Although April Fools Day falls on Sunday this year, on-the-jobbers should not feel like they are immune from office pranks. Many, no doubt, will strike on Friday. Others may come after the fact on Monday. And then, of course, some people do work on Sunday.
Does downturn promote gags?
A third of respondents to a 2011 survey by CareerBuilder.com said they had been targeted in an office April Fools gag at one time or another. Another 25 percent said they had been the one to perpetrate the gag.
Michael Erwin, CareerBuilder’s senior career adviser, said:
“That’s a big number, and I was a little surprised. It’s probably because people are putting up with a lot in the office these days: The staff is often leaner, and they’re expected to do more work than ever. I wouldn’t be surprised if this Friday, people try to pull something lighthearted in the office.”
Classic office pranks
Some classic workplace gags mentioned by those responding to the survey included changing clocks and screensavers, putting goldfish in the water cooler and gluing down phone handsets. One prankster hid a co-worker’s cellphone in the ceiling tiles so it could be heard ringing, but nobody could find it.
Fitness diva Cynthia Carpenter has collected some classic office gags in her new Kindle book “April Fools Pranks.”
Avoid the mean-spirited
“So many of the April Fools Day Jokes I have read about can be quite mean, so I decided to put together a bunch of practical jokes that you can play at the office.”
Among other gags, Carpenter’s book will tell you how you can make all the phones in an office ring at once. And then how to make them stop just before a co-worker tries to pick up. Or how to keep them ringing, even after somebody picks up.
Pulling a prank
Carpenter hastens to remind readers, however, that April Fools pranks are not about getting even for some perceived workplace conflict. It is about having fun and boosting morale.
Florida-based attorney Eric J. Holshouser offered a “rule of thumb” to consider when contemplating pulling a gag:
“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.”
CareerBuilder’s Erwin offered three rules to follow in pursuing office gaggery:
(1) Pick on somebody of your own ranking in the company. Picking on greener employees looks mean-spirited. Picking on a superior could get you fired.
(2) “Only do it to a person who’s going to be able to take the joke,” said Erwin. Possibly with a work buddy who you already joke with at work. Not everyone will take it in the spirit it is intended.
(3) It’s not funny if somebody gets hurt. Erwin said: “It’s just common sense that you don’t want to injure anybody or stop everybody from working. And you certainly don’t want to lose your own job because of it.”
Who says all corporate leaders are humorless? On occasion, the decision-makers in a company will perpetrate a gag on its own customers.
The U.K.-based financial site CityWire once reported, complete with supporting scientific studies, that a so-called “greedy gene” had been found that makes some people more covetous of wealth and less able to empathize with their fellow man. It is a gene prevalent, the article stated, in bankers.
When the airline Ryanair received customer feedback saying many customers would pay more for a flight from which children were banned, Stephen McNamara, the airline’s head of communications, announced it would be offering just that. McNamara introduced the bogus service with the phrase, “When it comes to children, we all love our own but would clearly prefer to avoid other people’s little monsters when traveling.”