Simple pranks - but are they legal?

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Fed-up workers (and ex-workers) up and down the country have been committing acts of revenge on their colleagues and customers, and they’ve been confessing all to a workplace law consultancy.

From simple pranks to acts that cross the line into breaking the law, anonymous employees have been opening up about what they’ve done to get their own back. While some of the top ten are funny, there’s a serious side to workplace revenge, the Protecting.co.uk consultancy says, where more serious pranks can hit company profits, or even cause injury to the victims.

“Petty acts of revenge can usually be laughed off,” said Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “but as soon as the prankster starts targeting customers, suppliers and competitors, your organisation could be letting itself in for costly legal action from which there is little defence.”

Protecting.co.uk asked employees if they had ever carried out an act of workplace revenge. Although the percentage of people who said they had done so remained as low as one-in-six, most were happy to reveal details, as long as they remained anonymous:

• “The cling film over the toilet seat thing is so last year. To get my own back on miserable colleagues, I fixed the light sensor in the loos to plunge the room into darkness after one minute. Just time enough to settle down on the toilet, I should imagine.”

• “I’m a manager. If my staff annoy me, I schedule a long meeting with loads of trivial points on the agenda, and then lie about having to be elsewhere after ten minutes. Guarantees a good hour of peace and quiet at my desk.”

• “Always make sure there’s a huge wheelie bin parked in the boss’s personal parking space. Sends a message.”

• “I left a message on a colleague’s desk saying ‘Please phone Liz’. It was the number for Buckingham Palace.”

• “Garage mechanic here. Give us grief about your repair job, and we’ll change all the pre-sets on your car radio.”

• “I work in a shop. Got my own back on the boss for his petty penny-pinching and refusal to pay more than minimum wage by passing (ahem) special discounts on to customers.”

• “Horrible in retrospect. I got stiffed by a company on a huge business deal, so I set up meetings with them, pretending to be a new customer in Penzance. They’re based in Sheffield. On the day, got a load of panicked emails from the sales-team driving round Cornwall trying to find my offices. Pure joy.”

• “My boss took credit for a 350-page report I wrote and got a huge bonus. I complained and got shifted to the bad debts department. Was it wrong of me wipe all of his department’s computer files and get him suspended? Probably illegal.”

• “Nothing says revenge better than the contents of a packet of fish fingers concealed in the office of the colleague who had you disciplined for no reason at all.”

• “Former bus driver (thankfully). Rude to me when you get on? I might not hear the bell when you’re trying to get off. Especially if it’s raining.”

Protecting.co.uk notes that some of these tales could end up with companies facing legal trouble or claims for unfair dismissal.

“The computer files one is a case in point,” said Mr Hall, “What kind of person does that to get their own back? Two wrongs do not make a right.”

The best approach a company can take is to create an atmosphere and working conditions where employees are not driven to revenge.

Mr Hall added: “Pranks are fine within certain limits. But wrecking livelihoods and insulting customers is just not worth it.”

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