Is There a Place for Pranks in the Office? | TechWell

Is There a Place for Pranks in the Office?

Person about to shoot a rubber band at a coworker

As April 1 approaches, some employees’ minds start to focus on pranks they can pull on their coworkers. Other employees believe that any time of year is right for a bit of tomfoolery.

If you’re in either category, please remember that what you view as funny may not be viewed that way by those on the receiving end.

Most of the pranks I’ve been involved with have been fairly lame, such as filling someone’s umbrella with confetti. We used to get a chuckle out of making the text on a coworker’s desktop computer look like it’s slanted or melting or dripping to the bottom of the screen. One prank entailed taking a screenshot of the desktop and then making the screenshot the wallpaper image, so that when the desktop owner clicked on any of the icons, nothing happened. And of course, it was a hoot to glue someone’s computer mouse to the desk.

Or was it, for those pranked? Even as I recall these pranks as benign, they’re not dependably so. It’s important that the target of the prank has a sense of humor.

And timing matters. In some workplaces, everyone is on guard as April 1 approaches. But at any other time of the year, a prank delivered when the target is in a state of stress can be unappreciated. 

There are a plentiful number of potential pranks described online, but before proceeding, it’s worth asking: How might this prank backfire? And if it does, then what?

A prank might backfire if it causes someone to be upset, humiliated, or injured. The examples in this article are a case in point. In one prank, a coworker was led to believe she was being arrested for a purported missing $50,000. In another, a manager told employees that the company had been sold and they’d have to interview to keep their jobs. Even when the affected employees were assured it was just a prank, the damage was done.

Before embarking on your prank, consider establishing some ground rules. For example, a prank should never destroy property, and any adjustments made to property should be fully reversible. A prank should never cause a serious disruption to the business or have even the remotest possibility of causing injury. A prank shouldn’t be insulting or illegal, and it should never cause a hostile work environment, especially the kind that might involve a trip to HR or the company lawyer. And, of course, no pranks when clients are around.

Enjoy April Fools’ Day, but when pranking, choose your targets carefully and plan accordingly.

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