The Microsoft Office Prank


It’s a long-standing Microsoft tradition that when someone goes away for an extended period of leave, they’re at risk of having a prank played on their office. The great Larry Osterman filmed a hilarious video a while back listing many of the examples he’s seen, and if you’re ever on campus and get the chance to go to the Microsoft Visitor Center, there’s a small photo album of some of the better ones.


As regular readers will know, I took four week’s paternity leave recently after the birth of our third child. The day I came back, I stumbled back down the corridor to my office, thinking to myself how it felt like I’d only been away for a day, when I abruptly stopped at my office door to see a sign that clearly indicated that my office had been given over to a new starter. My nameplate was gone too.


What the heck? I know office moves are as regular an aspect of working at Microsoft as the changing of the seasons, but I was still surprised that they’d gone ahead and moved everything while I was away. I’d skimmed my email before coming back into the office, but I hadn’t noticed anything obvious.


My surprise was still greater when I opened the door. There was another desk in the office – someone had already moved in. The cheek! And what a mess they’d made too… My desk was still there, jammed in the other corner of the office, so I was clearly expected to roomshare with this unknown individual, and my favorite WPF-branded orange couch had disappeared to location unknown. I knew that space was getting pretty tight in our building, but I was still pretty amazed that nobody had given me fair warning.


Unnerved, I retreated in the general direction of the kitchen to get myself a coffee. You might have thought that by now the “prank” alarm bells should have been going off, but my territory had been violated, and I wanted to know who was responsible. I met Steve Cellini, our general manager, Mike Swanson, and Laurence Moroney in the corridor, who for some reason was holding a camcorder (seemed like a strange Channel 9 video to be filming, but I’ve seen more curious topics in the past!) Steve mentioned something about needing a 1:1 with me, and Mike asked me if I’d met my new roommate yet. Apparently she was something of a character…


Finally, oh so belatedly, the light started to dawn on me. The many subtle hints left on the desk should have been obvious, really – the MacBook Pro, the Linux and Java books, the Blackberry, the RedHat cap, and the sachets of undrunk Kool-Aid, to say nothing of the rather over-friendly coupling of the Channel 9 guy and the Linux penguin. I tried to pretend that I’d seen through the whole thing from the beginning and I was just playing along with my usual dry British humour, but I don’t think anyone was fooled, and anyway Laurence has the tape to use as evidence against me at a later date.


So it just remains for me to congratulate Laurence and Ernie for a well-executed prank that fooled me very well – it was appreciated, even if I’m still getting the odd visit from people who want to know how I managed to get out of an office sharing arrangement so easily. Well done guys… just make sure you don’t go away any time soon!

Comments (5)

  1. I’m oof for most of next week.

    I’m scared 🙂

  2. briankel says:

    LOL! That’s hilarious! I had actually walked by that office several times and wondered where in the heck your stuff went. I figured you must have took off once the stock hit $29.50. (ha – don’t we all wish)

  3. That’s funny! I miss walking by your office.

  4. Saptak Sen says:

    I was starting to miss that iconic orange couch. When I saw it stashed away at Ernie’s office I felt better.