The Talk

Make sure pranks are welcome, or the joke's on you

- Last modified: March 26, 2013 at 10:50 AM

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Have you ever returned from lunch to find your entire desk covered with Post-It notes, or a drawer full of confetti?

Maybe you have rearranged the letters on a co-worker's keyboard.

Whether you are the pranked or the prankster, office humor is likely to be stepping up next week when April Fools' Day, April 1, lands on a Monday.

Tina Hamilton, a human resources consultant who runs hireVision Group Inc. in Allentown, said a little humor can be good for an office.

"It's a way for people to connect," she said. "Fun in the workplace is important."

But she is also quick to caution that what is considered "good humor" is quite subjective, and people considering a joke or a prank on a co-worker should consider the office environment before unleashing any shenanigans.

In some offices and industries, humor is an every day and expected part of camaraderie.

My father, who was an electrician with West Side Electric in Bethlehem for more than 30 years, told me countless tales of mischief while he was on the job.

My favorite is still the guy who wrote "left" and "right" on the back of his work boots while my Dad was up on scaffolding installing wiring. The "friend" deliberately wrote the directions on the wrong feet.

Some of the pranks – including his retribution for the foot graffiti – he'd probably be happier if I didn't repeat.

My days in radio were filled with guffaws that would never fly in most office places.

More than once I looked up from my script during a newscast to find I was being "mooned" by an intern.

But such pranking was commonplace in radio, and if you didn't like it – radio probably wasn't the right industry for you.

However the atmosphere here at Lehigh Valley Business is a bit more conservative. When we're feeling spunky, we tend to stick to competitive punning – with really, really bad puns. (Not dirty mind you – just not funny to anybody but us.)

For most – normal – workplaces, Hamilton recommends that coworkers keep it fun, but keep in mind general harassment policies – sexual and otherwise. You want to make sure the prankee doesn't feel bullied or harassed.

"Use your common sense," she emphasized. "Before you do it, think 'Could this be offensive?' "

If it is, skip the joke.

For employers, her advice is to support the camaraderie that comes with office pranking and humor, but to make sure employees are reminded regularly about office policies on harassment, use of office equipment and working hours.

For example, she recalls a prank pulled on her at the office several years ago. She was the one with the drawer full of graffiti mentioned earlier. At first she got a good laugh, but it took her so much time to clean it up, she was delayed in getting other work done – and she started to get angry.

"Don't waste company time!" she advised.

Want to see some epic office pranks (no getting ideas, now)? Check out this link

Stacy Wescoe

Stacy Wescoe

Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe covers technology and trends plus keeps you up to date on what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler and on social media. Reach her at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 104. Follow her on Twitter at @morestacy and on Facebook and circle her on Google+.

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