Tomorrow is April Fools’ Day. How it started no one really knows, as historians have linked April Fools’ Day to several different origins. For example, April Fools’ Day has been linked to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, a religious festival celebrated in Rome on the March equinox, during which people dressed up in disguises to celebrate. Others who believed it was tied to the vernal equinox speculate that it was Mother Nature, fooling people with her changing and unpredictable weather, who inspired the tradition. Regardless of how it started, we’ve all come to expect April Fools’ Day hoaxes or pranks.
And while a good natured hoax can certainly be funny (you may remember back in 1998 when scores of people tried to order a left-handed Whopper advertised by Burger King), for those of us who will be at work on Saturday, it’s important to be smart when it comes to office pranks. A good prank can offer some comic relief to an otherwise busy day at work so long as you stay within certain boundaries:
The quicker, the better. A quick set up, followed by a nice laugh, ending with swift & easy cleanup is best.
Be sensitive. A prank should be fun, not embarrassing or humiliating. Avoid anything related to a protected class, such as gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.
Nothing permanent. A prank should not result in damage to company property.
Don’t break the rules. Be mindful of company policies and culture. Do not bully or harass.
Be appropriate. Never involve a customer, client, or vendor.
Take responsibility. Once you get your laugh, immediately take ownership of the prank.
Nothing physical. Do not touch your co-workers or cause any physical injury, either directly or indirectly.
Don’t make a joke at your company’s expense. Fake press releases, for example, are strictly off limits.
Identify theft is always wrong. Never send any type of communication (text, email, voicemail, etc.) while assuming the identity of a co-worker.
Safety first. Do not do anything unsafe, such as block an exit door.
What if you’re on the receiving end of a prank and found it less than amusing? Speak up! Let it be known that you felt uncomfortable and that inappropriate pranks will not be tolerated, no matter what day of the year it is.
So remember: it’s okay to have a little bit of fun. Just make sound judgment calls and don’t take an office prank too far.