my employee injured his coworker in an office prank

A reader writes:

I manage two employees, Roger and Niles, who are friends and in their 20s. This team is not an entry-level team; both employees have been promoted to be on this team, and they have both worked for the company for several years.

Yesterday, as a prank, Roger placed a pair of scissors on Niles’ chair, apparently assuming Niles would see them before sitting. He did not. Niles was injured and taken to an urgent care for a puncture wound. His injuries were minor, fortunately.

Roger stated he did not mean to injure Niles and it was just a bad prank. Niles stated that he did not want to get anyone in trouble, and he was not angry about what had occurred. I wrote Roger up for the situation, and that was the end of it. Should I have considered firing him?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Setting boundaries with clients who proselytize or try to sell things
  • Hiring someone when I know the job might change significantly soon
  • Re-applying at an organization that I turned down five years ago for ethical reasons

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. HRArwy*

    So…. I would have considered the impact rather than the intent in this situation. The impact was that due to one of the employee’s misjudgements another employee was injured and taken to urgent care. I think it’s a serious lapse of judgement and I don’t know if an employee could back from this for me. I’m all for good pranks (that don’t hurt people) but… once someone gets hurt there are consequences.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Someone could get injured in a freak accident, though. I’m not sure you can apply this as a blanket policy any more than you can apply a blanket policy about intent. It has to be case by case, and in this case I agree that the response should be to make it clear that pranks are not permitted, and move on.

      1. HRArwy*

        Right but a freak accident and a prank are two different things. I would terminate someone for this. I wouldn’t terminate someone for a freak accident.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          So if you had an employee who did excellent work and had always displayed good judgment previously but did this one really stupid thing and understood he’d made a mistake and agreed never to pull pranks in the office again, you’d fire him?

          I can’t see why. You’d fire in this case if you could no longer trust his judgment, but someone who’s always had good judgment before — that’s not a firing offense unless you’re trying to be punitive (which is not what firing should be). It doesn’t make sense to fire an otherwise strong employee over two minutes of terrible judgment that are unlikely to be repeated. People do stupid shit sometimes. You need to look at what you know of them as a whole and whether it’s part of a pattern or not.

          If you’ve managed many 20somethings before, some of them do weird stuff. The good ones learn.

          1. HR Exec Popping In*

            Agreed. Everyone has a lapse in judgement. And apparently pranks have been a norm in the department so you really can’t ding him on doing a prank. Just on that this prank unfortunately resulted in someone accidently getting hurt.

            1. HR Exec Popping In*

              Oh, I might have made up that pranks are normal. haha I could have sworn that was in the letter but now see that it is not. Sorry.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I thought the same thing – I wonder if it came up in the comments the first time this story was posted?

          2. twocents*

            I think it’s a stretch to call this a lapse in judgment. What’s even the prank element of putting scissors on a chair? Even with pranks gone awry, you can usually see — if you squint — a part where someone could have found it funny.

            There’s nothing funny about this. “Haha you sat on scissors, and you hurt your ass”??

            1. Clisby*

              I agree. Putting a cupcake on the chair could have warranted no more than a write-up and warning that if any other prank occurred, it was a firing offense. Scissors? Since when is putting sharp objects in someone’s chair a mere “lapse of judgement” for someone in their 20s?

              1. JB*

                Unless you knew the target had a spare set of pants at work and there wasn’t an imminent meeting with the manager or something, the cupcake still wouldn’t be appropriate. Practical jokes fall entirely under knowing your audience, and I know I wouldn’t appreciate spending the rest of the day with foodstuff on the seat of my pants. A post-it note perhaps, something easily removed and no sticky bits on the pants, but again know your audience.

                1. Clisby*

                  I didn’t say the cupcake would be appropriate. Personally, I’d fire someone over that – I have zero tolerance for pranks/practical jokes at work. I’m just surprised at the number of people who actually go so far as saying placing a sharp object in someone’s chair doesn’t warrant immediate firing.

            2. Lana Kane*

              I agree. That a lapse in judgment hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean the person has good judgment overall. It could easily just have been a matter of time until something happened – and here we are. Also, I can hire someone who is good at their job AND doesn’t think it’s ok to prank people with scissors.

              I would have let this person go, myself. I think it sets a bad example to the rest of the staff to keep an employee who created a situation where anyone could have expected that harm could ensue. Not that other people are going to think that there is free reign to leave scissors on chairs, but that someone who would do that would be allowed to remain. I’d be giving that guy a wide berth, myself, if he were my coworker.

              You can warn him all you want that there will be no further toleranced, but if his judgment is this bad, who’s to say it won’t happen again?

            3. Yelm*

              Agree. This is a lapse in judgment for an eleven-year-old. How is it a prank? It is so fundamentally stupid, unless there was some kind of inside joke, but still, “Don’t mess around with scissors” is something we learn at age five.

            4. hbc*

              I’ve definitely seen dumb pranks where the joke is that the prank is so obvious. Kind of like a joke so dumb that you end up laughing in a meta way.

              Probably would have been smarter to have done one of those rope foot traps with a Snickers in the middle (not actually set to spring, of course.)

            5. tangerineRose*

              “What’s even the prank element of putting scissors on a chair?” This!

              I also think that most people, including kids, would think “Oh wait, that might hurt someone.”

            6. MCMonkeybean*

              Yeah, I’m not as hardline anti-prank as others here (my dad was very good about doing genuinely harmless pranks when I was younger so I do enjoy some) but I’m having trouble believing this one wasn’t intended to at least cause a *little* harm even though he probably didn’t imagine it would end up at urgent care. If Niles wasn’t mad about it and didn’t want to push for it to be addressed any particular way then I don’t think you *have* to fire Roger, but I also think it would be 100% reasonable to do so.

            7. anon for this*

              Agreed. Maybe someone has mentioned this elsewhere, but if you place a sharp object in someone’s chair, maybe it’s their ass that gets the puncture wound, but maybe it’s their genitals. I can’t speak for how this might effect women, but a puncture wound from a pair of scissors could cause serious testicular injury. I don’t think the prankee would be yucking it up if the injury had occurred there. He’d be suing the company.

              This is absolutely a firing offense.

          3. Junior Assistant Peon*

            Maybe it’s different in a cubicle farm, but this would be a firable offense at any company with labs.

            1. Nesprin*

              Indeed- improperly managing your sharps is absolutely cause for termination in a bio lab.

            2. starsaphire*

              Agreed. At my company, which does have labs, “horseplay” is spelled out specifically as a firing offense under safety regulations.

              However – tinfoiling your neighbor’s cubicle is not considered horseplay. Nor is filling it with balloons. *ahem* Allegedly.

            3. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

              Yep. Was going to say the same thing. Also for any company that has manufacturing plants.

              1. Junior Assistant Peon*

                Very true – at the places I’ve worked with both, the plants are even stricter on safety, and more likely to fire somebody for an incident.

          4. Anon for this one*

            A prank resulting in injury and a possible worker’s comp claim would be an instant firing offense in my public sector job.

            Since scissors are bladed, the only humor that could result would be from injury; I am also curious about the actual placement of the scissors – scissors laid flat and closed on a chair wouldn’t be likely to cut, which ups the likelihood that they were deliberately placed in a way that could cause injury.

            Some lapses of judgement aren’t recoverable. Ones that end up in urgent care fall under that category for me.

            1. No Longer Looking*

              Regarding the placement, if the closed blades are forward and it is a typical curved office chair, sitting down on the handles would force the tip upwards into the thigh, and sitting fast enough could certainly create enough lever-action force to puncture. Alternately, sliding backwards along the scissors could have a similar effect.

              I do agree with everyone who has said that we don’t see what the possible funny component would have been.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              The LW must have commented on the original post, because I do remember the scissors were in the crease so only the tips were sticking out, in a way that they would definitely cause harm.

              1. Ellen N.*

                Wow, Roger placed the scissors in such a way as to be as invisible as possible and to cause as much damage as possible. Then instead of being contrite he says that he didn’t mean any harm.

                I wouldn’t want to retain an employee with this level of bad judgement.

                1. Czhorat*

                  I agree with you and disagree with Allison.

                  Part of this might be my general anti-prank stance, but MOST pranks wouldn’t result in more than a conversation.

                  EVen if the workers are friends, this is pretty much setting a harmful trap and then saying “IT’S A JOKE” when the trap goes off. That’s more than a lapse in judgement and, to be honest, more than a prank.

                2. tangerineRose*

                  “I wouldn’t want to retain an employee with this level of bad judgement.” Yeah. I can’t tell if he had bad judgement or is using that as an excuse now (maybe he just thought hurting someone would be fun?), but either way, I wouldn’t want someone like that working for me.

                  As far as firing someone for a prank gone wrong, I think it depends on the kind of prank. I’m not a fan of pranks anyway, but this prank seems like it was intended to physically hurt, so it seems worse than most.

          5. HRArwy*

            I work in an environment where safety first and lapse in judgement for safety first is not tolerated.

            1. Lana Kane*

              Same, and I can’t imagine why that wouldn’t be the case across the board. Even accidents are reviewed to ensure they didn’t stem from someone not following safety protocols.

          6. Jcarnall*

            I would want someone who did that to me fired, no matter how much they apologised.

            I wouldn’t want to have to take the blame for “getting them fired”, either, because they ought to be out of there for thinking scissors on a chair are hilarious, not because I declined to be nice about their thinking hurting me would be funny.

          7. Beancounter Eric*

            The perpetrator engaged in actions which resulted in an injury requiring medical care to a fellow employee….and we are to write it off as doing a stupid thing???

            Immediate, very public termination – I don’t care that they are a rock star, that they do wonderful work, that all of the time other than this incident, they walk on water…they injured a fellow employee through a prank, and they pull pranks on company time. Both of those, individually or collectively, are enough for me to have doubts on their judgement.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I’d argue that comes back to considering intent then – a freak accident differs from a prank mainly by lacking the intent to do whatever it is. I’m no fan of pranks, I just don’t think you can apply an impact above intent rule when deciding how to deal with things like this.

          1. HRArwy*

            I disagree. Just like in situations where you don’t intend to discriminate but your actions, words etc… have that impact we don’t measure your intent. We measure the impact on the victim and whether the policy was breached. You can’t have well intentioned discirmination, bodily harm etc..

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          That seems really… harsh. Obviously it was a mad lack of judgement (what scenario did the prankster imagine by putting scissors on a chair?) and if it were me, I’d give the prankster a written warning and note on his file for at least 6 months thereafter, with a clear statement that anything like this, anything, whether the prank victim complains or does not complain, is a complete no-go under any circumstances or termination would be the next step. But I wouldn’t fire them immediately, because clearly it was one of those stupid, ill-considered things that could have had terrible consequences rather than simply bad ones, between colleagues.

          It would be a black mark, but not necessarily a permanent one.

      2. EmbracesTrees*

        Yes, true. But when you decide to use SHARP OBJECTS in a “prank” you’re 100% demonstrating poor judgement. Really poor. Like wtf are you thinking poor.

        1. Ms. Anon*

          Yeah–sitting on a Post-It note and gluing it to your butt is in a whole other universe of pranks than sitting on a pair of scissors.

            1. Bob Loblaw, Esq.*

              This website needs a “like” button so I don’t have to leave this waste of time comment.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I do believe that pranks can be good, as long as they stay firmly in the realm of “putting googly eyes on the office creamer” or “changed my avatar to a picture of Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider”.

        2. rachel in nyc*

          I guess my problem is that I don’t understand how scissors on a chair constitutes a ‘prank.’ And I’d wonder- as a manager- if Roger (or Niles, if he really considers this a prank) could explain how it was a prank to someone else so it was believable.

      1. HS Teacher*

        That’s rude. I don’t think it’s humorless. Pranks can get people killed. There’s nothing funny about a prank that anyone with connected brain cells knows could hurt someone. I think he should have been fired, and if someone in my organization did it, they’d be fired.

          1. Cindy*

            I think I have a reasonable sense of humor, and I’m not weighing in as to whether this person should be fired, but how is putting scissors on a chair funny? I don’t get the humor. It just seems mean to me.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Yeah, I don’t get it either. Mental Lentil, will you explain why this could be thought of as funny?

              1. AceInPlainSight*

                I think it’s a “so stupid and obvious it’s funny” joke- like, “Hey, I left you a present!” and it’s nothing but an office pair of scissors.

                1. Self Employed*

                  Not when it’s concealed in a crease so it’s invisible except for the pointy end sticking out. That’s just a trap. Maybe he thought it would just be “ouch!” and jump and not draw blood, but hurting people is not funny.

          2. Autumnheart*

            I have an amazing sense of humor, and getting someone to slice their ass on a pair of scissors hidden in a chair is NOT funny.

      2. Essess*

        Every company I’ve ever worked at had it written right in the employee handbook – No pranks or horseplay allowed. I’ve never heard of a workplace that allowed it.

        1. Lilo*

          Ha ha, he had to go to the hospital!

          Puncture wounds at also worse than slicing cuts. Much more painful, much longer to heal.

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Good prank: my boss switched my blemish-free banana with his overripe stinky one and then switched them back when I wasn’t looking. Bad prank: my boss ate my banana and left the peel to fester in a drawer.

      4. allathian*

        Pranks are the one kind of humor that I really don’t like. Their only intent is to make others laugh at one person’s expense. I don’t even think pranks where you put saran wrap or tin foil on someone’s desk or cover their cubicle with bubble wrap are particularly funny. They’re okay if the pranksters do most or all of the cleanup, but not if they expect their victim to do it.

        The problem with pranks is that they can so easily misfire completely. Even if a prank doesn’t result in a trip to the ER, putting a jack-in-the-box that’s disguised as a birthday present with a plastic spider in it on the desk of an arachnophobe to get their reaction is not funny either. This happened to a coworker of mine at a former job. It was her birthday and while she did get a proper present as well, she spent at least 15 minutes in the washroom crying her eyes out and it really ruined her party. Most people gave the prankster the cold shoulder for a while. He got a warning, because it didn’t quite merit firing right away. But she was always very wary around him after that. They’d been pretty good work friends before that but he misjudged her sense of humor pretty badly and the friendship never recovered. For a while he whined about that to the rest of us (he was the only guy in a team of 10), but he didn’t get any sympathy from us, and in the end he left, probably for a more bro-y environment.

        I love puns and find a lot of dirty jokes extremely funny in private, although they aren’t at all appropriate at work.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Many years ago while my father was in basic training someone snapped an electric cord as a joke. It hit someone in the face and they lost their sight in one eye. Any pranks that involve the possibility of physical and emotional harm aren’t funny.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        this totally. I actually wouldn’t fire the prankster on this one, but they would get a final written warning and be made to understand that pranks of any kind are a hard no or immediate termination would be the next step. Evidently the prankster and victim are good friends generally, there’s no sense of bullying, obviously it was a REALLY bad lapse in judgement, but it doesn’t sound vicious, just blockheaded.

        Any kind of ”joke” where someone is either terrorised or where physical hurt / harm is involved is not funny and I don’t care who calls me humourless.

  2. cubone*

    I know this isn’t the point but my gosh, how is this even a “prank”? Haha, you …. sat on a pair of scissors? Gotcha!

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Agreed. It’s juvenile and kind of dumb, imo. Roger may not have “intended” to injure Niles, but I would expect an adult to realize that when you place a sharp object in someone’s chair, injury is a ,thing that COULD happen. Roger showed very poor judgment here, imo.

        That said, I’m not sure if I would fire him on the spot or not. I would definitely consider it, but I would take other factors into account, such as whether he has any past record of actions (such as stupid pranks) that would raise questions about his maturity and judgment.

        If I decided to keep him on, I would definitely have the kind of serious talk Alison described, together with instituting a zero tolerance policy for pranks.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’m pretty creative but I can’t find a way to call this a prank. ‘Sophomoric stunt’ or ‘childish caper’ is more like it.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, I am having trouble believing that he assumed Niles would see them before sitting as a defense because that… makes no sense. Either you expect he sees them and then, y’know, *moves them* before sitting down in which case what on earth would the prank even be??? Or else your intention is for someone to sit on the scissors which is just horrifically stupid.

      I think when pranks come up here I am usually on the less extreme side of things and I have some room for “oh, they didn’t mean any harm” or whatever… but honestly in this case I think jumping to firing would be completely okay.

    3. facepalm*

      I imagine it’s something like what I have going on here. Someone thinks it’s funny to constantly move my things. I’ll come back to my stapler being in the middle of the floor. Or a knick-knack on it’s side. It’s annoying and for the most part I ignore it; but it does become an issue when they outright take things and then they reappear later and I needed the items in the meantime.

      The person doing it must think it’s funny and I can laugh it off a time or two, but we are going on several weeks of this now.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Staplers must be A Thing. I used to work with someone who ‘collected’ staplers from our admin staff. He thought it was highly amusing to watch people look for their stapler, or at least someone’s stapler to borrow. When he graduated to ‘collecting’ desk chairs, his boss had a talk with him. People were wasting a lot of time thanks to his passion.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I worked in a place that had recently downgraded the quality of staplers they bought, and one of my coworkers had a “vintage” all metal one that actually worked – a hot commodity amid the crappy new plastic ones that misfired every other staple. He named it, labeled it, and would get seriously pissed if anyone touched “Ginger”. You did not mess with his stapler.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              My stapler is red and my coworker (who is in and out of the office and just uses flex space) always asks to borrow it in Milton’s voice. I love that movie, so it makes me laugh every time.

              I also have the “Gigantor” stapler meant for huge stacks of paper. I get piiiissssssed if someone borrows it and forgets to bring it back!

          1. Ro*

            I put a colleagues stapler in jello when I was a student. Reference to the office. We both thought it was funny (most of the job was digital we had used the stapler maybe twice in the 8 months we’d worked there). So I figured we’d have a laugh and at some point that day I’d have to clean it up.

            Naturally, that was the day we suddenly needed to use the stapler A LOT.

        2. I'm just here for the cats*

          I had a manager who wasnt collecting chairs but would take your chair away if it was not pushed into the desk. It was a call center and we had rows of cubical desks. I had stood up, Still attached to my corded head set, and stepped less than 3 feet to my left to point at the screen for my coworker who couldn’t find something. Because I had stood up and my chair was not pushed in, she came and took my chair away! I then had a call and had to stand for the entire time!

          Also the isles were wide enough that it wasn’t like my chair was blocking the way. Her reasoning for doing this: when she closes at night most the lights are off and its hard to see and she could fall. This was during the day and WE WERE ALL STILL THERE!

          1. No Longer Looking*

            Wow. I would have walked away and not taken the call, and told my manager that if she doesn’t return my office equipment I would assume she didn’t want me working. That’s some juvenile management there.

          2. lex talionis*

            It’s all about control. When he would leave for the day the superintendent of my school (art college no less) would walk outside, turn and face the building and if all the window shades were not drawn to the same level there would be bloody hell to pay. It was a big building. And once the students found out it was an issue, well, let’s just he was one constantly unhappy man.

          3. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Oh, no, that’s awful. Please tell us she had the decency to get embarrassed and apologize for disrupting your actual work.

          4. Denver Gutierrez*

            What in the world? That sounds like something an elementary school teacher would do to a student who doesn’t stop leaning the chair back on two legs. Not a person managing adults.

            If she is so afraid of falling when leaving, why doesn’t she get a keychain flashlight or use the one on her phone?

      2. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I once shared an office with a couple of people who semi-regularly did little things like this to tease each other. This included putting random stuff in the other’s chair, though they did avoid items that could inadvertently cause bodily injury. It’s not something I would call a prank (or funny, for that matter), but guys in their 20s doing dumb, annoying things to each other for their own amusement is definitely not hard to imagine.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I can imagine sitting on those scissors while wearing a nice suit and being out $500.

    5. LunaLena*

      I’m thinking he expected Niles to see it on his chair and go “oh ho ho, you almost got me! You sneaky fiend you! I’ll get you back for this!” Some guys find it hilarious to hurt/almost hurt each other. You can see that kind of thing on Fail Army and Tosh.0 a lot.

    6. fposte*

      In the original post, the OP clarified that the scissors were jammed back into the chair with only the tips showing. So I think Fergus was envisioning a sit and a quick jump up with a “Wow, pointy!” yelp, but not an encounter sufficiently forceful to injure..

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        That is more believable, and makes the situation worse. I totally believe he didn’t intend any real harm, but that’s the problem with pranks, and why, IMO they never ever belong in an office.

      2. Calliope*

        Oh, I see. I can see not thinking that the scissors were sharp enough to puncture clothing. Still dumb, but.

      3. pancakes*

        That’s an odd thing to envision when most people don’t tend to gingerly lower themselves into their own chair unless they’re already hurting somehow.

      4. tangerineRose*

        OK, so he might not be an actual sadist, but I’m a bit worried about the judgment of an adult who does something like that and doesn’t apparently worry a bit that the person might get badly hurt.

  3. Heidi*

    So Roger was imagining that he would put scissors on Niles’ chair, and then Niles would see them and not sit on them. How is hilarity supposed to ensue from that? I have to admit, I don’t get 99% of pranks, but this seems even less thought out than most.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Yeah, Niles was definitely supposed to sit on them…it was just supposed to be like a cartoon — he jumps up with a shriek and everyone laughs. In the real world though, sharp objects cause puncture wounds.

      1. Littorally*

        I think that’s exactly what he was envisioning. Not really thinking that people tend to sit down with their full weight.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Probably some weird inside joke they had. You know “Niles Runs With Scissors” or something equally stupid.

      But I have on occasion returned things to people and laid it on their chair rather than putting in on their desk, and then pushed the chair in. Sometimes you don’t want things sitting in plain sight. I will rethink that if returning to the office (hopefully not).

      1. Self Employed*

        If it’s a binder or envelope, they’ll see it. Unless it matches the chair.

  4. Unkempt Flatware*

    Your organization should have a no solicitation policy. No solicitation applies to proselytizing as well (no matter how much my religious neighbor disagrees with that) and you should be able to confidently point to that policy when dealing with clients like this.

    1. Hazel*

      I agree. The “no religion talk” could also be an organization policy, along with “no solicitation.” I think that is a good idea in almost every organization/company.

      1. Rainy*

        I was recently Jesus-harassed by another patient in the waiting room at my doctor’s office. I would like it if there were a blanket ban on proselytizing in any setting that isn’t a religious one of your own where people have sought you out specifically to be proselytized to.

        1. Saradactyl*

          this! X 1000! Seriously, proselytising is rude, patronising, paternalistic, invasive, insulting, and is often used in racist and ableist ways. plus, it is just plain rude! Inappropriate anywhere that isn’t a religious setting. No one wants to hear about someone else’s religious nonsense while walking to work, using public transport, or waiting in the doctor’s office!

  5. KayEss*

    Almost the exact same thing happened at my former workplace, except instead of two junior 20-somethings it was the business owner and her second-in-command (both 40+ with children). She put a tack on his chair, another employee unknowingly lowered the chair as an unrelated prank, and because of that he sat down harder than usual. I don’t think he was injured badly enough to need professional care, but the fact that this was all related to me as a cute/funny story was one in a long parade of red flags about everyone involved.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Were pranks common at this company? Also, the *owner*??? Oh my.

      1. KayEss*

        Very common, as just one part of a toxic stew of pervasive boundary crossing and constantly-shifting personal vendettas created by all of us trying to keep on the narcissist owner’s “good side” (as much as there was one).

    2. AnonEmployee*

      I sat on a tack in Elementary school, it was placed there, on purpose, by some other kids. It was not pleasant then, and it would not be pleasant now. I’m conflicted about the current situation being a fire-able offense, what other kind of consequence is there, putting it in his record so that if it occurs again, then he’ll be fired? Or is this one of those three-strikes situations? I sincerely don’t know why someone would put a KNIFE on someone’s chair!

      1. AnonEmployee*

        Wow, I guess this upset me more than I thought…I meant to say scissors…ugh…

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Assuming this is the only recent incident, I think I’d go for a week of unpaid time off before resorting to the Scarlet F. Perhaps some remedial training in basic decision making. But if this is part of a pattern…

      3. HailRobonia*

        I have friends who are elementary and middle school teachers and their advice is:

        1: Always check your chair for “pranks”
        2: NEVER leave your food or drink accessible to students
        3: Refer to 1 and 2.

  6. HarryV*

    I rarely disagree with AG but I do for #2. The move is not set in stone as well as the change in the organization. I think it is irresponsible to outline a hypothetical scenario where multiple dominoes have to fall in place for it to happen. It’s also information that is not warranted to her team or her company that they may be leaving. It’s a bit narcissist to assume that the org will fail and go another direction with the lack of the manager’s presence. What if someone comes in, steps up to the plate and improves the working environment?

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I think Alison’s advice was to let the potential hire know that it could be in the cards for the OP to leave and that the company would likely, but not 100% definitely, take the department in a new direction. Did the potential hire still want the job knowing that these are possibilities (not guarantees).

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        IMO there’s too much risk to telling an applicant you might leave your position. It’s one thing if it’s 100% going to happen but quite another if not. It could very easily make it back to the company and you get pushed out earlier than you wanted

      2. Sparrow*

        I’m torn. I agree that it’s not in OP’s best interest to tell them, but I also know I was very grateful when my now-boss warned me at the offer stage that there was a possibility that a pretty significant portion of the position could change. It meant I could make better choices in negotiating the offer and deciding whether to take it, and I definitely would’ve been very angry if I’d shown up and was told, “Surprise! 50% of your job is now something that you never would’ve agreed to!” But it was a different, less-risky situation because that potential change had to do with office politics, not her potentially leaving. Personally, I lean toward telling the candidate regardless, but it might depend on my read of the person.

    2. Unfettered scientist*

      I agree. There are too many unknowns here: LW may leave (but also might not or not on that schedule), company may choose to take the dept in a different direction (but also might not! You’re not a mind reader or clairvoyant), this applicant may be unsatisfied with possible changes occurring after a possible move is just way too tenuous.

    3. Artemesia*

      My husband followed me to a job and had a problem getting re-established as lawyer early in his career; it was a shock to naive us because he had been promoted and head hunted where we were, but breaking into a kind of closed society in a southern city was hard. After he months he had two offers — a corporate job and a state AG job which paid a bit less. Luckily he took the AG post because the corporate job was eliminated in a re-org 6 weeks later and the guy who took it lost his job. I have known people who took wonderful job offers only to have the whole division abolished in a corporate re-org just weeks later having given up good secure jobs to do the move. I think it is unconscionable to not give people some sort of heads up when change is afoot.

      In the job I took that brought my husband out of his secure post to this new city, I asked all the right questions about the financial stability of the organization; 3 years later at the collapse and merger when I and dozens of others lost our presumably secure jobs, a couple of people apologized for lying to me during the interviews.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        I think there’s a pretty big difference between lying and omitting that you *might* be leaving in the future. Maybe my read on this is really different than other people, but from what I see, LW doesn’t know much of anything for certain. If LW knew they were for sure going to leave, then yes absolutely let them know. But if it’s still in the air, you don’t know what’s going to happen and there’s not much to be gained by sharing lots of ‘maybes.’ I also don’t think LW is responsible for anticipating what the company decides to do when and if they leave.

  7. AnonMom*

    Does anyone know if Niles’s injury would be considered a workers comp situation?

    1. turquoisecow*

      It happened in the workplace, so my gut says yes.

      I had a coworker who fell walking down a staircase at work and that was covered under worker’s comp even though she was heading out for break – it was on company property.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Happened to me as well. Broke my ankle after missing a step coming down while leaving work (first job out of school, first week on the job).

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      Most likely, yes. A stupid one, but it would probably qualify.
      (disclaimer – I am not an expert on wc)

    3. Cindy*

      I believe that it would count as Workers Comp, any injury on the worksite does – along with any time you’re being paid to work. As a result, the company will be paying higher Workers Comp insurance. I’ve collected Workers Comp twice in my 35 years in corporate America: the first was when I was a car accident when I was traveling for work, which resulted in a 5 day hospital stay and 6 weeks off-work; the second was when I tripped in a parking lot when walking from one building to another, which resulted in two broken bones in my hand.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yeah, it’s totally a workers comp situation. I’m not a fan of the “if Niles has medical bills, Roger should pay them” advice.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Yep – this is workers comp. Anything that happened at work will go through that – at the very least for a w/c review.

      2. Corporate Drone Liz*

        I was really thrown by that too; I thought for sure this would fall under worker’s comp.

    5. Can't Sit Still*

      Workers comp, likely under horseplay. Their insurer will not be amused, since injuries from horseplay are 100% preventable.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        With our worker comp, there is always an investigation to see if the injury was preventable. Someone further up the food chain may decide that putting scissors on a chair is a fireable offence. A new employee was fired because they injured themselves on the job and didn’t report it. Worker safety is taken very seriously.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      100% is a workers comp issue. Anything that happens on the work grounds is worker’s comp, even if it’s stupidity and negligence.

      It involved medical attention. It goes on your OSHA 300 log.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Good point! I was imagining stitches because I forget sometimes people go to UC for basic first aid, doh.

      1. Anon Supervisor*

        Depends on your state and policy. If you hurt yourself at work because you’re impaired by alcohol, Work Comp can deny your claim as you were engaging in negligent behavior while at work.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. Although in many jobs working under the influence would be a fireable offence. Certainly if you’re impaired.

          1. Æthelflæd*

            That wouldn’t impact their WC benefits though. They only need to be an employee when the injurious incident occurred.

            In California, their is a whole subset of comp lawyers who specialize in taking post-termination cases and fighting the denial. They usually win, too. Many other states don’t even have post-termination as a statute defense.

      2. Æthelflæd*

        I mean, “anything that happens on the work grounds is worker’s comp” is pretty inaccurate. There are plenty of exceptions in various states – most have a injurious intent clause (if you purposely hurt yourself), horseplay exceptions, intoxication rules, etc. Depending on the state laws, these kinds of exceptions often are considered absence of coverage, and result in a coverage denial.

        In some states, there are dollar thresholds in no lost time situations (beyond the waiting period, which varies depending on the state) that if a claim only requires costing X amount, the employer can pay it themselves and report it as “incident only”, which means it’s only logged with the insurance commission in their state.

        Each state has their own work comp laws, and so whether something is considered a work comp injury, is entirely dependent on the jurisdiction.

        1. Former Employee*

          It would normally be excluded if one employee injured another while fighting. This really doesn’t fall under that scenario so it most likely would be covered.

  8. Mimmy*

    Regarding the prank: I was initially thinking that the most appropriate response would be a very stern written warning, particularly if the employee has an otherwise solid track record. However, in reading everyone else’s responses, I can see how pranks involving potentially dangerous objects could be fireable offenses.

  9. Ms. Anon*

    I would definitely fire the employee but I admit that’s because I have a very low tolerance for pranks in general. Even harmless pranking grates on my nerves, and I’d think less of this employee already if he was a prankster. Scissors? An injury?

    Honestly, I think less of the vic for “not wanting to get anyone in trouble.” It’s a juvenile mindset, to me. If Prankster Dude is harrassing an employee, do you not say anything so no one gets in trouble? This isn’t middle school.

    1. sdfasdfasdf*

      ” because I have a very low tolerance for pranks in general.”

      So your low tolerance would set off the need to fire the person, publicize for the job, and go through a hiring and training process. That does not seem wise.

      1. Ms. Anon*

        My low tolerance for pranks makes me think less of the prank-inclined at the office. It’s the *prank resulting in an injury* that triggers the firing. Which I do think is wise. I’d probably have to argue it with someone who thinks it’s no big deal, but yeah.

        1. tangerineRose*

          What gets me is that this “prank” not only hurt someone, it was very likely to hurt him. It worries me that the prankster apparently didn’t think “Oh wait, he might get badly hurt by sitting on an open pair of scissors.”

      2. Jcarnall*

        Well, either you fire the prankster, and have to go through the rehiring process once.
        Or you have to go through the rehiring process over and over again because no one wants to work with the office bully who gets away with it because the boss thinks his bullying his co-workers is “pranking” and so OK.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This. The guy who does a good job but is a prankster is no better than the guy who does a good job but looks at porn on the company computer.

        2. GothicBee*

          These are two extremes though. You can keep the employee, address the issue, and fire him if it happens again. Based on the context of the letter, this seems really unlikely to be an ongoing issue.

        3. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “the office bully who gets away with it”

          Get’s away with it? Are there only two responses: do nothing and firing?

          And bully? He pulled this nonsense with a friend of his. It was not bullying – it was stupidity. Based on the letter, it’s not ongoing. Based on AAM’s suggestion, he’s not getting away with it.

      3. Actions do have consequences, even if we want to be generous and kind*

        I made a similarly stupid decision in a church class when I was about 9 or 10, over 50 years ago.

        Even if I hadn’t learned the lesson then, I would not be shocked if an adult lost his job over a prank like that.

        I still don’t understand why I thought it would be funny back then, but preadolescent boys are susceptible to bouts of stupidity.

    2. Phony Genius*

      About the victim, I think it may be less of a “not wanting to get anyone in trouble” situation, and more of a “I don’t want them to find out about the prank it was retaliation for” type of thing.

    3. Selena*

      By allowing the pranking to go on for so long OP is partly responsible: OP needs to put their foot down and clearly communicate there shall be no more pranking from now on, but it’s unfair to fire someone over behavior that they thought was okay with their supervisor.

      1. allathian*

        Sort of agree. That said, using scissors as the means to prank someone showed poor judgment at best. Even if pranks are generally accepted at that office, anyone with any sense at all should understand that you don’t do pranks that can hurt people or permanently damage property. And if your prank gets the victim’s clothes dirty, you pay for the cleaning.

  10. HR Exec Popping In*

    In my world, this would likely result in a verbal warning. Probably a verbal one as apparently past pranks where an established norm on the team and the coworker is not upset. However. it would be crystal clear that further behavior could result in Roger’s termination. And the manager really needs to either share clear guidance on what is and what is not an acceptable practical joke or put a full stop on them.

    1. yala*

      I think that really is the context here. If he’d just done it because “he’s a prankster” that’s one thing. But these were two people who were both engaging in a prank war. I’ve seen those escalate to a weird extent. I’d think a full stop on all practical jokes in the office would be required going forward though.

  11. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    This is why there should never be pranks at work. Because the same people who would play them tend not to have a great sense of what is appropriate and safe, versus what is not.

    1. pancakes*

      I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I’ve never worked with pranksters who went so far as to injure anyone. A lot of workplace pranks (most I hope?) are pretty harmless, like changing someone’s monitor display to a funny photo.

    2. yala*

      I dunno. I had a great prank war going on with one of my coworkers at the public library. He was terrified of jellyfish, and I’m terrified of spiders. So we would do things like put a book with the Dread Animal at the bottom of a stack of books, or I’d draw jellyfish on scrap paper and slip them into his locker. Spider rings made an appearance on the keyboard once.

      He eventually won when I went to go shelve a truck of DVDs…and he’d brought in one of those giant halloween spiders and wrapped it around the truck.

      The thing is–we were both willing participants, none of the pranks were going to result in injury or were even that big a deal. It was more like a goof than nefarious mustache-twirling trickery.

  12. Generic Elf*

    I would write up the pranker in this instance. However, I can understand someone being fired over this – dangerous prank aside, it’s probably a WC claim, which looks very bad and costs money to the employer.

  13. WPMinion*

    I’m confused. Is this the same “office prank ended in injury” that’s linked under “You may also like:” at the bottom? It seems like same situation, different names, and this happened 4 years ago…

    1. i'm baack*

      > I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them)

      1. WPMinion*

        Ahhh….got it. I just subscribed to Inc today, so I haven’t seen this before. :)

        I though my computer was glitching.

  14. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

    This prank cost the employer lost work time (urgent care visit and all the HR aftermath), and will raise their WC insurance. Additionally, there is some emotional and physical cost to the victim who was in fact injured in the course of work.
    I would proceed to termination if allowed under personnel regulations at this organization.

  15. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Did we ever get an update from the prank letter writer? I’d be interested to know if Roger really did learn from this mistake, and how Roger and Niles working relationship was after this incident.

  16. Julia*

    Not sure I understand how putting scissors on someone’s chair is going to result in a puncture wound unless you somehow manage to rig them so they’re facing point-up. I mean, scissors are not that sharp at the tip; the blade is supposed to be sharp along the inside edge for cutting.

    So it sounds to me like this guy did more than just put scissors on a chair. Advice is still probably the same though; I agree with AAM.

    1. Calliope*

      Yeah, if he rigged the scissors to face up I might lean more towards firing. That’s objectively really dangerous.

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        On the original post the OP stated they were pushed back in the back of the chair so just the point was sticking out.

        1. Lana Kane*

          I think it could be argued that by doing that, he was expecting that Niles would *at least* get poked.

    2. Ms. Anon*

      If the chair is soft? I’m thinking the sharp end tipped up when the guy sat down? I’m guessing El Prankster didn’t test drive this one.

    3. metadata minion*

      Looking at the original post (in the “you may also like” bit at the end) he did jam them in point-up — it sounds like it was a padded chair.

    4. Artemesia*

      If the chair is soft if you put pressure on the handles when you sit the point will rotate up. There is not just the injury but the humiliation of being stabbled in the butt or the genitals and of course damage to the clothing.

    5. A Person*

      A cousin of mine sat on scissors in her early teens and gave herself a puncture wound, so, it’s possible. (I remember this specifically because she told me that of course she didn’t tell her mother, because she had left the scissors on the couch herself and then sat on them later, and she didn’t want to be chewed out for something that she’d already figured out was a stupid thing to do.) I don’t think I ever knew if they were open or closed.

      1. Self Employed*

        Yeah, I was probably 5 when I was working on crafts and my mother taught me never to put scissors on chairs, sofas, etc. because someone could sit down without noticing them and get hurt.

  17. Lilo*

    Nothing about deliberately leaving scissors on someone else’s chair is work appropriate. “It was a prank” is the refuge of bullies.

    Fire him.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Good lord, if we fired people for everything that happens at work that is not work appropriate, everybody would be fired. You could be fired for reading this column on company time.

      Have some perspective.

      1. Jcarnall*

        How is reading Ask A Manager in any way comparable to bullying your co-workers?

        1. Mental Lentil*

          I never used the word “comparable” but: using company time for personal use. Using company computers for personal use. Using the internet for personal use.

          A lot of companies have very strict rules about this.

          1. pancakes*

            A lot of companies do, but it doesn’t follow that they’d be doing the right thing or making the workplace better by following that rule without any regard for context or severity. Commonplace and wise are two different things.

      2. HS Teacher*

        You can disagree with people without being rude. It’s called understanding other people’s perspective.
        No one said fire people for every single prank. For this particular prank, yes, he should be fired.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “No one said fire people for every single prank. ”

          Actually at least one person here has.

      3. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Lilo didn’t say fire everyone who does something that is not work appropriate, they said this specific prank and the harm it caused is not work appropriate and they should be fired.

      4. Lilo*

        People who think it’s funny to set traps that cause bodily harm get fired. It’s like pulling someone’s chair out from under them also is not funny and could result in serious injury.

      5. Rusty Shackelford*

        There is a spectrum of things that are not work-appropriate. IMHO, pranks that will probably result in someone getting hurt are on the “fire his ass” end of that spectrum.

      6. MCMonkeybean*

        That argument is nonsense. Of course there are things you probably shouldn’t do at work that aren’t fireable offenses, but there are also lots of things you probably shouldn’t do at work that *are* fireable offenses…

    2. agnes*

      in what universe is leaving a dangerous object on somebody’s chair a prank? It would take about a nanosecond of reflection to think –this could hurt somebody.

      And what is the “prank?” factor anyway? What’s funny about somebody finding scissors on their chair? “HAHA you almost hurt yourself?”

      I don’t get it. It’s a really confusing ‘prank’ and hard to see the possible humor in it.

  18. Lyra Silvertongue*

    Re: #1, why should an employee pay another employee’s medical bills for something that happened at work? Shouldn’t that be on the employer or worker’s comp or something? Clearly it’s the prankster’s fault but isn’t a workplace supposed to have liability for accidents in the workplace?

    1. Bob Loblaw, Esq.*

      This is complicated. Sometimes worker’s comp doesn’t cover injuries caused by employees’ horseplay and pranks. The employer is probably not responsible because they didn’t hire Niles (or whoever put the scissors in the chair, too lazy to scroll up) to put blades in seat cushions or know he planned to do it. So it probably is on Niles.

      1. Lyra Silvertongue*

        I won’t pretend to have any real familiarity with these kinds of legal issues but doesn’t that put the injured person in a bad position, since they are then having to deal with a coworker in a legal dispute rather than just automatically getting covered by their workplace?

        1. Bob Loblaw, Esq.*

          doesn’t that put the injured person in a bad position


          Honestly, whether this is WC depends on the state and more facts than are in this letter (assuming this happened in the US at all).

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          It sounds like the kind of situation where Niles claims WC, the insurer increases the employer’s premium or invokes a hefty excess, and the employer sues Roger for their out-of-pocket. I feel like you’d have to have fired Roger to sue him, but if he caused a big enough totally avoidable expense then that would be justification to do so.

          It would be equivalent to “Roger chucked an old printer off the mezzanine instead of carrying it down to the dumpster … and it landed on the forklift”.

          1. Over it all*

            More like “tossed it off the mezzanine intending to scare the person standing next to it and causing that person injury from flying shrapnel.” How would you not be fired?

  19. cjsoup*

    Dear Allison,

    Could you start posting your responses on your actual website instead of posting links to sites that want us to subscribe to them? I literally only go to those sites to read your posts. :(

    Missing Out

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Alison already posts most letters on this website for free. Many of the letters/responses she posts are from the archives so you can actually search for the letters on this site and read her response on here for free without having to pay to subscribe at the other sites.

    2. I take tea*

      You go to that site, which means Alison’s post draw people to them, which is what they pay for. Apart from the superb content, of course :-)

    3. Maggie*

      Feel free to subscribe to the website to read the content that website provides! Or read the 15 years of free content here.

  20. Dagny*

    My advice is different. You inherited this guy from another team. Call up HR and his former manager; find out what his record is. Was he known for bad judgement then? Did other pranks result in someone complaining about him? Is there a record, formal or informal, of people complaining about Roger?

    You’ll either find that this is a great employee who did something really stupid, one time (welcome to being human), or he’s a PITA to people around him, a bit of a bully, and does not understand how to comport himself in a professional environment. If it’s the latter, fire him. You can find people who know how to behave and you don’t need the liability of the next prank victim who decides that it’s time to take your company to court over the injury.

  21. GoryDetails*

    I remember when the scissors letter was first posted, and while I think the advice was spot on considering that both parties seemed willing to work past it, it still rankles to see the whole “it was just a JOKE!” reactions. (Bias-related caveat: I admit to loathing “pranks” – at least those executed without explicit buy-in by everybody involved. I know that not everyone feels this way, some people actually feel all warm and fuzzy if their friends prank them because they see it as a bonding experience, good for them – but “explicit informed consent” is, for me, the key there.)

    For a workplace prank/practical-joke/lively-bit-of-loosening-up-the-mood (as people who do these things tend to call it), I’d say that it MUST be something that the victim/recipient is likely to consider amusing, that is non-harmful (should be obvious, but apparently not), that is temporary and easily tidied away (ideally by the pranker; if the prankee winds up having to unwrap a cubicle full of carefully-gift-wrapped manuals or a drawer full of glitter it’s a lot less amusing or workplace-friendly than if the pranker(s) take care of that), and that it isn’t going to take place in a way or at a time that will impact the actual job.

    1. Ms. Anon*

      Oh god drawer-full-of-glitter gave me such a flashback. I am very glad that was not my cubicle.

    2. MassMatt*

      Your comment makes me think on the possible parallel between pranks and other weaponized humor, notably racist/sexist/antisemitic “jokes”. They are often cover for racist/sexist/etc. people to signal their feelings (and find others that share them) while still being deniable, and someone calling them on it is inevitably met with “what’s the matter, can’t you take a JOKE?” eye rolls.

      This “prank” sent someone to the hospital, and several comments here have been of the “god, you people have no sense of humor” variety, and one commenter called out the LW with an insult.

      I am no humorless stick in the mud, believe me, and OK, these people were friends, and the person injured doesn’t want the perpetrator to get in trouble, those are mitigating. But this was a serious incident, IMO a stern warning was definitely called for and the perp had better watch his step for a while.

    3. tangerineRose*

      “something that the victim/recipient is likely to consider amusing, that is non-harmful (should be obvious, but apparently not), that is temporary and easily tidied away (ideally by the pranker” This!

    4. Lana Kane*

      I’m also not certain that it’s 100% true that Niles moved past it. “I don’t want to get someone in trouble” could be just that, or it could indicate that he doesn’t want to provoke someone further. I would terminate Roger, myself, but if I were inclined to not do so, I’d at least want to check into that before making any decisions.

  22. Jamboree*

    I do understand I the position that firing shouldn’t be a punishment and that it should be a consequence but even when this letter first came out I had a hard time understanding why this shouldn’t be fireable. Even assuming the best intentions (the best intentions of leaving
    -> a pair of scissors <- on someone’s chair no less) why do I want someone with such warped judgement on my staff? Also, since I first read this one I’ve assumed the scissors were open, bc I’m unsure a closed pair of scissors would puncture clothing and skin but if the scissors were open I understand keeping him on even less. I would also implement a no pranks allowed policy whether I kept the prankster on or not bc OMG SCISSORS. This letter blows my mind.

  23. bopper*

    Is this a prank? or an attempted assault?
    It is clear that someone could get hurt..would get hurt.

  24. Message in a Bottle*

    Re: #2 I wish hiring managers/supervisors would disclose that they were leaving soon especially if they are important to the department before hiring someone new.

    It’s hard enough being in the dark with these decisions. The supervisor would seem to be a known entity at least.

    People already there? No notice for you, but you have more information about the workplace than a new person would and hopefully, but not always, more social capital there as well.

    The newbie deserves to know the truth and be able to choose somewhere else if they want.

  25. CatPerson*

    “And if Niles has medical bills, Roger should pay them. ”
    Actually, no, the company should pay them as a worker’s comp claim. Prank or no, it was an on-the-job injury. Then, the company should pursue subrogation and Roger should reimburse the company.

  26. Cubular Belles*

    There is no scenario where scissors on a chair is a prank. A woopy cushion is a prank, scissors are not and could have really badly injured Niles. The Femoral artery is right there not to mention his “unmentionable’s” alas Roger should be terminated.

    I still remember pulling a tack out of my leg in 5th grade that someone put on my chair “as a prank” it was bullying! and so is this, Roger can be replaced and that is what needs to happen, regardless of his apology. Also, he needs to pay any medical bills incurred during his “prank.” Roger is a liability and you might want to talk to HR & an attorney.

    1. agnes*

      in what universe is leaving a dangerous object on somebody’s chair a prank? It would take about a nanosecond of reflection to think –this could hurt somebody.

      And what is the “prank?” factor anyway? What’s funny about somebody finding scissors on their chair? “HAHA you almost hurt yourself?”

      I don’t get it. It’s a really confusing ‘prank’ and hard to see the possible humor in it.

  27. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    Oh my. I feel sorry for Niles because if somebody did that to me I wouldn’t see it as a prank and be very upset. The so-called prank could have ended a lot worse . There are other ways you can lightheartedly prank somebody without using sharp objects. I’m not sure what I would do in this situation if I was a manager in regards to the prankster. I know there’s some companies that would probably fire that person or reprimand him in some way. I think I would consult HR or legal to determine how much liability it would be if the company kept this person on.

  28. BluntBunny*

    For 4, it seems they still may not have a clear understanding of healthcare. Disease based charitable organisation can provide a lot of support in terms of education, provide a one stop shop of information on everything going on in the disease area current and new treatments, support to family. But unless they are research based they aren’t creating treatments that is the pharmaceutical companies role they make products that save lives it’s not a like a Cancer charity taking money from a tobacco company. To me it makes sense that they have been paid by them as it is likely they have worked with them in the past for patient insight. Almost all corporations have a chosen charity they support and raise money for each year make sense that the would have a healthcare based charity.

  29. MassMatt*

    Scissor prank letter is of course getting most of the attention, but re: the last letter, the writer citing master’s degrees as an accomplishment–I think the issue is partly the amount of time passed, but partly also that most jobs are going to want job accomplishments vs: academics, especially after you’ve been on the job 10 years. I get that getting two degrees in a short time while also working shows commitment, time management, etc. but for a lot of employers showing that in a work context will count for much more.

  30. PuzzleObsession*

    This reminds me of an incident my junior year in high school. Boy #1 sat on a couch (at school, in our lounge) on the left side and his arm extended with a wooden pencil pointed upwards. Boy #2 went to sit, and the pencil went through his jeans, through his butt cheek. Yowch. Boy #1 was trying to be funny and did not anticipate the consequences of his actions. Sometimes it’s hard to have that foresight when people are playing a game of escalating pranks.

  31. Ellen N.*

    I’m surprised, to say the least, that Alison is recommending a second chance for someone who pulled a “prank” that could have resulted in a spinal cord injury or death. This is doubly true in light of the fact that everyone over the age of about five knows that sharp blades can cause injury.

    The reasoning, “but said employee does great work” has been used as an excuse to retain employees who engage in harassment, bullying and apparently “pranks” that could have a lethal outcome. When sexual harassment was reported at Uber the employee wasn’t punished because “it was his first offense and his work is great”.

  32. twocents*

    Re #4: I’m actually really curious if anyone has any experience with someone turning down a job with your company because they’ve decided the company is dubiously ethical, and then reapplying later. How does that conversation even go?

    1. Self Employed*

      I haven’t read the letter, but isn’t it possible that an applicant could have opinions about something a company does–and then the company changes that policy due to public pressure? For example, if an environmentalist disapproved of banks who finance coal mining and oil pipelines and the bank stopped funding loans to those industries?

      1. twocents*

        For the letter specifically, it reads more like the LW just understands the industry better. So nothing changed, just their perception.

  33. JB*

    While not a fireable offense, the so called prank was definitely worth writing up Roger over because of the serious lack of judgement involved. Putting the danger factor aside, where was the entertainment value, was it in seeing the reaction of a cartoon character? Niles needed medical attention, that took him away from work and thus the “prank” also cost the business productivity.

  34. frozen*

    Yeah, this is why pranks have been outright banned in most workplaces I’ve ever been in.

    Many are in good fun, sure, but too many of them either end up injuring someone, or veer dangerously close to some type of workplace bullying, whether the pranker has that intention or not.

  35. CurrentlyBill*

    I could see firing over the scissor “prank.” That’s reasonable, but I could also see keeping them with further consequences like:

    Forfeiting bonus eligibility
    Reduction in pay or demotion in pay grade at the next month (or natural time span)
    Suspension of other corporate perks in the next benefit year

    Or something along those lines.

    These would be severe consequences short of firing. If the prankster quit because these consequences made the job too undesirable after they intentionally subjected a colleague to injury, that’s a win. If they decide to stay, they are still unlikely to engage in the behavior again. If the consequences become known, perhaps others will be less likely to intentionally injure a co worker.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      Those would be weird responses I think. As Alison points out here it’s not the company’s job to “punish” their employees. You don’t send them to sit in the corner for time out and you don’t ground them. You fire them if it’s the right thing to do for the company but not as punishment. Taking away a bonus or reducing pay feels like taking away their toys because they’ve been naughty which is really not a reasonable response. Either you give him a formal warning and feel confident he will not make a similar mistake again so you all move on, or if you don’t feel confident he won’t do something equally stupid in the future then you just fire him.

  36. agnes*

    #4 this letter is such a good example of the value of circumspection in a professional environment. The information you provided to the organization 5 years ago about your reasons for turning down an opportunity did nothing to change their organization, it only limited your future opportunities.

    You don’t have to share everything you are thinking. Sometimes less is more. “Thank you for considering me but after further reflection, I’d like to withdraw from future consideration. I appreciate your consideration of me. ”

    If you get pressed as to why just say that it’s not the right move for you at this time. You don’t owe them a detailed explanation as to why—for all they know, you could have decided to move, you could have been diagnosed with a serious illness, you could have gotten a better offer elsewhere–it’s none of their business.

    What you owe them is to tell them as soon as you decide you do not want to be considered further. That’s all.

  37. Former Employee*

    I loathe pranks. Very few of them are funny. I generally find them to be passive-aggressive – they are a way to “get” someone and then pretend it was just a joke.

    Having said that, since both of the employees have been engaging in pranks and it simply went too far – possibly Niles pulled the last one that could have caused an injury to Roger but either didn’t or only caused a minor scratch – I would not fire either one.

    However, I would tell both of them that there are to be no more pranks, not even of the harmless variety. I would not trust them to have the judgment to determine where “harmless fun” becomes “lethal weapon”.

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