I’m not a big fan of teasingor practical jokes anywhere, but I’m especially not a fan of them in the office. However, I realize practical jokes happen. Sometimes they are good; sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they are too much. If you are anoffice prankster, you have to ask yourself do you know when enough is enough?
A successful prank involves having fun with good intentions, and that the prankee can take a joke. However, pranks are only funny for so long. If you rely on these shenanigans too often, they wear thin.
Too often in my experience, they are unkindnesses disguised with a smile or a thinly-disguised “gotcha.” The only exception I can think of is Ellen DeGeneres’ penchant for catching folks off guard. However, even with her kind intent, someone always ends up looking or feeling foolish. (See my post: Apology to Ellen DeGeneres)
I learned this lesson in my childhood. Unless you grew up in a dry, cold climate, you might not know one of the silly games most children played to entertain themselves during the long winters: Zapping. It works like this: you store up enough static electricity in your shoes by dragging them across the carpet to zap your buddy before you became the zappee. During winter, the static electricity built up in the thick rugs on our floors made us walking lightning rods. It was great fun to transmit the shock from our finger and “get” the other guy, over and over and over.
Sometimes the whole family got into the game. My mother would grin when she came up behind, pointing her loaded finger to my arm—and laugh out loud when I jumped. Then it was my turn to zap her and zap her, again and again.
When I kept zapping her, she didn’t zap back but started giving me a tired smile. I didn’t get the picture. After successfully shocking her several times, the smile devolved into a grimace, and I would hear a rather stern, “Judy, enough is enough!” Message received.
Too many grown ups have yet to learn this lesson. Constantly saying something to catch another off guard or putting them on the receiving end of pranks and teasing is a game many people play to the point of tedium.
Repetitive “gotchas” no matter how small can be annoying, too. For example, I tend to speak (and type) fast—and not infrequently scramble words or letters, as a result. It’s funny for someone to point out the first or second time, but a little tiresome beyond that. What does the constant pointing out of someone else’s errors do to enhance the relationship?
Over-repetition isn’t only a problem with jokes or gotchas. Sometimes people don’t know when to stop arguing their case. In more times than I can count, a member of my team aroused my ire by pushing for a point already decided the other way. I welcome and plead for candid input and feedback before we launch, but not after the ship has sailed (unless there’s an iceberg I didn’t notice!). If you fought the good fight and lost the war, it’s time to get over it, on with it, and start making the decision work.
Few people run around dragging their shoes on the carpet to shock someone at work. However, games are played, people are teased, and repetitive arguments are made to the point of becoming tiresome, irritating or even hurtful. The key here, as my mother taught me, is knowing when enough is enough.
Do you know when enough is enough?