my April Fools prank backfired, should staff get bonuses for covering for someone on leave, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. As an April Fools prank, I said I was quitting my job

I may have put myself unintentionally on the bad side of a few of my coworkers, as well as possibly my supervisor. Just recently was April 1st, and for some humor (or so I thought), I figured I’d pull a prank by announcing on Facebook that I have taken a new job. Since it was April 1st, I thought that everyone would get it right away. I thought wrong.

I thought April Fools Day was supposed to be recognized also as Prank Day. Do people not have a sense of humor anymore? I know pranks are very frowned upon around the office. But since our office has somewhat of a fun vibe at times, I thought it was acceptable. I certainly didn’t intend any bad blood anywhere with anyone. I’ve already been working here for a while, so it’s not like I’m new there. And I’m considered a very good employee (in terms of work). Do I have anything to be concerned about? This is the first time I’ve pulled a prank, and I certainly won’t pull one again. I have a few coworkers who are on my friend list, and to my knowledge, they don’t have my supervisor as a friend on there. Granted, I have a feeling they may have walked up to my supervisor and asked about this.

Yeah, that was a bad idea. Of course people have a sense of humor, but you’ve got to use some judgment.

It sounds like you don’t know if your manager knows about this at all. If you think it’s gotten back to her, then it’s probably better to address it than not. I’d just say: “I did a really stupid April Fools prank on Facebook and said I was changing jobs. I realized afterwards that it wasn’t a smart thing to joke about, and in case you saw it or anyone asked you about it, I want to make sure that you know that I don’t have plans to go anywhere! I’ll be more careful to leave work stuff out of any future April Fools days.”

2. Should staff get bonuses for covering when I’m on maternity leave?

I am the executive director of a small nonprofit and I’m about to go on maternity leave for six weeks. We have two other full-time staff members, who I supervise. A couple members of my board of directors have been discussing giving the two staff members a bonus this summer, after my return, as a reward for doing some of my tasks while I’m gone.

Of course, me being gone is somewhat of a burden since we only have a three-person office, but I’ve tried to take as much of that burden away as possible by doing a lot of advance preparations for things that might come up while I’m gone. Because of a combination of my prep work and the ability to put off many tasks until I return, the daily tasks of mine that the two staff members will need to do are fairly menial – things like sorting the mail, initialing invoices, etc. I will also be checking email during the entire duration of my leave, so I don’t foresee them needing to make any high-level decisions without me or anything like that.

While I’m always in favor of raises and bonuses for my staff, I want to make sure we think through the ramifications of whatever decision is made. My main concern is that we will set a precedent and not know where to draw the line – if one staff member goes on a two week vacation, should the remaining staff get a bonus for covering for them? In a situation like this, is it common to provide bonuses to staff who cover daily tasks for people who are on maternity or other long-term leave, or is it considered just part of the regular job? I’m interested in hearing commenters’ experiences with this too.

Some employers do, some don’t. In general, it’s a good thing to do if you can afford it and if the increase in work is more than a minor one. And yes, it’s generally only for long-term leaves, not for two-week vacations.

If it’s truly just sorting the mail and initialing invoices, that doesn’t sound like it rises to the level of bonus-worthy — but I’d make sure you’ve fully thought through whether that’s really all it will be and whether they’re likely to need to put in significant hours above what they normally work. It sounds like you’re lowering your staffing by one-third during this time; is there really no more work that will fall to them? If there truly isn’t and they’re not going to working more hours, I don’t see much of an argument for bonuses … but I also don’t think it would be the worst thing ever if you did them anyway as a recognition of whatever additional work they did do.

I hear your worry about creating the expectation that you’ll always do this whenever someone is on leave, but you can address that pretty directly by explaining that in general part of the job is to cover when someone is out, but this is one-time thing to thank them for making your life so much easier, or something like that.

3. My husband isn’t giving his boss a baby gift

My husband’s boss is pregnant and getting ready to go on maternity leave. I suggested to my husband that we buy her a nice set of baby bottles. I was raised that if you know someone that is expecting, it’s only polite to provide a gift, either at a shower or on your own time. My husband didn’t agree that he should give his boss a gift.

The office HR manager arranged a baby shower (very informal, and only told the team about it the day of). The party was pretty much an excuse to have pizza in the office. No one was told beforehand, including the expecting manager, and no gifts were given.

In my office, I would absolutely buy my boss a gift, but we have a team of five women and one man. My husband’s team is five men and one woman (the boss). I’m wondering if working in a male dominated field is the reason why my husband doesn’t think it’s appropriate to give a gift, or if it’s that I’m mixing personal and work relationships.

Well, the gender makeup could certainly have something to do with it. But I wouldn’t spend energy worrying about it (if you are); your husband knows the culture of his office best, and it sounds like he probably called it right, given the nature of the shower. And there are certainly teams that don’t buy gifts in this type of situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if they skew more male, but I’m totally guessing here. Either way, though, I think the main thing is to trust your husband to know his office best and to handle it if it turns out he called it wrong.

I’m not harping on the “gifts in offices should only flow downward” thing like I normally do, because I think it’s pretty common to make exceptions for babies.

For what it’s worth, there’s a whole thing about how women tend to take on the emotional labor of running the household, which includes things like thinking about gifts their spouses might be obligated to give rather than letting them handle it themselves, which just doubles the amount of stuff you have to track and think about. (I say this as someone who totally struggles with this personally.)

4. I’m interviewing for a job, but they don’t know I’m going to grad school in a few months

I applied for a job I was very much interested in shortly after sending out applications for graduate school. My likelihood of acceptance into grad programs was definitely 50/50; I had no idea whether I’d get in or not, really. HR at the job — which is a job I very much want to do, but not for my entire life — took some time getting back to me.

In that time, I was accepted into my first choice graduate program and committed to starting on August 25. Five days later, on April 4, HR from the job offered me a phone interview, which I scheduled.

I’m not sure how I should handle this now, since I’d only be working there three or four months maximum at full-time. I may be able to work part-time while in graduate school but am not honestly sure. Do I tell the employers about this extant commitment, knowing it would cost me the job? Is it okay for me to take the job and then tell them? It is really a job I want to do and I could definitely use the money toward school.

If it’s a professional job, they probably expect a commitment of at least a couple of years. You shouldn’t take it if you’re planning to leave in several months; you’ll burn the bridge and not be able to use them as a reference, and it would be operating in bad faith. You could ask if they’d be open to you going part-time in August, but if they’re hiring for a full-time person, it’s probably because there’s full-time work. Plus, it doesn’t sound certain that you’ll even want part-time at that point … all of which means that you probably just need to explain the situation and withdraw from consideration. But if you don’t do that, at a minimum you need to make sure you have this conversation BEFORE accepting the job, not after. After will feel like a bait and switch and won’t make you look good.

5. How to tell your manager you’re applying for an internal promotion on another team

I found this link on your blog about keeping information about an internal interview from your manager. I want to give my manager a heads-up that I am interested in applying for a promotion in another team. Even if it means I won’t get it, I want to try and see what it takes and what is expected in that position. What should I say, especially if they are reactive and are constantly worried about me leaving?

“I’m really happy with my job here, but the opening in the X department interests me so much that I wouldn’t forgive myself for not throwing my hat in the ring.”

Or, “I’m really happy with my job here, but X really interests me and is a direction I’d love to grow in. I’ve decided to apply for the X role in the Y department, and I wanted to be up-front with you about.”

Of course, you want to make sure you’ve been there a reasonable amount of time first. There’s no way to make this go over well if you’re applying for another team after only being on your current one for five months.

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. all aboard the anon train*

    #3: In my office, I would absolutely buy my boss a gift, but we have a team of five women and one man. My husband’s team is five men and one woman (the boss). I’m wondering if working in a male dominated field is the reason why my husband doesn’t think it’s appropriate to give a gift, or if it’s that I’m mixing personal and work relationships.

    I think you’re not only mixing personal and work relationships, but also thinking of your office environment rather than your husband’s. Some offices don’t celebrate those type of events. Some do. It’d be out of touch if you gave a gift when no one else does (unless you’re close friends with the colleague or something).

    It also isn’t always a gendered thing. I work in a predominantly female industry and in my office it would be very unusual if someone gave an expecting parent a gift. My mostly female office started doing away with baby/wedding showers and gifts a few years ago, much to the relief of a lot of people. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to give a gift to someone in my office, but it would be a bit awkward.

    Not to mention, not everyone wants a wedding/baby/whatever shower at work.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Agreed. My current division doesn’t do showers or personal parties of any kind. Granted, it is a more male heavy division, but the women in my office don’t clamor to do these things either, and thank God for that because I’ve always opted out of such things in the past. I’m not buying anyone I work with gifts because I don’t know and/or like most of them like that.

    2. rando*

      The fact that the boss only held a “shower” pizza party without advanced notice indicates to me that this boss also does not even want gifts. I am expecting my first, and I’m already thinking of strategies to reduce the amount of gifts!

    3. Snowglobe*

      Conversely, I work in an office with mostly men; recently one of the men was expecting his first child, and his (male) co-workers organized a shower for him.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        My friend’s husband works at an almost all-male tech firm, and they threw him a shower!

    4. Bwmn*

      When it comes to work culture, on some level you do have to trust someone being able to sniff that out themselves and hope that your husband isn’t wildly missing something.

      I worked at a nonprofit office that had traditional nonprofit office staffing (75% female), and it was very rigid that only good byes were marked and the person leaving was responsible to bring the goodies. Once someone got a birthday cake for a colleague they were friendly at and the ED had a (wildly unprofessional) screaming rant about why that was wrong. I do like to believe though that this is the exception to the norm…..

      1. TootsNYC*

        “you do have to trust someone being able to sniff that out themselves and hope that your husband isn’t wildly missing something.”

        I think once you, as a female wife who seems to take on a lot of the “emotional labor” (judging from your letter), have raised the idea, then you need to trust your husband.

        He may be a guy, and therefore of course subject to the stereotypes, he’s also an intelligent individual, and I would think that he’s more accurate than you are about the dynamics in his own office.

      2. Vicki*

        “only good byes were marked and the person leaving was responsible to bring the goodies”

        That could be… awkward.

    5. Just Another Techie*

      My mostly-male colleagues organized a surprise wedding shower for me–boss’s boss called for one of his periodic all-hands meetings in the cafeteria, and when I showed up there was cake and presents and a large gift card. It was mortifying, as I was very young, about 15 years younger than the office’s average age, and one of only six or seven women in a department of about eighty people. I hated every second of it, and it still makes me squirm to remember it.

      1. ECH*

        I would love it if my colleagues put on a surprise wedding shower for me. They have 113 days …

    6. Baby*

      I had a onesie that was meant for someone else but I never got around to giving it. so I gave it to my coworker whos’ expecting. I did explained the whole story, “like its not a gift gift but I thought you could use it” kind of thing. Was that wrong? FWIW coworker was happy but idk…. I have a tendency to overthink so this time I went against that instinct

      1. JMegan*

        I think you’re overthinking. :) You did a nice thing for your coworker, she was happy – that’s really all you need to know. Even if yours is a typically non-gift-giving office, it’s not likely you overstepped here. And even if you DID break some unwritten rule, it was by such a small amount that I can’t think anyone would notice or care. You’re fine. :)

    7. Jinx*

      My boss and his wife had a baby a few months ago, and no one openly gave gifts (he’s friends with a couple team members outside the office, so it’s possible that gifts were given privately). We all signed a card and hung a couple balloons in his cubicle, but that was the extent of it at work.

    8. Karen*

      Thanks for your comment! It makes a lot more sense to me why my husband might not want to get his boss a gift knowing there are people out there that wouldn’t care to receive one/would feel awkward about being in the spot light.

  2. Observer*

    #2 I really, really think you are not thinking the situation through. My first thought as I was reading this was “she’s the top person and the only additional jobs are things that are generally the province of the assistants?” I know, they aren’t assistants, but generally, the people who are NOT the ED are the ones who do this stuff. And, I don’t care how well you have planned, the idea that there won’t need to be any conversations with funders or donors, reports to file, or similarly higher level things to worry about simply does not ring true. And, that’s aside from all of the unexpected stuff that comes up. I’m also assuming that you are in an area where April, June or July are not the beginning of a fiscal year, because no matter how well you plan, some things simply have to work around that changeover.

    1. rando*

      She also mentions that she will have access to email. LW, you have no idea what state you or the baby will be in during your leave. Don’t assume that you can handle all the big decisions via email.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        That’s a good point. Hope for the best, but keep in mind that things can change at the last minute.

      2. Ineloquent*

        Additionally, if you’re taking FMLA, you really can’t legally be working at all. Keep that in mind.

    2. overeducated and underemployed*

      Yeah, I think there is a lot you can prepare for before a leave, but even without knowing the nature of the organization, I find it VERY hard to believe that there won’t be fires to put out or urgent issues that come up in a given 6-week period. For the ED’s sake, being able to trust staff to deal with them instead of being constantly on-call with a newborn could be really helpful, and for the staff’s sake, a one-time bonus could be a really nice way to recognize their work. (Especially if the staff at a 3-person non-profit are not so highly paid that a little extra money would go unnoticed…) It doesn’t have to set a precedent if you say outright that it doesn’t, that your organization’s financial health and this unique circumstance allows it as a one-time thing rather than becoming part of the regular compensation structure.

    3. Bwmn*

      I agree with all of this. It’s really hard for me to imagine any nonprofit where the ED leaves for six weeks and the only points left over are some mailings.

      I think the other thing not yet said, is that during this period you’re also asking this staff to be there in case. This means they’re unable to take vacation time (or if someone had booked vacation time in advance, that leaves one person all alone to to do everything), be considerate regarding medical leave needs, and to please please kindly not accept another job. During six weeks, none of this is a given and even if *nothing* major arises, part of the reason for that will be this two person staff doing well.

      In terms of a precedent, I actually think a bonus would serve you very well. Should the OP be in a situation in another few years, then both or one remaining employee would know “hey, let’s everyone be considerate and not jump ship during this time because we know our contributions are being acknowledged”.

    4. Sparrow*

      I have to second everything on this thread. I feel like OP is describing best case scenario for both her/the baby and the office. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I feel like there’s very little chance things will be that straightforward. Since it sounds like the bonuses wouldn’t be given until after the maternity leave, I think the OP should at least remain open to the idea for now. I also think the concern about this being a slippery slope toward expected bonuses is unfounded. There’s a pretty clear difference between a 6 week leave and 2 week vacation, and I’m going to assume that OP’s employees are rational enough to recognize that.

    5. Amy*

      To just chime in and agree with everyone, I think it’s very difficult to predict what will happen in your absence. While not an exact comparison, at a previous position our director left and the two of us junior staff had to step in until the replacement was found. I know she did a lot of work to prepare for her departure, but there were so many things that she automatically took care of, and so much knowledge that she just had in her brain. It took us much longer to answer questions from the board that would have taken her about two minutes to respond to. I ended up working many long hours until the new director finally started. I had gotten a raise just before, but if I hadn’t gotten that, a little extra bonus would have been nice recognition of the extra work I did. It will certainly build good will and help you retain great employees!

    6. AnotherHRPro*

      As the OP doesn’t really know what will happen while she is out on leave, I think it would be reasonable to wait and see. If it your staff did have to work extensive hours or pick up a good amount of work during the OPs absence it would make sense to offer some kind of acknowledgement of that (recognition award, bonus, whatever is normal in her office). But if it turns out that everything was easily covered, the situation might not warrant anything other than a thanks.

    7. jpixel*

      I was on the other end of this situation a couple years ago – I was covering for someone else’s maternity leave, which basically meant taking on all of her responsibilities on top of many of my own (some of my work then trickled down to the next person, and so on). I received a bonus as did one other person, and I was grateful that the company acknowledged the significant increase in workload. And this was from a company that does not generally do bonuses and regularly expects unscheduled overtime. If it’s financially feasible for your company, do it. Perhaps you wait to determine the dollar amount until you return. I don’t think covering for someone’s maternity leave is generally considered part of the job – certainly not in the way vacation leave would be. This compensation will go a long way with your employees.

      1. jpixel*

        Also – I made the case for my own bonus after the other person came back. I wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise. The fact that your board is considering this proactively is great!

    8. Vicki*

      I’d add that there are companies that hire temps to sub for women n maternity leave. Your company is saving money on a temp by… given two employees each half of what you do.

      Either you don’t do much… or they should get something for the added work.

  3. Artemesia*

    Re Baby gift. This is always a bit delicate. And there is nothing wrong with a spouse suggesting that this would be appropriate for a spouse that may not think of it. Obviously if he feels it is in appropriate then back off. But I would never give a gift of ‘nice baby bottles.’ The whole issue of baby bottles, what kind of baby bottles, bottle versus breast feeding is so fraught, that this is particularly treacherous. And a man giving his female boss baby bottles is ‘off.’ Most women breast feed at least initially — and sure bottles may come in hand if she pumps or supplements or is planning on bottle feeding but then she will want to choose her own style. Make it a beautiful alphabet book for the baby or something else less intimate and personal than commentary on what she may or may not be doing with her breasts.

    1. Suzanne Lucas*

      This. Giving bottles to the wrong person could have huge unintended consequences. Unless the parents have registered for bottles or a breast pump I’d stay as far away from feeding gifts as possible.

      For the record, I have zero opinion on how other people feed their babies but there are a ton of people who do care and will go to great lengths to shame the poor mother who doesn’t live up to expectations.

      That said, imho, baby and wedding showers are the exceptions to the gifts flow down.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I would still probably go on the sweet-but-cheaper side for a baby gift for my boss, though – like a few cute board books instead of an expensive baby gadget. I might be tempted to spend a bit more if there were something thematically related to my boss herself, like if she were really into camping I might try to get some coworkers to pool together for some kind of baby camping gear. (That’s probably a thing, right?)

        1. Mona Lisa*

          As someone who just spent several hours at REI this past weekend (that place just sucks you in!), I can attest that baby camping gear is a thing. There are special hiking baby carriers, child-sized backpacks, and more!

        2. Ellie H.*

          I always do the couple of board books gift. I used to work in (mostly the children’s section of) a bookstore and LOVE spreading the board book love. There are so many old and new classics – I most often give Sandra Boynton, and sometimes one “nice” picture book to start the collection for when the kid is a little older (Zen Shorts by Jon Muth is a favorite for this). I think books are great bc they’re classic but rather impersonal in the sense of not relating to any of the physical aspects of caring for a baby, you know?

            1. Small town reporter*

              Green Hat, Blue Hat is the first book my now 4-year-old “read” to me. You can’t lose with giving Sandra Boynton books.

              1. Al Lo*

                Harold and the Purple Crayon is my go-to baby book gift. For my sister’s shower, we asked people to bring a book and write in that in lieu of a card (since a board book and a greeting card cost about the same), and my nephew started with a lovely library, with very few duplicates.

          1. Kylynara*

            I love Boynton. But Iza Trapani’s expansions on popular children’s songs can be a life saver. Her 5 extra verses of Itsy Bitsy Spider saved my sanity more times than I can count, when that was the only thing that would calm my boys.

        3. many bells down*

          Yes, a small item maybe – a little beanie or a rattle or a blanket (blankets are pretty much always good). Actual caring-for-the-baby-gear like bottles or a stroller I don’t think are a good choice unless you’re close enough with someone to know their preferences. At my shower, I got THREE highchairs! And I had already bought the one I wanted so they all got returned, which I felt bad about.

      2. Juli G.*

        Interesting perspective. I would never think of bottles as controversial or too intimate. I might consider if they were needed if the mother planned to stay at home for the first year but I think of them as a necessity for a working mother of an infant. Gives me something to think about.

        1. Sarahnova*

          Lots of people don’t use bottles at all, even if they go back to work – babies can cup feed from quite a young age.

        2. Government Worker*

          The vast majority of new mothers I know needed at least a few bottles at some point, but many had strong feelings about the type – some are said to be good for babies who are also breastfeeding, some are good for reducing colic, some have fewer parts and are easier to clean, etc. And most people settle on a type and get a whole bunch, because they have a bunch of fiddly little parts and life is much easier if everything is interchangeable. So I’d get bottles off a registry as a gift, but I’d never just pick some at random to give to someone who hadn’t requested them.

        3. Elle*

          Plus, some moms are partial as to the type of bottles they use. I only used a particular type because they were excellent at cutting down on gas issues. Less gas = less crying.

        4. Artemesia*

          I didn’t use bottles with either of mine back in the day. My daughter pumped and so used some bottles – her husband did one night feeding — but she needed a very particular kind of bottle that went with her system. There are all sorts of bottles and types of nipples and people have opinions about what is the right thing. AND plenty of people criticize people for their feeding choices so that giving a breast feeding Mom bottles may feel like criticism.

      3. TootsNYC*

        As someone upstream, I am uncomfortable with gifts flowing up, even for babies or weddings. And especially individual gifts. If the whole team got together and gave one present (which makes it possible for the person who can spring for $5 to hide among the people who give $20)–especially if they partnered w/ people who don’t directly report to me–it would help a lot.

        I guess I would be OK with something REALLY cheap–Elizabeth the Ginger’s board book or small inexpensive gadget.

    2. Sarahnova*

      Yeah, this. Bottles shouldn’t be a standard baby gift unless requested, for all sorts of reasons.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I have literally never seen a registry or been at a baby shower where bottles weren’t standard. Even for the most La Leche of breastfeeders, there are times when you can’t disrobe and breastfeed, and that’s when you use bottles.

        1. Sarahnova*

          That’s not true for everyone, though. I know quite a few people who have not ever used bottles (and I’ve never used them because I can’t disrobe – only because I’m not there at all. I have personally, as it were, never given my baby a bottle).

          We’re going to go quite far off topic so I won’t go further into the subject, but bottles AREN’T an automatic default, and in any case I think it’s best to stay out of that territory unless invited in. If a specific set of bottles are requested in a registry, then you are of course at your leisure.

        2. VintageLydia USA*

          If it’s on the registry, go right ahead. But it’s not something I’d go off registry for.

        3. Rana*

          Eh, my daughter never took to bottles (tried a bunch) so she’s been breastfed all over the place. (I never needed to disrobe; I had an extensive wardrobe of clever shirts with hidden access.) I wouldn’t have been offended by a gift of bottles, but it would have been one of those gifts that gets shoved to the back of the closet until you figure out how to get rid of it.

        4. Mephyle*

          Yet even if everyone uses a bottle at some point, many, perhaps even most, have preferences or needs for a certain type of bottle.
          Also, my experience was not that there are “times when you can’t disrobe and breastfeed”. It was always possible to feed without disrobing, and if it wouldn’t have been, I wouldn’t have had a bottle ready anyway.

        5. Suzanne Lucas*

          Not really a la leche league type but I breastfed two kids for 18 months each and never used bottles.

          Trust me when I say, giving bottles to the wrong person can be relationship ending.

          And you don’t have to disrobe to nurse a baby.

    3. Daisy Steiner*

      This is an EXCELLENT point – I can’t believe I didn’t notice this! Bottles are intimate, specific, possibly too generous (depending on the work culture) and potentially controversial – maybe fine amongst friends, but not appropriate for a workplace.

    4. blackcat*

      My mom has taught me to always go for little baby blankets/towels. Her reasoning? All babies throw up. Most of them do it a lot. You can never have too many cloths for cleaning that up.

      1. Beezus*

        My mom’s go-to was sets of onesies in a variety of sizes 6 months and bigger. Her reasoning was that everyone gets the newborn teeny weeny clothes, and the parents wind up with more newborn-sized clothing than the baby will ever wear, but once those are outgrown they have to buy more clothes.

        I had a friend who admitted to me a year later that she thought the 6/9/12 month onesies I gave her were weird, but every time the kiddo had a growth spurt and nothing fit anymore, she could reach for that next size set of onesies and at least have something to tide her over for a day or two until she could get to a store.

        1. Oryx*

          Yes! That is my mom’s go to and I’ve started buying the same since my friends started having kids.

        2. Lucky Charm*

          I always buy onesies for 6-12 months. Most of my friends have gotten a ton of newborn clothes that their kids never got to wear because they grew really fast or the baby was born bigger and couldn’t fit into them. I used to buy a cute outfit or two, but now I stay away from clothes because I’ve found that some people are very particular about the brands/styles their kids wear. Personally, I think Target has some adorable kid’s clothing, but some people only want their kids to wear Janie & Jack, and I can’t afford to buy a $45 top for your kid.

          Books are my other default gift. I’ve had very good luck with books and they’ve been well-received. Unless you buy a controversial children’s book, you should be good.

        3. Wendy Darling*

          I try to do seasonally appropriate clothes for when the baby will be 6/9/12 months old. So like I got my cousin who had her baby in June 6-9 month old onesies with long sleeves and little leggings because it was probably gonna be the dead of winter when her little dude was that size. (Also one tiny hoodie because I could not resist its tiny hoodie cuteness omg.)

        4. TootsNYC*

          My experience is that people DON’T get the newborn stuff; they all say, “Oh, they grow out of it so fast, and everybody buys that, so I won’t.” And so no one does.

          Several times I’ve been the only source of clothes for some poor little baby, because I often go for a weather-specific newborn outfit.

        5. Honeybee*

          This is my go-to as well. I developed it when my cousin was having her babies and I asked her what she wanted, and this is what she told me. She said nobody ever gets baby clothes above 6 months, you can never have too many onesies, and nobody ever buys wash cloths and towels. So now I either get 6-9 month onesies or I get a set of wash cloths and towels (the ones with the cute animal hoods). And a book!

          The best thing is that those things are super cheap so I can always get a ton of them and package it up nice :)

        6. Mephyle*

          My default gift is onesies in a newborn size. This is based on my on experience being awash in postnatal hormones and crying because all the lovely baby clothes I received were way too big because my friends had used the sensible reasoning and given us clothes sized from 6 months for 2 years. Of course, I appreciated them later, but at the time, I thought, “Couldn’t at least one person have given me something she can wear now?” So when I am gifting, I am that one person.

          If everyone else goes the usual route, a nice newborn outfit may be appreciated, even if the baby can only wear it for the first two weeks (and if it happens to be a small baby, it could last quite a bit longer).

          1. Mephyle*

            Meant to say, I wouldn’t have had milk (breast or other) available to be put in a bottle anyway.

      2. Sarahnova*

        My default baby gift is a gift card for a meal delivery service. It gets good reviews :)

        1. the gold digger*

          Nice! If you can’t give a lasagna, give take out!

          My go-to is a copy of “Cat in the Hat,” a bilingual version when appropriate. Every child needs to have something promoting Bad Behavior That Turns Out OK.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq*

            Oooh, I’m kind of dying to know when bilingual would not be appropriate! Now that you’ve said it, I’m thinking that I’m going to default to bilingual books for kinds, since languages are so much easier to learn when young! Even if there’s *no* other language education happening, those are still like a bunch of words that kid will know and probably casually use. I think that’s a genius idea you have there!

            1. the gold digger*

              I give the bilingual editions to my friends who speak the non-English language. I have given the English plus Spanish, French, and Hebrew versions. It’s fun!

              But yeah – there is no reason not to give a bilingual one even when the parents speak only English. I never thought of that!

        2. Mary (in PA)*

          That’s a good idea. I tend to default to a copy of my husband’s favorite children’s book (Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo) and a utilitarian diaper bag.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Mine is a Costco membership if they don’t already have one! But like your idea a lot too :)

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, my ex who had a kid said you can never have too many of those little blankets. We always gave them to people as gifts.

        One thing I liked to give was a little travel bag that would hold a bottle and a couple of diapers (or whatever you wanted to stuff in there) for running quick errands. It was like a tiny diaper bag. Everybody I gave one to LOVED it.

          1. Government Worker*

            I did, too. When I cleaned out a closet recently I found at least a dozen hand knitted and crocheted baby blankets that had rarely been used (most were hand me downs). I dropped them off at a local NICU/special care nursery which takes that sort of donation.

          2. Rana*

            Blankets were pretty useless when my daughter was a baby; she couldn’t use them for bedding (swaddled in an empty crib to prevent SIDS) and we had a bunting for the stroller when we actually used it.

            But now that she’s a toddler? Having a ton of blankets is great. She cuddles them, she sleeps with them, she wraps her toys in them, she lays them on the ground to dance on, she uses them to make “houses”… and I’ve been known to grab one here and there for a quick nap myself!

        1. Anne*

          I had way too many blankets for my April baby, we received at least 20. And I was too paranoid about SIDS to use anything thicker than a muslin blanket during the Texas summer. Now they’re just sitting in his closet waiting to possibly be used for baby #2…

    5. Betty (the other Betty)*

      This was the first thing I thought, too. A small gift is fine (and not giving a gift in the office is also fine).

      But not bottles unless the parents-to-be have a gift registry with a request for specific bottles.

    6. kitty_mommy*

      My go-to gift for when I’m not sure/no registry is a copy of The Poky Little Puppy (still one of my top 10 books at 40 years old) and a stuffed Eeyore.

    7. Jaydee*

      Yeah, bottles can get into a whole “thing.” My go-to baby gifts are bath toys, non-newborn size clothes, or a nice book and coordinating stuffed animal combo.

    8. CMT*

      I think you’re way overthinking a gift of bottles here. It’s a reach to go from “cute bottles” to “boss’s breasts”.

    9. swingbattabatta*

      My favorite gift is a personalized book that tells a story based on the letters in the baby’s name (you can order it online). I typically give this as a gift after the baby is born (just to be on the safe side), and parents tend to love it. It’s personal, not controversial, not too extravagant, and not a matter of personal taste.

    10. Honeybee*

      I would not have had any of these kinds of thoughts about bottles. Pretty much every family I know who has had a baby has used bottles in some way; they’re a pretty standard gift and say nothing about what you think a person is doing with their breasts.

      That said, that wouldn’t have been my first inclination for a baby gift – I probably would have bought a book or some onesies or wash cloths and towels.

  4. Dan*


    The way you write your letter, no, I wouldn’t give staff bonuses in that situation. I’d give bonuses if my staff had to pull a lot of extra hours in my absence, but not for sorting the mail and “initialing” invoices (what does that mean? Who actually pays the invoices?). I have to ask, though, why is the ED doing so much administrative work? You shouldn’t be sorting mail.

    Are you sure you’re even realizing all that you do in a given day? You make it sound like there’s just some admin work here and there that has to get done, and everything else can be done before you go, after you get back, or while you’re on leave.

    1. the gold digger*

      I worked in a small non-profit when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. Two of the five women who worked there were both out on (full-pay) maternity leave for three months at the same time. It was such a hardship on the office. I was not qualified to pick up their responsibilities, but my co-workers were and they worked a lot extra. Bonuses would have been very nice for them.

      (To add insult to injury, my counterpart had been trying for years to get pregnant and could not.)

      1. the gold digger*

        (Her then-husband had an affair with another woman, who did get pregnant. My counterpart left him. Years later, she met someone else and now has four children.)

  5. Jeanne*

    I may have no sense of humor, but I do not believe that the workplace is the place for April Fool’s. There are too many ways for it to go absolutely disastrous. Why risk it? Don’t try to prank or fool. You can still be a fun person.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah… even if you went super-unbelievable (“Hey Facebook friends, I’m leaving my job because I was just offered a multimillion record contract for my kazoo-based hip-hop!”) then you still can’t count on no one being gullible enough to fall for it. And if it was an otherwise plausible announcement? People will trust you, and that’s not a bad thing or a sign they don’t have a sense of humor. After all, people do change jobs/move to Alaska/give birth/whatever all year long – April 1st is just as likely as any other day to be the day something momentous happens to you.

      1. Artemesia*

        I don’t see how it is a prank or joke? What is funny about it? Unless it is something like quitting because I just got drafted by the NFL how is it a ‘prank’ or joke? Not that that would be amusing. It feels like someone announcing they are getting a divorce — April fools!! How is that amusing?

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Announcing a fake pregnancy as a “prank” is also really misguided. The prankster’s audience might, unbeknownst to the prankster, include people who have been trying to have a baby for a long time. Seeing it being treated as a joke could be very painful.

          1. Boop*

            Didn’t Gwen Stefani do that this year? I thought that seemed in very poor taste, given her recent marital breakup.

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          But I do like how my kindergarten students do April Fools. They are absurd and also have no sense of timing whatsoever, so don’t pause before revealing the “trick.”

          “Ms. The Ginger, you have a cat on your headAPRIL FOOLS!” “I’m going to visit my grandma this weekendAPRIL FOOLS!” “I’m holding a red crayon behind my backAPRIL FOOLS IT WAS GREEN!”

          1. Al Lo*

            That’s amazing.

            When I was a kid, my mom always managed to thwart my April Fool’s plans. One year, I hid all the spoons in the house in the refrigerator… and then we went out for breakfast, so no one needed utensils at home. Another year, I put salt in the sugar bowl… and then she served oatmeal (which in our house always had brown sugar on it), and I had to work very hard to convince my little sister that white sugar on her oatmeal would be even better! than the brown sugar she thought she wanted.

          2. Ann Furthermore*

            My 1st grade daughter asked me if I wanted a brownie, and I said sure, I’ll take a brownie. She told me to close my eyes, and then she gave me a Ziploc bag with a brown “E” made out of construction paper. Hee hee.

            1. hermit crab*

              I can actually see that going over well in my office. I might have to try it next year…

        3. Myrin*

          I think that’s often the question when it comes to April fools’ day because usually it’s based on someone telling a lie and then the fun comes in when the other person actually believes it. So the fun is mostly in the “Haha, gotcha!” area if it’s done by someone who likes you and in the “Haha, you idiot, I can’t believe you actually believed me!” area if it’s done by someone who doesn’t like you.

          Obviously, like others already said, it’s totally possible to pull this and have a good laugh about it with the prankee – if you have a good relationship, know each other’s humour, use a harmless and inherently silly thing to joke about, etc. I also tend to find it wildly funny when media outlets join in on the jokes – for example I believe this year a porn website only posted videos not of porn but of corn for the whole day and I laughed heartily about that and found it really great.

          But often, people just… aren’t that good at jokes and pranks? I basically haven’t encountered April Fools’ jokes in real life since primary school where it was on my radar every year because you had to have your guard up all the time and as a result, no one believed anything of what their classmates said that day, even if they were totally serious. Because the “jokes” were just 1. plain believable and 2. plain boring. It was things like “Oh no, I forgot all my pens, can I borrow one of yours?” and then you hand them one and they go “Haha, April Fools’, I actually have a pen myself!” and you’d just sit there and be “Um, okay then?”. Or they were kind of mean in a “Man, I broke your favourite expensive glitter pen by accident!” way where they’d wait for your shocked and sad reaction and then exclaim it was just a joke.

          And frankly, most April Fools’ jokes encountered in the adult world seem to not be all that different from that. Which is a shame because it is totally possible to laugh about silly little pranky things with others you like but most people just don’t seem to be very good at it.

          1. Al Lo*

            When I worked in fast food, our April Fool’s pranks were things like turning the menu boards upside down in their holders. I remember one year, the closing shift on March 31 did that, and when I came in to open, I laughed, and then left it — and half the customers didn’t even notice. Most of the rest made the connection and laughed. We flipped them back after lunch.

          2. Kelly L.*

            I have a friend who pulled kind of a neat one this year–she claimed to have won a Cool Thing, but she’d really just made it up. A lot of us believed her, and nobody was mad when they found out it was made up either–here’s why I think it worked:

            -It’s a common enough thing to be plausible, yet also unusual enough to be really neat.

            –It didn’t affect anyone but her, whether it was true or false. She didn’t say “You won a Cool Thing” and then snatch it back.

            -Unlike fake marriage/pregnancy announcements, it didn’t mess with anyone else’s personal struggles.

          3. Just Another Techie*

   had an adorable prank where they had a “free” ebook special. You click through and discover it’s a short recording of various favorite authors reading from Encyclopedia Britannica. They highlighted quotes from reviews that said things like “I love John Lee’s narration so much, I could listen to him read the phone book!” etc. “You said you could listen to your favorite narrators read the phone book, bookcase assembly instructions, or a restaurant menu. With this production we’ve proven that a truly talented narrator can, in fact, take any work and make it extraordinary. Enjoy!”

            Alas, most April Fools’ pranks aren’t half as clever.

          4. AMT*

            Yes, and I kind of wonder what OP’s reputation was like before the prank. The letter says: “And I’m considered a very good employee (in terms of work).” I may be reading too much into this, but does the parenthetical mean that OP possibly has a history of mistimed humor or mildly unprofessional stuff like this?

          5. Collarbone High*

            It’s like the difference between good satire (the Onion) and a lot of knockoff attempts that fail. Writing untrue headlines isn’t funny, it’s just … incorrect. Satire has to have recognizable elements of absurdity plus truth about the human condition for it to work.

            One of my all-time favorite Onion articles is “U.S. Population at 13,462: ‘We Don’t Think Everyone Sent in Their Census Forms,’ Officials Say.” That works because a) it’s obviously not true; b) it’s obviously not how the census works; and c) Americans are notorious for procrastinating and not doing things we consider unimportant, so if the census *did* rely solely on people filling out the form, it’s plausible that only 13,000 people would do it. If the headline was “U.S. Population Decreases by 50 Million,” it wouldn’t be funny because it wouldn’t be absurd enough to tip people off.

            1. GreenTeaPot*

              As a former print journalist, I am a more than a bit put off by newspapers writing fake or satirical stories on April 1. In my view, it damages their credibility, not because the stories are believable, but because a newspaper’s job is to present facts. The press needs to take itself more seriously.

              The Onion is genuinely funny, and, of course, an exception. ;)

              1. Honeybee*

                The one exception I have to that is this year, the New York Times ran a satirical article about how Stanford took no students this year and thus had a 0% acceptance rate. The rest of the article satirized lots of elements of the overhyped elite college application process:

                1) An admissions officer was “quoted” as saying none of the applicants measured up because none of them had won gold medals at the Olympics or performed open-heart surgery

                2) Harvard and Yale were apparently discussing how they could get their acceptance rate down to 0% as well so they could be as selective as Stanford

                3) One fake student, for whom Stanford was her dream school, was so overcome with anxiety that she had to go to Princeton instead decided she needed a gap year

                It was great because in addition to being very clearly satirical, I think it addressed a lot of really serious issues with the way college admissions are currently done and the uber anxiety kids have over it at this specific time of year. Incidentally, Stanford’s acceptance rate fell below 5% this year, which is simply absurd.

          6. Turtle Candle*

            Part of it is that a genuinely good April Fool’s joke is difficult, and takes work. Things like the Audible joke mentioned upthread, or the fake products on ThinkGeek (some of which were so popular that they became real products!), take imagination and ingenuity and at least some degree of effort to pull off.

            When I was in high school, a bunch of friends and I pulled a prank–our high school had two rooms that were mirror images of one another (one was the literature teacher’s room and one was the history teacher’s room), and we flipped them, moving all the furniture and books and posters and things. The look on peoples’ faces when they walked in were priceless, but not in a humiliating way, because it wasn’t anything personal or making fun of them for being gullible. It was just the brief moment of ‘wait wtf?’ where people expected one room and got the other, and the fact that the room layouts were perfect mirror images enhanced the effect. We even replicated a mural from one room in chalk in the other room (while hiding the mural in the first room with white butcher paper). It was so popular that the teachers involved requested that we leave it that way for a week so that they could appreciate our ‘craftsmanship’!

            But we did a few things to make it not obnoxious. We got permission from the principal in advance, we were extremely careful not to damage anything, we didn’t touch anything in any desk drawers or anywhere else where there was an expectation of privacy, the teachers we ‘pranked’ were teachers we’d all had for many years and who we knew would be amused rather than upset, and we did the work of reversing it afterwards. It was a lot more work than a “I’m engaged! APRIL FOOLS,” but also way more satisfying.

        4. Spooky*

          I have a friend who pulls something like that every year. Last year he claimed someone broke into his car; this year he said a tree fell on his house. People offer to help, and he waits until April 2nd to admit that it was a joke. It’s not funny at all, and one of these days it’s going to come back to bite him. I just don’t get why anyone would want to do that.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            Someday he’s gonna post about how some family member is in the hospital due to a terrible accident or illness and all his friends are gonna be like “ha ha dude whatever”. And he’s gonna get mad at them but it’ll be his own fault.

          2. Eliza Jane*

            This year on April Fools, we got some legitimately bad and scary medical news about my grade-school daughter, and spent the weekend in the hospital with her. (She’s fine, we’re all fine, but it’s going to mean some major changes in our lives.)

            I was sitting there Friday night in the ER praying this was all some kind of horrible April Fools’ joke and it would all go away. It never even occurred to me to wonder if people on Facebook, where I was turning for support and comfort, suspected I was making it up. :(

        5. Wendy Darling*

          I had a friend post on Facebook that she and her boyfriend broke up as an April Fools joke. The post made it seem like she was happy about this turn of events, as opposed to in emotional turmoil.

          Her boyfriend was a huge jerk and everyone had been secretly hoping she would get rid of him, so she was promptly inundated with congratulations and comments about how people had never liked him and he treated her like crap and was kind of skeevy and she was well rid of him.

          She was PISSED. :/

          I’m generally known to have a good sense of humor but I hate the majority of pranks. It’s “funny” because you made other people believe something that isn’t true or embarrassed them in some way. I don’t think it’s funny to make people look stupid and I’m very sensitive to people doing it to me. I can deal with the occasional “we replaced everything on your desk with a 1/10 scale version” or “your office is now a ball pit” as long as the perpetrators were sensitive to whether that’s gonna wreck the victim’s schedule and help to put it back, but that’s where my tolerance stops. Most pranks are not like that. Most pranks are at their heart at least a little bit mean, and that’s REALLY not cool with me ever, but especially in a professional environment.

          1. StarHopper*

            Firstly, thanks for the LOL. This is exactly why I never comment on a friend’s ex immediately afterwards. You just never know about the rebound.

            I’m dying to know, though… did she break up with him for real after that?

            1. Wendy Darling*

              As far as I know she’s still with him years later, but we’re not friends anymore because I couldn’t deal with her constant stream of social media drama and she couldn’t deal with my declining to engage with her constant stream of social media drama. :/

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I might do it like “Hey I won the lottery — in South America! APRIL FOOL!” but not to people at work.

        I would NEVER joke about getting a book contract because people would actually believe me, and when it happens, I don’t want them to think I’m kidding!

    2. FiveByFive*

      I don’t think it’s true that people don’t have a sense of humor, but it does seem that people really don’t recognize the day as April Fools’ any more, and thus don’t have their guard up at all. I’m normally not into pranks at all, but 4/1 seems like the perfect day to do something silly and know that everyone will be in on it as soon as something is out of the ordinary. I’ve pulled what I thought were very mild pranks on people (telling them their favorite sports team was moving out of town or that their favorite president decided not to run for re-election), thinking the jokes would immediately be obvious, but no, the people fell for the stories. I had to quickly tell them they weren’t true after seeing the shock and sadness come over their face. :O

      So, lesson learned. To #1 and any potential pranksters out there, keep in mind that people aren’t as vigilant on April Fools’ Day as you might think.

      1. Dan*

        Part of me doesn’t find that amusing.

        But there’s another part of me that finds it absolutely hilarious when a politician quotes an article from the Onion and believes it to be true. For those who don’t know, the Onion is a satirical newspaper that has been published for like 20 years. Not a word in there is true, but all of the articles are written such that they could be believed at face value.

        I also find it highly amusing when Howard Stern fans get past CNN screeners and get smart ass comments live on the air during times of 24/7 press coverage.

        I guess for me my sense of humour requires some level of sophistication or ingenuity. One liners where the humour is the shock on someone’s face just don’t do it for me.

        1. Tamsin*

          Ugh, the Howard Stern fans calling news stations wasn’t funny when they started it a couple decades ago.

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Family Fun magazine has a donut seed packet on their website you can print and glue together and then fill with frosted o cereal. Something like that would be a perfect gag for the office. You could hand them out to friends or place a bunch in the kitchen with a sign. There is a joke, but no one is the target. And there’s a small sugary treat.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        At the holidays, I once got a small bag of marshmallows with a note that said, “You’ve been naughty, and here’s the scoop–all you get for Christmas is snowman poop!”

        I laughed until I cried.

        1. simonthegrey*

          One Christmas, my mom (who now lives in Iowa) mailed my aunt (who lives down south) a baggie with a carrot, two bits of coal, three buttons, and a doll scarf. She taped a note to it that read “Dehydrated snowman, just add water and refreeze”. My aunt still talks about it.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Oh, that’s cute, mildly clever, and completely harmless! I like it, I could see it working in a lot of scenarios where you want to do something fun for the day but don’t want to offend.

    4. insert witty name here*

      Eh, I think April Fool’s can be done at the workplace in the right way. For example, in some offices, changing a co-worker’s screen wallpaper is mild and could be amusing to the right audience. We do that here: put up pictures of cats or what not.

      1. Spooky*

        I’ve also seen some great ones online, like the person who made tons of Clippys (the paper clip with eyes from old Microsoft Word) and taped them all over the office with signs like “It looks like you’re trying to get a cup of coffee! Would you like some help with that?” That one’s my favorite.

        1. themmases*

          I had one of those on my desk this morning! And had no idea what to make of it because I thought I’d been here at least once since April Fool’s.

          It’s pretty cute though, I’m keeping it.

      2. BRR*

        Yeah there are what I think are acceptable pranks but they should be very mild and know your audience. Your example of changing desktop background is very inoffensive in my opinion.

      3. AnotherHRPro*

        I agree. In my office environment this type of mild prank is the norm. The key is that it is harmless (unplugging handset from phone, disabling mouse, funny sign in office, etc.). When done well, it can build commendatory. Posting that you are leaving the company doesn’t do that. It actually is divisive.

      4. Wendy Darling*

        At my last job you were supposed to lock your screen whenever you left your computer for security reasons, but I had several teammates who neglected to do so. I changed their desktop backgrounds to something they would hate (dude who is super vested in being extremely masculine got Strawberry Shortcake, hipster got One Direction, etc).

        It definitely encouraged people to lock their screens.

        1. Cleo*

          Same in our office, but you would get an email sent to a ton of people inviting them to happy hour on your dime.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            In SO’s workplace people sent emails with stuff in sparkle font, but then got told off by IT for using each other’s email. So they had to switch to embarrassing wallpapers.

        2. Honeybee*

          People do that around here, too, because we are also supposed to lock our screens when you leave your computer.

      5. Salyan*

        Ha… I worked at John Deere for a while, and discovered that one could change the machine blueprints screen to read in Ukrainian, and the business system to an unintelligible gibberish of a font. I didn’t reserve that trick just for April Fools Day, though. ;-)

      6. Margaret*

        I came in on the 1st this year and there was a post-it note over the light switch sensor (so it didn’t automatically turn on when I walked in, as it normally would), and my mouse was taped to the mousepad. So they caused a very small second of inconvenience, I thought “what the heck?” and then had a little chuckle. Depends on your workplace still, but I think small things like that are not a big deal. The potential inconvenience is so very small.

        We also had someone put what I thought was a very funny prank in our daily email newsletter within the company. I think it went over well because (1) it quickly revealed itself (you spend a few seconds while reading the “‘announcement” possibly getting worried, but it was clear by the last sentence, and (2) wasn’t making any one the butt of a joke (beyond the readers that were briefly fooled) but just poking fun of a situation within the company. Basically, they presented it as if it were an announcement form our landlord (who routinely sends out things like way like “they’ll be washing the windows on Tuesday” or “the power will be out on Sunday for repairs”), saying that a local fertility clinic had been disposing of chemicals and contaminated the water supply. They’d be putting filters on the faucets, but there was a risk from ingesting so far. If you had any questions about the possible side effects, please talk to Sarah, Jane, Susie, Abby, Julie, Megan, or Anna. I.e., the 7 women out of about 90 people who are currently pregnant.

        1. beefy*

          I would not like that announcement prank at all. I can only imagine how someone who’s struggling with fertility or in the early stages of pregnancy would feel reading that they’d possibly ingested fertility chemicals. Everything about that prank is gross to me.

      7. Collarbone High*

        One of my co-workers put vegetables in a doughnut box. It worked because, as Wendy Darling mentioned, it didn’t make anyone look or feel stupid. At most there was a second of disappointment, like “Rats, I was craving a doughnut.”

      8. Vicki*

        Be careful. We changed a co-worker’s cursor once. He flipped out, running around, swearing he had a virus.

        1. Vicki*

          “We” being co-workers and I knew they were doing it. I don’t think I was personally involved although I did use the cursor-changer widget myself. Many of us did.

          Definitely a “know your audience” situation.

    5. DeskBird*

      One of my jobs at work is to pick out a daily safety poster or slogan to post up on the video boards. For April Fools this year I used one of the silly “demotivational” posters instead. I thought it was a nice balance because it was less a “prank” on someone and more a joke for everyone to laugh at. Plus it helped me figure out who was actually looking at those things.

    6. Minion*

      I mostly agree. You have to be careful with pranks in the office any time. I got pranked this year on April Fool’s, but it was pretty harmless. My coworker called me and said she noticed that something was wrong with my tire when she parked beside my car. I was already in April Fool’s Trust No One mode, so I knew it likely was a prank, but I played along and went out to check my tire. She had taped a picture of Slash from Guns & Roses on my tire and written “You’ve Been Slashed!” on it. It was cute and harmless and we had a laugh.
      My direct report once stole my mouse and hid it in a back storage room. When I found it, it had been “caught” in a mouse trap. It was funny and, again, harmless.
      I think some pranking is okay, but you really have to know your audience and be careful not to do anything that may be deemed hurtful, offensive or just plain mean.

      1. Salyan*

        I got caught by an office prank once. It was April Fool’s, and I was expecting to have only myself and my (very easygoing) supervisor in the office. So I changed all the clocks before he got in…. only to have a visitor walk in and tell me he had a meeting with my (very not-easygoing) boss that morning! Wall clocks are not an easy thing to reset surreptitiously….

        1. DMC*

          We did one prank on my boss one year and found a command to flip the image on the monitor, so when she booted up, everything was upside down. It was pretty harmless, and we all chuckled about it (but importantly we waited for her to boot up and after her initial reaction, exposed the joke and put her computer back so hardly no time was actually wasted).

    7. Nervous Accountant*

      Not going to lie, we did that at my office. I’m generally not into pranks, but I think this one was OK because:

      1. the recipient is a very good sport and a good natured person, so he wasn’t upset and
      2. there was no destruction or theft of property, or exploiting someone’s weakness and/or fears.

      I think these two things are very imp when executing an April fool’s prank (or any prank). Know the person well, know your office, and above all make sure it’s not mean spirited. There’s lots of ideas on the internet on harmless, funny pranks.

    8. Lily in NYC*

      I think harmless pranks are ok in certain work cultures. But only harmless, silly ones! I can’t stand mean-spirited pranks (like fake winning lottery tickets, ugh) or ones like OP did – not that it’s harmful, but all it does is make the prankee feel dumb. My buddy turned my calendar upside down and replaced all of my pencils with giant sharpies (knowing I generally only use pencils). That’s the kind of prank that I think is ok (if you know it will be appreciated). I would never prank someone unless I knew them well.

      1. simonthegrey*

        When I was in college, I had gone to my dad’s apartment to check in while he was gone on April Fools. I stayed over Friday to Saturday. It’s important to know my Dad is very particular, but it is NOT any kind of OCD or anything where he would be actually stressed and impacted. Mostly it’s just tidiness; everything has to hang on the hangers the right way, in a particular order, etc. I went through and turned around every shirt on its hanger so all the hangers were in backwards but they were still in the right order.

        On Monday morning when he was getting ready for work, I received several texts that were just my name and exclamation marks and frowning emojis. We talked later and he thought it was hysterical. He had been so confused when he reached in to get out a hanger and it was the wrong way.

        To me, that was a funny prank. Play with his expectations but not in a way that would harm or stress him, and not in a way where he’d be late for work or it would stress him out. Most pranks I’m really disinterested in, but that one was okay.

    9. C Average*

      For a number of years I was responsible for much of the content of an internal blog for my company’s consumer services team. It was usually full of time-sensitive information about software updates, new products, emerging bugs, event dates, and other need-to-know information. Every year I put together an April Fool’s Day post, and it became a highly anticipated event. It always got more hits, likes, and page views than anything else.

      One year I announced that we had acquired a rival company, and I created a deliberately badly PhotoShopped image of a mashup product from the two companies. Another year I announced that the office had become a sloth-friendly workplace where sloth companion animals were welcome, so long as they were box-trained and current on their shots. Another year I reported a bug in the space-time continuum that was causing our consumers to land in 1983 every time they used a certain retro version of a classic product that we’d just introduced.

      The announcements were all completely ludicrous, which was sort of the point, and they were really fun. I actually got praised for them in my annual review, where my manager noted that I did a good job of making a resource that could easily be pretty dreary interesting and fun instead.

      1. Sammie*

        I love this. Last year some of us wanted to do this–but it got shot down. We.take.ourselves.very.seriously.

    10. Kelly O*

      This is my take on it. Just don’t.

      As in many cases, if you have to ask, the answer is probably no. Just my opinion.

    11. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m fine with a low key prank, but I also believe jokes about your job are bad karma. So no haha I got laid off or haha I’m quitting. Too fate tempting.

    12. A Cita*

      I worked in a pranky office and it was a lot of harmless fun. Once on AF’s I remoted into a colleague’s mac–colleague was very much NOT tech savvy and didn’t realize this was possible. While they had Word open, I took control and typed: “I’m watching you.” and then made the cursor swirl around and around. Totally freaked her out and she loved it.

      One of my bosses pranked another boss by microwaving the fortune cookies from their lunch delivery and replacing the fortunes with things like, “Yes, that lump you feel is cancer.” They were old collage friends and shared a very dark/macabre sense of humor, so jokes like that were well received (that’s definitely a ‘know your audience’ kind of joke).

    13. Vicki*

      I don’t think pranks belong anywhere that you cannot be absolutely 100% no questions at all sure of how they’ll go over with _everyone_ involved.

      That means not in the workplace, not on Facebook, not at school, not at Book Club, not on your sports team. Maybe with your spouse, sibling, or old college roommate because that’s a “thing” between the two of you.

      (I’m a person who views pranks as a hair’s breadth away from a lie. They can backfire, they’re often meant to humiliate, and, well, OP, you found out.)

  6. {kh}*

    OP#1 – If I were to use the words that I and most of my friends use about April Fool’s pranks, Alison would likely not publish the comment. “Juvenile”, “revolting”, and “childish” are the least offensive and non-vulgar things that you would hear.

    You say “April Fool’s Day is supposed to be recognized as Prank Day”. Well, you know what? Pranks are asinine. They are damaging, sometimes hurtful, often stupid. Pranks are about exploiting a balance of power. People play pranks on other people who they think will “fall for” them – implying that they think that the people who are the recipients or focus of the pranks are too stupid or ignorant to know that they’re being pranked. The “player” of the prank, then gets to laugh at/mock the person who believed the prank … unless, as in your situation, the prank backfires.

    There’s a difference between a lighthearted, teasing, and obvious “fool” and pranking people. I would encourage you to think about that the next time you have the urge to “play a prank”.

    1. {kh}*

      Also your comment of “Do people not have a sense of humor anymore?” is prototypical of people who do something offensive or rude or mean and then who try to defend it with “It was just a joke! Don’t you have a sense of humor?????” I’d rethink that mindset if I were you.

      1. FiveByFive*

        Easy there. OP’s joke was misguided, but it wasn’t offensive, rude, or mean. Nor was it exploiting power or mocking anyone.

        #1, just chalk it up to experience and keep in mind that some topics, like your employment status, aren’t the best choice for prank material.

        1. neverjaunty*

          The joke itself was just dumb. But following it up by attacking anyone who didn’t catch the date or find it funny? Sounds like OP’s coworkers may be mad about something more than the prank itself.

        2. {kh}*

          Well you can say “easy there” but my experience is that most people who follow up a failed joke/prank with “doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor anymore” is pretty much trying to shift blame for a failed attempt at humor.

          Maybe OP’s prank wasn’t terrible, but my point still stands. If you think of April 1 as “Prank Day” you’re going to wind up either offending someone, hurting someone, or damaging yourself.

          1. FiveByFive*

            OP is obviously surprised/disappointed people didn’t figure out it was a joke, but I think “blame shifting” is a bit of an exaggeration here. OP asked for advice and I’m sure is realizing this wasn’t the best idea.

            I am generally against pranks, but on April 1, even a lot of news sites will post phony stories. If on 4/1 you saw a link to story that science has proven the moon is made of Swiss cheese, you really wouldn’t know what was going on? Though I’m sure those sites get a lot of complaints about it. Ever see the reactions the Onion gets when people link to their stories on social media?

            1. Dan*

              Re: The onion. Considering that they’ve been publishing pretty much 100% satire for almost 30 years, I do find it highly amusing when politicians quote it and don’t realize they’re quoting satire.

            2. neverjaunty*

              There is a difference between jokes and pranks. And there is a difference between obvious, silly jokes like “the moon is made of green cheese” and “I’m quitting”.

              Also, while you’re right that the OP realized this was a poor decision, her letter has a lot of blame-shifting and rationalization, which can get in the way of solving problems.

              1. JMegan*

                Agreed. “Don’t people have a sense of humour any more?” makes it all about the audience – it’s their fault they didn’t get it, and the OP doesn’t have to take any responsibility for posting it in the first place.

                I agree that this is pretty mild as far as April Fool’s jokes go, and there’s *probably* not going to be any lasting harm from it. But at the same time, I think it’s reasonable to put this one in the “don’t make jokes like this at the office” file for next time.

          2. Sherm*

            It’s about knowing your audience. Some people like to be pranked and might actually be flattered that they were “chosen.” Some people don’t. Choose your target wisely and thoughtfully. Two coworkers and I actually did a similar prank as OP1 did, telling another coworker that we were quitting as of that day, but I said it in person and said “April Fools” within a minute. The coworker got a kick out of it.

            1. Mike C.*

              This is really the key here. The stuff {kh} is talking about is outright harassment.

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            You can do pranks that don’t offend anyone, hurt anyone, or damage yourself. And in a work setting, it’s appropriate to find something like that, if you’re going to do it.

            For instance, I’m pretty sure the small ‘mirror out of order’ sign that was put on our large mirror in the work toilets were inoffensive, non-hurtful, and non-damaging.

      2. CADMonkey007*

        I agree OP shouldn’t chalk this up to “no one can take a joke nowadays,” but that reaction isn’t necessarily malicious. Having a joke or prank fall flat can be pretty embarrassing and I think OP’s just trying to figure out what went wrong. I’m with other commenters that OP should just see this as lesson learned that not all pranks are good pranks and know his audience better next time.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep, I sometimes have to rein in a knee-jerk reaction to “Doesn’t anyone ____ nowadays?”, no matter what the ____ is. It’s almost never actually true and it always annoys me.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, that’s a really strong condemnation of a practice that many people enjoy and find good-natured (on both ends of it). Certainly there are people who don’t get it right, but there are many who do. If you’re not into pranks, that’s totally cool — but I don’t think it’s reasonable to call people who are (and who don’t draw prank-haters into their pranks) revolting.

      1. {kh}*

        I think I did clearly say that these are the words my friends and I use around April Fool’s “pranks”, not that it was a universal opinion. But I think you’ll find I’m not the only person who feels the sane way.

        1. {kh}*

          Also please note I didn’t call anyone single person revolting, I called pranks revolting. Please don’t chastise me for something I didn’t say.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I didn’t say you said it was a universal opinion, and I think you’re splitting hairs on the revolting issue; the original comment is pretty intense. Regardless, we can agree to disagree.

            1. {kh}*

              Alison – I am going to walk away after this comment, because quite frankly your disingenousness on this topic pisses me off.

              Please note I said: “If I were to use the words that I and most of my friends use about April Fool’s pranks, Alison would likely not publish the comment. “Juvenile”, “revolting”, and “childish” are the least offensive and non-vulgar things that you would hear.”

              My words were specifically describing PRANKS. I find PRANKS to be revolting.

              At no time did I ever describe a PERSON as revolting, yet you chastised me, saying: “don’t think it’s reasonable to call people who are (and who don’t draw prank-haters into their pranks) revolting.”

              I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: I NEVER CALLED ANY PERSON REVOLTING. Those are never words that came from my keyboard or my thoughts. Those are YOUR words, not mine. Yet when I objected to you saying that, you accused me of “splitting hairs on the revolting issue”.

              No, it is NOT splitting hairs. I never attacked a person. I decried an ACTION. Please note the difference. Just like disagreeing with someone is not “being a hater”, disliking a particular action does not mean you are condemning the whole person.

              And now I will excuse myself from this comment thread, because you are obviously biased and determined to put words in my mouth that I never said.

                1. F.*

                  I don’t think {kh} is pranking you. They (like I) have probably been the butt of some very cruel, sadistic so-called pranks, and that is why they feel so strongly that pranks are wrong. While I agree that they are perhaps unnecessarily lumping all type of pranks together, minimizing their feelings and (and possible) experience accomplishes nothing except perhaps to reinforce their opinion.

                  AAM, I respectfully point out that you did say that {kh} called people who are into pranks revolting. It is not splitting hairs for {kh} to point that out when you misrepresented what they said. I have seen you make similar distinctions when you were misquoted. Please extend the same courtesy to your commenters.

                2. Oryx*

                  I have to agree with F. on this one and, honestly, some of the other reactions regarding {kh} are not making other AAM commentors look too good right now.

                3. Macedon*

                  @F, @Oryx – I think what it comes down to is your position on ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ logic. Many of us have experiences where applying that kind of differentiation is damaging and offensive.

                4. Oryx*

                  @Macedon, please don’t assume that just because I’m supporting {kh}’s desire to be understood regarding their word choice on this specific matter that suddenly means I’m in the “love the sinner, hate the sin” camp because I am most decidedly not.

                5. NoProfitNoProblems*

                  Gotta disagree with F and Oryx here. We may be getting hung up on the word ‘revolting’, but the rest of the comment, and {kh}’s follow-up comments, had plenty of remarks that shows what she thinks specifically of the *people* who play pranks.

                6. Macedon*

                  @Oryx – I am not assuming or saying anything about you. I am saying that kh’s emphasis on differentiating between disapproval of an action and disapproval of the person who undertakes that action can echo that line of logic (applied to pranks in this case, rather than other topics) to many people. The line between “I disapprove of X” and “I disapprove of people who do X” is very thin, particularly when X describes something that is part of a person’s mindset or regular habits. You can generally expect that if you say, “Fast food is disgusting,” some people who have made the decision to incorporate fast food into their regular diet will take it as a dig on their life choices (and on them).

                7. C*

                  I think the point is being lost here. I think Alison and other commenters (including me) found {kh}’s remarks harsh and somewhat rude, and that was (appropriately) addressed. @F. and @Oryx, let’s please move on.

                8. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  My point was that I found {kh}’s original comment frankly shocking in the intensity of its hostility, regardless of whether it it was about pranks or the people who play them. Whether it was about the people who play pranks or the pranks themselves, my original point still stands — I think the comment was unreasonably harsh. Pointing that out didn’t require the intensely adversarial response that she then came back with.

                9. LBK*

                  Oh come on, it’s totally splitting hairs. “I don’t think *you’re* revolting, I just think what you do is revolting.” That is as splitting hairs as it gets – as Macedon points out, it’s the same as “love the sinner, hate the sin.” It’s ridiculous to think that judging someone’s actions is in no way a judgment on them as a person, because obviously they made the choice to take those actions – who are we and what are the qualities of our personality other than the sum of our actions? It’s a cheap piece of rhetoric that I’m surprised to see given credence outside of middle schoolers being brought to the principal’s office.

                  No, you didn’t say those exact words, but this isn’t a program being fed into a computer where only the specific things you said are interpreted and processed. Your words have connotations and implications, and you don’t get to slip out of the connotations of your words just by saying “Well I didn’t actually *say* that” (subtext: I just implied it and gave myself an out to deny it later). That’s reality TV logic.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                1. {kh}, I think your comment WAS a worded rather harshly, even if you weren’t talking about the person in particular. At least we know the OP won’t be doing this again, which is good.

                2. I totally agree with your assessment of the “Can’t you take a joke?!” reaction. That really rubbed me the wrong way when I read the letter. I rolled my eyes so hard I think I gave myself a headache.

        2. Vicki*

          I’ll agree with you, as will many people. There’s a line between “jokes” and “pranks”.

          In general, pranks are meant to _make a fool of_ someone. I’ve always said “practical jokes” aren’t either.

          This is the reason to be so. very. careful.

          There are many of us who do _not_ enjoy being made fools of, certainly not on purpose because it happens to be April 1.

          (I have a friend whose birthday is April 1. She always takes the day off work. Co-workers’ misguided sense of what is “funny” often isn’t.)

    3. Roscoe*

      Wow. Judgmental is the least offensive thing I can think to say about you after that rant.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        It’s a very strong term to apply broadly to a practice that can have any level of nuance from silly and harmless to, yes, actually revolting if done really, really wrongly. To imply that any and every prank is by definition cruel and sadistic is, I’m guessing, an emotion-driven overreaction.

        1. Vicki*

          It’s the word. Some of us have very strong reactions to the word. And its definition:

          prank n. – A mischievous trick or practical joke.

          If you like to be “mischievous”, think “tricks” are fun anywhere but at a magic show, or enjoy playing “practical jokes”, keep away from me.

          The definition at Webster’s is “: a trick that is done to someone usually as a joke”
          Note the _to someone_.

          Also, apparently, a (now considered obsolete) definition of prank was “a malicious act”.

          So, to me, the dictionary definition of prank is
          prank: bad news

    4. CS*

      Easy now. This barely even qualifies as a prank. Or even a joke. I see dumb stuff like that every year on Facebook.

      I’m not really sure why it’s controversial. It wasn’t a great idea, but I was expecting something much worse than that.

  7. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

    #5, I definitely agree with AAM, especially around the question of time.

    I would also caution you to look up your company’s internal transfer policy. In most of the places I’ve worked, you have to have a manager’s approval before applying. I also had an employee who applied and didn’t tell me, so it was *super* awkward when the application was kicked over to me for approval.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      This. But I think the OP knows about needing management approval, and possibly works in an environment herself where that’s the case, and that’s why she came looking for a script. It is a very awkward conversation to have with one’s manager, especially if you haven’t been on that manager’s team long (a lot of places require a year in your current position before you can move, but a year’s really not that long in a work context) or if you think the manager may react badly.

      1. OP#5*

        Thank you for your responses. Well, my manager is temporary, since our manager left for another opportunity, so I am still feeling out my new manager.

        1. pnw*

          Oddly enough, about five minutes before I read this, one of my team came into my office to ask me about an internal job opening. It would be a step up for him but probably not a good fit. I talked to him about the job and told him I would hate to lose him (I really would) but that I would support him if he wanted to apply. I truly meant that and I think most reasonable managers would want to see their staff succeed and move ahead.

    2. Graciosa*

      In mine, there are times when you need the manager’s explicit approval and times when you don’t (depends on time in role) but the manager is going to find out either way. We absolutely do talk to each other. I got a call recently about someone that the hiring manager had heard might be interested before the application even went in!

      A direct conversation is absolutely the right way to go.

      I am actually very supportive of seeing my team grow and develop – even if that means they move on to other teams – but I think you still have the conversation either way. It is professional and courteous, and it shows that you can handle yourself in a potentially difficult situation. This is a skill that you need to have to move up in the work place, so it doesn’t hurt to display it.

      The alternative in most situations is that the manager finds out without your having the conversation and feels betrayed – probably blaming this on the employee not being professional enough to have the conversation (even if the fault is that the manager makes this unnecessarily hard).

      This isn’t going to help your reputation, and the “Employee never said a word, and I had to find out from Chris!” complaint is going to linger as a legitimate – and damaging – criticism.

  8. Dan*


    “I suggested to my husband that we buy her a nice set of baby bottles.” AAM was being really soft with her advice; to be clear, there is no “we” in a professional office environment. Your husband calls the shots with his work relationships, period, no matter how much you may disagree with him for whatever reason. Take his “no” for what it is, and don’t demand an explanation.

    I’m not saying that you can’t discuss it with him, but his work relationships aren’t a place for you to push on. FWIW, I give gifts in the work place based on how close I am with a particular person. My bar for that is really high; many times, my bosses don’t have a strong enough of a relationship with me where I feel compelled to give a gift.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Also kind of an aside–things like bottles are a very personal parenting choice, so unless they’re off the registry, they’re a bad idea.

    2. all aboard the anon train*


      I feel the same way about weddings. I’ll congratulate someone if I know they’re getting married or having a kid, but unless they’re one of my close work friends, I’m probably not getting them a gift. Even then, the only times I have given a gift are to the people who I’ve become friends with outside of work.

      Also, it’d feel kind of weird if I ever got a gift from a work colleague that was from them and their partner. If you have to give a gift, it should be from your coworker, not their spouse/partner/family (unless you know them or are close to them, or something similar)

    3. Grapey*

      “your husband calls the shots with his work relationships, period”

      Actually, I had to step in and tell my husband that he shouldn’t push his coworker (who co-runs their gaming group at work) to come to our game nights at home if she doesn’t want to. Via group email, she made all the “polite” excuses for why she couldn’t come (“oh, my boyfriend is taking me somewhere that night, I don’t want to be out that late, that place is too far” etc) and my husband kept going “well what about this night? or this night?” and I just had to put a stop to the cringe-train.

      1. Artemesia*

        And by the same token, many men who have not taken on the social responsibilities of the marriage may not be aware that a gift is appropriate, so a spouse raising the issue is not wrong. Pushing it is once he says ‘oh that wouldn’t be appropriate here.’

        Your example is great there. Not all people are socially aware and realize that the way someone refuses when they WANT to do something is something like ‘Oh I’ would love to do that, but I am tied up this Friday; is there another date coming up where I might join you?’ And if they miss the first ‘no’ and extend a second invitation and get another ‘reason’ then DROP IT.

      2. Jeanne*

        You’re the one in the relationship. Some spouses want or need advice. Others don’t. It’s not unusual for spouses to make decisions together even about some work issues. But it does sound like OP should drop it. That workplace seems to be set up to keep things low key.

  9. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Legal question: It sounds like OP2 is planning on doing a not-insignificant amount of work while on leave – planning to check email frequently and saying that because of that her reports won’t need “to make any high-level decisions without me or anything like that.”

    I read yesterday about court cases where a company was found to have violated FMLA by requiring an employee to do work (beyond occasional “where are the G files stored?” and the like) while on leave. Is it a potential liability for the company to let OP2 continue to be making big decisions while on leave? Or is it not a concern if it’s voluntary on the OP’s part? Does she have to do something to prove it’s voluntary?

      1. Observer*

        Why? She’s having a baby. Since when does FMLA require that you take ALL of the time available?

          1. Observer*

            What I meant is that the law does not require that you take all 12 weeks off. It just means that you CAN that the employer can’t do anything about it.

            But, as Allison pointed out, it’s a moot point as the organization is too small for FMLA to apply.

      2. Tammy*

        There may also be state laws implicated by the leave (for example, I know California has specific laws around “pregnancy disability leave”, with different contours than FMLA, though I’m not an HR geek so I’m not totally sure what they are.) At my company, people on maternity/disability/etc. leave are actually locked out of their e-mail accounts to prevent them from working while on leave.

        And really, the POINT of maternity leave is to allow the parent to recover from the physical trauma of giving birth and/or to allow the parent time to bond with the child. Setting up a system of “being on leave but still working” seems to me like squandering the point of the opportunity a little bit.

        1. Witty Nickname*

          I’m in CA. When I went on maternity leave, I had to turn in my laptop (which was nice – it was old and heavy and I got a nice, light, new one when I returned), was locked out of my email, and my access card to the building was turned off. CA laws are pretty strict, since maternity leave (and an additional 6 weeks of parental bonding time) are paid through state short term disability.

          I still kept in touch with coworkers via my personal email, and helped one of them out with some excel questions on a file I had set up, but that was it. (It helped that I moved to a new role 5 days before I went on leave, had already transferred all of the files from my old role to the people who needed them, and since I turned in my laptop, had access to nothing).

      3. NK*

        Sadly, it’s not uncommon for people to take less than 12 weeks of FMLA when it’s unpaid. I’ll get paid for 6, unpaid for 6. I’m taking all the time because we can make it work. But my colleague only took 6 with her second child because she couldn’t afford to pay her nanny while being unpaid herself, and she’d lose the nanny (who she loved) if she couldn’t use/pay her for 6 weeks.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Ah, right. I got that it was a small org when I read the letter but then forgot it by the time I got to the bottom of the (very few at that point) comments. Time for me to go to bed, I think…

      2. Meg Murry*

        Even though this isn’t FMLA, if OP is using a Short Term Disability policy to be paid during her leave, working (even checking email) would technically be violating that policy.

        I would also suggest OP have a plan B for handling emails, etc in case there are complications with the birth and either she or the baby need to spend additional time in the hospital or the baby turns out to be high needs, etc. I’d suggest a bare minimum of an out of office message on email saying you are on leave, it could be a few days until you can get back to them (and possibly a “contact employee X at email if this is urgent” part). Leaving your email password hidden somewhere in your office so you can call and say “I’m in a medical emergency and can’t keep up with ny email right now. Can you please scan through my emails, the password is on a pink post-it in my top right drawer.” might also be a good idea. Obviously not ideal to have your employees in your email, but better than nothing if you truly can’t deal with it.

        1. Yetanotherjennifer*

          This is a really good idea. So many people have babies that the risks can seem almost invisible. Even something as routine as an unplanned c section could interfere with the OP’s plans. And even if all goes well, those early days are intense. I was like a deer in the headlights with indecision whenever my daughter napped thinking, “eat, sleep or shower; choose one and choose fast.”

        2. Judy*

          About a year before my first child was born, one of our managers got very seriously called out for talking for 20 minutes about work with someone who had had surgery and was still on disability. Certainly for the first 6 weeks after birth, while I was still on disability, my manager didn’t talk with me at all. Once I was on FMLA, he did call to check on where something was once or twice. I learned later that was because the corporation almost lost its disability insurance when the first event happened.

    1. jhhj*

      Although I assume OP2 is not in Canada, it can be a huge issue there to do any work at all while you’re on maternity leave and can get everyone in a lot of trouble, because even if everyone is okay with it the government (who is paying out the leave as, in most provinces, a type of unemployment) is not going to be amused.

    2. Tamsin*

      If that strikes anyone as a “not insignificant” amount of time the OP herself will take doing work while on leave, then for crying out loud, the board members are correct in thinking the amount of extra work the two employees will be taking on is worth recognizing with bonuses. But I say that as someone a bit put off that the ED of a 3-person office would object to the idea of giving bonuses in this scenario in the first place.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      OP, try to take your leave. Name a deputy to make decisions while you’re gone. Don’t check email all the time if you can help it.

      An empowered staff is a good reflection on a leader, not a bad one. The business shouldn’t be hamstrung while you’re gone, and you shouldn’t have to give that much headspace to your job when you’ve just added to your family.

      1. Artemesia*

        This and being gone 6 weeks puts a huge demand on those filling in — a bonus is a good idea if it can be done. Why would you want to deprive staff of this when the board is suggesting it. This is far different than taking turns covering each other’s vacation.

        I say that as someone who had to essentially cover a subordinates 3 mos maternity leaves two years in a row during our busy season. A 6 week leave will increase the workload on those at the workplace dramatically.

  10. Dan*


    Pulling off a prank properly takes a lot of skill. Part of that skill requires that you can ensure that the recipient knows within seconds that what he’s reading cannot be true, or if you’ve pulled a physical prank, that it’s trivial to undo it or work around it. Also, tastes in humour differ, and you have to make sure that your prank recipient’s sense of humour aligns with yours.

    To put your prank in perspective: How would you react if your boss told you that you’re getting a $5k bonus? Would you believe him? I’d believe mine, and if he said, “ha ha, April Fool’s”, I’d have to ask him what the funny part was. Likewise, if your boss told you you were fired, and watched you burst out in tears, would you find it funny if he then said, “ha hah, April Fool’s”? I’d be livid.

    The other thing, even at the best jobs, work isn’t always 100% holding hands and singing kum-by-ya. People who joke with me when I’m pissed off at them just aggravate me further.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I agree with Dan. Sort of missing the joke here given that it’s plausible that even a good performer would leave his job. Happens all the time.

      I would just apologize and not dwell on the joke not landing.

    2. Sparky*

      My coworker told us that the woman at her son’s daycare that she is trying to get fired told her on 4/1 that she would be leaving at the end of the month. Coworker thought, “Woo-hoo! Now we can stop trying to get them to fire her!” then she thought,”Oh, wait, it’s April Fools Day…”

      This woman keeps trying to make coworker’s son (and the rest of the kids) eat all the food they send with him. Some days he is really hungry, so they send a lot of food. If he isn’t that hungry they don’t want anyone making him eat.

    3. Tamsin*

      The “prank” reads as so strange — it was announced on FB, not targeted to anyone in the office — that I think there’s a real risk that anyone in the office the OP tries to explain this to is going to naturally think it was genuine anyway and that OP is now backtracking (because that’s how it reads tbh).

      1. Jeanne*

        Social media is often more difficult than people realize. Somehow OP appears to have figured that his Facebook friends would get that it was a joke. We still need that sarcasm font.

    4. KT*

      This reminds me of the Office, when Michael “pranks” Pam by telling her she’s fired for stealing post-its. She starts crying and he just stands there, astonished she doesn’t find the prank funny.

      That’s kind of how I feel about all pranks.

  11. {kh}*

    A “prank” is, by definition, meant to deceive, and often defined as malicious. Many times hazing is defined as a prank. A prank is something where you set someone up to believe a falsehood so you can laugh at them for being gullible. It’s not a kind thing or a fun thing for the recipient of the prank.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Every time the subject of pranks come up here, there’s a serious battle between people who hate them and people who like them. To avoid rehashing that, let’s just state for the record that the two perspectives exist, and that as long as you are taking care to prank people who you know will enjoy it, it’s not really anyone else’s business what sort of pranks consenting adults get up to with each other. I think most of us can agree that if you’re pranking people who hate pranks, that’s obnoxious. But I want to avoid the sort of hostility toward good-natured pranksters who are pranking good-natured prankees that we’ve seen here in the past.

      1. FiveByFive*

        If anyone really wants a discussion about pranks, they should just look up the thread with the prankster who locked his co-worker on a balcony. :) That was a fun one (the thread, not the prank!) :)

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          That was the one that led me to Ask A Manager! I was googling ‘I hate pranks’ because I can’t believe how many people love them and I wanted a bit of back-up :)

        2. Kelly L.*

          Yep, and we had another bad one, I think last year? There was an email distributed that said one of the custodial workers and their spouse had died in a murder-suicide, and then a while later it was revealed as a joke. Just…no. Do not make me grieve for people and then be like “Psych!”

          1. Kelly L.*

            “We” as in it was an AAM letter, not “we” as in my workplace; it didn’t happen here or to me.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Hmmm, I have no memory of that. I wonder if it was somewhere else? (Or possibly it was in the comments rather a post and I just missed it?)

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think it was part of a larger post of multiple questions? Let me see if I can find it.

          3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Yeah, I don’t think that was here. But there was one about a whole team being required to work overtime (overnight?) and then released at the last minute.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        It’s so much a “know your audience” thing! Which I think often is something hard to discuss in comment threads, because people understandably want, well… rules. But pranking someone who you know enjoys pranks is very different than pranking someone whose preferences you don’t know, or who doesn’t.

        It’s sort of like workplace norms around communication. I have a coworker who I’ve worked with for years and years, and I will sometimes communicate very casually with him–things like forwarding a request email with “Yo, take a look?” or replying to a report of a serious issue with “!!!” A coworker I knew less well, or had a more formal relationship with, I would never do that–I’d say “Can you take care of this? Thanks!” or “That looks pretty serious, we should fix it ASAP.” But the fact that the latter two are safter and more generally appropriate doesn’t mean that it’s somehow universally Wrong to interact more casually when I know the relationship is right.

        Similarly, there are coworkers who I would never in a million years prank, and coworkers where replacing every icon on their desktop with a Star Wars icon is something I gleefully look forward to. (Recycle bin = Sarlaac pit)

        1. Jeanne*

          It is a know your audience. I just think that it has a much bigger chance of backfiring in the workplace. With your friends, you could apologize and make it up to them. At work, what if you now don’t get a promotion because they can’t trust you? Or actually lose your job? It doesn’t seem worth the risk.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Well… but that’s exactly my point. I’ve been in my current position for many years; I know the workplace pretty well. Is it possible that I could miss a promotion because on April Fool’s Day I swapped around the icons on my buddy Joe’s computer so that the recycle bin is a Sarlaac and the Windows Explorer icon is the Millennium Falcon? Sure. It’s possible. But I’ve been at my workplace for long enough, and know the cultural norms well enough, that I am comfortable saying that it’s about the same level of likelihood as not getting a promotion for wearing a green shirt: it could happen, but the chance is so very, very low that it’s not even worth factoring in. When I consider whether to do it or not, I’m not thinking about some generic company where I have no idea of the norms; I am thinking of my company, where I am pretty comfortable saying that I do know the norms, and so I don’t have to apply some blanket rule.

            “Better safe than sorry” can be a useful metric, but I think sometimes it gets vastly overapplied. I mean, nobody should play pranks they aren’t comfortable with. But if you know your coworkers and your workplace culture, certain more casual interactions can be quite safe.

            (I’ve been thinking about this because there was this digression here between a couple of people a few weeks ago about whether or not exclamation points are Always Unprofessional, and it struck me as the same thing: trying to make a global ‘better safe than sorry’ type rule, where in fact it is so dependent on culture and personal interaction that such a rule would be useless.)

    2. Nerfherder*

      Calm down.
      Maybe YOU are offended when someone pranks you, but some of us are not. It all depends on the nature of the prank and the relationship between the parties.

      Eg. if someone told me my favourite band who is playing in my country for the second time ever (last time was in 1995) decided to cancel their shows, and then revealed it’s a April Fools joke, it would be funny. I would call the person an asshole, and laugh about it. But if he said “Dude, your mother died. … April Fools!! Ha ha.” I would call him an asshole and punch him in the throat.

      See the difference there? Prank #1 is non-offensive, non-hurtful, and JUST A JOKE. The other one is just plain evil.

      1. Ashley*

        Yeah, my father actually did die on April fools day in 2011. He was a known prankster so I totally thought it was just a horrible joke – nope, he had a heart attack at a hockey game and died instantly.

        With that said, I still don’t take April Fools Day pranks too sensitive, it’s a tough day for me personally, but it’s not an evil day.

  12. Rio C*

    #1 In the case of pranks and humor, I’d say that it’s important to consider that:

    A) humor is a “your mileage may vary” experience. Not everyone will have the same sense of humor.
    B) Even though April 1st is officially April Fools’ Day, the world doesn’t suddenly turn off all sense of seriousness; businesses still run and people have things to do, so the average person probably isn’t actively looking/expecting to be pranked.
    C) Facebook and social media isn’t the same as real-life humor.

    In this case, I’d give you some benefit of the doubt in that this was limited to any coworkers you had as friends on Facebook, but given the nature of their reactions, I’m wondering if they know you well enough to know what your sense of humor is? For me at least, I hang out with a group at work where humor has a bit of a “no-bounds” approach where pretty much anything can be said, and the ridiculous nature of some of our discussions makes it clear what’s meant to be a joke and what’s meant to be taken seriously.

    I’d say in this circumstance, the face that it was over Facebook probably ruined the experience; text can be a poor medium for conveying humor of this sort since you can’t always tell what tone someone is trying to type in. If I had done a joke like this, it would’ve been in person and the exchange would’ve gone something like “So I’ve accepted a new job offer?”, “Yeah, where to?”, “Deez nuts!”. Silly and asinine, I know, but in this circumstance, I can trust my coworkers not to immediately run to our manager’s office to tattle, and we’ll at least chuckle after saying the punchline, and move onto a new topic quickly. I also try to keep my audience in mind; this is almost strictly for my silly coworker friends, maybe a few other members on mt team, and definitely never for my managers/other executives in the office.

    Real-life tone and body language can help to make the humor easier to identify in this case. With Facebook however, you’re either going “I got a new job,” waiting for a response (which might not come), and then saying “April Fools” after so many people let it sink in for a while, or you’re starting the post as “I got a new job. April Fools!! :P” and giving little opportunity for interaction. I’m going to go against my YMMV stance a bit and be honest that I can’t see the humor in either circumstance.

    1. Nerfherder*

      If I did this prank, I would have involved other co-workers. About 10 or so. Then we would all e-mail our manager at the same time saying we quit. When the manager reads the first one, he would be a bit surprised. The second one will be a shock. By the third one he would be confused. Number four: what the hell? And so on. Then I will send him a picture of Nelson Muntz pointing and saying “Ha ha”

      My direct manager is a bit of a twat, so he probably won’t find it funny, but the uber-boss is actually pretty cool and will appreciate it.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This. Like the time all of us decided to wear suits to work. Our manager totally freaked out thinking that he had forgotten about a Very Impoetant Meeting. Nope. It was that all of us junior new hires had nice interview suits and never had a place to wear them.

        1. Jeanne*

          This is funny. I had a coworker who would randomly dress up to confuse people. Everyone at once is wonderful.

    2. Bwmn*

      The other risk with Facebook these days, is that you really have no idea who’s seeing what or when. Between what makes it to most recent, top stories, friends you follow, friends you don’t follow – it’s just a bigger “who knows” in terms of who will get message #1 or any follow up comments. So it may have easily been a situation where coworker #1 saw the message and then told coworker #2, with no context even in terms of when it was posted. For all coworker #2 knows, this was something the OP posted the night before April 1 or over even the weekend depending on workplace grapevines.

      If you are going the route of a Facebook prank, I do believe that the best ones remain along the lines of Onion news stories. Something about world or local news (i.e. the Trader Joe’s is closing at the end of 2017) where someone has to catch themselves as ask if it’s news or not. Worst case scenario in that, someone gets caught reposting and thinking it’s true.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I had multiple friends posting outraged diatribes linking to an article that Disney was banning all visible tattoos in their parks, followed by a bunch of “OMG I can’t believe I fell for that” comments. It was fantastic.

        1. Bwmn*

          In general and in a wide sweeping stereotype – if someone you work with if friends with you on Facebook AND if you post a satire/spoof story as news AND they fall for it, it’s something that so many people have had happen to them in the Facebook medium over time it’s hard to see that ending up in troublesome territory. But I think that’s because it’s also such a known commodity even beyond April 1 (see Onion reposts) that there’s a greater safety net in terms of tone or body language.

    3. Marcela*

      And the bad thing is that April 1st is not Fool’s Day for everybody: for us Spanish speakers, that day is December 28th, el día de los santos inocentes (day of the Holy innocents).

    4. CS*

      “So I’ve accepted a new job offer?”, “Yeah, where to?”, “Deez nuts!”

      That’s the wrong way to use Deez Nuts.

      1. Rio C*

        Was like 2 AM when I wrote it out. I really didn’t feel like taking time to come up with a good example. :P

  13. Stephanie*

    #4: So you’d be there four months at best? I’d decline the interview. Four months in most professional jobs is barely long enough to get beyond initial training. Plus, you’d be answering forever why you were at this job only four months. I think, too, part-time while you’re in school might be tough since you’d be such a new employee–the employer still wouldn’t know if the job could be down part-time or how you’d succeed doing the role part-time. (Admittedly anecdotal, but most people I’ve know who’ve dropped from full-time to part-time were long tenured employees with a good track record.)

    1. Doriana Gray*

      All of this. My training periods have never been four months long, but two months into my current position, I am slowly building up my own desk and learning how to manage my work. Even though officially I’ve been “turned on” (to use our division management speak), unofficially, they know I’m still learning the ropes so they’re going to be a little more lenient with me in terms of how quickly I complete certain tasks. I can’t imagine leaving after four months and thinking I could put the job on my résumé later. I just wouldn’t have the time to get any meaningful experience and/or accomplishments to list.

    2. Joseph*

      Even if the company was OK with it, part-time during grad school probably wouldn’t work out on the employee’s side either. If you’ve only been there four months, you don’t really know the ins-and-outs, nor how the job prioritizes different things. So your expectation of what kind of work fits into 20-hours per week is likely going to be different from the company’s. If the job was designed to be part-time, then that’d be a different story since the company would (hopefully) have already thought through what’s reasonable in 20 hours per week and set up the work flow accordingly. Additionally, you don’t know what kind of time commitment your graduate school is going to take, so there’s that side of it too – if the company is expecting 40 hours a week, you ask for 20 and they give you 25, is that going to cause issues for you?

      Plus, not only would you be forever answering why you were only there four months, you could probably kiss goodbye any chance of a great reference – even more important if this your dream company. The best you could realistically hope for is something like “Well, OP was really good, but she was only here four months and kind of left us in the lurch…”

    3. (different) Rebecca*

      Add to that the fact that grad school reading loads are often three hundred pages per class, per week, and part time goes out the window.

      1. hermit crab*

        Of course, plenty of people work part-time or even full-time while going to school full-time (I did, though not in a reading-heavy field/program). But that’s a good point about not committing to too much in advance.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Agreed. I worked full-time while going for my MA in literature, but I’m a speed reader, so the reading load wasn’t so much of a problem. Juggling the two is definitely something that needs some serious thought. It can be done, but not everyone will succeed at it.

      2. Stephanie*

        And many graduate programs have minimum GPAs or 3.0 or higher, such that falling below the minimum means academic probation or expulsion (versus just a middling GPA like in undergrad).

        Plenty of people do work and go to school, but I imagine it’d be easier if OP knew what her work schedule looked like (which she might not after only four months).

    4. Graciosa*

      I absolutely agree.

      OP, if you want to go to grad school, this isn’t the job for you.

      There was a choice here – fortunately between two potentially good things – and you have made it.

    5. AnotherHRPro*

      Yes, if this is a professional job (that is not meant to be temporary), the OP needs to pull out of the interview process. If they continue they will be damaging their reputation with this employer. It often takes months to hire someone and get them up to speed. I would be very displeased if I hired someone and then they left after 4 months, especially if they knew it all along!

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I would be pissed if it even got to the interview stage before the candidate told me that they were only available for four months.

    6. themmases*

      I agree. I had to do this when I was 8 months out from grad school. I didn’t formally withdraw but I let them know that I was interested but they should know I’d committed to grad school since applying. They were very gracious about saying they needed something longer-term and wished me well. In my case a friend who worked there had written me an absolutely lovely recommendation. I was tempted to just go ahead because I wanted out of my old job, but knowing it would reflect on my friend encouraged me to do the right thing. I think it could be a helpful way to consider other career issues too: what if what I’m thinking of doing reflected on a friend or mentor too, and not just me? (Often it really does.)

      BTW it may depend on what the OP is going to grad school for, but I have really benefited from being available to work at my school. Having relevant work experience made me competitive for research assistantships so I only ended up paying for one semester of my MS (way more valuable than the tuition remission I would have gotten from my old job). The people I get to work closely with, the content of the work, and the responsibility I’m given are all a real cut above my last job– and probably anything I could have competed for as a non-student when I started here.

    7. irritable vowel*

      As someone who does a lot of interviewing and hiring, I would be *pissed* if I went to all that trouble, choosing someone over another candidate, only to find out in a few months that they were leaving and must have known that they would be doing so all along (because no one gets into grad school and then starts within a couple of weeks). You just need to politely decline the interview, tell them that in the time since you applied you were accepted at grad school, and that’s the direction you’ve decided to go in. Most likely they’ll thank you and that will be that. If you’re their dream candidate and they happen to have a part-time position also available, they might mention that as a possibility, but you should decline unless you’d consider going down to part-time at grad school as well.

      1. Jeanne*

        If you treat it professionally now by withdrawing, you have a chance of a job there later. If you take it and quit right away, forget about the future there.

  14. Chrissie*

    regarding the slippery slope of “are we going to give bonuses for covering your colleagues’ two week vacation?”, I don’t think this is relevant here. Every member of your staff gets to go on vacation and the others cover for them. It evens out. Maternity leave is an exceptional burden, although it sounds like you are really lightening it and six weeks is not that outrageous anyway.
    If you do want to go the slippery slope argument, what about a six-week long absence of a staff member due to a health crisis? Is that bonus-worthy? Especially, since these are typically unannounced and you cannot lighten the burden.

    1. Rebecca*

      I thought that too. My workload was already unmanageable, and in our less than 20 person office, one person has been off on medical leave for over 4 months, another person missed a month in the middle of that, plus others had scheduled vacations. It’s been horribly stressful. I don’t expect anything from my company except to be told to be glad I have a job.

      1. Tamsin*

        It’s the Executive Director of a 3-person office who will be gone 6 weeks — and board members are concerned with keeping the organization running not just during that time but immediately after the OP returns. Not recognizing the impact of the ED being gone — or not valuing the amount of extra work this places on people who were not selected and are not paid to deal with ED concerns — is a huge risk to take. It’s a small gesture that would go a long way toward helping keep the organization intact.

    2. Tamsin*

      I disagree. It’s board members who are raising the possibility of bonuses here. It’s a 3-person office. They’re partly concerned that if this is not handled correctly at least 1 if not both of those people will bolt as soon as the OP returns. And look, if OP herself is planning on doing some of the work from home — an amount of work someone above described as a “not insignificant amount” — please consider that the board members have a sense there actually is quite a big workload that is going to be shifted to the 2 workers who the office is relying on will now be handling.

      I’d follow the board members’ instincts on this one.

      1. Artemesia*

        The employees undoubtedly know this is being recommended — imagine how you feel if your boss is taking 6 weeks off and could compensate you for the extra work but discourages the board from doing that for ‘reasons.’ I’d be looking for another job if I worked for someone who tried to do me like this.

        1. Artemesia*

          And in fact, I might well look for a new job and give my two weeks notice the day before she was due. It just seems like a very uncaring attitude to have towards subordinates you hope will pull the oar harder while you are away.

      2. Jeanne*

        The fact that it’s only 3 people in the office changes things. In a bigger organization, you absorb vacations and medical leaves. Maybe not easily but you figure it out. In a 3 person office, it’s probably much tougher. If they want to be generous, well, generosity is a good thing not a bad thing.

  15. Erin*

    #1 – Ooohh this is why pranks me me so nervous!! My coworker actually did this and it was okay. She emailed her boss (she’s his assistant and they’re very close) a resignation letter. I think he knew she would have done it in person, and again they’re close, so he probably just knows her well enough. I still told her it was a bad idea. Fortunately it’s all good.

    But oh my goodness. You had to have known that was a big risk. Do damage control now, and then never do that again! Good luck!

    1. Cube Farme*

      I too April Fool’s resigned one time. I handed my boss a resignation letter that went on about how much I enjoyed working for him but it was time to move on. Instead of “Sincerely”, I typed “April Fool’s”. He was shaken up for a minute; but he was so relieved that it wasn’t true and we had a good laugh. Did make it kind of awkward when I really resigned a year later. I think he was looking for the “April Fool’s” at the bottom of the notice.

      I also pulled a prank on our office manager by putting tape under her mouse so it would not work. I thought for sure I would hear her complaining about it not working and then I would come in all laughing and say, “ha, ha, April Fool’s!!”; but she went to the IT guy and he was under her desk taking apart the computer by the time I walked in her office. Red-faced, I removed the tape from her mouse. It wasn’t that funny at the time but I am laughing looking back on it. I hope they are too.

      1. Erin*

        Oooh signing it April Fool’s, that was a good idea. And I’ve heard of that mouse prank! That’s pretty funny about IT. Again I’m not a big fan of pranks, but hey, you gotta be on the look out on April Fool’s Day.

      2. neverjaunty*

        If I were the one who had to sit around waiting to be able to do my job because somebody thought it was funny to mess with my computer, I wouldn’t find it funny then or now.

      1. mander*

        Me too! You really, really, REALLY have to know your audience for this kind of thing. I would never try it.

  16. t*

    One April Fools the entire team I was on “quit” as a joke to our boss. He was genuinely concerned about the first 2 or 3 but by the 4th he definitely got the joke.

    We we a high performing and highly functional team, which made this work. If even one person was unhappy, the whole thing would have been awkward.

  17. Another Job Seeker*

    I think that a bonus for the staff members is a great idea – and here’s why. They are being asked to be available to take on additional responsibilities. I understand that the expectation is that all they will do is sort mail an initial invoices. If the office does not receive an excessive amount of mail, sorting it might not take a significant amount of extra time. However, initialing the invoices means that they are making a statement about them. They would need to take time to understand the purpose of the items being invoiced – and exactly what including their initials implies. They might need to be prepared to follow up if something is not correct. Additionally, are your co-workers to be prepared to step in if an unexpected situation occurs — and you are unable to provide the level of support you expect to provide while you are out of the office? If they need to be prepared to step in, I think that they should be provided with bonuses to help compensate for this preparation. (I’m considering the time the staff will spend making themselves available to step in whether they actually have to step in our not).

    I like overeducated and underemployed’s recommendation above regarding the concern about setting a precedent.

    1. KTB*

      I think the best timing on the bonus discussion would be after the leave, though. For example, what if the OP is correct, and there really is minimal impact on the staff? OTOH, if there is a disproportional impact, a bonus is totally appropriate. I once had to cover for my colleague’s entire maternity leave (3mos), and it was functionally performing my job and hers for the duration. It worked out, and she was promoted when she got back. I also went to our boss, made the case for a 5% retroactive raise for my efforts in her absence and I got it. Basically, it was a good situation all around. But I wouldn’t have made the case if it wasn’t warranted, or if I’d just picked up a couple of extra tasks while she was gone.

  18. TL17*

    #2 It crossed my mind that the boss doesn’t want gifts, or doesn’t want people to feel obligated to give gifts. But, that the people in the office wanted to celebrate the new baby, because having a baby is a big deal and is something to celebrate. So – split the difference by having some pizza and saying “hooray! New baby!” but not calling it a shower. Seems like a win-win.

    1. BadPlanning*

      I was thinking the same — HR or someone else really, really wanted to have a shower, but Boss did not want to have a traditional shower with a bunch of gifts. So the compromise was a surprise “shower” so they could have a party, but no one could bring gifts because there was no lead time.

    2. fizzchick*

      Also, in Jewish culture (and maybe others?) it’s considered not the done thing to give baby gifts before the child is safely born. And if boss had fertility issues she might not want to celebrate too much until the kid has actually arrived. So many reasons that it might not be right for this boss in this office…

  19. CADMonkey007*

    #1 Ah, you see, the thing with April Fool’s jokes is that not all jokes are equal, and whether or not a joke is “good” is always in the eyes of the jokee, not the joker. I would write this off as you simply misreading your office dynamics and plan something different for next year. I’m only so so on the pranks – a ‘fun’ office prank in my mind is hiding a veggie tray in a donut box in the break room.

    1. Cube Farmer*

      And as a vegan, I would think that was the best “prank” ever! Putting this idea in my calendar for next year.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve started an “April Fools Prank Ideas” list on my calendar from this thread. There are lots of good ideas for harmless, funny jokes that don’t hurt or embarrass anyone. I like the ones that end in a food treat, such as the donut seeds. I like the veggie tray one, too. I can see people being initially disappointed about the missing donuts, but I think they’d enjoy the veggie/fruit tray, too.

    2. Allison*

      “a ‘fun’ office prank in my mind is hiding a veggie tray in a donut box in the break room.”

      Yes, this. Deception, yes, but funny without being super mean.

      1. KT*

        Speak for yourself. If I thought I was getting Krispy Kremes and instead was confronted with celery, I’d turn into the Hulk. :)

        1. Kyrielle*

          The version of it that I saw, three donut boxes came in. Two were stacked behind, one out front – that one had the veggie tray, and a note inside the lid that the other two really had donuts.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I think I’ll put this on my calendar and remind me to do this next year. Fun, plus donuts and veggies, so it pleases more people.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              :( But not for work, since it’s a Saturday. Ok, in a couple of years. Yay for Outlook reminders.

    3. UK Nerd*

      I forgot this year, but next year I intend to bring in a doughnut box filled with doughnut peaches.

  20. OlympiasEpiriot*

    #3–It is not your office. It *is* gifting upwards. You don’t know his boss well enough to choose a gift w/o a registry or advice from someone who knows her well (ie: you have no idea if she would find the bottle idea useful or insulting or just a waste). They organized a party that had NO gifts, more of a ‘going away for a bit…we’ll miss you’ party from the sound of it. ALSO, lots of people around the world (although not in this stuff-collecting-for-any-reason-united-states) don’t give any baby gifts until after the baby arrives. Personally, I consider it bad luck and I’m not normally superstitious.

    #4 Too short a time, don’t take it.

    #2 Best laid plans and all that…you don’t know how you will feel. I was injured badly during the birth and that threw a real wrench in my life in oh so many ways. But, that is separate from the bonus. I think the bonus idea should be held in a back pocket to see how things go during the leave.

  21. Hiring Mgr*

    #1, you really have to be in tune with your office culture for this sort of thing. I learned this the hard way a few years ago when I brought fake crack cocaine into the office as a gag (it was just baking soda) and pretended to be smoking it in the corner of the stairwell.

    Needless to say my little prank didn’t go over so well and I was given a harsh reprimand. At first I was upset since I meant no harm, but then I realized perhaps I was the one who had misjudged the situation.

    1. KT*

      …I genuinely don’t mean this as an attack, but true curiosity. Can you explain your thought process behind this and why you thought it would be funny? What reaction were you hoping for?

  22. Former Retail Manager*

    #2…If all your employees are going to do is open mail and initial invoices and you’re just going to check e-mail….what is your job? I want it! In all seriousness though, it seems like there must be more that falls to them than the couple of duties mentioned, as Alison mentioned might be the case. I think the bonus would be nice, even if the duties are minimal. However, I do think the bonus should be in line with the duties. Maybe an extra $100 per person at the end of your maternity leave or something. I would consider than an immaterial amount and a nice way to say thank you to employees pitching in while you are out if the duties really are only the ones you mentioned. And as others mentioned, you never know how the birth will go or if you may elect to extend your leave. All the best to you and your new little one!

    1. random lurker*

      i agree, the board might start wondering why they are paying for an ED when they could be paying for an admin! i’m sure the ED is underestimating her workload, or she has really taken care of most of it prior to her leave, but i don’t know that i’d trust the board members to give me that understanding.

      1. mander*

        I’m more concerned that the OP is seriously over-estimating her ability to work after the baby arrives. I’ve known several PhD students who were completely unprepared for how exhausted and scatterbrained they were, and ended up having to take more time away from their research than they anticipated or else just had to ask for more time, because they didn’t really get anything accomplished for several months afterward.

        I think many of the people I knew imagined a peacefully sleeping cute little baby in the cradle next to the computer while they worked, not a crying infant that they can’t figure out how to comfort, getting up 6,000 times a night to feed or check on the baby, “mommy brain”, and all of the other distractions that my friends with kids have told me about.

  23. Bowserkitty*

    #3 – at my OldJob we basically just had an excuse for a pizza party as well. We didn’t all individually buy something though; if we wanted to we could add some money toward a giftcard at Babies R Us or Target.

  24. the_scientist*

    Regarding #2, I think the OP may be severely underestimating the amount of things they do in a given day, and the amount of work that their staff members are going to be expected to pick up. All they have to do is initial invoices and sort the mail for six weeks…….really? Why is an ED sorting the mail? I get that in a 3-person organization roles are going to be a little different than big orgs but I worked in a 5-person organization with a boss on extended (planned) medical leave and I can tell you that we did a hell of a lot more than sort mail and process invoices in the first 6 weeks….even with the boss staying available by email.

    As others have commented, you don’t know what’s going to happen during or after the birth, or even how you’ll feel afterwards, which will affect how available (temporally and mentally) you will actually be for high-level decisions. I’m on a working group with a women who just had her first baby, and she was planning to stay active in the working group while on her mat leave, as everything can be done via email/teleconference and there are no urgent decisions to be made. You know what? Less than 2 months in, she’s had to step down for the duration of her mat leave (we’re in Canada, so a 1-year paid leave) because she’s struggling with the demands of a newborn plus recovery from the birth plus sleep deprivation and doesn’t feel like she can give her full attention to this work. So, I think your staff are almost certainly going to have to take on additional duties while you’re away, and bonuses are definitely warranted if financially feasible.

    1. Tamsin*

      The board could always decide instead to hire a temporary person to fill the role of Executive Director or to even have one of the board members come in and do it — but I think the OP would find that even more threatening than the idea of giving bonuses to the people who will be shouldering the work.

      (The other question this could also raise is: Does this ED actually do much work worth paying her at that level, if she insists it’s no big deal that she’ll be gone 6 weeks and fights giving bonuses to those who will take on the ED roles during that time. I just don’t see how any of the resistance to the idea of the board member reflects well.)

  25. newlyhr*

    #1 I have always thought of April Fool’s jokes as things you do in a personal way –you experience the “gotcha” moment with the person you “got.” There are too many ways that postings on social media can be misunderstood. Live and learn. I am sure all will be well.

  26. Sophia in the DMV*

    I don’t understand why you don’t wait and see what that six week absence looks like wrt their workload bc presumably the bonus will be given after you return/ the work is more evenly distributed…

  27. Christian Troy*

    #4 — In my program, it was the norm for people to work and go to class and I think it’s pretty normal in many entry level research positions for people to stay for chunks of time and leave well before a year. It’s hard to know if this is the norm for your field/program but I don’t see the problem in interviewing if you’re going to be transparent about going to school.

  28. Roscoe*

    #2 I get your concern about setting a precedent, but I also don’t really think you have thought through everything that they will have to do while you are gone. My boss (a male) did his paternity leave last year, so it was only 2 or 3 weeks. At the time, there were really only 3 functional staff members in my department (one was still training). Our workload went up a TON, especially mine as the senior person. He checked his email pretty often as well, and we had his boss helping out here and there too. It was still a tough few weeks. It would have been nice to have something to show appreciation. But as a manager, you may really be downplaying how much will fall to them to cover while you are gone. Also, most people are smart enough to understand the difference between a 2 week vacation and 6 week maternity leave. But if you want to, just say something like “any extended leave over 3 weeks will give bonuses to the people who cover” or something to that effect. Plus also, if your board wants to do it, just let people have the damn money. If you are at a non-profit, they probably aren’t making a ton anyway, so why not reward them for 6 weeks of more work.

    #3 Yeah, you need to not worry about your husbands office politics. If he doesn’t want to give a baby shower gift, thats on him. I’ll be honest, as a guy, I’ve never given one. If there was a collection to buy someone something, sure, I’d chip in. But I’d never buy one myself. Not that I’m saying all men are like that, but most that I know are. I’m in a pretty evenly split office now, and I still wouldn’t do that, so its not about being in a male dominated field or anything. Its just not as much something guys do. But as Alison said, let him worry about that.

  29. Allison*

    1) I don’t think pranks are inherently wrong, it’s possible for a prank to be funny but way too many people rely on toying with people’s emotions as a joke. Personally, I think things like fake pregnancies, engagements, breakups, firings, or quitting is a bad idea, there’s nothing funny about them and they can make people legitimately freak out.

    Good pranks are things like putting googly eyes on stuff, or hiding small giraffe figurines all over someone’s apartment so they just keep finding giraffes for, like, a week. The key is to confuse, but don’t abuse.

    1. LiveAndLetDie*

      This is how I feel about pranks and April Fools in general as well. Doing a fake major life change on Facebook toys with other people’s emotions and can be hurtful, if someone takes you seriously.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, a good benchmark is to ask yourself, “If this were real, would the person have a complete meltdown or get really excited and be disappointed/hurt if it’s not real?” If the answer is yes, then you don’t pull the prank.

      I love the giraffe thing. I would love that. My ex had a small stuffed monkey friends had given him and we used to move it around all the time when I visited–I’d put it in the fridge, or if I fell asleep on the sofa he’d put it where it would be in my face when I woke up. Stuff like that. It was fun and silly and didn’t freak either of us out.

  30. Karen*

    Hey! Glad to know that my husband was right! That happens a lot….
    (I wrote #3)
    I think you’re right that I’m trying to apply my work culture to his office and we work in very different fields.
    The baby bottles idea was just what I said during our conversation, not what I was planning on. But doesn’t matter now, because I’m not going to push the baby gift any further!
    Thank you for the advice and the comments.
    Oh, and my husband is taking on extra responsibilities when his boss is on leave so that other question was great timing!

  31. Been there*

    #2 If this were my Board, I would suggest to them that this is a very generous idea and that you would like to wait until your return to decide on an appropriate amount. It is only at that point that you will know how much of a burden they took on. Maybe it’s $100 to say thank you, but maybe it’s way more because they dealt with unexpected turmoil.

    I think where you may be struggling is the idea of announcing a bonus up front. A bonus should be a reward for extra work done, not an expectation before the work happens. Obviously this works a bit differently in a non-profit than a for-profit, where bonuses are incentives to deliver goals. To announce it up front does set an expectation that may carry on to future situations, like vacations or other staff leaves.

    1. Noah*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Certainly work with the board to plan on a bonus now, but don’t announce anything to your staff until your return. At that point you’ll have a better understanding of what they had to do in your absence.

    2. Sadsack*

      A coworker and I both stepped in when another coworker went out for surgery for about two months. The work was much more than just opening mail. We were each given a nice bonus after she was back. I was surprised and delighted! We were not told about the bonus beforehand, we just did the work that needed to be done. I was really glad to see that our manager recognized our efforts.

    3. KTB*

      I commented on a different thread above, but basically I totally agree that pre-emptive bonuses are not the way to go. It’s impossible to determine from the start what the overall impact of your absence will be–it really could go either way.

  32. Observer*

    #1 While I’m not a fan of pranks, I’m also not someone who thinks they are terrible or anything like that. And, I’ve seen some pretty good ones. But, I’m with Allison. You need to use judgement. And, you really didn’t. I’m not going to say that it was a terrible prank, but totally unfunny and with nothing to indicate to people that it was just a joke.

    What’s worse here, and the reason I’m responding, is what it sounds like your response was. It sounds like you think that the people who didn’t react the way you expected / wanted are a bunch of humorless cultural illiterates.

    April Fools Day was supposed to be recognized also as Prank Day
    No. Yes, pranks are not uncommon. But, Prank Day. Not necessarily. And furthermore, it wouldn’t make it reasonable to expect people to treat every innocuous and credible statement as a prank.

    Do people not have a sense of humor anymore?

    Even someone who really is humorless is not going appreciate that kind of attitude. And most people who actually can laugh at a joke are REALLY not going to take well to being told they have no sense of humor because they didn’t get YOUR particular joke. When it looks like pretty much everyone fails to get it, which is what seems to have happened, you really need to stay away from that kind of response. Best case you have an idiosyncratic sense of humor. Worst case, it really just wasn’t funny. In any case, expressing that “people don’t have a sens of humor” is going to create at least as many problems as the actual prank.

    1. Jeanne*

      It’s almost one of those apologies “I’m sorry you got offended.” Kind of saying “I’m sorry you don’t have a sense of humor.” Being a job, it is probably best to say “I’m sorry I did that and I will never do it again.”

      1. neverjaunty*

        It’s even worse. It’s a defensive reaction to realizing you’ve done something wrong. No, I haven’t done something wrong – the real problem is that the entire culture has gone to hell in a handbasket so that nobody appreciates my fine humor!

  33. boop*

    #1. Well since you insulted your coworkers by suggesting they don’t have a sense of humor…. have you considered that it kinda blew up in your face because it wasn’t really funny? Announcing such a mundane thing, a typical life event, on facebook and expecting people to laugh? Do people usually laugh about your work situation? I would have been happy for you and then kept scrolling. Then confused as to why you’re still in the office a few weeks later.

    Then again my workplace has a crazy turnover rate and is pretty much always in panic mode so this must be a Know Your Audience situation.

  34. Rachael*

    Hi. My name is Rachael and I’m a prankster. I’m also a prankee. I feel that if you prank people you also have to allow yourself to be pranked. Alas, it is hard to find a fellow pranker/prankee but I only prank once fully vetting a person. Then we prank to our hearts content.

    My last job I had my soul mate (pranker) and we laughed and laughed. It made the day a lot more pleasant and also cheered up our coworkers when they saw our hijinks.

    (Example: coworker put a tiny hole in the lip of my Sprite and I spent quite a bit of time investigating how my lip is dribbling EVERY time I drink – much to all my coworkers’ amusement. I paid him back by putting Carmex on the earpiece to his handset phone and then calling him to make sure he picks up).

    Oh…the memories…

    1. Sadsack*

      See, I think I have a pretty good sense of humor, but I wouldn’t find those things funny if they were done to me. But as you wrote, know your target/audience.

  35. Piano Girl*

    OP #2 – I am currently on the other side of this issue. My direct supervisor went out on medical leave for a scheduled surgery for a chronic condition. The plan was to have them train me on some of the aspects of their job, but because of their rapidly declining health, that never happened. Because this occured during a really busy part of the year for us, I offered to step up and handle some of those responsibilities that I should have been trained on. Our boss noticed and thanked me several times for my willingness to help out. Fast forward two months, and my supervisor is back part-time, and I’m still doing part of the responsibilities that I took over until they are back to work full-time. I am more than happy to have helped out, but would certainly appreciate something a little bit more concrete than a “Thank you”, especially since if I hadn’t, bills wouldn’t have been paid, and they might have had to bring someone in to take care of some of their work.
    Just my two cents.

    1. KTB*

      Have you thought about making the case for a raise? Sometimes it doesn’t occur to a supervisor that you’ve gone so far above and beyond until it’s pointed out to them.

  36. Q*

    2) I think it depends on the size of the bonus as well. I once had to cover for a co-worker (supervisor level) for 3 months. I got a bonus…of $75. I tried convincing myself it was better than nothing but mostly I was and still am insulted by it. (and yes, that “bonus” was taxed at 40%.)

  37. AW*

    Example of a good prank: The Canadian government declassifying Wolverine’s war record

    Example of a bad prank: Google putting the new “Mic drop” button right next to the normal “Send” button in Gmail

    Canada’s prank was 1) obviously fake and 2) caused no disruption to regular business. Google’s prank caused a lot of disruption because it wasn’t fake. Some people didn’t realize the button would actually mute the email conversation and insert a GIF of a minion dropping a microphone. It might have been funny if the button didn’t actually do anything (or was no different from the send button).

    If you want to do a prank that isn’t going to cause offensive to a large audience of people it needs to:
    1) Have zero negative consequences
    2) Be obviously fake or not cause distress when discovered to be fake
    3) Actually be fun or funny

    1. Observer*

      I still cannot imagine why anyone would use the Mic Drop button. On the other hand, if it really did accidentally fire without being pressed, that is HUGE. To put it mildly, not one of Google’s best ideas. But, they have also done some really good ones.

  38. TFS*

    I hate pranks, but I get that people have different senses of humor and some people like them. Still, I’m surprised by all the posts indicating that fake resignations to your boss are an actual thing…I don’t get that even a little bit. How is that funny or a good idea?

    While I think the prank in #1 was ill-advised, I can imagine a situation where it’s really not such an awful lapse in judgment. For example, someone posts on Facebook that they’re so excited to have accepted a new job and have that new job be completely ridiculous, like goldfish breeder or something. You would expect people to realize it was a joke, but some people might not read carefully or not realize you were being silly, and then you’d have a mess on your hands.

  39. Brett*

    #4 As an alternative to this position, it would be worthwhile to contact the department you will be enrolling in (and perhaps even your major advisor if one is assigned) to inquire about summer work. There frequently is summar work available for incoming students.
    This will help you get more income for school and cover the gap between now and August, and might even lead to part-time work during the school year or a potential for an RA/TA position if you do not have one now.
    (If this is post-graduate professional school rather than graduate school, there still might be summer work but the school year potential will be a lot less.)

  40. CS*

    A few weeks ago, office pranks came up with my coworkers and I mentioned that at an old job, a co-worker would occasionally tape a tiny picture of Justin Beiber under my mouse so it wouldn’t work, I’d try and figure it out for a while, finally look under the mouse and have a good laugh.

    On April 1 I arrive to a picture of Beiber taped on the front door of the office. I find another Bieber under my mouse. Then another under my keyboard. Then the word BIEBER spelled out in keys taken from an extra keyboard.

    Then it kept happening. A picture in my lunch order (we happened to get a free lunch that day). My desktop background changed to a picture of Bieber naked from behind on my two giant monitors when I stepped away from my desk.

    And all day my coworker was photoshopping pictures of me and Beiber hanging out and posting them on Facebook.

    I don’t mind pranks but something about being laughed at all day (everyone was in on it) every 20 minutes got to me after a while. It almost felt like bullying, although it was all done in good fun.

    The weird thing is, I never expressed any opinion of Beiber one way or the other. I have no opinion of him, I don’t like the handful of tunes I’ve heard but they’re also not for me as I’m not a preteen girl. I don’t think about him one way or the other. Or at least I didn’t.

    1. Jeanne*

      That is odd that they would take an old prank and magnify it. Nobody wants a pic of naked Justin Bieber.

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