my workplace pulled a mean April Fools prank on employees

A reader writes:

Today is April 1st. All the managers at my plant secretly met and decided to call a meeting with the employees in two departments. The plan is to tell them their departments are all required to work 4 hours overtime tonight.

I think this is a terrible, terrible prank. These people have families and commitments outside of work. I don’t know how long the managers are going to keep the joke up before they tell the employees they can go home on time today. I am imagining tons of angry, disappointed employee families desperately trying to communicate about it while the employees can’t even have their cell phones out during work hours.

What do you think?

Update several minutes later:

I know I sent that email just a minute ago, but I already have an update. The joke was revealed to the employees after just a few minutes. But they told the employees they had to work overtime tonight AND tomorrow and that their production would be subject to a complete audit (audits are a big deal around here). My HR lady is giggling, saying “some of them turned white as a sheet! Some of them turned green!”

I asked what kind of pranks they’ve done in previous years, and it was just managers pranking each other (messing up one another’s desks, etc.) which I think is infinitely more appropriate!

Ick, yes.

I’m on record here as liking pranks more than some, but jokes that rely on making other people upset or on abusing your position of power over them aren’t funny.

Laughing at people’s reaction to that reveals a troubling lack of understanding about power dynamics and the realities of things like child care and other obligations people have in their lives.

I don’t know your role is there, but are you in a position where you’d be comfortable pointing that out? You’d be doing everyone a service if you did.

Your HR person and the managers who thought this was a good idea are at best thoughtless. How they respond to having this pointed out will tell you whether they’re jerks too.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 272 comments… read them below }

  1. Helka*

    Oh my gosh, I would have been so unhappy about that! Though for the opposite reason from your colleagues. Money’s tight, and eight hours of overtime would be a gift from heaven. Having that turn out to be a joke would be cruel.

    I really hope you’re in a position to point out what a nasty “prank” this was!

    1. Anx*

      Same. I don’t know how pay works at places with ‘overtime,’ so maybe there wouldn’t be extra pay if they were on a salary…but if I found out I wasn’t going to be working extra hours, my heart with would sink.

      1. Helka*

        If they’re nonexempt, overtime would be paid at 1.5x their normal rate of pay — so for instance, someone who makes $20/hr normally would get $30/hr. If you have the time to burn and need extra cash, OT can be a blessing. I pretty much always take it when it’s offered.

        If they’re exempt, there really isn’t such a thing as overtime; you work the hours you’re expected to work, whatever those are.

  2. Partly Cloudy*

    At least it was only for a few minutes, but that is still awful. The fill-the-office with balloons type pranks can be funny and cute, but messing with peoples’ emotions or livelihood, or being destructive in any way – Not Okay.

    1. stellanor*

      I hate pranks but they pulled one at my office that I’m okay with — this morning someone left a donut box in the kitchen, which is the universal symbol for DONUT FREE FOR ALL.

      But it was full of fruit.

      That is the level of harmless you must achieve for me to be okay with a prank.

      1. Leah*

        Ha, I love this!

        Someone put a sign on the office bathroom mirror that says something like “mirror is currently under construction. Please do not use”

      2. Anx*

        That’s neat because it gets you a little excited for something low stakes and still has a prize at the end (which for many people is way better than donuts)

      3. Erin*

        This can be very dangerous, depending on which time of the month you choose. :D

        But yes, it would be an okay prank. :)

      4. Florida*

        That’s pretty funny. I think I’ll steal this idea.

        On the open thread, someone mention that they put all of the folders on the shared drive labeled “Private – do not open” and there were dozens of layers of them. That wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, but I thought it was funny.

      5. Receptionist Without A Cause*

        Hmmm. Excuse me while I mentally bookmark that idea for next year. :)

        1. Receptionist Without A Cause*

          Apparently people without a sense of the appropriate prank are everywhere today. I shared the fruit idea with a co-worker who opined that a better idea would be to use real donuts… with a drop of Visine on each one. He doesn’t understand why that would be a horrible, horrible idea.

          1. Nelly*

            Yeah, some people think it just causes gastro trouble, but it’s a neurotoxin that will actually kill his workmates. Or… maybe he knew that? Maybe you should be concerned…

            1. Natalie*

              And even if he thinks it just causes GI problems, who wants to do that to their coworkers? Or anyone, really?

              1. Receptionist Without A Cause*

                Yeah, what I took away from that conversation is to never eat anything that’s been left out in the office kitchen ever.

                Sadly, it’s kind of indicative of the community in this workplace. :(

            2. John Smith*

              This, exactly. Even if he’s not aware and thinks it causes stomach problems, be wary. Causing someone explosive diarrhea is not my idea of a fun time

      6. TrainerGirl*

        That’s a fun prank. My company sent out an e-mail (I’m pretty new, and apparently wasn’t on this particular e-mail list). My coworker got it and proclaimed that we were no longer able to wear jeans. I asked him to forward it, and I’m sure that for him and other people who don’t read e-mails all the way through, they were probably upset. If they’d read further, they would have known that the “business wear” the company was insisting that we wear as of 4/1 was brightly-colored suits, ties the width of your body, curly primary-colored hair and shoes way bigger than your feet. There was a link to our company intranet with some examples. Funny, and probably only irritating to people who don’t read their e-mails all the way through.

      7. John Smith*

        The general rule for “Pranks” should be “Confuse, don’t abuse.” Your victim should be left going WTF? and not FML. So long as no one is mentally or physically harmed, I have no problem with pranks. This does seem to be a terrible idea for a prank. I love OT, but I can’t work it without it being scheduled so I can make arrangements for my son

    2. Sam*

      I taped a picture of Burt Reynolds shirtless over the sensors of the mouses of coworkers I’m good friends with. Harmless, and took them less than 15 secs to figure out.

      1. Ashleyh*

        someone covered the ice tea dispenser in our cafeteria with a picture of the rapper Ice-T. They did the same for the ice dispenser with a picture of the rapper Ice Cube. It made me giggle.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Someone did my workplace with Justin Beiber a few years ago. We were still finding them for months – at the very back of the freezer when we cleaned it out, behind the clock when we took it down to change the time, on the ceiling, in the pages of someone’s employee manual – it was funny and harmless.

  3. Clever Name*

    Ugh. I seriously hate pranks. A manager pulled one on the entire company regarding some updated seating arrangements. It didn’t affect me as I’m not moving, but I was really taken aback and a little upset. Not a fan of April Fool’s Day.

    1. maggie*

      I’m curious as to why a changed seating assignments that didn’t involve you moving was so upsetting. Sincerely curious so I don’t ever try this…

      1. Hazel*

        I’m not the person above, but I dislike pranks like these because I have asperger’s, and I dislike being lied to (and probably made to feel scared or unpleasant) and then laughed at for not understanding it’s a joke. I find April Fool’s Day wholly unpleasant, and tend to try to stay at home on that day if I can.

  4. fposte*

    I don’t forbid all pranks, but they have to be pranks the recipients will find funny. (And there’s a no prank-war rule.)

  5. Katie the Fed*

    Um, that’s awful and not funny at all. It’s like something Michael Scott would do. Don’t mess with people’s emotions and lives.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Michael Scott would also tell them that they had Friday off, wait for people to make plans for that day, and then announce that he was kidding.

    2. Michele*

      Wasn’t there an episode where he pretended to fire people? That sounds like something the OPs management would do.

      1. BananaPants*

        It was the pilot, I think? I watch early seasons of The Office and Michael Scott is like the antithesis of good management. They made him less…malicious about it after the first season, though, I think to make him more likable.

        1. Collarbone High*

          Yep, in the pilot he pretended to fire Pam, and laughed at how upset she got. That was exactly my thought when I read this letter: “Did these people watch the pilot of The Office and instead of thinking ugh, what a jerk, they thought, that would be so funny to do in real life!”

          1. HR Pro*

            I’m an HR director and a few years ago one of the vice presidents at my company asked me to walk up to some of his employees and give them pink pieces of paper like the old fashioned “pink slips” (which apparently people used to get when they were being fired? Sounds horrible.). He thought it would be hilarious. I said no. He told me I was “no fun.” Oh well!

            I guess the point is that there are all kinds of people who find mean stuff funny.

    3. littlemoose*

      Before I do anything I ask myself “Would an idiot do that?” And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing.

  6. Not So NewReader*

    I’m not clear on this. So they told people they had to work 4 hours OT tonight, then said that was a joke and they had to work OT tonight and tomorrow night and they will be audited?
    So is that a joke also?

    How do people know what they are supposed to be doing?

    1. Helka*

      I think the OP’s chronology is a little unclear, I read it as instead of just telling them they had to work 4 hours of OT, they escalated from the planned story to telling it as 8 hours of OT plus an audit.

      1. NotFunny*

        Sorry – I heard about the planned joke secondhand, (“You’re all staying late tonight”) as it was happening, and then after it happened I got more details about what the joke was (“you’re all staying late tonight AND tomorrow and your work better be perfect!”).

    2. Clever Name*

      Yeah, Weird. I’d be really tempted to leave at my normal time, and when questioned later, “Oh, so that WASN’T an April Fool’s joke?”

    3. NotFunny*

      They told people today that they’d be working 4 hours OT tonight AND 4 more OT tomorrow night and that their work from during this time would be heavily scrutinized by auditors, which is out of the ordinary. Then they said just kidding.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I hope everyone stared at them. You know, that laughless, uncomfortable stare.

        I guess they never heard the story of the little boy who cried wolf.

  7. Amber Rose*

    I’m a fan of the cake that is actually meatloaf. It’s misleading but won’t actually harm anyone, just surprise them and maybe get a chuckle.

    If the person you prank doesn’t laugh or at least groan, you failed.

    1. Clever Name*

      I agree. And I do enjoy some April Fool’s pranks. The ones on the internet are generally good. Google Maps Pac-Man this year is awesome. The DNR announced it discovered a major colony of jackalopes. CERN has found proof of the Force. A clothing company I get emails from issued an apology for making a photo-print dress with a nude lady on it (surpise! no nude lady, but the dress is on sale!). Those I can laugh at. Announcing a pregnancy on Facebook as a joke- cruel. Saying something that is reasonably plausible that will either make people upset or overjoyed and then laughing when their emotions are crushed is just not funny. At all.

      1. Cat*

        I mostly find the fake Facebook pregnancies confusing. I have a hard enough time keeping track of which acquaintances are pregnant vs. which are vaguebooking about things that sounds like pregnancy and which are posting pics with their kids vs. their nieces/nephews vs. random children they stole from God knows where. April Fools Day on top of that just makes it untangleable.

        1. BananaPants*

          Not to mention that the stupid fake pregnancy (or pregnant with multiples) announcements on April Fool’s Day can be extremely hurtful to people who are dealing with infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, etc. I have not experienced any of those but have friends and family who have, and they universally HATE that prank.

          1. JoAnna*

            Yeah, I did this on several April Fools Days until I realized how horribly insensitive it was to those struggling with infertility.

        2. Allison*

          I’ll admit, when I was young (like in high school) I thought fake pregnancies were funny. I thought it would be a hilarious prank to tell my parents, or my boyfriend, that I was knocked up, but always chickened out.

          Then one Aprl 1st, my boyfriend called, said he had sex with another girl and got her pregnant. Didn’t take me long to realize it was a “prank,” but it was painfully unfunny. And now that I’m in my 20’s, I know that fake pregnancies, fake breakups, fake engagements, fake “coming outs,” any fake major life changes are basically the worst. No one thinks they’re funny, and you could really upset someone. There are exceptions to every rule, I know, but in general, don’t do it. The point is to actually be funny, not cruel.

          1. jmkenrick*

            My college boyfriend once called his parents on April Fool’s with a pregnancy scare prank.

            His mother replied: “I can’t talk now, you’re Dad’s in the hospital!”

            So, of course he raced home as fast as possible only to arrive with the whole family laughing at him.

            Lesson learned.

          2. Elysian*

            Yeah a fake pregnancy announcement at 15 is way different than a fake pregnancy announcement at 28. When a friend did one last year I was like “Oh I didn’t know you were even dating someone…?” I was just confused. It wasn’t funny at all, especially surrounded by the 4-5 actual pregnancies also on my feed.

          3. Linguist curmudgeon*

            One time I thought it would be a funny joke to tell my dad that my bronchitis was actually tuberculosis. (I didn’t realize that disease was still extant.) He freaked out (understandably) and I learned some important life lessons. I think I was like 19, though, so at least I had some excuse.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          The one time I saw that, it was with a couple where the instinctive reaction was that these people having a baby was a horrible thing to do to an innocent child, and then having to pretend to congratulate them.

      2. Yeah, pregnant April fools*

        A coworker is doing this, it sort of leaves people embarrassed when they rush to hug her…Nobody ever did pranks here, now I’ll have to watch out for her each year.

        1. plain_jane*

          Or the co-worker who said “I knew it!” and then it was revealed to be a prank?

          1. Alter_ego*

            Oh god, can you imagine if you joked about only to have multiple people say “oooh, so that’s why you’re getting so much bigger”

      3. Lily in NYC*

        I hate those stupid pregnancy pranks. Don’t these women realize how self-centered they appear when they pull this tonedeaf crap?

        1. maggie*

          Believe me, if men could pull it too, they would. Selfishness and idiocy is not reduced to the fairer gender.

        1. It was a large room. Full of people. All kinds.*

          Heh, that’s pretty good. It seems like many April 1st jokes have become ‘forced’ (sorry) these past few years.

          Although my absolute favorite was last year. It’s shrouded in heavy layers of geekery and I lack the objectivity to tell if it even makes sense to most people, but here it is:

          Obscure, kinda cute maybe, in a scratch-yer-head kind of way. But the real punchline came three weeks later, when they announced that it wasn’t a joke, they really did it:


          All of which is preface to the news I got today, which is that for the first time in my 30 year career, I’m going to be a real manager at my day job.

      4. Adam*

        I just realized that a woman in my office announced today that she was pregnant and it didn’t even occur to me that she might be joking. Granted she already has two kids and isn’t really the pranking type, but I can’t believe I didn’t think about that.

      5. Arjay*

        I got an email from Redbox announcing their new Petbox service for pets. It features movies like Paws (instead of Jaws) and Fifty Shades of Greyhounds. Very cute!

      6. Blue_eyes*

        I hate the fake-pregnancy and fake-engagement ones. If you’re in a serious long-term relationship, people will believe that you got engaged. Don’t play with their emotions. It’s obnoxious.

      7. Felicia*

        The only fake Facebook pregnancy announcement I’ve seen that was actually hilarious was my friend Jane posting that her wife Jennifer had gotten her pregnant unexpectedly. Funnier when people thought it was real :P

        1. Calla*

          I ALMOST did that last year (since I’m a lesbian in a long-term relationship too). Instead a posted something like “I’m so happy about this, after many years of trying it’s finally happening, here’s the sonogram” and attached some comic art someone did of a litter of kittens in a human womb.

          The only joke was that it’s not actually possible for me to birth kittens :(

      8. Liane*

        I like yours, as well as the Redbox email I got today about their new service, Petbox. It’s an add-on to the kiosk, at a pet-friendly height, that vends movies & video games of interest to your pets. The email suggested Paws, Gone Squirrel, Furry, 50 Shades of Greyhound & the first-person shooter Koala Duty: Advanced Snorefare.

        Those are funny–but not joking about work hours or audits.

      9. soitgoes*

        I know someone who did the fake-pregnancy prank one year. To keep the joke going, she deleted any comments asking if it was a prank so no one saw any clarification. Unfortunately, she gained a significant amount of weight in her first year of marriage (or I should say, she regained the weight she lost for her wedding, plus the bit that comes from living with a good cook) and people really did think she was pregnant for the next six months or so. :/

      10. Mel R*

        A phone app game I play has replaced its normal monsters (cyclops, minotaurs, cerberus) with Catzillas – adorable big-eyed kittens that turn into something like a feline T-Rex when you attack them. XD

      11. Chinook*

        My favorite one was from Travel Alberta commerating the cenntenial repainting of the bottom of Lake Louise (complete with a follow-up tweet that the water drained naturally under the ice every year). They even had photos of the event!

      12. ReanaZ*

        Last year, my cousin and his girlfriend announced on April 1 that they had gotten married at the courthouse and that she was pregnant. Except they really did and she really was, and the joke was that no one believed them. Which I appreciated.

    2. ElCee*

      Once, when I was still living at home, I brought a meatloaf sandwich to work. I was looking forward to that dang sandwich all day. When I opened it and took a bite, I realized my dad had made salmon loaf. This remains my biggest lunch trauma to date :(

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I hope I never, ever come across salmon loaf. I don’t like food in loaf form, and salmon is my all-time least-favorite food. I understand your trauma.
        Ha, I just remembered I ordered a rice and bean burrito once and brought it back to my office to eat. I opened it and it was just rice. A tortilla filled with plain white rice. I was so sad but way too lazy to walk back to the shop.

        1. Michele*

          I hate getting lunch to go and having the order be wrong. There isn’t anywhere to get lunch within a mile or so of work, so it would take too much time to get it fixed. Then you are just stuck with a crappy lunch.

          1. Jessa*

            This is why I never leave a fast food, or takeaway joint without actually checking the food. Every time, and I really don’t care if it messes up their window times (I can usually do it pretty fast,) but if I’m on lunch I can’t afford to get something I cannot eat, and I do not have time to go back and fix it. And Murphy hates me, every single time I forget to check (rarely but it happens,) the meal is screwed up. 99 meals perfect and 1 I don’t check and bang.

            1. John Smith*

              I would recommend pulling out of the drive thru to check the meal first. It takes like 3 minutes longer, and you’re still there and not messing up any times. Employees in fast food do get raises, and graded on that. It’s one of their type of KPI’s

        1. JB*

          Right? I love raisins and cookies with raisins, but if I’m *expecting* chocolate chips and getting raisins, it’s not a happy surprise. It is not as bad, though, as buying dessert at an Asian bakery that you think is filled with chocolate but it turns out to be red bean paste. And I love red bean paste! But now when I think it will be chocolate.

          1. sam*

            worst cookie ever? college cafeteria, cookies that *looked like* sugar cookies. Were they sugar cookies?


            They were flavored with Anise (that gross black licorice flavor that NO ONE likes).

            This was over 20 years ago. To this day, I STILL sniff cookies to make sure they’re the flavor I *think* they are. People think I’m weird.

            1. Judy*

              Were they springerleis? My kids fight over them when my mom makes them.

              I love them, and I don’t even like licorice.

        2. BadPlanning*

          Several years ago, I was in Japan doing a mini study aboard. Midway through, I was feeling quite homesick and actually sick with a cold. We were working outside and our hosts called us over for a snack break. From a distance, I thought we were going to have chocolate chip cookies. Food for the homesick soul.

          They were rice cakes with seaweed bits on them.

        3. einahpets*

          In grad school we got free bagels for a morning weekly seminar. One time I picked out what I thought was a cranberry flavored bagel and put a ton of strawberry flavored cream cheese on it (starving grad student!). The bagel was roasted tomato or something savory. Savory bagel and fruit cream cheese do not go well.

          Also before I knew that chocolate chips in bagels were a thing I made the mistake of grabbing one I thought was cinnamon raisin. I love chocolate and have come to terms with these weird bagels since, but the toaster did not like melty chocolate bagel.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            I know someone who did this today:

            I decorated the office of a colleague with pages from a freebie vendor’s calendar that she’d given me. Every month has a different close-up photo of an animal eye, and she said the photos were freaky and she didn’t want them in her office. So I put one on each of her monitors, and one on the inside of the door. Gave her a good giggle when she got in this morning! (I know her well enough to know that she’d find it funny, and that she doesn’t have an actual phobia about eye photos or anything).

            1. NutellaNutterson*

              My favorite movie theater prank to pull on friends is to put a junior mint into the milk duds. I might need to keep a few skittles on hand now, too.

              1. Jessa*

                I really do not like food pranks because people have allergies, stomach problems, etc. I hate peppermint and I’d probably gag on a junior mint, especially if I tossed it back expecting a milk dud. I’m not allergic but peppermint to me is medicine. Peppermint oil on sugar cubes for stomach issues. It would not go over well as a surprise to me. I cannot eat hot pepper type stuff, because of severe stomach/esophageal issues, seriously if someone did one of those “put hot sauce on x” pranks on me, I wouldn’t be able to talk for a couple of hours.

                So unless you seriously seriously know someone, I’d not do food pranks that are about substitutions/additions to food.

        4. SaraV*

          My mom speaks of the time she went to take a drink out of a plastic, opaque glass of what she thought was water. Turned out to be milk. She just about gagged because her tastebuds and brain was expecting water.

          1. A Dispatcher*

            That happened to me once when I ordered a sprite or something similar at a restaurant and the machine had apparently run out of the soda syrup so I ended up with a glass of carbonated water (which looks exactly the same as a clear lemon-lime soda). It was so disconcerting because you’re just not expecting it at all.

        5. Anonymous Coward*

          At a spooky candlelit Halloween party one year, I took a big forkful of apple crisp and shoved it into my facehole. Only it was actually tuna noodle casserole.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            I was once eating sushi in the dark (it was a bento box at a fireworks display) and put what I thought was a ball of rice in my mouth. Nope, big ball of wasabi. I think my friends were more entertained by my reaction than they were by the fireworks.

        6. potato battery*

          I substitute chocolate chips for raisins in all baked good recipes, as a matter of principle. And because chocolate is delicious.

        7. Chinook*

          “That is the protein equivalent of grabbing a cookie that you think has chocolate chips only to discover it has raisins.”

          Did you know that, in Japan, natto beans look like big chocolate chips when baked in a fresh scone? They do NOT taste anywhere near the same (but did force me learn how to spell chocolate in Japanese).

    3. shirley*

      I have an office full of vegetarians, some for religious reasons. Do not hide meat in things, people. It would not get a chuckle out of me or most of my coworkers.

      1. A.K. Climpson*


        This is why even “harmless” pranks can be problematic. Everyone has a different set of potential harms which might not come up in normal interaction, or which you might not think of. As a vegetarian, I would be really upset by hidden meatloaf.

      2. Anlyn*

        A friend of mine is allergic to cow. She can’t eat beef, cheese, or butter, and she can’t drink milk. Other animals are fine–including, strangely, buffalo–but if someone gave her something and it turns out there was beef in it, she could get violently sick.

        Food allergies are weird.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          Food allergies are so weird. I have a bunch and there is no common theme in them. The reactions vary wildly too. Avocado leads to hospitalization level GI issues hours later for example.

          1. Brisvegan*

            My brother in law is also allergic to avocado. He was told to avoid latex, because it is related. Important information for medical settings.

            1. Jessa*

              I never knew that about avocado. The more you know…

              I’m allergic to mustard. Hospital allergic. So yeh food allergies are weird and suck. I get serious issues about pranks to start with, but OMG never, ever food pranks. NOT funny, potentially deadly.

        2. My Fake Name is Laura*

          I have a roommate who is also allergic to cow, but in addition to food he also has to watch out for lactic acid and other milk proteins in personal care products. You’d be surprised at how many lotions, shampoos, and conditioners, etc are on the list!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I read where the term “natural flavors” listed on the ingredients label can mean anything, including milk and milk products.

              1. JB*

                Yeah, I have a ton of food allergies, and I have to order my lipstick from a company in Canada.

      3. Cat*

        FWIW, it’s pretty easy to tell with the meatloaf cakes when you cut into them – I don’t think anyone would take a bite unwittingly.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s amazing how distracted people can be, and it’s never funny to trick anyone into eating something they didn’t know they were eating.

      4. Blue_eyes*

        +1000. My husband keeps kosher. One time in college someone thought it would be funny to try and make him eat lard without knowing. She baked a muffin with lard and left it in his dorm room. Luckily he didn’t eat it. Pretty sure she had to go to sensitivity training or something after that.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s like the episode of Seinfeld where George put lobster in Jerry’s girlfriend’s eggs. Seriously cruel.

        2. Observer*

          This is the kind of reason many people who keep kosher, like most people with real food sensitivities (allergies, gastro issues, etc.) never eat food unless they know exactly where it came from. Sometimes it’s someone being a jerk, but sometimes it’s just clueless.

    4. Kyrielle*

      There are people who can have very bad reactions to certain types of meat – that “cake”, if made with beef, would make my friend’s husband very sick and even might send him to the hospital.

  8. Hlyssande*

    That’s a horrible thing to do. It’s like those “hilarious” videos where someone gets a fake winning lottery ticket and the whole point is to laugh at their reaction when they find out it’s fake (those always make me hurt for the person who was tricked).

    I’m glad they didn’t let the “joke” go on for very long, but that it even happened is unacceptable. Filling someone’s office with balloons is one thing. Causing people unnecessary stress and panic and laughing at their reaction is something entirely different.


    1. John Smith*

      Exactly! I saw a prank where someone had their keyboard hidden in a drawer, and was replaced with an old one that was transformed into a Chia Pet. That made me laugh. Imagine coming back from vacation to see a bunch of grass growing in your keyboard XD

  9. NotFunny*

    I am the OP. I’ve posted comments around here before about some questionably toxic goings-on at my workplace. The HR lady once called me “argumentative” and a “know it all” to my face, in our first ever official conversation, when I had some complicated questions about taking company health insurance. I am very hesitant to ever have to deal with her again, even though I did have to report a sexual harrassment recently. She handled THAT professionally, because she knows she’ll get in trouble if she doesn’t. She doesn’t handle other things professionally. I work in the office, not in the factory, so I get to hear a lot of “secrets” and disrespectful talk about the factory workers.

    My role is new and probably would be considered entry level. They created the role last year and brought me on via a temp agency and now I’m a regular employee. I am not comfortable pointing it out to HR lady or the other department managers, because I don’t have much rapport with them yet. I *did* point it out to the receptionist, IT guy, and a couple of others who hung back when the managers went to go make the “announcement” to employees. I said it was mean, and they agreed with me, and filled me in on previous pranks. But when HR and management came back in it was all laughs.

    I wish I had gone over to that building to see the whole show for myself, oh well.

    1. OhNo*

      I’m glad there were others around that didn’t think it was funny. That means at least some of your coworkers understand how unpleasant these kind of pranks are. If you don’t feel comfortable telling the perpetrators that the “joke” was mean, the only thing you can really do is just not laugh at it. Keep a straight face whenever they talk about how “hilarious” it was. Walk away from any conversations making fun of the employees’ reactions if you can. If someone asks you if you found it funny, be honest and say no, you don’t think it’s funny.

      You might be labeled as a killjoy, but at least you won’t get sucked into the mean-spirited nonsense going on in this office.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You can also do the sad-face “I feel really bad for them” thing where you’re not directly saying “that was out of bounds” but your reaction maybe guilts them a bit, or jolts them into realizing not everyone sees it how they do.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yes, this. OP, I hope you can ease out of this job and into a functional workplace soon, as you seem to be one of the few non-jerks in management there.

    2. Mike C.*

      F*** people who get pissed off because you “know things” and “have questions”.

      1. Artemesia*

        Especially when the aggressive response is code for ‘I don’t know things and can’t answer questions.’ My HR people were not nasty but they could never answer what seemed to me to be quite obvious questions. I retired at 67 and so worked a couple of years past medicare and there are a number of questions that are obvious when that transition occurs about how health insurance will function; everyone in this gigantic organization who makes this transition would have those questions and many many people work well past 65. Yet I could not get simple obvious questions cleared up because the experts in HR only ‘knew’ what was in the brochures they handed out.

    3. It was a large room. Full of people. All kinds.*

      The thing I just don’t understand is … I’m grasping for words here … there is simply something wrong with a person who feels the prank described by the OP is “funny”. How did these people get into leadership roles at this company? I would tend to think that one would require a certain high degree of social intelligence to function successfully in middle-to-upper management at a business. I guess I’m wrong? I mean, if you boil it down to its constituent parts, the ‘joke’ here is “See how upset I can make you by abusing the power I have over you? Just kidding! Ha ha!” These people are functioning at the level of a 6yo playground bully.

      I’ve been reading AAM for awhile now, and I’ve been pondering: given the high frequency with which I read tales of people behaving badly, is this a selection bias due to the nature of AAM as a forum for people write in about problems? Or – do people really suck this much?

      1. misspiggy*

        I’ve been wondering the same thing. Is it something about some people in positions of authority? For example, to have the self belief to get there, is it helpful to have the kind of oblivious self confidence that makes you insensitive to others? Or, are a lot of the people who push to get into authority driven by the particular type of insecurity which motivates bullies to be cruel?

        1. John Smith*

          I have NEVER seen a lot of this behaviour in most places I have worked. There was a telemarketing type gig I got during the recession where management thought it was funny to “kid” about bonuses. IE: “Next person to get a sales gets a daily bonus.”
          And then “Oh, I was kidding” when someone finally got the sale

      2. NotFunny*

        I get the impression this is not a “normal” modern workplace. We’re in a rural area in a conservative state, and most of the employees are doing factory and warehouse floor work for $9 an hour. Many of the workers and ALL of management have been with this company for over 20 years. The other workers are disposable temps paid even less than $9 thru the temp agency. I’m the first new office worker they have hired in many, many years. I wish I knew how they got leadership roles here. There are many things that fall below my expectations I had when I started here (also via the temp agency) and because I come from a highly bureaucratic, organized academic work background it was a real culture shock in so many ways to come here.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      This may not be the route to go on this stuff. But what I have done in the past is quietly go around and whisper to people, “It’s not true. It’s a joke.” I don’t think it benefited me in the long run to do this, I mean it rained in my life for doing this. But other times I did it and got away with it.

      As far as the gossip about the factory workers, from first hand experience, the gossip going around about the office workers is just as bad. I have worked in factories and heard it first hand myself. Everyone knew who in the office was sleeping with whom, who was embezzling money, who needed to leave their spouse STAT, who had a drug/alcohol habit and so on. There were very few real secrets. The moment by moment detail was what got me. “Oh did you see that Jane has two more bruises than she did yesterday?” Yes, I noticed but I do not feel any big need to talk about it for an hour.

  10. Alter_ego*

    This is why I HATE April fools day. While I’m sure there are fun, appropriate pranks happening, none have them have ever happened to me. Every prank seems to be some form of “haha, we made up a lie to upset you! But you can’t get mad, it’s April fools day! We’re just going to make fun of you for believing us. Nope, can’t get mad about that either, spoilsport”

    1. Boo*

      Yes. April Fool’s: a quick and easy way to identify the utter knobbers in your life, in case you didn’t already know.

    2. Windchime*

      Fun prank: One year, a woman in our office came in early and swapped pictures on other employee’s desks. So instead of my two boys, I had pictures of a couple of beautiful daughters and some strange man I didn’t know. My boys were on other peoples’ desks. One lady even had a framed picture of someone out of a magazine. It was funny and cute and we all had fun tracking down our own pictures.

      1. Mints*

        That’s a good one! I want to try to remember for next year.

        Has nobody mentioned fake birthdays? I think those are fun. Hang up a banner on your coworke’s cube or office, maybe pass around a card. Let everyone wish coworker happy birthday

        1. Mints*

          Oh, and I forgot an actual prank I did (but not today):
          Wrapped everything on my coworkers desk in gift wrap.
          It took like an hour, and included computer monitors, books, pencils, etc. It’s basically harmless and lots of fun! Who doesn’t love unwrapping presents?

          1. Jessa*

            I once saw an amazing “change the office prank” on a reality TV show about a company that makes ice sculptures. They turned the CEO’s office of a company completely into ice sculptures, I mean the chair, the desk, even the calculator and computer were done of ice and the office was switched out. It was freaking amazing and the guy thought it was hilarious. The detail work was crazy.

          2. JMegan*

            I think this is another YMMV one – I know for sure I wouldn’t like it at all. If I had a busy day planned, or a meeting to rush off to, I wouldn’t be happy to have to unwrap a bunch of stuff before I could even log on to my computer.

            But I know there are some people who would think it was funny – you just have to know your audience before you start!

  11. NotFunny*

    What makes it extra bad is that these are real things that happen sometimes at our factory. Sometimes there is a big rush and employees are strongly encouraged to work overtime to get an order done. And sometimes there is a real audit that comes as a surprise, and employees are quickly urged to make sure their work/work areas are flawless for the auditor. It wasn’t like something any of these employees would recognize as a joke if they hadn’t been informed.

  12. Lily in NYC*

    Ugh, pranks should be silly and harmless, not cause stress. My favorite is when my grandpa hard-boiled all of the eggs in the egg carton so grandma got a surprise when she went to make pancakes. I can’t stand things like fake lottery cards. Too mean-spirited.

    1. Allison*

      I dunno man, that egg gag seems mean, it means she can’t make any pancakes :(

      Unless he hid some raw eggs in the fridge for her so she can still make pancakes, then it’s okay.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        They had a bunch of egg-laying chickens in the back yard! They were just the cutest couple ever.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          awwww. I want that to be me and my husband.

          We have this ridiculous book we found in our house when we moved in. It’s basically terribly written vampire smut, and really bad. He was the one who found it and joked that I had a secret vampire smut habit. So we have this running joke of sneaking that book back and forth – I’ll put it in his briefcase before a big meeting, or he’ll wrap it up with my Christmas presents. I love it.

          1. YourOwnPersonalCheeses*

            See, that’s an example of good pranking – you’re both in on it, and you both find it funny. Love it!

          2. simonthegrey*

            I was on a school trip and we stayed in a place that had these small ceramic cows on a shelf. One of the girls on the trip mentioned that the cows had “weird eyes.” We spent the rest of the three weeks we stayed there moving those cows around the different rooms. You’d go to get in bed – cow on your pillow. Go to take a shower? Cow watching from the sink. Harmless, and all of us thought it was funny. We didn’t target the girl who thought they were weird, but she did join in the fun.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              We did that at the materials lab with a large plastic squeaky rat someone brought in as a Halloween decoration once. We’d put it in the fridge and when someone opened it to get their lunch, surprise! Or we’d put it on their desk in between stuff so they didn’t notice it at first. Then when they did, oh hello!

              I missed that job when it closed down. The rat lives at my house now, by the way. :)

    2. AdminAnon*

      Ha, that’s a good one! My mom used to make us crazy food–green milk, meatloaf cake, icing spaghetti, etc. Though one time she did bake a gingerbread cookie in the shape of dog poop, leave it on a sock, and then take a bite out of it when someone else found it. That’s just a good story now, though.

      1. JB*

        I sometimes have weird taste in food but meatloaf cake is actually sounding kind of good to me. Maybe I have a little bit of Joey (from Friends) in me.

        1. Alter_ego*

          I’ve made meatloaf cupcakes before, where you bake the meatloaf into cupcake tins with cupcake lines and everything, then “frost” them with mashed potatoes. They look cute, taste amazing, and are a really convenient way to bring lunch in to work.

          1. JB*

            That sounds really good, and now I’m really made that I developed an allergy to beef. Some people might love steak, but what I miss is meatloaf.

              1. JB*

                No :( I’m also allergic to wheat. I’m allergic to nearly everything that tastes good or is convenient. But you are inspiring me to figure out how to make a faux meatloaf that I can have.

                1. Seitan*

                  Oh, bummer! Food allergies are the worst. I have several, but am just lucky that wheat is not one of them. Quorn products also work for me. Their faux beef grounds contain Mycoprotein (95%) (it is basically a fermented product like mushrooms) & Rehydrated Egg White. Contains 2% or less of Roasted Barley Malt Extract, Firming Agents: Calcium Chloride, Calcium Acetate.

                  If that works, there are a few Quorn meatloaf recipes floating around. If not, try Google for something from scratch. Some vegans use lentils in their meatloaf. You’d be surprised what’s out there!

                2. Seitan*

                  You can tell me to get a hobby, it’s ok. But since cooking *is* my hobby… I found this, but haven’t tried it: http : // vegetarian. about. com /od/ maindishentreerecipes/ r/ricelentilloaf. htm

                3. Purple Dragon*

                  Seitan – that recipe looks divine ! I’ve bookmarked it and am going to be trying it as soon as I can. I might sub quinoa for rice though – I wonder if that would work. I’m also loving the idea of making it as cupcakes.

                  The things I learn on this site !

                4. Seitan*

                  @Purple Dragon: The quinoa substitution sounds delicious, plus more protein that way! If you do end up trying it, would you let us know on the open forum?

                5. Jessa*

                  Can you do it with lamb mince? I mean it’d work the same way if you used some meat other than beef if you can eat that?

                6. JB*

                  @Seitan, you are awesome with your suggestions. Unfortunately I’m also allergic to barley, corn, eggs, and rice, so I can’t do Quorn or the rice lentil loaf. Also garlic and onions and tomatoes. @BAS, I’m also allergic to turkey. @Jessa, I’m allergic to lamb. I KNOW.

                  I might try to follow Purple Dragon’s idea of trying it with quinoa and my tomato-free faux ketchup recipe, because it looks really good!

                7. Seitan*

                  @JB Aw, thanks! One final suggestion that should work with the quinoa if you aren’t allergic: mashed up chickpeas. They should give you the mush to bind it together a little easier. The Ener-G egg replacer is also supposed to be a good binder.

                  I’m checking out of this thread now, but could you let us know how your quinoa meatloaf cupcakes turn out on an open thread? Because if you can get it to work, I would love to try that recipe! :-)

              1. Evan Þ*

                +1. My mom switched from all-beef meatloaf to all-turkey meatloaf when I was around nine. It tasted somewhat different, but still delicious!

            1. Elizabeth*

              My dad can’t have any beef, wheat or tomato. My mom makes meatloaf out of ground pork, ground turkey & rolled oats, with a mushroom gravy.

                1. Elizabeth*

                  My dad loved meatloaf, and not being able to eat it was just about enough drive him off the restricted diet he is on.

                  My mom usually makes a cupcake tray full of the mini loaves, they eat what they want, then she freezes the rest. That gives them several meals that they don’t have to cook, just pull the pre-cooked food out, thaw & reheat.

          2. BeckyDaTechie*

            Wanna kick them up a notch? Put a tablespoon of shredded cheese or a cheese cube in the middle before you bake. :) So Much Yum. That’s one of the only things I miss about going veg; I don’t taste what I make any more so I don’t really *know* if meatloaf Florentine is as good as everybody says.

          3. Artemesia*

            Trader Joes sells meatloaf cupcakes like this with spinach and mash potato icing — they are made from turkey — ‘Turkey muffins’ or something like that. I used to have a box in the freezer for the quick hot lunch or dinner if my husband were out and I didn’t feel like the hard hard work of whipping up an omelet.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            YUM YUM

            I made meatloaf in muffin tins. It cooked about twice as fast as the loaf. Perfect to pop into your lunch container. Hmm, I think I’ll make some this weekend!

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’m known for my cat-poop cookies, and I use gingerbread too. I add cocoa to get the coloring right. They are quite good. For some reason, however, they don’t get eaten quite as fast as other cookies I make. :)

        1. Windchime*

          My mom has made fake cat turds out of Tootsie Rolls and placed them in strange places, like on someone’s bed. She loves April Fools Day.

          1. QualityControlFreak*

            I gave my project lead “kitty roca” once. Your mom’s tootsie roll trick on a bed of crushed almonds. He ate them.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        They had chickens in the back yard. I eat pancakes every year on my grandpa’s bday because it was his favorite food. He lived to be a 104!

  13. Not Here or There*

    OldBoss did something kind of similar. On the day before a holiday the support staff were told by a supervisor that we could leave at lunch. About an hour before lunch my boss (who was the big boss), told me I couldn’t leave early because he needed me to stay to work with him on some things. Since I really hadn’t planned on leaving early (they only told us we could that morning), I said “Ok” and just shrugged it off as being one of the downfalls of working for the big boss. Half hour into lunch, while sitting at my desk noshing on my sandwich, the big boss comes out and says “What are you doing here? Go home”. I reminded him that he’d told me to stay, and then he erupted in giggles. He had been kidding and thought I knew it. The guy had a poker face that would turn Medusa to stone.

    1. BadPlanning*

      Did he apologize or just think it was hilarious that you stayed? At least it wasn’t too far into the afternoon.

    2. ism*

      I work for the big boss, too. I know her well enough that I think I’ve figured out how this prank probably got started, though someone has confirmed the employee prank was not her idea. I know all about the downfalls of working for the big boss :/ when I was new she did the whole “sit back down young lady, you can’t use the restroom in the middle of a meeting” and I fell for it. (that sounds terrible but it was a joke i didn’t fall for and now we can both laugh about it)

      1. ism*

        i *totally* just contradicted myself! i fell for it for half a second and then i realized she was joking, we laughed & i walked away (to pee urgently).

  14. TotesMaGoats*

    I have to agree that was really mean-spirited. I’ve had bosses fill cars with balloons, move cars to different parts of the garage and stuff like that. (The people regularly had to grab keys from each other so getting access to car keys wasn’t a big deal to them.) My old boss used to always do an elaborate prank on April fools. After the first year of calling me in a panic to say that someone was quitting because they were having twins, I caught on and never forgot.

  15. Anna*

    The thing is, pranks need to be well thought out, well planned and actually funny. This was none of those things. I have seen some genuinely funny pranks, but the pregnancy “joke” irritates me every time. It’s so…lazy. I admire craftsmanship and that one takes no effort at all. Telling someone they have to work late when they don’t is lazy and is usually only funny to one or two people. At the end of a prank as many people as possible should be laughing because it was funny, not hurtful.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Exactly. If the people the “prank” is done to don’t find it funny afterwards, it’s not a joke, it’s just being mean to people.

  16. Allison*

    Maybe next year we should have a brainstorming thread to come up with *good* office pranks, and remind people of what not to do.

    1. Jen RO*

      I would enjoy that… because my gut tells me that *any* prank will be deemed inappropriate by someone. Balloons? Someone with a clown phobia. Anything food related? Allergies, religion, etc. Office stationery? Maybe someone’s aunt in China is in the hospital and those 2 seconds spent unwrapping the monitor means they will read the doctor’s email too late. Coin stuck to the floor? What if the boss is passing by and think you are stupid for falling for that and never ever promotes you?

      (Yes, I’m bitter that people seem so sensitive to innocent things. And I don’t even *like* pranks!)

      1. Observer*

        But, you are also conflating common issues with extreme and unlikely stuff. Food allergies and sensitivities that range from seriously uncomfortable to life threatening are common enough that it’s reasonable to take them into consideration. “Someone’s aunt in China is so ill in the hospital that email might not get in in time” is so far fetched that you don’t have to worry about that, unless there is some specific reason for think about it.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Perfect–about a week before April Fool’s Day.

      I thought about telling my boss I was actually moving to London forever, but 1) I didn’t want to give her a heart attack, and 2) it’s too close to my real longing, therefore sad to say, “No, not really!” :P

  17. Shannon*

    I worked in a prank-filled office once. I told the boss that I had a moral objection to pranks. No one was ever sure what it meant, so I never got pranked once!

    1. Shannon*

      I should have added–I think the type of joke the OP is talking about is particularly harmful for all the reasons mentioned above, and one of the reasons I think pranks in the workplace are generally a bad idea.

      1. jmkenrick*

        I’m not necessarily against pranks…I generally think April Fools is pretty fun (google Baby Mudder for my favorite this year…)

        That said, I know about myself that some pranks cross a line for me, and I generally find prank wars tiresome. So I don’t prank anyone in the workplace, and I made it pretty clear a few years ago that I’m not going to take kindly to pranks. It’s perfectly possible that someone would come up with something I found funny and endearing…but the line can be thin, and at work the stakes are too high.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        As someone not in big law it amazes me that one would have to be excused from responding to email between 11 pm and 6 am. That to me is a fair time to just claim “sorry, was sleeping and didn’t see it.”

        1. Cat*

          I’m always a little conflicted on that* because part of me is thinking “that’s cruel and abusive and awful” and part of me is thinking “well, that is why they get paid twice what I do.”

          * Never worked in Big Law, never wanted to, but have friends who do.

          1. A.K. Climpson*

            Sure, but it’s one thing to take a job where you get paid a ton to work all the time, and another when the firm literally makes a joke out of how much they don’t care about your well-being.

            The last line of their April Fools’ email was: “We are proud to be taking a leadership role in caring about our colleagues’ quality of life.”

            1. Cat*

              Oh yeah, I agree – I was just talking about the expectation to be constantly on email.

              1. A.K. Climpson*

                Ah, yes, on that I definitely share your conflicted feelings. Those are outrageous demands, but also can be outrageous amounts of money…

            2. sad in biglaw*

              Yeah, that’s the issue–I know it’s part and parcel of the job (and, yes, the salary), but being highly paid doesn’t change the fact that the day-to-day sometimes sucks and I think it’s mean-spirited to mock the fact that our time is not respected. Although I do wonder–I’m not at that firm, but I am in NYC, and I’ve heard it’s better outside of the major markets (or even in major markets outside of the northeast).

            3. neverjaunty*

              I suspect one of the reasons that people were so angry is that everybody in BigLaw kinda knows that the firm doesn’t care about your life outside the office and wants to squeeze you for every billable minute, but there’s at least an unspoken agreement that they shouldn’t rub your noses in it and laugh.

              One acquaintance of mine came back from the holiday party at an enormous BigLaw firm furious, because he had happened to walk past the managing partner and some other big shots in time to overhear the managing partner refer to the firm’s associates as “billable units”.

  18. The Office Admin*

    Our work crew got together last night and decided to prank us(their foreman, superintendent and myself) by calling in sick. All of them. By the third call, the foreman was on to their prank but let it roll on.
    They all showed up about 10 minutes earlier than usual, giggling as they came into the office. It was really great to see, our work crews dynamics are always changing and to see them work together and to have a joke was great.
    I know that some might say that they should take that team work and apply it to their actual work, but to me, a foundation like this is so important to them enjoying and staying here at this company. I think that this is the sort of thing that brings a group together and makes them want to work together on their jobsite.

    1. ism*

      i love that. i’ve participated in similar group pranks that reinforced the team or at least ended in a real show of appreciation for the team leader. places like church retreats, scout camp, the like. it’s one way i am able to make sense of what’s a toxic workplace and what isn’t, as a rookie.

  19. Brett*

    Our pranks used to be somewhat mean (mostly because of mean people involved), but have evolved into just mildly elaborate.

    My favorite one from years past was a two parter. First there was the mug. The target had a habit of making a bathroom trip every day to read the newspaper. The pranker went all out to snap an over the stall picture of the top of that employee’s head. He oiled all the hinges, got a silent camera, found camouflage to match the bathroom decor, etc and got the picture. The other employee thought something was up, but did not find out until 4 months later, when the pranker showed up on April 1st with his new coffee mug with that snapshot printed on the bottom.

    Target was very relieved when we moved into a new building and pranker was transferred elsewhere. Which leads to part 2. Target comes in an hour early and leaves an hour early every day. Last March 31st, we created a fake transfer for the pranker. The target showed up on April 1st to find the other half of his cubicle filled with pranker’s stuff, including a custom nameplate and a fake signed transfer order sitting on the desk. And then prankster showed up at 8 am to sit at his new desk too. We had the AED ready, but didn’t need it :)

    This year’s main prank:
    We have a “part-time” resident who is using space in our area for a project, call him Tim Jones. What was supposed to be 4 weeks has turned into 8 months now. We rib him by calling him Loki, after Andre ‘Loki’ Barbosa, the squatter who was trying to adverse possess a $2M mansion at 580 Golden Harbour Drive, Boca Raton, FL. Well, we had an extra sample building nameplate/directional sign laying around, and made a custom insert that says:

    Room 580
    Tim ‘Loki’ Barbosa

    And installed it into the wall above his desk while he was out at lunch (one of our staffers does drywall on the side). Tim was pretty amused.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Wait okay… I’m sorry but are you saying someone snapped a picture of another employee while in the STALL IN THE RESTROOM?!

      1. Jen RO*

        But maybe Brett is a better judge of Target’s sensibilities than people on the internet?…

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Considering target was very relieved when prankster was moved/it was considered a good prank to freak target out by faking prankster coming back, yeah, I’d guess target wasn’t a fan of this behavior.

          And even if they weren’t offended… It is so, so many levels of wrong to snap photos of anyone inside a restroom stall. As in so wrong I’d have no problem hugely disciplining or even firing prankster over it. I’m actually pretty sure it’s illegal to be honest…

  20. Cafe Au Lait*

    I worked as a staff counselor for a YMCA camp. One summer I had the cabin of pranksters. I caught them as they were planning their first prank, and laid down some ground rules:

    1. The prank can’t hurt anyone.
    2. The prank can’t cause more than a few moment’s trouble.
    3. The prank can’t damage camp or personal property.
    4. Know thy prankee.

    So, if want to sneak into a ‘rival’ cabin and grab the counselor’s underwear: 1) make sure it’s clean, 2) make sure the rival can find it, and 3) he/she still needs to wear it later that week; don’t tear it into shreads.

    The most elaborate prank was putting several canoes on the front porch of a cabin so that the cabin had to exit through the back door. As they canoes were criss-crossed, it took skill to do it silently, during the middle of the night.

  21. Alter_ego*

    We were allowed to perform pranks at the sleep away camp I went to, they just had to be sanctioned by the owner of the camp. We were required to keep all of our shoes on the front porches of our cabins, and the most popular prank was to steal every left shoe off the porch of your opposite gendered cabin of the same age group, put them in a bag, and run them up the flag pole. So they next morning, everyone in that cabin would have to walk to breakfast in two right shoes, then get the bag down off the flagpole in front of the rest of camp. I did always enjoy that one.

  22. Ann O'Nemity*

    I “Hasslehoffed” a coworker today. That’s about as far as my pranking goes.

  23. Case of the Mondays*

    The only pregnancy related prank I found mildly funny in my younger days was when I worked for an office disproportionately staffed w/ women and they planned on one-by-one going to the boss and announcing their pregnancy with the same due date. The business could not operate if they were all out at once. They had a good laugh at the concept but chickened out in the end. I was only willing to partake if I was the third or fourth person so that there was a good chance the boss would catch on by that point. Now that I’m older, I realize that the idea was particularly bad (again, wasn’t my idea) if they were asking anyone to partake that was having fertility issues or had experienced a recent loss.

  24. hah*

    I won April Fool this year with a pregnancy prank to a relative. I really had him going too! It was awesome. I think the family will enjoy this one for years. :-)

    1. Clever Name*

      It was awesome. For you. I sincerely hope your relative has never lost a pregnancy or a child or has never gone through infertility.

      1. Jen RO*

        Could people please stop overreacting to the pregnancy prank? It’s stupid, but it’s not the most offensive thing on Earth. Someone somewhere will be hurt by *anything* in this world, but that doesn’t mean we need to censor all conversation.

        1. Myrin*

          Well, but the pregnancy thing is pretty widely disliked from what I can tell. It’s not really an obscure thing only very few people would have an issue with. Same with the food-related pranks. The likelihood of running into someone who actually has a severe problem (be it physically or mentally) with these things isn’t really that small, is it?

          1. Elsajeni*

            Sure, but I do think it’s fair to assume that hah, who played this prank on one specific relative of hers, knows that person and how he’s likely to react and feel about it better than we do. I think “Hey, that’s a very sensitive subject for some people” is a good point to make when people are talking about widely-disseminated pregnancy pranks, but not really called for when someone says “I played this prank on one specific person, who I know well, and it went well and was funny,” and in no way suggests that anyone else should do the same or that it’s a universally acceptable prank.

        2. Sarahnova*

          The fact that it’s not one that you react to strongly does not make other people’s reactions OVERreactions.

          Fertility issues and miscarriages are incredibly common and very painful. This is not a strange sensitivity. Is the “comedy” “value” really worth the upset?

  25. Nanc*

    I thankfully work in a no-prank environment but we always enjoy the corporate pranks. The Starbucks new sizes from 2010 remains a favorite!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I can’t tell that today is any different from any other workday. And there are no pranks on other workdays either.

  26. BRR*

    I feel like this has been done in some way, shape, or form pretty often and has anybody on the receiving end enjoyed it? What terrible people.

  27. Rhubarbgirl*

    Ugh. OP, I’m sorry you work with such oblivious, cruel people. Anyone with a smidgen of self-awareness or, you know, basic human empathy, would understand why one should never prank one’s subordinates, especially about something work-related, *especially* if that work-related thing actually happens for real sometimes. It’s like Alison preaches about power dynamics and gifting at the office: don’t gift up; never prank down.

    I am not a fan of pranks personally, but a successful prank requires a sense of the absurd, and pokes fun at our expected power structures and ideas of how things work. This wasn’t even a joke, it’s just a lie, a cruel stress-causing lie that kills morale and emphasizes the horrible position that the plant workers are in. “Haha, we can make you work overtime without warning, whenever we want! Isn’t that funny, hahaha?” *rides off on broom, trailing evil monkeys*

    1. RVA Cat*

      Exactly. This is not a prank, it’s class warfare – about as funny as “let them eat cake.”

  28. yasmara*

    A (reputable industry-specific) website posted an article *today* saying that my entire division had been sold off to another company…at the very end there was a disclaimer saying it was an April Fool’s joke, but that was an entirely unwelcome 5 minutes of my morning.

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      yeah, there are some things that you just shouldn’t joke about, and this is def one of them!

  29. NotFunny*

    These managers obviously made up this prank on the fly and put ZERO forethought into it. It started with a page over the intercom, asking all managers to meet for an emergency conference call with corporate. THAT was the original prank, corporate was not on the phone. So that’s in my opinion OK. Stress-inducing emergency corporate conference calls do happen and it’s a regular part of their job to take those. But I guess they got to the conference room and someone went “Hmm. Let’s do something to the employees too!” And pitched this awful idea.

    1. NotFunny*

      OMG, just realized, the announcement on the intercom about corporate calling was supposed to be an ominous clue :/ and HR lady made fun of the employees who didn’t catch on as quickly as others

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I would just want to run in her office and tell her that all four of her tires are flat. I wouldn’t prank her like that, though I would sure think about it.

  30. Kate in MD*

    Yeah, that’s a bad prank for playing with someone’s emotions like that. I know a radio show in my area does pranks every once in a while on unsuspecting listeners (via the listener’s friends), their number one rule is only set up friends who would find pranks funny and the prankees give permission to the show to air the prank. Some I found funny because the situation was so absurd (like a copier calling a woman) to others I don’t find so funny because the situation is more everyday.

    The prankers have to know their prankees and make sure the prank will actually be funny.

    1. Pigtailedgirl*

      Funny you mention radio. Last year was my first year doing an April Fool’s joke in ages. Our co-worker, and resident computer tech at the radio station had a habit of reading without double- checking. We made a fake announcement to blend in with our regular Lost & Found. Lost my arm last weekend in the woods, if found please call. It was a glorious moment of fun to hear him read it and not realize the joke. Also resetting his computer to German with the Roman Time code. Good times.

  31. Ops Analyst*

    This is so messed up. My husband is in tech support and sometimes he’s so busy with calls that we can only get one message through to each other over the course of several hours. If his management did this and he sent me a message that he couldn’t get our daughter from daycare on time I’d have had to arrange it fast with her daycare provider and once she’s called in someone to stay late, that’s it, I’m paying for it. Depending on the time of day, if I left early I’d have to use personal time, or vice versa, my husband would lose pay. NONE of which we can afford. It may have only been a few minutes but that’s enoguh to cost some people serious money.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And people wonder why businesses fail. Thing like this erode the business from the inside. Not much different than a tumor. It just eats the business right up.

        1. Ops Analyst*

          Yup. I would be seriously jaded if my company did something like this and would possibly be looking for a new job. Actually, I just started a new job so if this happened it would have looked really bad If I had to leave early. My husband is finishing up his job and becoming a stay at home dad for a while, but it’s important to him to go out with his reputation in tact. And he really can’t leave unexpectedly unless it’s a true emergency. So, if this had come fom either of our companies it could really do some damage.

          1. nep*

            Agreed — this is such a sign of disrespect; it would have me questioning whether to stick around.

  32. Anon Accountant*

    What an awful prank. Can’t find any humor in that at all especially over the audits part after the sudden mention of overtime on last minute notice.

  33. Anon Accountant*

    And I thought my April fools prank from a few years ago was received badly. One admin assistant always washed office dishes daily and we always thought why can’t staff wash their own dishes. So I posted a sign reading “everyone please wash your dishes before leaving. Or staff may take turns washing the dishes”.

    Management thought it was funny but a few employees caused such a stir. “I’m a cpa so I’m not washing dishes!”; “why can’t Lucy wash them? She doesn’t do anything else”. It was sad to see adults behaving so badly over a prank.

  34. Dana*

    In my former office we had nameplates that just slid into their holders. One guy got there early on April Fool’s Day and rearranged them all. It was fun and funny. It promoted working together and interacting between departments as we tracked down our own nameplates and asked each other “Who were you?” all morning. A little delay of work, but a couple years later I’m still thinking about it (in a good way!).

  35. NotFunny*

    I just confided my opinion to my manager about this prank. She talked very condescendingly to me about how “release of tension” and “a few laughs” are necessary in a workplace, and that’s why they came up with a prank for the employees. I agreed with her but said I found that particular idea mean-spirited. Then she told me it *WAS* her idea, and basically said the regular employees know to expect this and catch on quickly and the new ones will figure out this tradition. She responded very differently and I had to just backpedal and brown nose and act dumb to avoid conflict. I really wanted to use the words “abuse of power” but that would have resulted in another 2 hour meeting.

    1. RVA Cat*

      So what’s she’s saying is that your employer has an institutionalized culture of hazing.

      Sounds like it’s time to move on. I’m sorry that your manager hasn’t grown out of her mean-girl phase.

  36. TL17*

    I once put pennies on every inch of usable space on a colleague’s desk. It made everybody giggle, and she walked away about $4 richer. That’s about the level of harmless silliness I like.

  37. Cam*

    My favorite prank was buying a huge roll of bubble wrap and duck taping it to the large hallway floor in our building. Not even a prank really. Everyone loved. People were rolling around on it on their office chairs all morning. But everyone had office doors they could close to block out the noise. It wouldn’t be fun in an open office floor plan.

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