March 31, 2011
April Fool's Day pranks at the office: Yea or nay?
Like March Madness office pools, there will always be killjoys vehemently opposed to having a little innocent fun in the workplace on April 1.
[Photo by sandman_kk]
A few days ago, one labor attorney issued this warning by way of emailed press release:
A good rule of thumb is to avoid any comments or conduct at work that you would not be comfortable saying or doing in church or court. And I can tell you from experience that some jokes are a whole lot less funny when told in federal court.
For those who don't work in a place of worship or court of law, this might sound overly rigid. Having only worked in casual, creative offices populated by quirky, fun-loving colleagues, it certainly does to me. In fact, I'm a firm believer that a well-executed, workplace-appropriate April Fool's day prank can help colleagues bond and make the workday a bit more enjoyable (kind of like those March Madness office pools).
Of course, the usual HR warnings apply: Be careful not to offend anyone, hamper productivity, violate the employee handbook, cross the line of human decency, or engage in sexual harassment, racial discrimination, or anything else that could get you or your company into legal hot water.
To that I will add a few April Fool's Day warnings of my own:
Choose your audience wisely. If your cubiclemate hasn't had a sense of humor for the past six months, she certainly isn't going to find her funny bone on April 1.
Abide by company technology rules. Some companies take swiping a colleague's password or hacking into their email verrrrry seriously.
Leave clients out of it. Save your pranks for the coworkers you're more familiar with, and don't do anything to embarrass your company in front of its customers.
Remember, the internet is forever. Think carefully before taking your prank online. Photos, jokes, and snarky comments posted on social media sites could come back to haunt you for a long time if one of your prankees takes them the wrong way.
Kill them with laughter. If you're going to put your rear on the line by playing an office prank, you've got to make it memorable -- in a good way. The more you get your colleagues chuckling and impress them with your ingenuity, the less likely they'll be to take you task. (Getting even with you, however, is another story.)
Now that we've gotten the caveats out of the way, I'd like to give you the opportunity to share the best April Fool's Day prank you ever pulled, fell for, or witnessed at the office. Leave all the sordid details in the comments below. I'll start by offering a beloved tale a colleague shared with me this week:
I set autocorrect on a coworker's computer to change "mother" to "mommy." It took him six months to realize he wasn't having Freudian issues (he happened to be looking at the screen when the word changed). In the meantime, he'd sent many emails that way (mostly personal), including one to his mother, who responded and told him how cute it was that he called her Mommy.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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