Dear Urban Diplomat: How do I get the office pranksters to back off?
Last year, I started working at an office with a lively prank culture. One group of guys in particular have been waging a months-long offensive. Most of the time they target each other, but now they’re branching out. The other day, I came in to find 20 office chairs stacked in my cubicle and a big sign saying, “Congratulations on your promotion to chairman of the board!” I find it unprofessional, unfunny and a total pain (I had to unstack all those chairs). How can I get them to step back without coming off as a killjoy?
—Comic Relief, Thorncliffe Park
Every workplace needs a little levity, but one person’s lovable scamp can be another’s intolerable miscreant. Which is why there are unwritten rules of engagement: generally speaking, pranks that require a lot of cleanup are a no-go. If it happens again, let your manager know that this band of juvenile jokesters is playing havoc with your productivity. It’s your boss’s job to make sure the office runs smoothly and efficiently—and not like the set of Punk’d.
Dear Urban Diplomat,
I love outdoor music festivals, but I could really do without some of the typical festival-goer behaviour. Last week, while I was waiting in a beer line, there was a white woman in front of me wearing a dashiki. I went to give her my shadiest glare and then, to my horror, realized I knew her! When I tried to turn it into a teachable moment, explaining why it was wrong to appropriate another culture—I mean, has she not read a single think piece?—she basically told me to bleep off and has since been bad-mouthing me to some of our mutual acquaintances. What do I do?
—Worn Enemy, Bloordale
I’m not, nor would I ever aspire to be, the cultural-appropriation police. There is far too much finger-wagging out there already. But I think we can agree that when a multinational clothing retailer mass-produces dashikis (or bindis or feathered headdresses) for huge profits without benefit or credit to the originating (most likely marginalized) source, that’s a bad thing. What your dashiki-wearer in the beer line is guilty of is being oblivious, not racist. If she were a close friend, an amiable heads-up might have been warranted, but it sounds like a) you’re not particularly close, and b) your advice was not particularly amiable. Short answer: do nothing. And you might want to think twice about doling out citations for fashion crimes in the future.
Dear Urban Diplomat,
The apartment I live in has very thin walls, and I think my neighbour went through a breakup recently, because for the past week, he’s been audibly crying and looping Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” for hours on end. I’m wavering between concern for his mental health and concern for my own! We barely know each other (we’ve maybe spoken once or twice), but should I drop in to ask if he’s okay?
—Crying Out Loud, Davisville Village
Everyone deserves a chance to grieve. Give the guy a few weeks to get over whatever great drama has befallen him. If his one-man musical goes longer than a month, feel free to passive-aggressively drop by and check on him. He’ll know that’s code for “Dude, we can all hear you. Time to move on or move out.”
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