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My coworkers are constantly playing pranks on each other. I don't really want to be a part of it. What is the best way to approach others about it without being alienated and being seen as the outlier?

  • What kind of pranks? Why do you not want to participate? – bobobobo Apr 3 '13 at 0:42
  • Showing indifference to the whole thing usually keeps them away. – user8365 Apr 3 '13 at 1:11
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    @bobobobo why does it matter why he doesnt want to take part? Hes trying to do a job not worry about pranks being played on him. Im not sure how the answer to that question would clarify or add to the question in any way, could you clarify? – Rhys Apr 3 '13 at 7:43
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    Because the only "way to approach others about it without being alienated and being seen as the outlier" is to participate. He's asking an impossible question. "How can I be part of things while simultaneously opting out?" – bobobobo Apr 3 '13 at 9:46
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    @bobobobo there is the option that the pranks are harmless, and he is fine with them doing it to eachother, but he doesnt want to be included as he wants to focus on work, which is what this question is saying – Rhys Apr 3 '13 at 12:34
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I have the same situation. I find that if I don't play pranks then I don't get pranks played on me. If I keep a good balance of amused but not involved, when other people play pranks, I don't seem like the outlier.

Should that not work, the first time a prank was played on me, I'd be assertive but not aggressive. I'd laugh it off but say something like "Come on guys, there's no need to bring me into it. I've done nothing to you. Yet." And if they suggested that I have no choice, I might even joke that it's really not in their interests to start a prank war with me, because I'm smarter and more competitive than they could ever hope to be.

But, and this is important, I wouldn't get involved. I'd continue to be amused by the jokes but aloof. The minute you cross the line and play a prank on someone else, there is no coming back. You're involved.

If they continued to target me then I'd have a quiet but serious word with one or more of the ring-leaders. Make it clear that it's just not a game you want to play, and it's unfair of them to ask, or to make you feel like an outsider for wanting to get on with your job and not spend time thinking about what trick you're going to play next.

Note: Did you see what I did there? It's never about wanting to stop them playing pranks on each other, it's never about wanting to stop them playing pranks on you, it's about you not wanting to play pranks back.

If all this fails then it's time to talk to managers and HR, get them to put a stop to it. But I'll bet there aren't many companies where pranking is such an integral part of the culture that you can't stay on the edge of it. Amused but not involved.

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    This matches my experience. I've worked in a couple of prank-loving workplaces, but it has always been a circle of people who prank each other, those who don't join in have not been the target of anything but the mildest of pranks. – Carson63000 Apr 2 '13 at 23:23
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    "...because I'm smarter and more competitive than they could ever hope to be." Sure, that will get them to stop. Nothing like throwing the gauntlet down. – user8365 Apr 3 '13 at 1:10
  • @JeffO: Most pranksters are cowards at heart, it's in the nature of the joke. But I did specifically say "might even joke". You always have to read the room a little. – pdr Apr 3 '13 at 10:46
  • I think part of the key to be willing to laugh off/play along with the small harmless ones. If you are a good sport they are less likely to target you with the more obnoxious ones. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 3 '13 at 15:11
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Alright, here are two separate questions here. 1) How do you keep them from pranking you? 2) How do you keep them from disliking/shunning you because of item 1.

I'll answer them both separately.

1): Preventing the pranks from hitting you is generally as simple as letting the pranksters know early that such things don't interest you. During your "initiation" to the workplace, laugh at whatever happens, bu then calmly tell people that you'd appreciate it if they left you out of any further pranks. BUT, tell them you'd still like to know about what happens, as it is still entertaining to see everybody else's actions. That last bit plays directly into part 2, but we're not quite there yet.
In the event that the pranks don't stop, find the "leader" of the group (generally not the manager, often one of the more junior employees that actually started everything back in the day) and tell them that you really don't appreciate that it's still happening. This is the time to be firm. Set your boundaries, but don't be angry or confrontational. sometimes a simple "Hey man, I really don't appreciate the pranks you guys play on me, and I'd like it to stop" will work wonders. escalating is a last-resort option.

2): Now, in part 1 i mentioned that being informed in this situation can help with the alienating aspect. to that end, go out to lunch with them once in a while, converse, chat, talk about stuff they've pulled in the past. Laugh, learn, and listen. Pranksters always want people to talk to about their pranks, and it can go a long way towards preventing alienation/shunning.

1

Follow these steps until the problem is resolved.

  1. Talk to your coworkers about it. Tell them it is inappropriate, and it creates a negative work environment for you.
  2. Talk to your manager about it. Tell them it is negatively impacting your ability to do your job.
  3. Talk to HR about it. Tell them it is negatively impacting your ability to do your job.
  4. Deal with the pranks or find a new job

I don't know about you, but a prank war isn't something I'd want to be a part of. These guys will be the first to go if your company ever has layoffs.

Just do your job and find your own clique, if you feel the need to.

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    The first people to go will be the people not doing their jobs effectively, missing deadlines or flat out breaking company policy. Just because people play the occassional prank it doesnt mean they arent also meeting deadlines, with good quality work, please don't make the assumption that there is only one kind of good worker – Rhys Apr 3 '13 at 7:46
  • What Rhys said, but to add: the "first to go" will not be the group of close-knit workers that work well together and who like to play a joke once or twice. What will be more likely is that the sullen, unproductive one who hasn't been able to mesh well with that core group will be gone. Remember, productivity is not just work ethic, but also personality. If you're not a good fit for the environment, then it's not the place for you. There is no reason for the company to change an environment that works, just because one person has an issue with it (other than hostile/inapp. environments). – acolyte Apr 3 '13 at 14:48
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If they involve you in the pranks, just tell them you don't like pranks and they annoy you. If they don't stop annoying you, complain.

There is no way to have a bunch of pranksters both consider you in the group while you do not participate in the activities of their social group. Deciding to be an "outlier" is something done by how you act.

So you can't have it both ways. I completely understand your desire not to be annoyed! Don't be in such need of acceptance that you're willing to endure pain or bullying for it. If they act inappropriately, take the necessary steps to shut it down.

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    This is the exact opposite of what the OP wants to do. He doesnt want to alienate himself from them in general work environment, just not the pranks, going and complaining, and tearing apart the team dynamic is most definately a way to get alienated from the group. Im not saying its not the right thing to do, im just saying its not going to give the OP the result they are looking for – Rhys Apr 3 '13 at 15:20
  • Thanks for clarifying my intent. I don't want to become an outlier. – chrisjlee Apr 3 '13 at 16:57

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