Depending on your perspective, April Fools’ Day is either the highlight of the year — or a good day to hide under the covers. This year, the prankster’s favorite holiday is on a weekend, which means that you might think you’re safe from coworkers’ jokes. But not everyone works Monday through Friday, and even people who do are often just a text or email away. You might not be as safe as you think.
Even if you’re totally anti the entire concept of April Fools’, you have to admit that some pranks function as a kind of team-building exercise: something funny happens, everyone has a laugh and blows off steam, and hopefully, coworkers feel closer. Unfortunately, when pranks go wrong, they go really wrong, leaving a trail of hurt feelings and dented career prospects in their wake.
These are the types of April Fools’ pranks to skip:
1. “Hey, look at this one guy. Everyone pick on this one guy.”
Most of us who’ve been to middle school have experienced the feeling of being the outsider in a group. Don’t give your colleague a flashback by pulling a prank that pits one person against a group, especially if the victim is at all socially awkward, shy, or stands out in any way.
2. “Work will resume after we pick up these 5 million packing peanuts.”
On Facebook, several readers wrote in to say that filling cubes or cars with packing peanuts was a popular office prank. This is visually appealing, but awful for productivity. Also, it’s potentially inconsiderate of the cleaning crew, since it’s unlikely that you’ll get every last scrap of Styrofoam — and, as the sign goes, your mother doesn’t work here.
3. “It’s not racist/sexist/homophobic if it’s a joke, right?”
Just no. If it was offensive yesterday, it’s offensive today.
4. “I’m pregnant! Wait, why are you crying?”
“The fake pregnancy announcements are really awful,” says Robin Elise Weiss, Verywell‘s pregnancy expert.
Why is this such a big deal? Simply put, you don’t know what your coworkers are dealing with, fertility-wise. Maybe your boss just had a miscarriage. Maybe your teammate is having trouble trying to conceive. You just don’t know. Better not to take the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, especially if they’re already having a rough time.
5. “I took the liberty of putting our hilarious joke on the corporate Twitter, so our customers can laugh along.”
Twitter is ripe for PR fails on April Fools’. Even social media managers and other marketing professionals find it hard to never mess up on corporate social networks. Part of the problem is context — as in, it’s often missing, due to the limitations of 140 characters. Also, people online don’t know you, and don’t understand that your intentions are good. Don’t risk it.
This post was updated from an earlier version previously published on PayScale.
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