This is one of those situations where I am not certain whether value is driving actions (fun is just a bonus) or because it’s fun, I’ve validated by discovering value. Either way both value and entertainment exist when office shenanigans occur.

Now there are levels of office humor that can be embarked upon: Minor (tape under mouse), Moderate (examples below) and Extreme (wall in office). I land squarely in the moderate category. Some of my favorite moments:

Where I was the “instigator”:  To be fair, I was only the instigator because I was provoked by innocent name calling. So after several back and forth fairly minor desk decorations (think packing peanuts in drawers), I went up a category. As Brian left for vacation, I was inspired with a 11 layer surprise: Packing Peanuts, Cellophane Wrap, Tin Foil, Bunny Wrapping Paper, Toliet Paper, Streamers, Easter Packing Grass, Photoshop Pictures, Balloons, Confetti, Paper Plates. I actually evil laughed as I threw the confetti into the balloons!

Here’s why this rocked (aside from my entertainment factor):

          1. Team Relationships: I couldn’t even count how many people participated in this surprise. Some for just a couple of minutes, some for just one layer, others participated in multiple layers. Now I carried some “approval” with me as the Director of Development, but this also provided people the ability to participate at the level they felt comfortable. We shared a positive experience together that even years later we still reference.
          2. Impact: Brian was fully prepared that something would be done to desk. He didn’t know what or at what level but I believe I even texted him before with something like “super proud of myself, can’t wait for you to return”. Brian laughed, we laughed – then we went and sat elsewhere for a few days. Eventually people helped clean it all up together. No damage was done – aside from time and inconvenience. I get those are costs but the value has outweighed the cost and people have been ok with the events.
          3. Culture: We worked hard, we played hard. This was just another way to reinforce that.

IMG_0978 IMG_0979 IMG_0985 IMG_1003

Where I was the “victim”:  
I get into the office super early sometimes. One windy morning I got in before 6 a.m. I was working away at my computer when I heard “hey, can you hear me?” whispered from behind me. I proceeded to scream and jump over my desk to get out of my office. I was completely freaked thinking someone was outside my window of my office. So I impatiently waited for another person to arrive at the office…Bill was the lucky person that had to sit in my office until others arrived. Note: I did not admit that I heard a voice – but that I was just freaked out.  Only Bill started hearing things too (scratching, etc) and asked if someone was screwing with me. Eventually, Bill asked if I heard any voices. I finally fessed up and he figured out that there must be a Tech Geek toy that makes random sounds. It took several people to find where two of them were hidden in the ceiling. I couldn’t go to work early for quite a bit and remained jumpy for weeks!

Here’s why this rocked (aside from my lack of an entertainment factor):

          1. Impact: Yes, I was jumpy but really I share this story because I appreciate the beauty of how perfectly this prank went down.
          2. Culture: I’m grateful to people willing to help me demonstrate that the “boss” isn’t off limits. That I have a good sense of humor and game, which only reinforces the culture of work hard, play hard!

Of course, there are things I consider for when office shenanigans are not approrpriate:

    • If they don’t want anything done to their area. People should always have a choice not to participate with no issues. Respect that choice.
    • Don’t go to the extreme – cost often outweighs value at that point. No risking computers, etc
    • Don’t over do it. If a prank is every week or every other week, it’s just too much.  My general rule is this is for big vacations (think over a week).
    • The reason should never be “we don’t like him”, they should have people helping fix the prank.

What’s the best office shenanigan you’ve experienced?

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.


  • My favourite one that I was involved in –
    We have a director that loves to mess with people. He would routinely walk into team rooms and send emails from unlocked machines. While this went a long way in ensuring that people locked their machines, in one instance, he went too far. He had an intern who another employee was pairing with, wend an email from the pairing station which was obviously unlocked.
    The retaliation went a little like this – We(my development team) bought four annoyatrons ( and hid them in his office. We even hid one in his computer so that the random noises seem to come out of the machine. There was one in the ceiling tiles, one behind the cabinet and another behind the TV screen in his office. The results were better than expected. He would stop meetings in his office saying “Did you hear that?” and start looking for the source of the sounds in the middle of the meetings. He eventually found one and then the search just intensified. At one point he asked me to help him and I looked in one of the exact spots that we had hidden them and said that I couldn’t find anything. After a couple of weeks of this torture, he discovered that it was my team that was behind it and we finally deactivated the devices.
    Till date, the most fun office prank that we have executed as a team.

    • Avatar photo Tricia says:

      My office was attacked by those as well…I still have twitches from “Hey, can you hear me?” in that soft creepy voice!

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Jess Lancaster says:

    Year ago I left for a weeks vacation and when I returned my coworkers had moved the entire contents from my office to a cubicle. And they had set up my office for a fictitious new hire. While I was off they invited me to an 8:30am meeting my first day back welcoming the new hire. I arrived finding my office bare and set up for the “new” employee. My coworkers insisted my VP had made a decision to relocate me. I was pretty dumbfounded until I discovered what they were up to! Truly, you can feel appreciated when your coworkers go out of there way to give you a hard time.

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