I still remember the look on Ron’s face. He was a sharp guy who worked for a client of mine. He was young, just starting out, and a little “stiff.” That’s why we selected him as the object of our April Fool’s Day prank.
The prank was no big deal, I thought. We wrote a letter (this was before email) from a big prospect that Ron had been working on and slipped it into his in-box. The letter said something like “We need to change our supplier, but I need to hammer out the details with you by Friday.” The Friday in question was a week before Ron saw the letter.
Everyone in the office watched Ron go through his in-box that April Fool’s Day. He found the letter and read the first paragraph, his eyes lit up and he smiled. Then he read the second paragraph, noted the date, and became frantic. He checked his calendar, then checked the letter’s date, got up and walked around the desk several times.
Finally, Ron took a big breath and picked up the phone, probably to call the customer. That’s when his boss stepped in and told him it was a joke. Everybody laughed but Ron.
I looked at his face. He was embarrassed, deeply, deeply embarrassed. And I felt awful.
Later on, I apologized to Ron for being part of the whole thing. He mumbled something about it being no big deal, but his tone and body language said it was.
That’s when I decided that I’d never do another April Fool’s prank unless I could be sure that no one would be embarrassed or hurt. I haven’t found that opportunity and it’s been more than thirty years. My reason is simple: I don’t think embarrassing other people is a good thing.
Even worse, the people we embarrass are usually the ones who are the most trusting. I don’t want to tinker with that.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Unless you’re in a culture where these kinds of pranks happen to everyone all year round, think long and hard before you do anything, even for fun, that will embarrass someone else.