That's What She Said

The Initiation Reprised

When I first saw this episode, I thought, surely initiation pranks don’t really occur at work. After all, adults know that the workplace is not an extension of their fraternity houses. I did some research. I was wrong.

In one case, Los Angeles firefighters mixed dog food into the spaghetti dinner of a co-worker who referred to himself as the “Big Dog.” The firefighters called it a prank — the recipient called it racial harassment. And the city almost paid the employee $2.7 million to settle his claims. That was, of course, until photographs surfaced on the Internet of the plaintiff hazing other firefighters.

In another case, a company maintained a tradition of playing celebratory pranks on employees who successfully made it through the probationary period. There, the office pranksters had security (who just happened to be Albuquerque city police officers) go to the work station of an employee who had just completed her probationary period and, in front of customers, tell her that she was being arrested. As the employee was being led away in handcuffs, her coworkers congratulated her for getting off probation. She didn’t think the prank was nearly as funny they did, and she sued both her employer and the city of Albuquerque.

In case anyone needed a reminder, hazing is unacceptable at work. Always. And in the real world, we would do well to remember that what is funny to some employees isn’t always funny to others. On the other hand, “The Office” is a television show with award-winning comedy writers, so what is funny at Dunder Mifflin is generally funny to everyone — at least when it happens on television.