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?
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.
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.
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.
Follow these steps until the problem is resolved.
- Talk to your coworkers about it. Tell them it is inappropriate, and it creates a negative work environment for you.
- Talk to your manager about it. Tell them it is negatively impacting your ability to do your job.
- Talk to HR about it. Tell them it is negatively impacting your ability to do your job.
- 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.
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.