That is possible, of course, but it’s also pretty unlikely. I would think that if she had evidence about the “for years” part, she would have included it. What’s more likely is that, like a lot of LWs, she is assuming that the boss will take this as some sort of personal attack, and if he’s generally an OK guy, that probably won’t happen. Even a real Halloween enthusiastic probably wouldn’t mind toning down the really distracting stuff a bit. If he’s not an OK guy, that’s a different story, of course.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, without actual knowledge of the guy himself, I don’t know if he’s really one to resent someone or not.

        When you’re stressed out and feeling like that outlier of having to say “Hey boss, this is too much for me” and you’re in the midst of your PTSD flare up, your mind goes into this kind of “He’ll hate me. He’ll hate me. He’ll hate me.” kind of way, so I see why it’s a fear but it’s probably seriously not the way that things play out if you are able to speak up about it.

        PTSD and general anxiety often triggers these kinds of extreme fears because that’s the nature of the illness.

        1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

          Exactly. Lots of AAM letter writers genuinely seem to be unaware that it’s often possible to be both polite and professional to say “I’m sorry, but I don’t like _____(something that is perfectly normal to dislike)___. Can we find a way to not do that any more?” If the boss is reasonable, there shouldn’t be a big problem asking for a perfectly reasonable thing, such as cutting down on the really distracting parts of the Halloween decorations. The OP doesn’t have to get into PTSD or her childhood or anything. Just say “I know you really love Halloween, but I find X and Y really distracting and upsetting. Can we tone it down next year?” Almost any reasonable boss would have no fault to find with that.

          That said, I had a boss who just loved his weird, distracting and borderline disturbing Singing Christmas Things (there was a motion-detector singing Christmas tree as well as a couple other Things). I couldn’t get him to get rid of them, either, but then again, he wasn’t really reasonable. Fortunately, he retired and took his Singing Christmas Things with him.

          1. Joielle*

            **If the boss is reasonable** is the key phrase though, and I think there’s at least some evidence that he’s not. And as you note from your own personal experience, unreasonable bosses are not super uncommon. It’s not that letter writers don’t know how to handle the issue with a reasonable boss, it’s that their boss isn’t reasonable. No need to be condescending about it.

            1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

              I don’t feel at all condescending, so I am very sorry if I sounded that way to you, Joielle.

              Yes, there are unreasonable bosses. But there are also a lot of people – and I definitely did this earlier in my career – who get all twisted up imagining terrible professional consequences that never occur and that are really unlikely to occur. AAM gets letter after letter after *letter* from people who have perfectly reasonable requests but have never, ever made those requests even of bosses and coworkers who are otherwise reasonable people. And the reason is that they just don’t seen to realize that they have a right to make reasonable requests!

              So all I’m saying is, if the boss is reasonable in other ways, the chances are really good that if the OP says “I find X and Y upsetting. Can we skip those next year?” the answer would be “OK.” If he’s unreasonable in other ways (but surely the OP would have indicated this, if it were so?), this might not work and perhaps it shouldn’t even be attempted. But even if he’s only semi-reasonable the worst that would probably happen is that he gets a little sulky next year. The odds that it will destroy the OP’s career, which is what she fears, are very small. And really, what better option does the OP have? Quit her job?

              I mean, even my unreasonable boss didn’t blackball me or anything when I so disliked all those Singing Christmas Things. I still had to deal with the annoyance – I can hear that supremely irritating Singing Christmas Tree in my mind to this day – but he didn’t fire me, demote me, give me horrible assignments or otherwise make me suffer for my Anti-Singing Christmas Things shortcomings. And every now and then, I’d pull out the batteries and have an hour or two of blessed, blessed peace.

              1. Fireworks lover*

                Exactly, if she said “can we skip the spiders next year,” he would probably say yes.

                If she said, “can we not do Halloween at all next year,” he would probably reject that request if OP were the only person making it, but that doesn’t inherently mean he would take it out in her career.

                BTW, OP has her own office with a door. Why can’t she declare that a Halloween-free zone?

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Very true.

            However it’s also true that many people are too scared to speak up at all. So they don’t ever and have never been judged before. I was never actually judged for many things that gave me anxiety for years. When I finally did find my voice, the response was outstandingly supportive. Sometimes breaking that wall and getting the right reaction as well can be a turnaround moment.

      2. Jamie*

        We don’t know him, but I took it to mean he’d resent her each Halloween when his plans had to be muted. But that was just my read on it, and not out of character for some petty people I know.

        1. Yorick*

          Yeah, in that sense, he might actually resent her a little in October for years. But probably not! And he wouldn’t resent her in all the other months of the year.

      3. BethDH*

        I took it as OP knowing boss loves it and feeling guilty about “ruining” it for him. Maybe I’m just projecting, but I know many people who know that their response to something is different than other people’s will then totally discount their own stake in the issue, especially if they feel like they “should” feel differently.
        If OP feels bad about pushing back (or actually does worry about the repercussions at a bigger level), maybe they can pose it as asking for certain types of decoration over others? I’m thinking jack o lanterns (with battery candles, of course) instead of soundtracks and that kind of thing.

    2. yala*

      ” a man this invested in turning his office into a spooky dungeon for Halloween would be sufficiently juvenile”

      sheesh, we get it, you think less of adults who enjoy Halloween more than you personally think they should.

      1. Artemesia*

        LOL I lived on a street where everyone went overboard with Christmas decor — at least lights. Our Jewish neighbor adopted halloween and went overboard with that including a wonderful costume party every year — it was an annual highlight of the neighborhood. Having fun with halloween doesn’t make you ‘juvenile’ anymore than putting up thousands of Christmas lights does.

        1. yala*

          I really miss living in a neighborhood with lots of fun Halloween decorations. We do our best in our apartment (our window looks great this year, if I do say so myself, even if I never got the wreath made. …the wreath that I bought the parts for in september…oh well)

          Honestly, I’m down for pretty much any excuse to do decorations. But Halloween especially used to be such a great time in the neighborhood, to get to walk around, talk to people you didn’t see all that often, have fun, be spooked.

          One of these days I’ll get back to a neighborhood like that…

          1. Jamie*

            Move onto my block – I think we’re the only ones with no decorations except a carved pumpkin on the porch. My neighborhood is mostly retirees and I’ve never seen so much outside decorating in my life.

      2. knead me seymour*

        Eh, I am an adult Halloween enthusiast, and the boss sounds over the top to me as well. As a manager, you can’t just bulldoze everyone with your own preferences, and a lot of people would find jumping dolls and constant music annoying and distracting if not disturbing. So I’m inclined to trust the LW’s judgment that he may not be terribly thoughtful or mature in other ways too.

        1. Blueberry*

          I would definitely trust the LW’s judgement, but Snark’s comment wasn’t about that but that a person who wanted to celebrate Halloween at work was necessarily juvenile. I shared Yala’s reaction. I don’t think the only possible choices are “steamroller people with excessive and even triggering Halloween decorations” or “no mention of Halloween at work is appropriate whatsoever.”

          1. knead me seymour*

            To be fair, the original comment did say “a man this invested in turning his office into a spooky dungeon for Halloween,” not “a man who celebrates Halloween at work.” His level of investment in Halloween decor and his apparent pettiness about it definitely seem OTT, so it seems like a fair assessment to me.

            Then again, I am part of the wet blanket crowd that thinks the office isn’t necessarily the best place for Halloween celebrations, since not everyone will be into it and it is pretty distracting. I do my celebrating off the clock.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            “a man this invested in turning his office into a spooky dungeon for Halloween would be sufficiently juvenile”

            Snark was talking specifically about this person. I think decorating the office a bit for Halloween or other holidays is fine, but someone that goes overboard with decorations to the point of trying to turn a OFFICE into a dungeon, santa’s winter wonderland, or cupid’s love castle is juvenile. It is not the decorations themselves but the place of the decorations. If you want to turn your home into a haunted house, winter santa’s wonderland, or cupid’s love castle go ahead have as much fun as you want it is not juvenile, but wanting to do it at work is what makes it juvenile.

        2. Fireworks lover*

          Dude. It’s one day out of the frigging year, and it’s the manager’s favorite holiday. There’s music. Deal with it. Treat yourself to a nice lunch if that’s so terrible.

          Music….sheesh. We might as well recreate what the pilgrims wanted, with every holiday being an austere occasion not to celebrate

          1. aebhel*

            You’re so right. There’s absolutely no middle ground between jump scares and ongoing spooky music and total austerity. I should definitely let all the other librarians I work with know so that we can take down all the jack o’lanterns and cobwebs and witches’ brooms and ghost mobiles and so on because it doesn’t really count as celebrating unless you’re annoying the hell out of everyone.

            1. Fireworks lover*

              The problem with this is that you’re setting unreasonable goal posts and then demanding they be moved in the name of finding “middle ground.” Music on a holiday is not unreasonable and as a manager the guy presumably gets to decide whether it’s appropriate for the office.

              Also, it seems that OP has her own private office. So there is no need to find any middle ground when it already exists, i.e., she can go to her own office for 2-3 hours.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Typically, a Halloween soundtrack isn’t just music. A lot of those CD’s are basically haunted house background noise, complete with slamming doors and screaming sound effects. Eight hours of that would be legitimately disturbing for a LOT of people.

            And seriously? Stop trying to act like PTSD is a thing people can just sit through and not have any ill effects.

          3. yala*

            I mean, that’s not really what I’m saying at all. Just that I think the idea that “goes all out with holiday decorations=juvenile” is a lousy one.

            I’m all for elaborate Halloween decorations, even at work. But I also think since people HAVE to be there, that you have to accommodate their needs and comfort without insisting that they lock themselves in their office all day.

            Jump-scare animatronics and screamy spooky noises seem a little too far (and distracting). By all means, put on a good Halloween playlist, or just some Tom Waits. Decorate your entire dang space. But make it a place everyone can still be in.

            I think OP could potentially ask her boss to just tone down the jump scares (“it’s really distracting” if she doesn’t want to go into PTSD, but if she DOES, then, well, it’s an HR accommodation) without too much backlash, even if the boss really really loves Halloween.

      3. aebhel*

        Or we think that people shouldn’t be turning their offices into a haunted house complete with spooky music and jump scares, especially without getting enthusiastic buy-in from everyone else who has to spend their day there? It is, at the very least, wildly inconsiderate.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I can’t tell from letter if OP was exaggerating or has evidence that he would resent her for years, but she did mention it as a possible outcome – to the extent it would harm her career.

        I wonder if she means each year she’d be subject to “Well, we used to have fun on Halloween until OP shut it down” or if boss has shown signs of this towards other people who they make what should be reasonable requests.

      2. Reba*

        Well, no proof except the experience of the LW, who has known the guy for 6 years…

        We are asked to take the letter writers at their word, here! Saying “it may not be as bad as you think” is fine, but implying “you’re obviously overreacting and don’t know your own workplace” is not IMO.

        1. Pilcrow*

          Was coming here to say this. For all we know, the OP witnessed the “Stapler Theft Incident of 2015” and the boss still gives the cold shoulder to the employee who dared take the stapler from the desk.

      3. Jamie*

        We have no proof of anything in any of the letters. That’s why we have to take the LW at their word and respond to the data they present.

  7. designbot*

    on the topic of costumes at work… one of my direct reports just came in as Q from Doug (I didn’t get the reference either, had to look it up). The costume includes underwear outside of khaki shorts. I feel like this is inappropriate for work. They appear to be new bought, perfectly clean underwear at least, but still, I don’t want to think about my employee’s underwear! Am I just being an old fuddy duddy?

    1. Shadowbelle.*

      As a fellow duddy, I’ll fud right along with you. It might be Halloween, but it’s still the workplace, and clothing ground rules should still apply. You might be wearing a tutu instead of a skirt or trousers, but that tutu had better cover your tuckus. And other parts. Don’t sexy-up, and don’t underwear-out.

    2. Emily K*

      Hm, I wonder if familiarity with the character makes a difference here. I would generally agree I don’t want to know about my colleague’s underwear, but I wouldn’t perceive that as the colleague’s underwear, if that makes any sense – it’s Quail Man’s costume. Superman also wears his underwear over his tights (which is what Quail Man’s costume is a play on/nod to), but if a coworker dresses up as Superman I don’t see the red bikini as my coworker’s underwear – it’s a dedicated piece of outerwear that’s part of the costume (and not meant to be sexual in any way).

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I would think Superman is inappropriate, but Clark Kent is not, does that make sense? Also think Spidey is not office-appropriate but Peter Parker is…it’s not the underwear part, its the body-hugging part. But with Quail Man I see it like you do. FWIW I am dressed up today, but just cat ears and a tail with a black turtleneck and black slacks.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          We had a Spiderman come into the office and crawl on peoples desks. It was a morale building thing. It.was.weird. Seeing Spiderman on TV and in the movies is a lot different that a guy in a body hugging suit with no facial expressions and no eyes, and he’s crawling over your cube wall. It’s not right. I need to at least see human eyes.

      2. designbot*

        That might be part of it. You’re right that I’ve never thought of Superman’s briefs as inappropriate (though it can definitely be done in a too-tight, look-at-my-crotch way that could change my mind). Part of that may also be the seamless/generic look of the superman briefs vs. the obvious “tighty whitey”ness of the Q briefs. Like, you see the seams and the pouch that a guy generally pulls his dick out of. As unsexy and mundane as tighty whiteys are, they are more obviously real underwear than something like the Superman briefs.

      3. Tina*

        If it helps, in the comics, Superman’s (and Batman’s, and Robin’s) underwear-as-outerwear are usually referred to as ‘shorts’ – making me think they’re supposed to be a formfitting athletic short/running short rather than like, briefs?

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I appreciate a Quailman costume but I really don’t like that it’s at work either, that’s really a bit too much.

      No gore, sexy costumes or borderline stuff like undies outside your shorts.

      1. NTD*

        I had an employee wear a potato on his belt loop and because he was a dictator. I told him I do generally appreciate a good pun that one was definitely not work appropriate and asked him to remove it at work.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          My 15 y.o. is trying to think of something to do for a costume, and I know it would be wrong to tell him this, but it is definitely a costume he would appreciate. He is short, but he recently passed me in height. We were discussing that, and I said “You might grow another 3 inches.” He slyly said, “And I might get taller, too.” I will have had all the d— jokes I can handle by the time he is an adult.

          1. NTD*

            Ha. It’s not going to be inappropriate for those who don’t get it, right?
            And it’s good that he feels open enough to make those jokes. Hopefully that means he’ll feel open enough to come to you for the really important but difficult things in life.
            I only have toddlers so we’re not there yet but I hope to have an open enough relationship with them.

        2. Blueberry*

          People pulling stunts like that are why we can’t have nice things. I’m impressed by how you handled it.

          1. NTD*

            Thank you. It helped that he was otherwise a really good employee and a very likable guy. It was his first job out of college and I think he just made a rookie mistake. He ended up getting promoted to management several years later so he definitely started making better decisions.

    4. SarahKay*

      Could you look at it as just a costume? If it’s fitting over khaki shorts it won’t be their ‘real’ underwear as it’d be far too large for them. There’s a good chance it’s not even their preferred style, as presumably they’re wearing whatever style Q does, rather than their own preference. (No, I’d never heard of Q / Doug either until your comment.)

      1. yala*

        Q would likely be Quail Man:

        One of the least “inappropriately-sexy” costumes I can think of. I’ve seen loads of folks do this costume and it’s never actually occurred to me to be grossed out or unsettled by the briefs.

        But like Emily said, maybe it’s just a matter of being aware of the character. When I see the costume, I immediately think of a nebbishy little goofball, not much else.

        1. Smithy*

          Because it’s a character not as wildly known as say Elmo – I could see making a case against such a costume if his role was highly public facing. That being said, provided the office is generically approving of Halloween costumes – I agree that pushing back on this is pretty strongly into fuddy duddy territory.

          The underwear are likely clean, over visible pants (no nude illusion), and most offices are adult only… I think pushing back on this as sexual is a bit much.

    5. Yorick*

      They’re underwear from the costume. They may or may not be the type of underwear he really wears.

    6. Ra94*

      Personally, I don’t think the mere presence of underwear renders a costume inappropriate. It’s not nudity, it’s not inherently sexual, and it’s part of a silly costume.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      No, it’s not appropriate, and my standards are lax because I love costuming.

      Work costumes should not show any more intimate garments than normal work wear does. If you have to be a superhero who runs around in tights, evoke rather than exact. Save exact for the con / bar – there are TONS of costume events in most cities. My mid-sized city had 14 advertised on facebook events last night, 6 for kids and 8 for adults, and I am sure I didn’t see all the local church options, just the museums / townships / bars.

      It’s not actually hard to think of costumes that are appropriate for work. Captain Marvel or America? Wear a flight suit / uniform, or Cap M / A t-shirt and blue slacks. Q from Doug? Be the dog instead, or just leave the underwear off. The belt / cape / Q are enough to evoke.

      The appeal of Halloween is the opportunity to be slightly transgressive – where else will I have the opportunity to wear a 3′ tall purple velvet top hat (oh wait, I’ve already worn it 4 times in 6mo). Grown-ups need to know the limits of that transgression, and keep it well inside the line at work (the hat has never been and will not go to work).

  8. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

    The bit about people taunting someone with coulrophobia (fear of clowns) makes me want to beat them until the candy comes out. Seriously, it’s not funny. I have one dear friend who dislikes clowns and one who dislikes zombies. For our Halloween parties, we specifically and emphatically tell people no clown or zombie costumes. Only once have we had to refuse someone at the door.

    1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

      I agree – not funny. At all. In fact, it’s cruel. The only “excuse” (and it’s not a good one) is that they just aren’t aware of how profound the fear of _____(thing that only one person in a group is afraid of)___ can be. But the reason that’s not a good excuse is that everyone is profoundly afraid of something, and nearly everyone has at least one irrational fear, so you’d think that a little imagination and compassion would let them know that this is a perfectly horrible thing to do.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree on the cruelty and also that unless someone has experience with something similar they don’t always get how serious it is.

        I have such strong aversions to two common foods that I don’t know how to differentiate between that and phobias. I can’t look at them, if I know they are contained in a dish in a shared fridge I can’t go into the kitchen, if I know someone has eaten them I can’t stop thinking about it and have a hard time being around that person until it passes.

        I deal slightly better now that when I was younger, but there was a time if they were purchased by a former husband on accident and put in the freezer (or anything containing them) I’d not only have to throw them out, but everything else that was in the freezer including expensive cuts of meat and the had to go in the garbage can furthest from the house and I wasn’t relaxed about it until garbage day and cans emptied.

        I know exactly how crazy that sounds. Intellectually I know it’s ridiculous but the aversion is so real for me it takes all that I have not to completely lose it if I’m exposed. So that’s phobia like, I think, if not full blown.

        Anyway, I totally respect other people’s unreasonable fears because I know what it’s like to cry in the ladies room bracing myself to go to a meeting where a certain food was in a dish others would be eating. But people who have never experienced this just do not understand.

        1. Shocked Pikachu*

          Oh gosh, sending virtual hug. That’s sounds so rough . I have developed – pretty recently, just past couple of years – aversion to certain foods simply because of their texture. Foods that never bothered me before. I have no idea what in my brain switched and why. And sometimes just seeing the food brings out a huge gag reflex. So yeah, fears and aversions, very often not reasonable and logical but it sadly doesn’t make them any less real.

          1. Jamie*

            Thanks – it’s the main mystery of my life as I don’t have these kind of reactions to anything else…but this has been since I was a toddler. I’d pay seriously money to a therapist who would tell me why! :)

        2. Johnny Tarr*

          This explanation makes sense to me. It’s not a rational response; it’s a visceral one, and it’s not always possible to ‘logic’ that reaction away.

          I can also imagine the difficulty in explaining such an unusual phobia. You have my sympathies. :-(

          1. Jamie*

            Exactly – it’s not rational at all. I don’t explain it to people unless we’re so close they will need to know for grocery shopping, I just protect myself from exposure.

        3. knead me seymour*

          I think it is an empathy gap, particularly when the phobia is something that most people think of as innocuous. I think your reactions would make total sense to most people if the food item were replaced by bugs or something else that is culturally seen as creepy, which isn’t really much more logical, just more normalized.

        4. Popeye the sailor*

          No one is saying that you can’t have a phobia. But if every time you see spinach you get triggered, it’s ultimately on you to avoid the refrigerator rather than demand that the world stop eating spinach.

          That is not to say people should definitely go out of their way to put spinach in front of you, of course.. But spinach is so common that you’re going to encounter it.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            I understand that the grocery store can’t stop stocking spinach, since that’s kind of their job, but if I had a roommate/family member/ etc. who was phobic of a particular food, I would stop eating it at home, not force my roommate to avoid *the main food storage in the house* for an unknown amount of time just because I like spinach.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I think it would have to depend on the kind of food / severity / relationship. To expand on your example, spinach is the only leafy green my kid will tolerate, so I’d probably have to not live with someone (as house mate) if they couldn’t handle it as a regular common part of the kitchen and diet. If I / Mr. Jules developed a phobia of Jamie’s severity, I’m not sure how we’d deal – phobias are real and serious, but so is malnutrition, and 0 leafy greens is a big dietary risk.

              But sometimes, people can be incompatible and it’s no one’s fault.

    2. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

      Yep. Clowns are…just wrong. Period. Full stop. Zombies even more so.

      My friend who thought Zombie-Clown was a good idea…? Hey it’s not my fault. I just reacted to being startled/scared and he’s recovered now.

  9. Barbara Eyiuche*

    If the office is decorated only on Halloween itself, I would just take the day off work, maybe using a sick day. If the boss has it decorated for a long time, though, that won’t work, of course.

    1. Yorick*

      This is a good idea. Even if it’s decorated for a long time, there’s probably only playing music and stuff on Halloween day.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      I completely disagree. You should use your days off for things you want to do (trip to the beach) or need to do (doctor’s appointment), not because you’re trying to avoid some unpleasantness at work. Your work environment should not be unpleasant or dangerous to your mental health.

  10. littlelizard*

    Ugh. It’s very easy to get into the Halloween spirit without creating distracting noises and jumpscares. Put up some pumpkin decorations and calm down.

    1. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

      Yes! I decorate a ton for Halloween most years and use no motion-sensitive or jump-scare things. Lots of skeletons and tombstones, and those ghoul/ghosts you can hang from the ceiling. Jack O’Lanterns and candles! Bats! There are SO MANY options that aren’t about startling people.

      1. Artemesia*

        I feel like motion sensitive zombieesque things are appropriate for halloween parties or even trick or treat porches, but inappropriate in the workplace — you can do a lot of spiderweb and pumpking and ghosts without having things leaping out at employees who might be disturbed by them. If I accept an invitation to a halloween party I have consented — but going to work shouldn’t put me in a position of having to protest the bosses decor.

    2. Chocolate Teapot*

      See my post yesterday about the office Halloween Breakfast.

      Between 8.30 and 9.30 this morning, our break room was decorated with cut out skeletons, models of witches and somebody’s attempt to carve a pumpkin. There was tea and coffee, fruit juice and a selection of cakes and pastries. The only thing I wasn’t keen on were cupcakes with varying decorations. Some appropriate (bats, spiders and ghosts) other offputting (body parts)

      1. littlelizard*

        The offputting cupcakes remind me of those horrible pimple cupcakes going around a while ago. Who wants to eat that??

        1. Jadelyn*

          I am so glad I apparently missed that fad, and it is taking all my willpower not to google it because I know I’ll gross myself out but my trainwreck-watching urge is fighting back.

    3. Blueberry*

      True, so true. (And I’ve been arguing on the pro-Halloween-at-all side so I figured I should say something on the pro-not-being-an-ass-about-Halloween side.)

  11. AnonIV*

    I have PTSD from a violent rape decades ago – and there are people who think it’s funny to creep up behind me and grab me. Seriously, what is wrong with people? Why would anyone think it’s funny to terrify someone? Of course you should tell your co-worker.

    1. Anonymous Me*

      I say scream and/or punch them*. Fight or Flight response. I was sexually assaulted by a coworker years ago (ex-job), so that would legitimately scare me to the point of fighting back.

      *I would ask, once, to not sneak up on me from behind, but after that, all bets are off. You scare me and I punch you out of fear, that’s your fault.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I actually did break a guy’s nose once who grabbed me from behind. I didn’t think, I just snapped my head back, hit him right in the nose, he let go and was yelling at me. I told him it was his own damn fault for trying to scare someone who’s had self-defense training.

        It was good to know my reflexes worked in that kind of situation though.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I nearly decked my boss one time when he tapped me from behind and startled me. I managed to stop my elbow from slamming into his gut, but in was a near thing. My startle/defense reflex has toned down a little in the 30 years since, but not much.

    2. Anon Here*

      We’re lucky to live in a time when many people have never witnessed a death or survived a truly horrific experience (including any kind of assault). Yes, many people have. But enough people haven’t that it’s considered OK to trivialize these things.

      Halloween has been different for me since I watched a close friend die from a serious illness. The illness lasted for years, he knew he was dying, and he opened up to me with all kinds of thoughts and feelings about it.

      That’s something that a lot of people go through. It used to be a more common experience, starting at a younger age. It’s good that we’ve made the kinds of medical advances that we have. We also, separately, tend to “hide” death now, with people dying in hospitals and care facilities instead of at home with neighbors stopping by to say goodbye and send good wishes. We’re lucky, and we’re also sheltered and out of touch.

      I think there’s a lot to be said for toning down the “spooooky” side of Halloween at work. Skip the ghosts and zombies. Just have pumpkins and candy. But there’s also a middle ground. Put the fun spooky stuff in areas that people don’t need to go to in order to do their jobs. Like people’s private offices, or turn a conference room into a “haunted house.” There are ways to make it fun for everyone, and OP definitely is not alone in feeling the way they do.

    3. Quill*

      Anon, I don’t /recommend/ punching the next person to do that in the face because of legal liability but I would 100% understand if you did.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I highly recommend punching/elbowing/head-butting someone who grabs another person from behind.

      2. Anonymous Me*

        If someone walks up behind me and grabs me, I’ll do /whatever/ I need to to make them let go of me. If they want to sue or try to have me arrested I’ll be glad to get lawyer and take care of it.

    4. Johnny Tarr*

      Do the people who enjoy grabbing you know what happened to you? If so, they’re extraordinarily cruel. And this “joke” seems to me to be sexual harassment. The offenders deserve both broken noses and unemployment.

    5. Blueberry*

      You have all my sympathies. I hope anyone else who tries to do that trips over their own feet and self-kicks somewhere painful.

  12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    RE: Taking Halloween off, do it do it do it! So many people take off their birthdays and anniversaries as well, we all have different holidays/days that have special meaning to us [Easter is my favorite holiday but since I don’t traditionally work weekends, it’s moot on taking it off. But yeah, I’ve got a couple “LOL wait what?” but other than that, people think it’s just me being my regular self. Anyone who thinks it’s weird has my permission to stuff their opinion in their ear.]

    So I’m all in for celebrating whatever you want, most people don’t even care. Seriously. Unless of course you make a huge scene about it but then it’s the scene and not the request to take that day off that’s drawing the attention.

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed. I honestly think most people wouldn’t even think about it enough to tie it into Halloween unless you specifically mentioned that’s why you were taking it off.
      And even if someone does make that connection, you’re likely to get just a brief 90-second pleasantries of “oh, that’s Halloween weekend right? cool for you, doing anything special?”.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      Samhain is also a pagan holiday, so for some it’s a “legit” reason to take a day off–its a religious holiday.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      I take of St Paddy’s day every year. It is a ‘known thing’ about me and if people find it odd… well then I’ll toast them while I’m having a good time with friends and they are stuck on a conference call :)

      So yes, life’s too short not to celebrate the holidays like you want to.

    4. Goola*

      Agreed. Take the day off. Everyone can enjoy the holiday, your boss can enjoy his decorations and HR doesn’t have to sweat getting involved.

    5. Sharkie*

      Yep! I am taking tomorrow off partly because I am moving partly because I am planning to stay up late tonight for a movie marathon. I thought about taking today off too to celebrate the World Series. You do you!

    6. Third or Nothing!*

      I don’t hear many people say Easter is their favorite. I love it too! What’s your favorite part about it? Aside from the religious aspect, which is super important to my family, I also love the chance to get together over a big meal and enjoy the lovely spring weather together. This year I took my 2 year old daughter on a hike for Good Friday. It was awesome. :)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m only casually religious and I don’t come from a church going family, my dad taught me to find Jesus in the outdoors. So my favorite part is the celebration of spring. And bunnies. Bunnies! BUNNIES!!!

        My mom will confirm I hated Santa as a child. Screaming all “No no no, I have too many bearded men in my life as it is, why are you taking me to this old fat bearded man?!” But I ran head first into the Easter bunny, climb right up on that lap and full on snuggle time. Bunnies.

        Also I like the dresses. And dying eggs. And hunting eggs. The whole theme is whimsical and sweet. It’s right up my ally. I have always identified with Snow White and Cinderella, dancing and singing to the animals tbh. So the “birth” and baby animals is right in my wheelhouse. I never stood a chance LOL

        1. banzo_bean*

          My sister had the opposite reaction- hated the easter bunny (a giant animal with huge teeth coming into your home at night?) but loved Santa, so from an early age we couldn’t celebrate the easter bunny.

          But I love easter, especially dying eggs. My family lived in Europe for a while where instead of an easter bunny they have an easter bell who rings eggs!!!! You forgot to add easter bonnets, who doesn’t love a holiday with bonnets!?!

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      When I was younger I took Halloween off as a religious holiday – I’m neo-pagan.

  13. HalloweenIsTheBestDayOfTheYear*

    I absolutely agree that LW’s boss needs to stop because LW’s right to feel comfortable and safe at work needs to Trump the boss’ Halloween spirit, but I think it sounds AMAZING, I would LOVE that. I definitely think it would be more appropriate for say, a Halloween party at boss’ house after hours for his friends/family in his personal life and not for the workplace. It almost hurts me to say that though because I would just love going to work in a place like that so much, but as is often the case, it’s better to avoid things that cause some people distress, even if other people love it.

    1. yala*

      I think I would love to work at a Halloween-heavy workplace (currently I’m one of, like…three people in costume. Extra disappointing because this is a college campus, and at my old college, students and staff went all out), but tbh, I don’t think motion-activated novelties have any place at work because, well…they’re upsetting.

      I love Halloween. I didn’t even think the zombie puppet from the previous letter was all that bad. But things that jump out, or make noise unexpectedly? I hate those. I’m a really nervous person. They just seem like such a bad idea for a workplace, because at best they’re distracting, and at worse, they’re triggering.

    2. Blueberry*

      Halloween views should be included in hiring somehow so people who enjoy Halloween can congregate and those who don’t can escape distress. (I’m not serious about the hiring part, of course, but yeah, even when I hated the jobs I enjoyed the places that did Halloween.)

  14. Jamie*

    The letter where the boss lets those in costume go home early and if not have to work the whole day really bothers me.

    Beyond the mandatory fun aspect, which never is for everyone, there are many people who don’t do Halloween for religious reasons. I know many people who go out of their way not to be exposed to any more Halloween celebrating than necessary, even if they don’t openly complain about décor at work. Rewarding people with time off (my second favorite reward) for coming in costume would be penalizing others including some who wouldn’t participate due to the beliefs of their faith.

    That’s like letting everyone go home early if they eat a bacon cheeseburger, but making those who keep kosher work a full day.

    1. mf*

      Ooof, this is a good point. My family didn’t celebrate Halloween for religious reasons, so I never dressed up for Halloween until I was in high school.

      There’s also the fact that putting together a Halloween costume typically takes time and/or money (usually both). If you REALLY want your employees to dress up, you should let them plan their costumes on company time and you should pay for it.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Regarding the time/money aspect. This is why I always bring in cute animal masks to leave in a public area in case someone forgets or just doesn’t want to be that bothered. But if they want to participate in the fun, they can be all “I’m a cat, purrr” and put on a cat mask.

        It reminds me of the days at school when kids couldn’t afford costumes and were left out. This girl is the one who would pull out a face paint crayon and make someone into a cat if they wanted me to. Then they get to have fun too.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Agreed completely. I don’t think rewarding people for participating goes along with the spirit of things being voluntary either. It’s actively punishing people who don’t celebrate for not just religious reasons but health reasons. Until the last decade or so, I couldn’t dress up because of the anxiety associated with it. So it would piss me off if I was punished for not being physically able to walk out of my house looking silly.

      1. Anon for my kid's sake*

        For my child who is just wearing a thematic t-shirt this Halloween, it’s sensory issues. By the time you’ve addressed all of them, the options are minimal and the kid is stressed-out. The t-shirt is awesome and easy.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          May I recommend the ‘Minecraft creeper’ and ‘Spiderman’ hoodies with black / dark blue sweatpants? You don’t have to put up the hood, and you don’t have to zip it all the way, but they are easy, soft and many don’t even have tags. They do have inside seams. I see them at Target all the time if they want to try it on.

          But yeah, a Captain Marvel / Captain America tshirt and dark blue sweatpants is a great costume. I have also had a lot of luck with a modified fleece ‘pig’ costume turned into a pokemon, but I am assuming the tactile issues are with harshness, I know some people dislike fleece.

    3. yala*

      Yes, thank you. This isn’t like “if you wear the company t-shirt on Friday, you can wear jeans” or anything like that. It’s a hassle, and it’s definitely something that not everyone would be comfortable doing–and, as you say, it excludes folks from getting a benefit on a religious basis.

      If he’s willing to let folks go home early for Halloween because he’s in the Spooky Spirit, he should let EVERYONE go home early, or no one.

    4. SisterSpooky*

      yes! This was my thought too! I have at least three coworkers who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and don’t celebrate any holidays, including Halloween. It would be discrimination to make them work different hours due to that.

    5. Bikelover*

      Why is it punishment to make people work their regular work hours? My work just had a big Halloween event- people decorated the hallways and some people put lots of hours/$ into making it really fancy. In the afternoon, employees could bring their kids to view the different departments’ decorations. I did nothing. I don’t like Halloween and I spent the day in my office working. Management said anyone who took part in the event could leave early the following day. So what, I have an afternoon with an empty building to get some stuff done. How can I complain about working a full 8 hour day? I think it’s nice some people who love the holiday get a short day- good for them!

      1. Kyrielle*

        It is, as long as the option is available to everyone, and/or not denied based on protected classes. (For example, if you have a mix of positions that can be staffed or not and ones that must be staffed when open, all of the latter can be required to stay.)

        But if you say “do X if you want to get Y” and Y is rewarding and X is something denied to a group based on a protected class…that’s crappy, and probably also legally problematic.

        It can feel like an okay thing if you *could* do it and just can’t be *bothered* to for the reward. But it’s not nearly as tolerable a thing if doing so is impossible or is a violation of your religious beliefs.

        “Everyone who comes in full costume gets a $100 gift card to help complete their haunts for tonight.”

        Time off work is as much a reward as that extra $100. (But much simpler/cheaper, admittedly, for the company to give to lots of people.)

        1. Bikelover*

          I still don’t get it. No one is being made to work extra hours- it’s a regular work week. No one is getting a check or paid for work not done (I’m military -we get don’t get paid hourly). No one is asked to take part if they don’t want to. If the holiday legitimately upsets people for anxiety or religious reasons, they can take the day off. If they just don’t like it, they can do their job. What’s the issue?

          But maybe as military, I’m used to people getting perks based on their individual needs (time off to take kids to day care, time off to go to medical appointments, holidays off if desired, etc). It’s not the culture here to complain because someone else gets something nice- it generally comes around to everyone at some point. Makes me glad of my career choices, but perhaps I’m not a good judge of what goes on in the “real world”.

          1. Snarkaeologist*

            Letting people take time off for individual needs is really nothing like creating a situation where almost the entire office has time off for an activity that certain people can’t participate in – especially if they can’t participate because it’s specifically against their religion. This isn’t about people not being willing to ‘just do their jobs or not wanting anyone else to have nice things. It’s about thinking that company-wide nice things shouldn’t be awarded only to people who observe the same holidays as their boss.

          2. yala*

            It’s pretty simple, and not about making anyone work extra hours.

            Giving some workers a benefit that is denied to other workers because of their religion is Not Okay.

            Instead of looking at it as extra hours, look at it as extra PTO. The folks in costumes get extra PTO. But folks who can’t celebrate because of their religion don’t have the opportunity to get that PTO.

      2. Jamie*

        And if you couldn’t participate due to your faith, and others who did/could got a reward you weren’t eligible for without violating your religious beliefs that would be a huge problem for most people.

        The situation you’re describing has nothing to do with the one on which I was commenting so I’m not sure why you’re conflating the two. In this letter she could comply with wearing a black pantsuit and having a hat, which is a far cry from spending “lots of hours/$” into what is essentially a project for work.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I don’t know that most people would view having a department to themselves, while others are over in another area celebrating something as a “perk”. Oh yay, you get to do your work, rah rah rah. What?

        I also don’t care to be let go early in general but it’s still uncool and borderline to split your staff in groups of “You guys get to do this because you participated in that! and the other people have to just continue with their standard days because they opted out.”

        Also just because you, general you, are okay with a setup doesn’t mean it’s acceptable behavior. Some people are fine with a lot of archaic unfair structures because they’re used to them. That doesn’t mean they’re okay at their core and shouldn’t be changed.

      4. shauri*

        Bikelover, I just want to thank you for your comment! It’s great to see someone gracefully decline to participate in a holiday they dislike without feeling compelled to take it away from people who enjoy celebrating it!

      5. Orora25*

        Think of it like this: Say you are a Christian who works at a company where the Jewish boss says that only people who celebrate Yom Kippur with her at her synogogue (which doesn’t allow non-Jews) will get to leave early on Yom Kippur. You don’t have to work extra hours, but other people are getting time off because of their ability to conform to the boss’ wishes. While you are not being asked to do extra work, you are not able to get the same benefit of extra time off that your co-workers get *solely because* of your religion.

  15. mf*

    #1: Agree with Allison’s advice, but if you’re truly uncomfortable pushing back, you could ask your boss if you could work from home on Halloween or if he could designate a quiet Halloween-free area of the office. (Tell him this area could be reserved for people who need the quite to take important calls or need to concentrate on their work.)

    1. Michelle*

      I think the decorations are up for more than a day, but I could be wrong. The Halloween-free area is a great idea!

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      The OP has an office with a door though, and so the boss may just think of that as her Halloween-free area. Sound is the hardest to just avoid; it doesn’t stay confined to one space they way decorations do. Since the soundtrack is the most stressful for the OP, she could start there and ask that it not be played at all. The solution doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.

  16. #1 The Larch*

    Hallowe’en or Samhain is a high holy day for practitioners of witchcraft, such as myself. I usually request the day off or the day after as most of my “rituals” are done during the “witching hour.” No one will think you are weird or strange. Today though I’m hard at work wearing seasonal colors only because this is a new-ish job and I haven’t accrued enough PTO.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I mean, not to be all #notallwitches, but, uh…not all witches. I’ve mostly seen Samhain observed as a Big Deal Holiday for Wiccans, but there are plenty of us who enjoy it as a fun secular holiday rather than a high holy day. I’m a Luciferian witch and I adore Halloween, but it’s not a holy day to me.

      1. #1 The Larch*

        sorry about that I should have qualified that as *most* or *some* and as I consider it a high holy day, I would have taken off and had it considered no big deal. Blessed Be.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, neo-pagan traditions of all stripes have varying degrees of holiday celebration, just like the Christian denominations do.

      2. Honest question*

        You worship Lucifer? Seriously? I thought this was the opposite of what real-life Wiccans believe?

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          IIRC, in certain traditions Lucifer is seen as a deity of an earlier tradition that was subsequently cast as evil by the replacing Christian religion. So they are worshipping the older god, not the Christian devil.

      3. Tina*

        Can I ask – do Luciferian witches have any particular holy/unholy days? I mean I’m assuming so but now you’ve said not Halloween, I can’t for the life of me think what?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          There’s a wiki page on Luciferianism , or check though neither is specific about holy days.

  17. Trout 'Waver*

    >For example, if you’re a doctor, you shouldn’t be giving patients bad news about their health while dressed as a giant banana.

    Thanks for that visual, Alison.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Funny, I saw a spot on yesterday’s news about how all of the nurses in a chemotherapy office dressed up in elaborate Halloween costumes to cheer up the patients. One guy was a walking Frappuchino that was nothing short of a work of art.

      The babies in the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta all got little costumes to wear, courtesy of a nurse who knits.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is pretty standard stuff for children’s hospitals!

        Lots of times they’ll find ways for the kids to celebrate and bring cheer to them as much as possible. It also helps them feel less left out since the outside world is celebrating and they usually know it’s going on. So this way they can enjoy their holiday as well.

      2. pleaset*

        Babies in a NICU in costumes? They can’t even understand what it’s about. I guess it’s a benefit for nurse and parents….

        1. Uranus Wars*

          Its freaking adorable is what it is! I love when hospitals post pictures of their NICU or nursery babies on Instagram! I think it just gives the parents something to smile at the general public some good feels.

          There is a hospital in Pittsburgh (not just Children’s) that dress their babies with sports gear during playoffs for all the major teams or pumpkins or turkeys or hearts or little snowmen…it makes my heart smile and likely several others.

        2. Observer*

          Anything that cheers up parents in a NICU is a BIIIIIG plus – for the parents and babies, too!

          And I don’t even like Haloween.

    2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      One year my team dressed up as superheroes (homemade shirts and capes), my boss had a meeting with one of the major finance leaders to ask for $10m or so in more budget dressed in a cape.

      1. Jamie*

        Anyone else remember the letter about the place giving job seekers capes so they will feel like superheroes?

        A cape won’t get you a job, but did it get your boss the funding?

    3. PrgrmMgr*

      My dad had an oncologist who dressed up for Halloween, by his account as “the angel of death” or “the grim reaper”. It may have been something else, but his report back was that it was great and you’d appreciate it if you knew her sense of humor. Anyways, I never got my head around that, but he seemed to enjoy it.

    4. DrRat*

      If you’re an oncologist who has to give that bad news, yeah, probably skip the banana outfit. But all I can say it when I worked with a smoking hot doctor who came in dressed as Braveheart one year, there were NO complaints.

  18. Goola*

    For this OP, it’s probably best to take the day off and stay at home. Since he is the boss and most likely valued member of the company, his opinion his direct reports, especially when it comes to HR doing anything about it. Remember HR is there to protect the leadership and not the underlings, unless there is a risk for a lawsuit and then there they are to mitigate the lawsuit.

  19. CarolynM*

    #3 – warn the colleague who is afraid of clowns – intentionally freaking someone out is not right! If your boss (!) and coworkers can’t be reasoned with, then at least he will know it’s coming. He can decide what to do with that info.

    Saying I am afraid of clowns is not quite accurate – I hate them completely, but when it comes to a fight or flight response … I am 99.9% fight. (Not just with clowns – for example, people who sneak up behind me are usually the ones who get terrified because I spin around with murderface, knees flexed and fists ready to go – I have never attacked anyone – thankfully – but that is how I respond to fear.) I can keep myself together to give a warning or 2 “I know this is all in good fun, but I am not cool with clowns and you need to get away from me.” but if it keeps up I get VERY upset.

    On a family trip to Sea World when I was a teenager, mimes (almost as bad as clowns in my eyes) were what passed for entertainment before shows began. As we were walking to our seats, a mime comes up behind me and starts miming. I could taste adrenaline as I turned with a forced smile and said “I know this is supposed to be fun, but I can’t deal with mimes, can you please go do this to someone else?” And the mime mimed me telling him to back off. So I turned around and kept walking … only to see on the big screens at the top of the stadium the mime was behind me, still miming. I turned around again and said, with my fists balled, “I am 100% serious – you need to back off NOW.” I get mimed again, and the damn mime keeps following me. At this point I have tunnel vision, all I can taste is adrenaline and I know what I must do – I must murder the mime. At this point I lean forward aggressively, fists balled at my sides, knees flexed for action, and snarl “I asked you nicely to back off – you haven’t – now i am telling you to F*** OFF NOW!!!!” I was seriously ready to fight this mime in the stadium – he had to GO.

    That caught my dad’s attention – he got between me and the mime, told the guy to back off and we went to our seats. I actually had to leave the stadium for a bit and walk it off because I was so full of adrenaline I was shaking … and that mime was still unmurdered so I was still in go-mode. If someone says they are afraid of something, don’t assume they will just yell “eeeeek!” and you get to (cruelly) laugh at their fear – some people have a different reaction …

    1. Blueberry*

      That was gloriously described, and ugh at people who won’t back off. I would have contributed to your bail money.

  20. LCH*

    even without PTSD, having worked retail i never again want a workplace with a soundtrack. never again.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Apparently, no. I love Halloween, but what was once mainly a one-night thing mostly for kids seems to have turned into a BILLION dollar industry that has events scheduled all around it for a week or more.

      Holiday Creep. When one day a year just is not enough holiday, the holiday creeps into the surrounding days or weekends.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Yep. The sickly sweet smell of cash really brings out the capitalists, who then proceed to ruin it for people.

  21. Moi*

    Regarding 2. Do I have to wear a Halloween costume to work?

    If you want to be extra curmudgeonly about the costume, wear your normal office attire, add smudges of black eyeliner all around your eyes, and carry an extra stained coffee mug. If anyone asks, you’re an office zombie and you need more coffee.

    1. Jamie*

      If the eyeliner is brown and unintentionally smudged you just described me most afternoons. Stop judging my coffee mug!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I had a friend in high school that went this direction usually. Her response was “I’m dressed up as my insomnia.”

  22. mark132*

    Alright, I’ll be that guy. In the case of LW1, where is the line between where someone’s being insensitive of someone else’s fears and phobias, and others being able to participate in an event.

    1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

      But…you don’t have to turn the entire office into a dungeon, with bloody body parts and sound effects and things that go JUMP every time anybody walks by in order to “participate” in Halloween. All he has to do is tone it down some, and that’s perfectly reasonable.

      1. Jamie*

        Even for the people who like those things, doesn’t it get old after the first few times?

        I worked at a place where they put out a door mat every Halloween and when you stepped on it there would be a monster growl/howl noise. So annoying hundreds of times a day, so the other person most bothered by it and I would take turns switching the batteries around so it wouldn’t work.

        The receptionist who was deaf to our polite requests to limit the shrieking would then troubleshoot it. At least we had a few moments of quiet while she did that.

        1. pleaset*

          “doesn’t it get old after the first few times? ”
          Yeah, it’s like finding obvious slapstick funny. Grow up.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          None of you rascals even thought to steal the battery did you =X

          I’ve secretly taken the batteries out of things before “Oh no, it died” “Oh dear, batteries must be done.” “Do we have more batteries?” “No, we’re out. But it’s a cute mat at least.”

          1. Jamie*

            HA! We did! That was plan A…but when she found the batteries missing she went on a hunt to see who sabotaged the mat.

            When we swapped the direction of the batteries she never figured out how that was happening so she didn’t go on a witch hunt to find the party poopers.

            1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

              Ohhhh, I love the idea of flipping the batteries! Why did I never think of this? I use to have a boss who was addicted to Singing Christmas Things, including this motion-activated Singing Christmas Tree that was (1) annoying. Sooooooo annoying. And (2) more than a touch…disturbing, really. I complained to no avail. He loved that thing – thought it was hiLARious. (It finally went away when he retired.) Every now and then, I’d pull out the batteries, but dang, if I’d thought to flip them around at random times, maybe I could have convinced him that the thing was broken.

              1. Jamie*

                What was the song?

                My former workplace with the moaning mat had a singing snow man …I still physically cringe at “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

                (speaking of which could it STOP snowing now? It’s too early for me to face a ~3 hour drive home due to the roads!)

                1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

                  It sang snippets of several different songs – e.g., two lines of “Jingle Bells,” two lines of “Let It Snow,” two lines of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” etc. At one time, I truly did know exactly which songs it sang and in which order, but that particular boss has been retired for a long time, so some of the details are fading, thank the dear Lord. I can still hear it’s rather creepy voice singing “Jingle Bells,” though.

                  (And it’s snowing here, too, though not enough to stick. I adore snow, but I adore it in the winter, not on Halloween!)

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Save dead batteries for next Noisy Toy. When the noise gets on your nerves, switch out the good batteries for dead ones. Repeat.
                ‘Gee it’s draining batteries, too bad. But it actually looks kind of festive sitting there quietly.”
                Be warned: This works best when you can match the brands.

          2. Clisby*

            I did that with a few battery-powered toys my kids had. “Oh, gosh, it doesn’t work any more.” (Of course this worked only when they were really little, but that was enough.)

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              That is why you need a stash of dead batteries. If you just flip the batteries it is obvious that someone had to do that.

              But if you have a stash of dead batteries that are identical to the batteries in the toy/machine, you can switch out the dead batteries for the good ones.

              You take the good ones to your desk, then when someone notices singing snowman/witch doesn’t work anymore you can offer up “your batteries” and even offer to switch them out.

              You actually replace the bad batteries with the good ones, then you let the machine make noise for a little bit. Then with out anyone seeing you switch out the dead batteries with the good ones again. You can then claim you only had one set of good batteries. Hopefully no one else has any good batteries either. But if they do you can switch out those batteries too if you have matching dead ones. I think you would only need a stash of the two top battery brands, and maybe one or two other store brand batteries.

        3. Jaid*

          I wonder if nail polish on the contacts would be enough to sabotage the device? *koff* Not that you should try or anything.

      2. mark132*

        Don’t get me wrong, I agree, this is way over the top. I’m just interested in a discussion of what’s too much. Is a “tombstone” attached to my desk too much for instance?

        1. Jamie*

          Does it have a motion censor which makes noise when someone passes by in the course of their job? Does it say something obscene on it? Graphic violent imagery? If not then probably not too much for most people.

          If someone were triggered by tombstones and found it upsetting and you took it down that would be fine, as you couldn’t predict that and you were placing their right to work without trauma over your need for that decoration.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It depends on what it says and if it’s got working parts. If it’s one of those weird things where a hand will pop out of the “Grave” and grab at you, that can be too much for some.

          As Jamie said, it’s really not a problem unless someone is upset by it. Then the proper reaction to “Wow, that’s an upsetting piece of decoration” is “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I’ll remove it.”

    2. Yorick*

      Put the elaborate Halloween party in a conference room. Invite everyone to come if they want. No line to draw between party and being sensitive to people with phobias.

      1. mark132*

        And where is that? I personally would be annoyed out of my mind with this guy. And I think this guy has gone too far for multiple reasons as well.

        In my case I have some medical phobias, so seeing someone dressed as a doctor, is that too far? (In my case no by the way)

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          mm – if you ask someone to not dress as a doctor / nurse and they do it anyway, then they’ve gone too far.

          For me the lines are:
          Is this commonly known to be disturbing to lots of people (gore, guts, blood, zombies, clowns)
          Is this overwhelming (lights *and* sounds *and* motion *and* posters *and* other decor)
          Has anyone indicated a problem with it, or am I in a position where people might not feel comfortable indicating a problem? (if yes, tone it WAAAAY down)

          ‘no blood, soundtrack or motion’ still gives you lots of options. In an office, I’d actually do ‘no lights’ too, or at least lights only if the overheads are on.

    3. Purl*

      I think a pretty good line for a start would be nothing that disturbs working. So holiday soundtracks and motion activated things would be out… For any holiday and just not Halloween. Although maybe pop song soundtracks for a day or two could be ok. No costumes that interfere with the job or with safety: flowy costumes can’t get in the way of office furniture and equipment, no full face masks or make-up that obscures your identity or obstructs your vision, etc. And body-parts and gore should be minimal since there are plenty of people who are just plain squeamish about blood and injuries even if they don’t have PTSD level objections to it.
      For more specific phobias to common decorations, say bats or spiders, I think keeping a person’s workspace clear would be enough. And maybe stick to unrealistic items like purple glitter spiders and cartoon bats in common and public areas.
      I love Halloween and dress up to hand out candy. And my costume is creepy! I’d be happy with my house being decorated year round. But some of these workplaces take it too far with spooky lighting and soundtracks and zombie puppets etc. It’s a workplace and not a “haunted house”. If someone is aiming to freak people out or scare them, they are “celebrating” at people and not with them.

      1. mark132*

        “I think a pretty good line for a start would be nothing that disturbs working. ”

        +1, I like this. I think it’s reasonable and would avoid some of the crazy excesses. And also addresses more than just phobias.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      The line is where things are opt-in.

      Can the OP, who wants to avoid these things, stay out of them while having a reasonable level of access to all the needed parts of the office (break room, bathrooms, the area around their desk, anyone they need to work closely with, etc)? If yes, then it’s probably fine — like someone suggested elsewhere on this post, turn a conference room into a haunted house for the day and hold meetings elsewhere. You don’t have to go in the conference room if you don’t want to.

      If they can’t avoid it at work without having their normal use of the workplace impacted (like putting a jump scare right outside the bathroom, for instance), then it’s a problem.

    5. ...*

      The event is wholly unnecessary to work, totally un-required for any type of business besides maybe a halloween store so if people have serious issues with it people can just drop it.

    6. Aquawoman*

      The line is that people with disabilities should be able to work and should not be prevented from working by, or harmed by, work conditions or events that have less than zero to do with getting work done. This line is dictated by basic empathy AND the law.

  23. Reality Check*

    Not really a Halloween thing, but some of my coworkers think it’s hysterically funny to sneak up behind someone and scare the crap out of them by making a loud noise. It makes me jump out of my skin, big adrenaline dump, heart pounding, etc. The last time someone did that, I nearly took his head off. They don’t do it to me anymore, but why does anyone think that’s funny?

    1. Jamie*

      I have an exaggerated startle reflex to the point where I’ve been “diagnosed” by a previous workplace HR person with PTSD (stay in your lane, HR) and I will NEVER know why people think it’s funny.

      I was talked to about this by a particularly toxic ptb who said it made me unapproachable. I truly cannot help it and she only backed off when I told her I would be happy to bring in a note from my doctor that it’s neurological and involuntary and so could discuss accommodations.

      The accommodations would have been for people to treat me as they always had before she decided it bothered her, and accept that it’s not personal and ignore it.

    2. Quill*

      People did this to me in college all the time, then I stabbed a girl in the hand with a fork out of pure startle reflex, and mysteriously it stopped immediately. (People also started letting me sit with my back to the wall rather than having to fight for that chair.)

      Didn’t even have to draw blood.

      1. Tina*

        I used to have a startle reflex that involved a beautiful combined elbow/backfist, on being glomped from behind.
        It’s slowly atrophying because a) I haven’t been in a dojo in an age and b) enough people came close enough to the elbow part of it that I haven’t been glomped from behind since back when ‘glomp’ was still an acceptable part of the lexicon.

    3. fposte*

      I think for some people it’s malicious, but for some people it’s a thoughtless extension of class clowning-type humor, where all reactions count as applause.

      1. Reality Check*

        Agree, but boy people get stupid about it. They did this to my 65 year old coworker, too. As she walked across the parking lot to leave one night, they blasted the horn right behind her. BRILLIANT. Let’s do it to the senior citizens.

  24. pleaset*

    The OP should take the day off for medical reasons. If she really has PTSD, she’ll be sick if she goes to work. If he notices her calling out a few years in a row, she’ll have to come clean about the reason (which is legit BTW). But maybe he won’t.

  25. Adalind*

    #4 – I once had an interview on Halloween. I did not dress up, but was interviewed by a jedi! haha. The weirdest and most amusing thing ever.

  26. pleaset*

    OP#2 writes: “Now, with Halloween upon us again, my manager has reminded everyone to wear costumes on Halloween and said people who do will would get to leave work early that day, while anyone not in costume would have to stay until the normal closing time”

    This is license to not dress up and just work a normal day. That’s what I’d do.

    And on #3: It’s interesting how some clowns are also a#*holes.

  27. pleaset*

    Also on #3 – unless you are in desperate straits regarding your job, you have to try to help. People should try to help each other when in need. Don’t be complicity in bullying by ignoring it. I know there is a risk to you, but please stand up.

  28. StaceyIzMe*

    I think that there are so many rules in the world that you should adapt rather than try to make him do so, especially since you have an office where you can close the door and earplugs with which you can mute the sound. If it looked like a slasher film, were overtly sexual or targeted any specific demographic through mockery or cultural appropriation, you’d have reason to complain of poor taste. It’s one day, it’s his “thing” even if it brings you no joy and you’re largely able to buffer yourself from any real exposure to the decor. You could even have your own office decorated with whatever your version of the Anti-Holiday for Halloween would look like to you. Unicorns? Retro 50’s office vibe? Star Trek set? Maybe there’s a way you could do (or not do) whatever would feel empowering to you.

    **One caveat- the toys that jump out at people? No. That should not be okay. It crosses the boundary from “I’m a cluster of decorative overload and Halloween related exuberance” to “I’m an obnoxious entity that will intrude upon your space and your person even if you trouble yourself to provide buffers for the other decorations”. THAT should not be allowed, in my view. The rest? Kind of a matter of perspective, strategic provision and tolerance, (to me, in any case).

  29. Third or Nothing!*

    Regarding #3: It is deeply, deeply uncool to prey on someone’s fears or aversions and then laugh at their terrified reaction. I’m currently working through a phobia of bugs I developed in childhood thanks to my classmates’ tireless efforts to throw crickets at my face, in my hair, in my mouth (YES MOUTH) from 4th-12th grade. Didn’t start as a phobia but man it sure did become one and I’m still paying the price.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Sounds like me with mice. My brother once thumbtacked a dead one by the tail to the ceiling above my bed.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This reminded me of the time I got a moth in my mouth because it landed in my drink…and it was dark [cuz camping]. I’m still anxious about checking my drinks to this day! Our minds put us through utter hell sometimes.

  30. HS Teacher*

    If you’ve ever seen the picture of the guy who jumps out of a garbage can and gets punched in the face when he scares someone, that’s what would happen to someone who scared me in a clown costume. I’ve been terrified of clowns all my life, and it’s annoying that there are people who think my terror is funny.

    I recently watched a Frasier episode in which he was treating someone with Coulrophobia, and the actor who played the terrified woman completely nailed it.

  31. pcake*

    The bank I banked at for over 12 years had the tellers and manager dress up on Halloween or the Friday before Halloween every year. I thought it was fun – the bank also put out some “spider webs”, complete with plastic spiders. They had plastic jack-o-lanterns at every teller window, too. But the costumes were required to be non-scary and not sexual, and the decorations didn’t make noise, jump or bleed – it was a very small child friendly thing. One year, I made a deposit to Ariel, the little mermaid :)

  32. Observer*

    #2- You most certainly don’t need to wear a costume. And the whole thing about letting people go home early is problematic for a lot of reasons.

    But, to be honest, if you express what you wrote in the letter about how people SHOULD NOT wear costumes at work, it’s not going to go over well. I think the kindest and most respectful reaction you are going to get is an eye roll or “get over yourself”, whether expressed to you or just internally.

    As long as the costumes are reasonable and the population you interact with is pretty much on the same page as the staff, it’s just not that big of a deal. No one should be judging you for not wearing a costume even if it’s “just” because you don’t want to and don’t like them. No one needs a “reason” or excuse to not wear costumes. But you also shouldn’t be judging people who do wear costumes (within reason.)

  33. MissDisplaced*

    I think for #1 with the overboard Halloween boss, can the group just ask that all the Halloween stuff just be toned down a bit? Or maybe keeping it all confined to a smaller area (such as making the cafeteria or a copy room into a haunted house) instead of the whole darn office. I love Halloween decorations, but some of them are loud and annoying after awhile.

    This is much like the one with the young kids who were spooked and crying at the scary, gory decorations that were intended to be a fun family work event. Too much of a good thing.

  34. Nicole*

    Re: Interviewing in Costume

    If you want to show that you’re fun, a festive pin or tie clip can convey the holiday spirit without looking inappropriate.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Exactly. I would think something along the line of earrings, bracelet or a hair clip.

  35. Lady Kelvin*

    Re #4 Not making a big deal about taking off Halloween and your birthday (and other holidays). My coworker and I have birthdays a week apart, and on my birthday she was talking about what she was doing for her birthday and said “I’m too old to work on my birthday.” And the rest of the group were just quiet because,well, we all work on our birthdays, its just another day to us. So I mentioned that It is a good thing that she’s a year older than me, because that means I’m not too old to work on my birthday yet. Cue awkward laughter.

    1. Pipe Organ Guy*

      Taking my birthday off? Nope, especially if it’s a day when I really need to be around to get stuff done. Especially not on a Sunday; being the organist is pretty much a primary job duty for me. When I do take any Sundays off, I need to make sure the substitute has everything needed to do the job.

    2. banzo_bean*

      At my work (local government) your birthday is considered a holiday and you automatically get it off work. I asked if you were able to bank it if you didn’t mind working on your birthday (mine is normally on labor day weekend so I get a reallly long holiday weekend), and the whole department looked at me as if I’d grown a third head. They’ve all spent the last 10+ years working here without ever working on their birthday and couldn’t imagine doing it.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yuck, mandatory birthdays off. I loath birthdays for the most part, I like making it as “normal” as possibly. Which means going to work if I’m supposed to be there.

        My boss asked me last year if I was going to want the day off and I cringed but recouped long enough to say “Nah, it’s not my kind of thing.” Some of us have painful memories attached to “their special day”.

  36. Lolo*

    I once had an interview on Halloween! I wore my usual interview outfit, and after being introduced to the hiring manager, I said: “I hope you like my costume, I dressed as a [Company] employee!”

    She got a kick out of my joke. I’ve been at the job for almost 3 years!

  37. Beehoppy*

    A friend of mine had an endoscopy performed yesterday by a (well respected) doctor dressed as an avocado!

  38. Lauren MD*

    Some people seem to forget that Halloween doesn’t need to be spooky and scary. You can go *all out* with charming jack-o-lanterns, fall decor, and cute costumes that won’t scare anyone!

  39. dualijist*

    jesus – i’m an arachnophobe and right now i have to walk past 2 giant hairy fake fucking spiders every time i need to use the bathroom. seriously….it’s 5 days later… can’t even imagine how bad yours must be…best of luck

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