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The fine art of workplace pranking

Everyone loves a prankster, or do they? According to Patrick Sullivan,president of Workopolis, enjoying a laugh at work is a great way torelieve stress and enjoy your day.


Everyone loves a prankster, or do they? According to Patrick Sullivan, president of Workopolis, enjoying a laugh at work is a great way to relieve stress and enjoy your day.

“Half of working Canadians told us that humour is not only acceptable, but sometimes even encouraged on the job,” he says.

The Workopolis April Fool’s Day survey released last week reveals that 46 per cent of Canadians say that pranks are accepted or encouraged in their workplace, and another half (45 per cent) say that humour at work is used to alleviate pressure and control stress.

“If you’re attempting a prank make sure you’re familiar with your corporate culture and find out how tolerant your workplace is of practical jokes and general humour It’s always a good idea to practise safe humour.” says Sullivan.

“Humour, used well, is a mark of self confidence, intelligence and an ability to connect effectively with others,” says Patt Schwab Ph.D., CSP, and author of Leave a Mark, Not a Stain! What every manager needs to know about using humor in the workplace.

“Used incorrectly, it can leave a stain of ill will and incompetence that can take years to remove.”

Be aware of what’s acceptable in your workplace. Jokes are fun when everyone is laughing. Pranks taken too far on the job can be detrimental to your career.

“Know how far you can go and use cautious judgment. If there are too many variables or things that can go wrong, think again before you go too far. If it’s at all possible for your practical joke to go wrong, don’t do it,” advises Sullivan. “Newbies should ensure that their style of humour doesn’t fit into the inappropriate or obnoxious category.”

Also as a new face in the crowd, sarcastic humour isn’t always the best way to earn respect from your more ‘experienced’ colleagues Sullivan adds.

Schwab agrees saying, “As a young professional you should be in touch with office humour, but if it’s sarcastic, graciously keep your distance. Sarcastic people are not seen as team players and are seldom promoted.”

On the other hand, connecting effectively with humour makes you more successful, in the very real sense of workplace success and promotion says Schwab. “Ninety-seven per cent of executives say it’s a valuable skill; 60 per cent of them consider it a deciding factor in business success and 84 per cent of HR directors say employees with a sense of humour do better work.”

According to the survey, while half of working Canadians report humour as tolerated or encouraged on the job, it may not be acceptable in all situations. Know who is off limits.

“Don’t find out too late that your boss or subordinates are out of bounds. Whatever rules are in place, if this is a new workplace or your first job, consider being a bit more conservative than what is the office norm.”

Prior to the prank think of the possible outcomes. Will the joke consume someone’s time or disrupt the workplace? What if the person is on a deadline?

“If your practical joke means everyone is late to leave the workplace, you may lose a few friends around the office,” says Sullivan, “If there are important guests visiting your workplace, think about what this prank will say about you, your colleagues and your work environment.”

If you’re a victim of a prank gone too far, or an offensive joke, remember that this is your place of work — it’s not a social setting. Talk to the prankster directly, or your manager if that’s appropriate, suggests Sullivan. It’s completely acceptable to admit if you found a joke to be inappropriate for the workplace and others may agree.

“If you are not the power broker in the group, it can be more difficult to speak up,” Schwab recognizes, “You may worry about appearing ‘uptight’ or ‘not a team player.’ Done well, with a hint of humour and no hint at all of put-down, speaking out against what everyone generally concedes was tasteless humour can actually increase your prestige because to do so indicates self-confidence and integrity.”


 
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