Illustration of a Man with a Detachable ArmJim and Dwight’s prank war on The Office was hilarious, but playing their practical jokes in real life can backfire horribly. Here are four infamous pranks that you should avoid when it comes to April Fools’ Day (and in general).

At London’s City Hall, cheeky employees sent their vacationing coworker an emergency deadline dated April 1st. They assumed he’d notice the date and get the joke right away, but instead he panicked and began to experience heart palpitations. According to The Museum of Hoaxes, “Finally he collapsed from the stress and had to take leave from work. As he was recovering he realized it just wasn’t worth risking his health to finish the report, so he filed for early retirement.” When someone explained the joke, he sued the city for damages.

We’ve seen several iterations of this one, but they all involve a keyboard, a packet of seeds, and about two weeks of careful watering. Turning your coworker’s keyboard into a planter may seem like a fun idea, but it’s time consuming, messy, and unless you supply your own decoy keyboard, you may be in deep trouble for destroying company property. See also: encasing office supplies in Jell-o or completely wrapping a coworker’s cube in tin foil or plastic wrap.

At Dave Syferd & Partners in Seattle, employees pranked the creative director of their advertising firm by cleaning out his office while he was on vacation and moving his stuff to a small cubicle. On his return he assumed that he’d been demoted from partner of the firm to lowly cube dweller. According to Katie Robertson, “Instead of allowing the company to demote him, Kindred decided to drive to Canada and become a park ranger.” He eventually returned to his old job—and office—after his coworkers confessed.

Any pranks that involve calling the cops are not only a bad idea but also illegal, as this Waffle House employee discovered last year. Pulling fire alarms and calling in bomb threats fall into the same category. While not illegal, we recommend you avoid inciting all of your coworkers to pretend to call in sick on the first or jokingly handing in your resignation. Depending on your boss’s sense of humor, you may find yourself out of a job for real.

So what can you do on the next April Fools’ Day? Here are a couple of pranks we think you’ll like:

  • As grammar geeks, we’re particularly fond of this one: Open the settings of a coworker’s untended Gmail or Facebook account and change the display language. It’s a relatively easy fix—they can just switch the display back to English—but they’ll be really confused as they try to figure out what’s going on. Facebook features a particularly bizarre “upside-down English” setting.
  • Another great grammar-based prank is to open Word’s proofreading options and change the AutoCorrect settings to replace a commonly typed word with something silly. If they’re careful proofreaders, they’ll catch it right away, but just in case, you might want to point out the “mistake” before they send out a memo where the boss’s name is replaced with “Cheese Dude” or “Big Moose.”

Remember, the goal of April Fools’ Day is to bring a little whimsy and laughter to other people’s lives. Mean-spirited pranks intended to humiliate or frighten your victims are never a good idea.

Have fun out there!



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