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April 1st is synonymous with April Fool’s—How to keep pranks at bay?

Everyone likes to have a little fun in the workplace. However, even well-intentioned jokes can go sideways. Often, we don’t know about others’ sensitivities, life experiences, hidden disabilities, or phobias. Jokes and pranks tend to bring these out into the open. 

For example, say an employee leaves a whoopie cushion on a coworker’s chair, and they happen to have irritable bowel syndrome. While some might think this is a harmless novelty joke, that person may feel humiliated. They could assume their coworker knows about their condition, which they did not intend to share, and others are making fun of their health issue. This scenario could result in a bullying or harassment complaint.

So what’s an employer to do?

Consider setting up team-building events to foster connections and fun, so employees won’t resort to jokes and pranks as a way to connect with their coworkers. Be sure to have anti-harassment/discrimination and workplace violence policies that highlight zero tolerance for jokes or other actions related to a protected class. Hold regular harassment prevention training that explains how jokes, images, and comments can easily fall into the category of illegal harassment or violate company policies.

Archbright members can check out the mozzo Resource Library for sample policies and the Video Library for harassment prevention microlearning videos. 

Not an Archbright member? Membership with Archbright provides unlimited access to our HR and Safety Hotlines. Whether you need guidance through a complex situation, answers to specific questions, or a trusted colleague to talk through an issue, we are here to help. Learn more today.

Picture of Sarah Johnson, SPHR

Sarah Johnson, SPHR

Sarah joined Archbright as an HR Advisor with over 17 years’ experience providing HR Leadership throughout Seattle in a variety of industries including high tech, health care, e-commerce, brick and mortar retail, grooming & hair care, nonprofits, and farming. Sarah is passionate about people. She optimizes efficiency and organizational development through solving complex foundational issues, change management, coaching, strategic planning, performance development, and training. Sarah received her Masters of Written Communication with an emphasis in Technical Writing from Eastern Michigan University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a minor in Speech Communications, from Baldwin Wallace College. She holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certificate and is a member of the Society of Human Resources (SHRM).