All Work and No Play Makes Brian a Dull Boy


What brings everybody in a work environment together?  That’s right.  Office pranks!  And I’ve been involved in a number of them over my career.  Some good, some bad, some great.  Here’s a snippet of some of the things that have “happened” in my workplace.

1.  Tied up Phone Cord

Let’s start small.  This one involves sabotaging a colleagues phone by tying the cord connected to the receiver to the end that’s connected to the phone.  It was a black cord so we found a black twist tie.  Then we called his number and watched.  When he grabbed the receiver and lifted it to his ear, the whole phone went with it.

2. Thumb Tacks on Phone Receiver

Ok, same guy (boy, we liked to bug him).  This time we taped about 10 thumb tacks to the underside of his phone receiver.  He was the type of person who like his swagger so when he answered his phone, he usually grabbed it quite firmly.  Then we called his number and watched.  If memory serves me (this was about 13 years ago), I think he dropped the phone after pricking his fingers.




3.  Mouse Doesn’t Work

This was a classic in its day.  You couldn’t do this one today, however.  Back in the late 90’s when a mouse still had a mouse ball we would take the ball out of the victim’s mouse and hide it.  When the victim tried to use the mouse, he would move it around but the cursor wouldn’t move on the screen.  The first couple of times were the funniest until everyone in the office knew to check the mouse ball right away.  They tried to get me on this stunt but this was back in the Windows 3.1 days (yeah, I know I’m aging myself here), and I was more of a keyboard user.  I think it was a couple of hours before I even touched my mouse to find that it didn’t work.

The present day version of this hoax is to put a piece of opaque tape on the laser on the underside of the mouse.  You can move it around all you want but you won’t get any response on your screen.

4.  The Ol’ Key Switcheroo

The victim of this prank was a (fairly quick) hunt and peck typer.  He could be one of the fastest two finger typers I know.  Anyway, late in the day, after he went home, we popped off the M and N keys on his keyboard, switched them and popped them back on.  It wasn’t until we got in the next day that we found out just how well this prank really worked.  He was one of the first ones in the office in the mornings and it just happened to work out that his password had either an M or an N or both in it.  While looking at the keyboard he typed his password to log in and receive and Incorrect Password message.  The second try resulted in the same error.  At this site if you logged in three times incorrectly it would lock your account and you would have to call the help desk.  So, the third time he really took his time and made sure that he typed his password correctly.  No dice.  Locked out!  The help desk reset his password and, as luck would have it, it also had an N in it!  After typing it three types (incorrectly) and locked his account again, a member of the help desk reset his password and walked over to his desk to see if there was something else wrong.  As soon as the person started typing on his keyboard, he said “someone switched your M and N keys around.”  We howled!

5.  Frozen Computer

This, again back in the Windows 3.1 days, was another classic maneuver and I’m sure most of you have heard stories about it or have accomplished the task yourself.  Basically the victim left his machine unlocked and unattended, so we took a screen shot of his workstation and saved it as a file.  Then we set his wallpaper as the saved screen shot.  After that was set up we moved his Program Manager window off the screen (we left it in the bottom left or right corner of the screen with just one pixel visible).  There were a few “anxious” moments that our victim went through wondering what happened and why was his computer frozen.  For those individuals who were not “prank” savvy, it was quite the practical joke.

6.  My Mouse Is Moving By Itself

This one was one of the most successful pranks I was involved with.  A colleague had a cordless mouse which had quite the range on it.  While our victim was not at her desk we plugged the receiver into the USB port on the back of her machine.  I sat just around a wall from her, about 10 feet away.  When she returned to her desk, I poked my head around the wall (she faced away from me so I could see her screen) and started moving the cordless mouse.  She started saying things like “what?  My mouse just moved.”  Everyone around her was in on the scam.  I would leave it alone for a couple of minutes and then slightly move the mouse again.  She became more interested in why her mouse was mysteriously moving on its own.  I decided to take it to the next level.  This time, while totally watching her screen, I switched over to her email program and opened an email.  This time she said quite loudly, “it just opened up an email!”  Well, we couldn’t contain ourselves any longer and explained to her what was happening.

7.  Where’s That Ringing Coming From?

Probably the best prank that I ever witnessed involved a cheap plastic alarm clock.  The company I worked for thought it would be a good idea to give each of us a little (2 inch by 2 inch) plastic alarm clock that had the company logo on it.  We all opened them up, set the time and checked out the features.  A couple even tried out the alarm to see if it worked… it did.

Our victim was a very unique individual.  In fact, some of his pet peeves were bells and alarms… things that make noise.  So, the prankster decided to set the alarm clock for 3:00pm and while this individual was away from his desk, he removed the wall covering from his cubicle wall, placed the alarm clock inside and carefully slid the wall back on its brackets.  We all waited in anticipation for the top of the hour.  Right on schedule, the alarm started chirping.  The poor victim grew angrier and angrier asking where that noise was coming from.  He started searching in and around his stuff, in cupboards, under the desk, in his work bag.  Nothing.  Finally he got down on all fours and put his ear against the cubicle wall.  He had found it.  He tore the wall covering off of its brackets and seized the alarm clock.  However, instead of simply pressing the button to make the alarm stop, he tossed it on the ground, raised his foot and hammered his foot onto the clock.  Pieces flew as far as 15 feet away.  The crunching noise could be heard all over the office and that’s when our boss came scrurrying over.  That has to be the hardest I’ve ever laughed at work, if not all time.  We talk about the incident to this day.

8.  Popup Pictures

One project site made use a unix telnet utility called xterm.  This particular utility allowed the user to enter unix commands on whichever unix server they connected to.  It worked by IP address and we quickly found that there was a security hole that could be exploited.  However, instead of using it for malicious intent, we did it purely for fun.  The program xv, which allows the user to display images, was defaulted to open up on the machine with the same IP address that the command was executed from.  However, it also allowed you to specify your destination IP address.  This was powerful.  We would wait until someone was over talking with to the victim at his desk then we’d pop up the following picture.

Other, custom made pictures were also used, not to mention text done in graphics, such as “Hi Steve… how you doin?” for example.

9.  Riderville

On a recent project I was on, a contractor had forgotten to fill out his timesheet prior to going on vacation.  The project manager responsible for entering everyone’s time wasn’t too pleased that he would have to wait for the contractor to return before he could “close the books” for that week.  Then he found out that the contractor took the week off to go to the Winnipeg Blue Bomber training camp.  The PM is a Saskatchewan Roughrider fan and there’s quite the rivalry there if you follow the CFL.

The PM, the prankster, had one week to come up with something so that the contractor would not ever forget to fill in his timesheet prior to vacations.  So, he took it upon himself to gather a number of green and white items such as streamers, signs and pom poms.  He even build football goal posts out of cardboard tubes and decorated them in Rider Green.  Then he set all of this up in the contractor’s cubicle and waited for his return.

Now the contractor, being a very good prankster himself, didn’t take this sitting down.  Instead, when he did submit his timesheet, he pasted the Blue Bomber logo into his timesheet (Excel spreadsheet) and placed it in front of all cells.

Well these back and forth pranks continued which included a custom, embarassing poster with the PM’s head photoshopped into a, shall we say, less than humbling picture of a Rider fan in tights.  This then escalated into purchasing and dressing up a manequin in football paraphernalia.  After that the contractor photoshopped the PM’s head onto a photo of a naked Troy Westwood (former Bomber place kicker).  He also included a self-written article claiming that the PM was found in the Bomber locker room, naked.  A truce was called after that one.

What are some of the office pranks you’ve witnessed or set up?  Post them in a follow up comment here.


About brianwawryk
PMP and Prince2 certified project manager.

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