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Workplace Pranks: To be Celebrated or Discouraged?

April Fool’s Day reminds me of all the times that tricks have been played on me and others during my lifetime so far.


You might convince yourself every year that it won’t happen to you… 

As the end of March approaches and the lead up to 1st April draws ever closer, you might feel you are on high alert but how often have you got caught out with an April Fool’s joke?


Looking back and reminiscing of all the jokes played in the workplace on either me or others makes me smile.


Those who have ever worked with me will read on and realise they are the stars of this blog!


The first real pranks I involved myself in takes me back to the days I spent at boarding school in my ‘formative years’. 


There are too many to list but my favourites were aimed mostly at fellow boarders, however, there were occasions the housemistress or matron got in the way.


Emptying a metal wastepaper bin, filling it with water and balancing it on the hinges at the top of a fire door provided the person coming through an additional shower.  Provided it was ’liquidy’ enough, yoghurt worked really well for this as well! 

Ripping up carpets and covering the Linoleum covered floors with talcum powder created great ice-skating at any time of the year. 


Single mattresses were some of the best sledges to hurtle down steep Victorian housed staircases. 


These 'pranks' caused mischief and there was never any particular day of the year that made them less fun for us.


The best trick we played was on our housemistress and matron.


The whole house, about 35 of us, pre-planned it to get up early, very quietly.  

We got dressed, brushed our teeth and then snuck downstairs (past the bedroom of our housemistress) and into the dingy basement.


Our house mistress could soon be heard, sounding quite perplexed, that the hand bells she usually rang to wake us up at 7:15am had disappeared.  We had hidden them carefully but had also wrapped the clappers in toilet paper just in case she did find them and went to ring them.


When moments had passed and she was becoming increasingly frustrated and much less patient (that didn’t take too long!) we decided to make a run for it.


We ran around the back of the house and the house next door which happened to be the school’s music house.  We then scarpered around the back of another – this happened to be the Headmistress’ house. 


She saw almost three dozen young people whizz past her kitchen window, dressed in green uniform, and over the road for breakfast, where the main dining hall was. 


Needless to say, our trick was not seen as funny to the adults as we had felt it was and we lived with the consequence of being banned from any house outing that year (a massive treat to someone who went to boarding school and was usually a trip to a theme park) but the majority of us felt it was worth that little bit of rebellious fun within such a strict environment we found ourselves in. 


Some years later, whilst I was at university undertaking compulsory work placements within the hospitality industry, the pranks seemed to take on a different level. 


For anyone not familiar of working within hospitality, I can assure you that it is not the long hours and poor pay that people continue to work tirelessly within such environments for. 


The sense of community and belonging that often comes with working so closely with people at such a pace and under extreme pressure at times, creates a camaraderie amongst colleagues which often includes more senior members of staff.

Common sense is key in most areas and so it is quite often the new members, or those shadowing for experience, may be targeted for a prank. 


Without naming the particular ‘fine establishment’ that focused on entertaining people with recorded and live music alongside serving much alcohol to aid that, I shall always remember the main Manager, a proud and fierce Scotsman, called ‘Tam’. 


He had a way with words – so much so that he would say it how it was.  You knew if you did wrong very quickly, and if you were trusted, you were given more responsibility.


Tam’s sense of humour was second to none and he was always ‘in’ with any joke being played provided it did not negatively affect the quality of service we provided.


A young undergraduate, who thought he was worthy of being elevated to the dizzy heights of managerial duties after only two shifts at work because he had completed his first year of a hospitality degree was soon taught that common sense and humour was compulsory in this line of work.


During that particular shift, it was much slower than usual.  A sunny, warm day had kept punters outside rather than them wanting to venture indoors.  


It was the perfect opportunity to clean the windows because that, in itself, was a big job with the building spanning over three storeys, and the frontage being covered from floor to ceiling with small glass panes.

The undergraduate was, in Tam’s own words, “perfect for the job”, as he had some experience under his belt and, so eager to please the Manager on Duty, he was only too happy to “go outside to count all the windows in order to work out how much window cleaning product was required.”


Sadly, the undergraduate got outside the front door before turning back after the team started laughing raucously. 


Not the best one though... 


My favourite prank caught many people out…


It was played on another unsuspecting team member new to the job and was reaching the end of a long evening shift which took us into the wee hours. 


I sometimes wondered if it was the long shift which could be 14 to 16 hours long, the stress that ensued at times or, simply, the greenness of these people that allowed them to fall for it.


At the end of the shift, the clean down was all important.  If the Shift Supervisor was not happy with the work, it would have to be done again.  


Supervisors were particularly strict because the Manager would then carry out an inspection after the Supervisor had given the green light to the Team and if Tam wasn’t happy, it was up to the Supervisor to resolve whatever issue was deemed not to be up to standard.  


There were some tricky things at great heights to be cleaned and because we were short on resources, we didn’t have a full supply of equipment to do this. 


I saw many inexperienced colleagues being sent up to the second floor to ask the Supervisor there for a long stand. 

The second floor Supervisor was all too willing to provide that for the incumbent member of staff as they waited and waited.  


Sometimes, the new member of the team became increasingly impatient and even reminded the second floor Supervisor that they had been forgotten about so the Supervisor would say something like “I will give you a long stand, just wait there.”


The volume of the roar of laughter would depend on how long it took the victim to realise they had had a joke played on them.


The pranks played might be termed as an initiation, a welcoming gesture, some may see it as bullying…


It is safe to say that if you were pranked, you were liked and deemed one of the crowd – unless of course you appeared to be too big for your boots and needed to be taken down a peg or two.


Fast forward eight years and I would find myself in an open plan office.


One of my colleagues was technically brilliant.  She knew her way around a computer and keyboard like I have never known, even to this day.


Someone she supported quite often irritated her (and was often condescending and unkind) and so when he was away from his desk one time, she decided to pay him back. 


She changed the keys around on his keyboard, created sticky keys, hid essential items that prevented him from doing his job, and generally annoyed him in return. 



No matter what type of work we do there will always be a joker around.


Over the years, I have lived and learnt a lot from people and their sense of humour (or lack of it in some cases).


What is clear is that humour and jokes within the workplace is often necessary to get through tough days that otherwise could feel overwhelming.


Whatever you do on April's Fool's Day, or any other day for that matter, it might just be worth pausing to think if there is a prankster lurking and if you might be their unsuspecting prey. 


Feel free to get in touch with me to discuss how we can work together, maintaining our sense of humour whilst keeping the standard of work at the very highest quality. 



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