Some people love April Fools’ Day. The annual free pass to bring out their inner Jim Halpert from The Office is just too good of an opportunity to resist. I have people in my life who take great joy in planning pranks, but not everyone will laugh if they find their stapler in a jello mold. Not everyone has the same humor, and in an office setting, pranks can backfire…or just get you fired.
With Office Pranks, Know Your Audience
Even if you don’t get written up, pranking around the office might get you some laughs, but you also run the risk of getting some raised eyebrows and eye rolls too. It’s a really bad look if you cause a medical emergency or some disgruntled coworkers. Like that time Dwight Schrute staged a real fire emergency to better practice safety precautions (not a joke for Dwight, of course), and Stanley wound up with a heart attack. Funny on TV, but in real life, it’s not a joking moment.
You have to know your audience. That means that you have to know how far to go and where to draw the line. Fake emergencies are never funny. Loud noises, like an airhorn taped behind a door or underneath someone’s seat can be funny, but if it happens to someone who scares easily and has heart problems, it might be an unwise prank in the office. Food jokes are also a little risky with so many food allergies, so you don’t want to be the cause of someone needing their epipen that day. And of course, anytime your prank could cause office damage, you may find yourself in the hot seat with HR instead of getting the laughs you dreamed about all night. That means cross a glitter bomb off your list. And if you cover something with post-it notes, be sure to use your personal supply and help with the cleanup.
Caution: You May Be Under-Tasked
Jim Halpert often admitted that boredom was a driver for his office prank life. He was a prime, fictional example of a highly capable individual with limited motivation for change. One of the reasons that I love The Office is because I grew up somewhat near that scene in Pennsylvania. I know what it feels like to work one city away from Scranton, PA at a small branch office, listening to Froggy 101, unsure of what my post college life might look like. Halpert makes it clear that he doesn’t want to leave Dunder Mifflin, but he doesn’t want to advance more in the company either. The thought of moving up the management ranks feels stifling to him. He has a lot of talent, but not a lot of direction.
It is okay to stay in that place – everyone’s goals are different. However, remember that perception is everything. Too much time on your hands planting bean sprouts in someone’s keyboard (yes this is a documented office prank on the internet), and your coworkers might be more prone to judge you than laugh with you. Perception is important in the office dynamic. A joke that takes long hours to pull off can quickly get you labeled as an under achiever or in need of more tasking.
Acceptable Office Pranks
So what can you do? What is allowed? If you sense that people have a sense of humor, there are some options. You really want pranks to be funny, simple, and not cause bodily harm. Subtle options are also a little bit more well received. For example, put a note on equipment in the break room that a device is voice activated. You might get some chuckles. While making caramelized onions isn’t smart, the old donut box with vegetables inside is clean enough to get a good laugh. And if you happen to be virtual today, you can make a joke about being on mute. Have a fake embarrassing conversation with someone at home so your coworkers have to tell you that you’re not on mute. Of course for the digitally savvy, it can be a great time to show off your virtual background skills.
Maybe your office vibe is one where it’s okay to cover your coworkers desk with wrapping paper. The bottom line? Know your audience and plan accordingly. And of course, be okay with some people around the office not loving your jokester side. So, if you have thin skin, you may want to keep your pranks for your close friends and family.