Have you pulled a prank yet at the office? Here are some...

Careful about pranking your fellow co-workers.

That seems to be the message out there today from a quick survey of April Fool's stories running in the newspapers. April Fool's Day was once a day when merriment, pranks and corny jokes reigned supreme, and they still do -- but always with a caveat: Be funny, but not hurtful.

My thinking on this topic started this morning when I was reading this essay on this comedic woman's web site -- now, before my guy credentials are revoked, a fellow female freelance writer sent it to me -- honestly, I'm usually at ESPN.com -- so, anyway, I'm reading this essay by comedienne and author Judy Gruen and stand-up comedian Mark Schiff, who warn everyone that if you're thinking of pulling a prank today, consider that we live in a very litigious society.As they wrote, "Today, of all days, be prepared for acts of chicanery and tomfoolery by would-be jesters. If you find them funny, enjoy. If not, sue them for insensitivity and you might make a Wall Street titan's annual salary from a few trips to the courthouse."

Gruen and Schiff are right. There are certain pranks that are off-limits -- anything that truly wrecks someone's self-esteem, for instance, is a bad idea -- and it's worth noting that Scripps Howard news service mentions in an article today a survey that was recently done fof 250 executives, in which 71 percent of marketing executives and 45 percent of advertising executives said that they don't approve of workplace gags and pranks.

So there's my warning. Be careful out there. Now, if you'd like some ideas for pranks to pull before today's over, you've come to the right place. For your pranking pleasure, I surfed a bunch of articles in newspapers today and pulled out some gags that should generate laughs instead of lawsuits.

The Toledo Blade has a fun story, where they mention that according to CareerBuilder.com, the most common April Fools' gags include faking resignations (this seems a little risky) and gluing tape dispenses and staplers to desks. Another gag that went over well was when a female employee in an office met with the president to confide that she was pregnant -- and asked him not to tell anyone. Later, another female employee told the employer the same thing -- and swore him to secrecy. By noon, the boss believed that all of his female staff were pregnant.

The Blade goes onto say that at some other companies, people have replaced soda pop with beer in the vending machines, and others have requested employees on the public-address system to report to the CEO's office.

Others have hidden desks where they can't be found (at least right away) or wrapped every item in an office or cubicle in aluminum foil or shrink wrap.

And some other crowd pleasers -- I think every newspaper in the country, almost, cribbed these from a lengthy April Fool's Day survey that CareerBuilder.com did -- include:

Placing a sign on the restroom door saying that the company ran out of toilet paper, "please use your own resources."

Placing an ad in the newspaper, that a co-worker's home is up for sale.

And rigging the kitchen faucet so that when you turn it on, water sprays out. That's an effective one. Some guys did that to some poor clueless dolt at my dorm, years ago at Indiana University. Except they did it to the urinal, where fortunately, clean water doused the poor sap. And once I dried off, I had to admit, I could see the humor in the situation.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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