Are you already plotting and planning your workplace April Fool’s Day pranks? Or, are you the butt of the jokes – the one always on the receiving end of every prankster with an idea?
If you’re considering pulling a big prank at work, you may want to think twice. A national survey by a recruitment firm found 68% of advertising and marketing executives think April Fools’ pranks are inappropriate for the workplace. While under the guise of “team building,” certain pranks cause more harm than good. Even if your corporate or office culture embraces jokes, be aware that a misstep, even if intended all in fun, can mean you’re looking for a new job if someone takes it the wrong way, or if things go too far.
How can you evaluate a workplace prank?
Don’t be a bully.
Every office has a few known misfits – people who don’t seem to mesh with the rest of the crowd. Choosing these teammates to be on the receiving end of your prank isn’t funny, it’s mean spirited and potentially cruel. Picking on someone known to be an outsider puts you on the same level of the grade-school bully who takes lunches from weaker kids on the bus.
Resist the urge to do anything that could cause permanent harm.
While changing a meeting time on someone’s calendar to cause them to miss an appointment may seem casual or harmless, if the event was important, the prank may escalate from mirthful to consequential very quickly.
Avoid gags that could be considered offensive.
Stay away from anything that could be interpreted as targeted at any group or could be considered harassment. Making fun of people based on their race, religion or sexual orientation is never appropriate. Anything sexual in nature at all (a stripper, for example) is crossing the line in the office and could result in harassment charges.
Know your audience.
If your target is the one who normally plans office pranks, and gags are common in your workplace, you’re less likely to be met with resistance, and your prank may be well received. If you work in a place where fun comes first, a well-played practical joke may be a welcome distraction. On the other hand, if it’s a buttoned-up work environment or clients frequent the office, you may want to think twice (or three times) before breaking the company’s culture with an April Fool’s joke.
Consider social media’s potential to extend – or ruin – your harmless prank.
Maybe making your boss look a little silly won’t get you fired (if you’re lucky). However, making your boss look silly, filming it and posting it on the company’s YouTube channel or Twitter feed may very well result in termination. Be aware of the ramifications of what you do and how a single photo posted on Facebook can affect someone’s career.
“Safer” work gags.
There’s no dearth of ideas online for practical jokes at work. If you must break the monotony at work and have considered your plans in the context of advice to evaluate a workplace prank, choose something that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings and that leaves everyone involved thinking, “That was funny.”
Here are a few April Fool’s Day pranks unlikely to hurt anyone, but proceed at your own risk. (Tweet this.)
- Mashable suggested arranging for co-workers to each bring in several changes of clothing, and to update their outfits throughout the day. While it could make a very tired co-worker think he is going crazy, it’s unlikely to cause any real harm.
- Put “Out of Order” signs on bathroom doors or on other “important” devices, such as the coffee pot or microwave.
- “Foil” or “wrap” someone’s office. Before you start, be sure he or she doesn’t have an important meeting first thing in the morning, and then cover everything in the office.
- The old “fill the drawers” trick. Ping pong balls in every drawer will be inconvenient, but is unlikely to cause any real damage.
- Balloon an office. It can be a challenge to fill an office with balloons, and clean up may be a pain, but it can be a fun –- and colorful –- prank to spice up the day.
If you do choose to proceed with a prank, make sure to be careful and keep the end goal in mind. You want everyone remembering the prank as being fun and clever, not nasty and mean spirited.