If you're in the path of a hurricane, your fears are legitimate and realistic.
Our fears can also be irrational. We recognize this when we see it in others – the child who thinks all dogs bite, or the adult who's afraid to ride in an elevator. When we have a fear like that, we know it intellectually it's irrational, but we do not feel that way about it emotionally.
I'm reminded of this as Halloween coming around. My field is Emotional Intelligence (EQ), including EQ at work. I have always written before the December holidays about the emotional issues managers and CEOs must prepare for. They center around religion, which we feel strongly about, one way or another, and how to make everyone happy is a continuing challenge with our growing diversity.
Those feelings are strong, but they can not compare to the fear that generates at Halloween.
I'm not a native Texan, and I'll never forget my first Halloween here. The town I live in is 60% Hispanic, and there's this thing they do where they dress skeletons like a bride and groom. I found this creepy! There's a lot that goes on around Halloween that's creepy.
Halloween triggers two things we do not like around an office – (1) It's "childish," and (2) It's creepy. And each person has their own level of "creepy tolerance."
We can put up a Christmas tree in an office and get little flack, but try putting out a skull and crossbones.
Now I'm going to refer this to Hurricane Wilma, circling around the Yucatan as I write, and heading for Florida at the rate of about 5 miles an hour.
For years I refused to take a cruise because someone always invited me in September, "hurricane season." However, technically, hurricane season is half the year, which we're learning.
Then in September of 2003, I was asked to speak on a cruise, and off I went … into the eye of Hurricane Isabelle. .
We did not know this when we embarked, we only learned about it as rumor and near-panic spread through the ship. Being quasi-personnel, I heard the crew side of it. They were not concerned about safety as much as extra work. They had to batten down the hatches, calm people, and cancel excursions as they diverted the ship.
Now that's a multi-million dollar ship to consider, so trust me, you're safe. You actually can not be safer than on a cruise ship. Well, I mean you're safe in Boise, Idaho, but as far as where the hurricane might actually be heading. The ship can easily, easily outrun the hurricane. If you're sitting in Key West, or Cozumel, not so. You can not move.
In fact my friend tells me that when he was in the navy in Vietnam, they'd duck in and out of a hurricane in order to wash the ship. Five miles an hour, as you know, is very slow.
What happened is we went to Belize instead of Grand Cayman, and encountered some bumpy water and it was windy, but no one was allowed outside, and it basically just made a great story to tell. My fear of cruising during hurricane season was irrational, and when confronted by reality, dispelled. Therefore, when I hear "cruise and hurricane" my emotional reaction is not one of fear. If I were in Key West right now, I would be scared, and my heart goes out to those in the possible path.
There's no feeling that is not accompanied by a thought, you see. When I hear "hurricane and cruise," my thoughts do not scare me. And looking at two skeleton dolls dressed like a bride and groom is not going to hurt you, it's the thoughts you're having.
Now how would you feel about going on a cruise when there's a hurricane brewing? I'm sure my logical explanation and words here have had zero impact on you. Facts and words, you see, make little difference against fears.
So, back to Halloween, which is fast becoming the second most celebrated holiday in the US, get your policies in place. Maybe you have a light-hearted crew and run something like a grocery store, where you even encourage employees to dress in costume. Even then you may have to go over the rules of "common decency" (no "dominatrix" costumes!), Moderate exposure, and safety.
How you define "evil" and "satanic," I'm not sure, and you may have to deal with it on an individual basis, even correcting as they show up for the day. Basic guidelines may include:
1. Decent coverage
2. Nothing demonic, or what someone else might consider "evil"
3. Wear something safe – no masks that restrict vision, or clothing that constricts or can catch in machinery or cause you or someone else to trip
4. Get some examples from a site online of what you consider appropriate, and make a list of costumes that are "out." Then ask them to "okay" their costume ideas with you ahead of time.
5. Decorations? Individual cubbies are one thing, and there can be some latitude, but still must remain tasteful. Common areas are another thing. If you're smart, you'll assign someone you trust to "decorate," do it yourself, hire someone, or do not do it.
6. If one person complains about what another person has put up (or on), deal with it the way you deal with other such complaints. With your EQ! (See my EQ Foundation Course)
If you work in a more conservative environment, and the only ones I can think of these days would be upscale boutiques, art galleries, certain law firms, and maybe downtown investment firms (because at my bank and at my doctor's office they are now jeans on Saturdays, and costumes on Halloween), you'll likely centralize decorating, and stick with a fall theme.
As to addressing other's unfounded fears in general, remember that an unrealistic fear is based on a belief, and it's the belief that needs addressing. If a person is afraid to go to the holiday office party (or make a sales presentation), what are they thinking? And what keep them that idea?
A general Emotional Intelligence program for the office can cover a wide range of problem areas. Emotional Intelligence is the interface between intellect and emotion and we help individuals and offices change their emotional lifestyles.
Would it serve you and your group, and your community health, to rethink how you feel about things, exploring what's "realistic" and what fears are unfounded? Things like stress, diversity, cooperation, teamwork, leadership and integrity? Think about it. No, wait, feel about it. And let that be your guide.
Hope you get more trees than tricks!