Given the list of ten commandments presented earlier in this issue of The Optional Stop, this commandment should rank near the top: “Thou shall not engage in horseplay or practical jokes in the shop.”
Admittedly, comic relief can truly lighten any mood – and a person with comedian-like talents can be very popular indeed. But there is a place for comedy – and it is not on the shop floor. Given the serious and dangerous environment in any machine shop, no one should engage in joking.
Have you ever noticed that when one person tells a joke, another person in the group will try to better it? It’s not uncommon for this one-ups-man-ship to continue until everyone in the group has told several jokes.
Practical jokes tend to work in a more delayed fashion. When someone plays a practical joke – and even though it may be very funny (even to the victim), there is a better than even chance for retaliation. The second practical joke may still be funny, but it will probably have escalated, raising the stakes for the next practical joke. This will continue until it gets out-of-hand, ending with a practical joke where someone gets physically or emotionally hurt.
Considering that practical joking can be dangerous of its own accord, there is absolutely no place for it in a machine shop, where the related consequences can result in injury – or worse. Many shops I know of have a zero-tolerance for practical joking. Engaging in them is grounds for immediate termination. While this may sound severe, it only takes one disastrous event to clarify the seriousness of the situation. My only suggestion here is that if you incorporate such a policy (immediate termination for practical joking), make sure everyone knows about it, and that there will be no exceptions.