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Practical Jokes and the Workplace: Tips for the Victim

9 Jan

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been examining reasons to avoid playing practical jokes both in the workplace and elsewhere. While it may be a good idea for us to avoid engaging in such activities, however, that doesn’t mean that others won’t try to pull us in. So what do you do if you end up the victim of a poorly timed, poorly executed practical joke?

To begin with, recognize that a mean prank may not have had a mean intent – it may just have gone wrong. The timing may have been off or someone failed to think their joke all the way through. Whatever the reason, it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt and show a bit of mercy. After all, which one of us hasn’t done something that sounded good at the time, but was, in retrospect, a terrible idea?

That said, some pranks really are intended to be cruel. Just because you happen to find yourself a victim of such a joke doesn’t mean that you have to stoop to the level of the prankster… or even be embarrassed that they pulled one over on you. Jesus commanded His disciples in Matthew 5:38-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

We’ve all done some evil things in our lives and, even though you may never have been a bully, you’ve probably intentionally done something at some time knowing that it was going to cause pain to another – and you were very likely forgiven for it (even if it was only God who forgave). We’ve all received mercy at some point (and if we’re honest, multiple points) in our lives, so it’s worth the effort to extend some mercy to others.

Secondly, remember the admonition of Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” The prank may have hurt and you may have been embarrassed, but the best thing you can do is often nothing. Pranks are usually played with the intention of getting a reaction from the person upon whom they are played – so if you don’t react, the fun will wear off pretty quickly and the prankster will usually move on to his next victim.

Thirdly, learn to laugh at yourself. Sometimes even a nasty joke can be defused if the person it’s played upon is able to see the humor in it, themselves. As human beings, even the most noble and honorable among us sometimes do silly things or act inconsistently with our beliefs. Learning to recognize that and laugh along with others can go a long way towards gaining some credibility for ourselves and rescuing us from feeling endlessly the “victim”.

Finally, take the time to recognize genius. As terrible as the prank may have been, perhaps it really was brilliantly engineered. Sometimes people just want to be noticed… and if they can’t gain that recognition through seemingly ordinary means, they resort to the extraordinary. Go ahead, see what happens if you pay tribute to the genius of the prankster – you may end up turning an enemy into a life-long friend.

 

 

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Practical Jokes and the Workplace: Four Points to Consider

2 Jan

Last week in “A Caution”, I shared the story of a practical joke gone wrong… and advised that the best way to execute a prank in the workplace is not to execute one at all. This week, I’ll be explaining that advice in more detail as I share four important things to consider before attempting to play any prank on anyone, anywhere!

1. You can’t control the timing. Everyone knows that when it comes to a sense of humor, timing is everything. While you have control over this factor when zinging someone with a one-liner, more often than not, practical jokes won’t allow you that luxury. For example, at one place where I once worked, a staff member hid a rubber snake in a bin of washers. The intended victim came across the inanimate critter and made the quite reasonable mistake of assuming that it was real. (So far, so good.) Unfortunately, aside from nearly wetting her pants, she also let out a string of expletives that would have made a sailor blush… and did make several customers turn quite rosy. The truth was, thanks to its poor timing, a joke that could have been a real hoot proved an embarrassment both to the staff member who got nailed and to the company.

2. Does this cause property damage. I think all of us have heard about someone super gluing their boss’ gear to his desk or nailing someone’s boots to the floor. While these hijinx are amusing on television, they are often less so in person. Again, there is a timing issue (if your boss is reaching for his pen, it’s likely that he intends to use it), but there is also that little issue of property damage. That antique oak desk won’t look quite the same, even after the super glue has been removed and those boots won’t be quite as weather proof after the nail has been taken out. If your prank has the potential (even the slight potential) to cause permanent harm, don’t pull it. Remember, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12) You’ve worked hard for the things you own don’t want people taking risks with it, so don’t take risks with their property either.

3. What may be funny to others often isn’t funny to the victim. Okay, it’s confession time. I used to be a superb practical joker. I could nail just about anyone given the time and opportunity. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks to such visual pranks is that they are often performed at the expense of someone else. One of my least noble moments was when I pulled a miniature nickel out of my pocket and, displaying it to an employee who wasn’t all that bright, moaned about having forgotten to remove my change before I washed my laundry. “It really shrunk it?!” she exclaimed. Of course, everyone laughed. Everyone, that is, except her. In getting a giggle from others, I took advantage of someone who Christ loved enough to die for. Any joke that makes sport of someone, even unintentionally, isn’t worthy of a follower of Christ. All of us were made in the image of God and deserve to be treated as persons of value.

4. Pranks tend to multiply uncontrollably. Maybe you’ve heard of the law of escalation. Basically, the principle is that someone plays a prank, then the person who got nailed with the prank has to get even. While this can sometimes be funny to watch (I once had a coworker who claimed he could outdo me in the realm of practical jokes and the two of us got into an all-out war, each prank becoming more and more outrageous until we discovered that most of the pranks had been played by other staff members who were getting a hoot out of pitting us against one another), they can often degenerate into competitions over who can be the nastiest or most destructive. Don’t wait until the game gets mean to call it quits – don’t start playing to begin with.

While practical jokes can be great source of humor and even serve as a form of stress relief, the negative aspect of such hijinks often outweigh the positive benefits. With that in mind, the best rule of thumb for pranks in the workplace is this: don’t. No amount of fun is worth the risk of damage to people, property, your job, or your reputation.

 

Practical Jokes and the Workplace: A Caution

26 Dec

I couldn’t resist the urge – he was sleeping so soundly, his head resting on a cushion atop the break room couch. His feet were propped carelessly upon the table, leaving his brand new sneakers in full view of anyone who entered the room.

He had spent the last two days boasting about the shoes, telling anyone who would listen how great it was that he no longer had to tie his laces. He could, instead, simply cinch up the single loop on either sneaker and instantly be ready to go – the same effect in half the time.

What was his source of pride had, for many members of the staff, become a source of minor annoyance. Fortunately, it was an annoyance which was about to come to a very timely and humorous end.

I watched him carefully for a moment, listening to him snore as I verified for myself that he really was asleep. Convinced that an earthquake couldn’t wake him, I set to work “cinching up” the sneakers in a new and novel way.

I carefully threaded the zip tie through the loops and pulled it tight, ensuring that his first attempt to move would be a less than successful one. Then, with the silence of a mouse, I slipped from the room. It was a perfect plan, and was perfectly executed.

It wasn’t until later, when a staff member who had been unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity when the zip tie was discovered shared the story with me, that I thought better of my perfect plan. It seems that I had done such a good job tying up the sneakers that my handiwork had gone completely unnoticed… until my victim was fully upright and tried to take his first step. He had nearly done a header into a counter. Aside from eliciting a string of profanity and some unfair accusations against an innocent party, my victim had also managed to hurt himself. Oops.

Practical jokes can be a blast, but if I were given the opportunity to share one word of advice concerning them, it would be this: don’t. For every practical joke that goes right, there are dozens more that go wrong. Even then, your ability to devise and cleverly execute such pranks doesn’t guarantee that they will be appreciated by others.

Next week, we’ll take a look at four very practical reasons to avoid practical jokes… especially in the workplace. For now, however, feel free to share a few of your own experiences in the comment box below!

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