April Fools' Day on the Job: Good, Bad and Ugly Pranks

"My [printouts kept coming out with] a paper clip on them. I checked the flat bed of the copier and didn't see any paper clips. I had no idea what was going on. It looked bad, but I needed to submit the final draft of a brochure to all the VPs, including my president/CEO, for approval. I had to circle the paper clip on the printout and write, 'This is not on the final draft -- it keeps coming out of the printer like this.' After I put the page in my boss's inbox, I left a message for our IT guy about the printer/copier messing up. [Turns] out one of my prankster co-workers made around 30 copies of a paper clip. Then he put those pages back into the paper bin in the printer/copier. So whenever someone printed/copied something, it had the paperclip on it. No one figured out what was going on before the paper was all used for the day. Our IT guy got a ton of phone calls, but by the time he went up there to fix it, it was back to regular paper so he thought everyone was crazy.

"Eventually, my co-worker fessed up to the prank. I wouldn't have cared at all if my project didn't have to go to the CEO. I actually made him a copy of the document when it came back to me signed by the CEO with the paper clip circled. He still has it on his bulletin board to this day."

The Fake Reprimand

In today's layoff-happy workplace, celebrating April 1 by issuing fake reprimands from the boss is probably not the way to go. Elliot, a New York communications professional who didn't want his last name used, narrowly avoided a CEO run-in as a result of a prank played at a previous job last year:

"A senior level manager and I created an e-mail that appeared to come from the CEO asking about the 'Twitter habits' of one of my colleagues. The [colleague] was an associate publicist and there wasn't anything negative in his tweets. But the CEO was always nervous that there was potential to paint the company in a bad light.

"In the [fake] e-mail, the CEO questioned whether my colleague was giving a bad reputation to our firm based on his tweets. He freaked out and nearly ran into the CEO's office to justify his tweets. We were very worried he'd [go to the CEO] so we had to clue him in rather quickly. My colleague was upset but relieved. He took it as good fun and vowed revenge -- though he has yet to get it."

The Over-the-Top Caper

"If you want to put the senior executive's car in the middle of a fountain, that's probably not smart," Farrugia advised.

In most corporate cultures, a prank like that could land you a pink slip faster than you can say "Ferris Bueller." Even extreme prankster Bert Martinez, a Houston-based business coach with almost two dozen employees, warned against trying this one at your own home office:

"I had known A. for many years prior to him coming to work for me. I knew he was a guy with a lot of integrity and somebody I could trust with my clients. But after a while, he started missing deadlines and lying about it. He would be in charge of FedExing things back to our clients. One time he swore up and down that the FedEx had gone out and gave me the tracking number. Only, the client didn't get the FedEx and the tracking number wasn't in the system. Any other employee I would have simply fired. But because of our friendship, this called for some extraordinary [tough] love.

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