Management Tactic #24: Pranks

April Fool’s Day 2009 is officially over. It just happened to be poker night, so I asked the other guys if they had pranks pulled on them at work or if they pulled pranks themselves. The answer was universally “no”, and they all seemed a little disappointed.

In 2008, it was the first year at a new job for me, and the first time I was in charge of so many employees. I was still getting a feel for the types of things that unify everyone and make everyone feel like they were part of something bigger than themselves. Part of a vision. Part of a team.

So last year, I decided not to pull any April Fool’s Day jokes at work. The day slipped by like any other day.

This year I tried a different strategy. I put together a little prank that abides by the following rules for April Fool’s Day Practical Jokes at Work:

  1. Doesn’t decrease productivity
  2. Doesn’t embarrass anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings
  3. One or more people have the control to end the joke at any time

I won’t go into the prank here, but it involves a little setup on Tuesday and an obvious conclusion today. It met all of those guidelines.

april-foolsWhen the joke was revealed, you would have thought it was Christmas in April in the main office. There were 8 employees gathered around, laughing and hooting and hollering, both at the joke and their own gullibility. It was, bar-none, the most laughter-filled morning that we experienced together during my entire time on the job.

You might ask, what does a practical joke add to the workplace? It certainly didn’t make people more productive or more efficient. It didn’t save us money or time in this tight economy. It didn’t revolutionize what we do.

You know what it did? It made us laugh. And it made us laugh together, at each other, with each other. It created a common bond between the employees, a shared experience, something private and exclusive to our team.

Honestly, it made people want to be at work today. Those who weren’t there for the conclusion of the prank felt were disappointed–they later said that they wished they could have been there. How often do you hear your employees say that? “Man, I wish I could have been at work today.”

It’s not something I’d do every day–in fact, it’s not something I’d do more than once a year. But I guarantee you, future employees and employers, come April 1, I will prank you.

You’ll want to be at work that day.

Also see:

#14: Dolphins