April’s Fool?

By Floyd Toulet

What’s it to be this year – a cubical filled to the rafters with balloons, an office covered with embarrassing photographs, or a perfectly delivered spoof telephone call? Whatever tickles your fancy there’s never a better time (or excuse) to practice the dark art of practical jokes than on April’s fool day. But a word of caution before you begin; a prank is only ever funny if the person on the receiving end thinks it is. And in the workplace getting that wrong can cost friendships – and even jobs.

So what are the lines and how can you avoid crossing them?

You could start about thinking how you would feel if the joke was on you. If you wouldn’t find it funny, the chances are no one else will. A genuine joke makes people laugh, not cringe. So, harmless balloons crammed into a small cubicle = amusing. A colleague bundled into a small cupboard = abusing.

And what about your poor victim’s state of mind? Are they up for a little tomfoolery or do you think it could upset them? An innocent prank can go horribly wrong if the person on the receiving end is feeling vulnerable.

What about the possible consequences of a hoax? For example, last year in America a young customer service representative reaching the end of her probation period at a busy airport was set up by her supervisor. While working in front of a crowd of waiting customers, she was approached by several police officers who solemnly told her that her background check had revealed an outstanding arrest warrant. Protesting that it must be a mistake, the woman burst into tears, but the prank continued until she was handcuffed and escorted half way out of the terminal. Only then did a co-worker finally shout out that it was a ‘joke’. The representative didn’t see the funny side. In fact, she cried for the rest of the day… and sued everyone involved shortly afterwards.

A well drawn practical joke can be a thing of great beauty, provided no gets hurt and everyone sees the funny side. Colleagues can bond and new friendships can be forged. We hope our modest little guide will help you to strike the right balance and avoid being this years April Fool!


A practical joke should be funny so avoid anything that could upset or hurt someone.

If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, would you still be laughing?
The wrong joke delivered to the wrong person at the wrong time can be anything but funny for your organisation – or your career prospects!

There’s a time and a place for a good hoax and it isn’t when there are clients or customers present. Nor is it when the recipient has just had some bad news or is struggling to get through their day. So have fun but be careful – if only because the next joke could be on you!


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