They don't call it the silly season for nothin'

HRM 14 Dec 2012

Depending on who you're talking to, the end of year period can be considered either a wild flurry of last-minute activity, or a productivity slow down. And as the saying goes, an idle mind is the devil's workshop.

Careless pranks, ill-considered jokes – we've all been the perpetrators at some stage, and also the target. Here's HRM's pick of the top workplace pranks that ended in soul-searching, and disciplinary action.*

But don't try these at work! Practice workplace practical jokes at your own peril...

Fake Store Robbery
Clothing store employee Sitra Walker played a little holiday joke on her boss – but her dreams of going down in company history weren't to be. Walker phoned her new boss from the store to report a robbery in progress – a barefaced lie to prank her boss. She'd hoped it would be a boss-employee bonding opportunity, but it soon turned into a criminal charge for inducing panic. Walker didn’t think that police would be dispatched so quickly – and the mistake got her fired.

Porn Conference Call
On his first day of annual leave, an especially dedicated employee tuned into a global company conference call and chat session while at home. With everyone listening by phone and chatting via instant message, the voice reception went downhill. Still instant messaging among the group, the employee decided to spice up the meeting by sending a message to all involved with a new toll free number, and promising that dialing the number would reconnect them to the call. What’s the big deal? The prank number was for a sex hot line. The prankster's first day of leave soon turned permanent.

Prank Personal Ads
Angry at a fellow colleague, one crafty worker decided to create a fake online personal ad using his cube colleague's name and profile. Evidently, men began responding excitingly and the prankster gladly handed out the prankees' phone number. Other employees of the office soon became disturbed at the high number of personal calls the prankee was receiving, and it was reported to management. But it went far beyond the disciplinary action handed out by HR, and became a police matter when charged with identity theft.

Staffers Not Always Smart Stand Up Comedians
An Apple employee was dismissed after his comedy show at the company open mike night left the audience – and managers, speechless. Jokes included jabs at customers, ranting complaints and a general discontentment for his customer service job. Applause and encores wouldn’t have been enough to save this guy's job, and he was terminated soon after. Lesson to raging workers on open mike night: those looking to get fired go to the head of the line.

Gun wielding Staffer Abruptly Ends Company Christmas Party
This one is surely an 'only-in-America' style prank... A district manager hired two of his colleagues to arrive at the company holiday party to "burgle" it. Unfortunately for the manager, his staffers not only showed up drunk – but also packed a shotgun for the occasion. Collecting money, wallets and jewellery from the party guests, one of the 'robbers' even pointed his gun at the manager's boss, yelling "Don’t be a f***in' hero!". The boss, frightened by his hires' less-than-funny acting job, relieved himself on the spot… and when his subordinate confessed, promptly fired him. Note to others… scaring your boss so much that they pee their pants at a party is not a good career move.

Teachers Spike Students' Drink
A recent case of men being boys ended in job loss for three high school teachers. Popular coaches of the boys wrestling team, the three stooges decided to slip a little somethin' somethin' into the drink of a student. While the spiking agent is unknown, it was dangerous enough to put these three coaches on the chopping block. The student wasn't injured by the incident, and in fact, he didn’t even ingest whatever it was in that mystery drink. It was a risky substance, according to officials, and what started as a prank between the guys ended in a career pile driver for the coaches.

Secret Admirer Email Triggers Past Tragedy
An anonymous email arrives in a young woman's corporate mailbox. From a "secret admirer", the message ends with the cryptic statement "I've been watching you". Frightened, the woman reports it to the HR department, who in turn asks for a forensic computer analysis. The digital detectives discover that the email was sent by a female colleague on the same work team as the recipient, and was by all accounts an innocent practical joke. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the prankster the recipient’s sister had been tragically stalked and murdered by "an admirer". To recover from the emotional stress the recipient required several weeks of counseling, and the prankster took a temporary leave of absence… that soon turned into a permanent one.


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