April Fools at work?

It’s April 1st – April Fools’ Day. This morning, my 11 year took out the blue painter’s tape and proceeded to tape my husband’s socks to the many surfaces in our bedroom. I think his toothbrush is taped to the bathroom wall and I’m not sure what else is taped where. I am happy she was smart enough to use the blue tape – she really is a good kid you know. I’m fairly certain that everyone who lives in my house will pass up any urges to play a practical joke on me today. I won’t say I’m a bad sport – but I’m not a good sport!

So, that brings me to the workplace and what is and is not appropriate to do at work today. I have always been on the serious side and would not generally consider it appropriate to play practical jokes on someone at work. Today, in the very small company that I am working with right now, practical jokes were played on a couple of people and I was cringing a bit. I have to say though, in the end, it was good, clean fun. Everyone ended up laughing a lot and the stories we told to the one guy who was at lunch when this happened, had us almost rolling on the floor.

That being said, I can think of some other things that might be fun and taken well – depending on the atmosphere and the personalities involved at any given business. I can also think of many things that would not be funny or could backfire with unintended consequences.

I thought about this stuff today and tried to reach into my memory bank (a very small bank it seems to be these days) – have I been the victim of workplace pranks over the years? Have I seen many played on others? Have I taken part in a few myself? Well, here’s the rub . . .

Way back – and I mean way back, when I worked for Corning, the first department I worked in was filled with jokesters. As the nubbie of the group, the first female ever to work in the group and being the youngest by far – let’s just say I saw my share of jokes. I think the first one was the pedal blocks on my desk. You see, I am just 4’11” tall and when I took my very first business trip with a colleague, I plopped into the driver’s seat of our rental car and could not reach the gas pedal – no matter how much I adjusted the seat. I had to get out and let him drive. When we got back from this trip, there, on my desk, sat a brand new pair of pedal blocks that generally attach to the pedals of a tricycle for 3-4 year olds to be able to ride their 1st bike more comfortably. Not comfortable for me – but a little funny!

Next came the bicycle flag. You see, at 4’11” tall, I could not be seen well with our 5′ cubicle walls. I was constantly running into people as I cam around the corners of our maze, I mean offices. One day, 3 of my co-workers came into my cube with a bike flag and a rope – you probably can get the picture. Again, a little mortifying – but a little funny too.

I was not the only one who was subjected to these jokes. The gentleman in the cube next to me was a draftsman, and 1 day I was working at my desk and kept hearing his electric eraser humming – for minutes on end. (yes, I am old enough to have worked with real drafting tables and real pencils and erasers) When I went to see what was happening, he was grumbling (code for low volume swearing) and erasing about 50 little footprints on his very large drawing – all made with a shaped eraser dipped in graphite and painstakingly placed in any open areas of his drawing.

I could go on with quite a few more stories from a few different companies – some of which were not as cute and innocent as these. I have also worked in some places where I can’t think of a single fun story to tell from my time there. So, what is better for the work environment and for employee morale? A few practical jokes and something to talk about? Or, keep it serious and just get the work done? The biggest problem with choosing the first option is that inevitably, someone goes a little too far or someone just takes things a little more personally than it was meant – something goes wrong. It’s not hard – it happened to me and I’ll just say that it was my birthday and a male stripper was involved while on a business trip to a trade show. You don’t need the details – just know – that was too far!

So, in the end, I’m still torn. I can’t say I am in favor of a busy April Fools’ Day in the workplace – but maybe it’s not the worse thing . . .

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