Jane, your friend at work has been vacationing in sunny Cabos for the past week and a half. Meanwhile, you’ve been stuck at work in wet and dreary Cincinnati.
And since Jane will still be out of the office when April Fool’s comes around, you have the sudden, impish urge to pull off the oldest office prank known to man: Cover her computer mouse in a dome of giggly-wiggly Jell-O. And as you gather your “ingredients,” you say to yourself, “This is harmless! No one, let alone Jane, will mind…right?”
Admit it. We’ve all faced the same conundrum: wondering whether or not pulling off the perfect-well-thought-out-prank on a coworker is appropriate and won’t be grounds for getting us canned.
According to a Monster.com survey, one in three workers plans to play an April Fool’s joke on a coworker. So whether you are the prankor or prankee, be prepared this April Fool’s Day; Your work reputation — both professionally and socially — depends on it!
Pulling off the Perfect Prank — Without Getting the Pink Slip
According to business etiquette expert Pamela J. Holland, of BRODY Professional Development in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, pranking may initially start out as fun and games, but inevitably, an occasional prank can go a bit too far, resulting in termination or a lawsuit. “There’s a balance to having some fun with your fellow employees and crossing moral and ethical boundaries,” says Holland. “People need to be very careful about office pranks. While I am a firm believer in the benefits of humor and laughter in the workplace, people should really think about what they’re doing before they do it,” Holland advises.
Holland suggests sticking to the following guidelines before you pull off your 2008 Operation Prank Co-worker Extravaganza:
- Make sure it doesn’t embarrass someone or cause disruption in the workplace.
- Think through all possible consequences of the joke.
- Don’t use April Fool’s Day as an opportunity to “get back” at someone you don’t like.
- What’s OK to do at home with family or friends may not be appropriate for the workplace.
- If your boss is the subject of your prank, be extremely careful. You need to know this person extremely well, understand their sense of humor and never do anything that would diminish your boss’ authority.
The folks over at Movin’ On Up: The Express Personnel Job Blog suggest these five important factors to also consider before the jokester within you gets the best of you and your coworkers:
- Check the office policy. Check with your boss to find out if office pranks are acceptable. You don’t want to perform a trick if won’t be tolerated in your workplace. Inappropriate pranks could result a reprimand or worse, losing your job.
- Know your target. Make sure you have a relationship with your target — and know them well. Performing a prank on someone you don’t know could make them feel discriminated against and get you in hot water.
- Be politically correct. Steer clear of offensive jokes. Don’t make fun of protected classes, socio-economic status, or someone’s education. These do more than cause embarrassment — they are often illegal in the workplace, especially when you use violent or sexually explicit jokes.
- Run the prank by your boss. Before pulling off your prank, make sure that your boss is aware of your plan. You want to make sure your bases are covered before executing the joke. You don’t want to get the OK to perform a trick only to find out later that the prank you picked is inappropriate.
- Put yourself in the situation. Ask yourself if this particular joke was pulled on you how you would take it. The idea of a prank is to make everyone laugh, even the person who is on the opposite end of the joke. If you think there might be a chance you could offend someone, make other plans.
And remember, according to the Movin’ On Up folks, regardless of the occasion [or “holiday”], pranks should be lighthearted and enjoyable for all involved and done in good taste. A mean-spirited joke can harm someone’s career and reputation as well as hurt them emotionally.
Prank Hall o’ Fame
The Office Humor Blog offers these three tips for earning the distinction of pulling off the best prank in your office’s history:
- People know it’s April Fool’s Day. Let’s face it, most people are going to be overly cautious during April Fool’s Day — making your job that much more difficult. You can use this to your advantage though. Pulling off your pranks a day or two before or after April 1 may be enough to catch some people off guard. For those potential victims who are extra tough to prank, why not do a small, simple prank on the 1st ( such as Bugged or Creamed ) and then follow it up with a much bigger prank the next day or two ( like Packed In ). They may think your initial prank was the whole kit-and-kaboodle, thus letting their guard down for the real prank.
- Get as many people in on your pranks as possible. The great thing about pranking co-workers is that you’ve got a large supply of helpers and witnesses to enjoy the outcome with. Bring in as many co-workers as possible to help you out to make it a group effort and you will all enjoy it that much more (not to mention have that many more people to laugh at your victim).
- Take pictures or video. You don’t want your prank to be forgotten any time soon, so be sure to take pictures and video if at all possible. This means recording the preparation as well as the outcome. Once the prank is over, you can probably find some good use for your photos by placing them on bulletin boards in the break room, on your desktop wallpaper and maybe even put them on your company Web site for an office morale boost.
Need some great prank ideas or inspiration? Check out these sites for fulfilling all your prankster fantasies:
- American publishing and media giant Forbes appreciates the beauty of a well-executed office prank so much so that it created the Forbes Office Pranks Network to which readers can upload their most creative, hilarious office prank videos. Definitely worth checking out!
- Top 10 Office Pranks Exposed
- Funny Office Pranks
- MSNBC Readers Pranks
- Laughing Matters
- Boston Business Journal’s Readers’ Best Office Pranks
- Even though this list contains pranks that should never be executed, they sure are pretty funny. My favorite? Check out #8.
- If you’re into pranks, then you might know who Joey Skaggs is. With a notorious reputation of successfully pulling off hoaxes, pranks and culture jamming, Skaggs created The Art of the Prank, a web site that offers information for those who want to continue his legacy.
- Need a mini office voodoo kit or a giant fountain pen to pull off your perfect prank? This site, Funny Gifts Online catalog has all your gag tool/gift needs.
- If you are a fan of the NBC hit show “The Office,” then you know how much fun Jim and Pam love playing pranks on Dwight. This site attempts to document all the pranks that Jim has pulled on Dwight. Absolutely hilarious!
Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Location: Fischer Homes
Model: Kristen Folzenlogen, of Poeme