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Don't Loose It During March Madness

Don't loose your mind over the March Madness
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Even if you don’t follow or care even one single tiny bit about college basketball or who makes the final four and wins the championship, it’s going to affect you at work over the next few weeks, even if you’re self employed.

If you thought business’s lost thousands of hours of productivity during football season to fantasy football participants. March Madness beats that hands down. When you add up everyone who wastes time getting their bracket sheets, then making sure it’s filled out in time, turned into whomever is the office bracket keeper, tracking your picks, and of course bragging or defending about your choices every single chance you get, then you will see that college basketball is a bigger production killer than any fantasy football season.

This type of unproductive workplace behavior will cause a noticeable and devastating decline in work place productivity. People will not only track their alumni, but become obsessed with their picks for the final category and which teams make it the farthest. Even employees who never attended a single minute of college will transform into overnight die hard alumni as long as they were one of their picks.

Add the money involved in office betting pools and every workplace now has the excitement of a Las Vegas craps table. This brings me to another issue, gambling in the workplace. Does your company have policies against it? And when you as a Manager or Human Resources professional try to enforce it, do you find out the Boss is in on it? What do you do? I could write an entire article on the quandary this creates.

To give you some quick advice, if your boss or any senior person is involved in any office gambling, this includes any sports betting pools, March Madness, or even a vocal monetary bet made between to employees in the presence of others, you’re going to have a very difficult time ever winning an unemployment hearing in the future. Especially if it’s for gambling in the workplace. Remember, violation of a company policy is violation of a company policy and many unemployment judges see it that way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not against the spirit of the contest and just because one of my institutions of higher learning has not made the championship in almost two decades, I am not saying this is bad. The point to this article is the facts that just like most distractions in our lives; March Madness has taken its place as just another disturbance from our productive workplaces. I want to give you some ideas on how to deal with it and not let it become a wrench in the gears.

March Madness Disruption is not just about the people who will spend their work hours checking scores on their work computers. Actually, smart phones have eliminated that abuse of workplace equipment. But now you will see employees taking longer breaks and hanging out in restroom stalls as they scroll through their phones to find out how they are doing in their brackets. With all the restroom breaks, you might start to believe dysentery has spread among your staff.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an employee break room with a television, you’re also going to have the conflict of what channel (game) to watch during the break times. For some reason, March Madness (hint it’s called this for a reason) seem to convert even the mildest accountant into a British Soccer Hooligan.

People will be late to work as they sit in their vehicles waiting to hear the updates coming in over the radio or just blatantly call out sick so they can sit home and watch more college basketball in one day on their recently expanded channel service, than they have all year.

All superficial items aside, employees are going to be taking their eye off the ball. Safety and security lose their importance as the latest basketball scores takes priority over making sure it’s done right and safely. “I heard there is a website that gives second by second updates.” Now this employee in search of a way to find out the scores in their cubical has just allowed an unsafe website implant a trojan horse into your work computer crashing every terminal in your office, which reminds me of that Southwest Airlines commercial “want to get away.”

“I only took my eyes off the ladder for a minute because my I Phone chimed the latest score and I wanted to see if my picks were still good.” Now you have a worker’s compensation claim and the problem of conducting an investigation into how and why this happen. This will eventually be followed up with disciplining that over indulgent hoop fan for his failure to comply with safety and company policies.

“Sorry Boss, I meant to get the payroll submitted in time, but my university went into double overtime.” While the Boss may not care right then because your both cheering on the same college team. When payday comes and those dedicated employees, who busted their rumps to make sure the company, met its quota and quarterly profits do not receive their paychecks, overtime, etc… you will.

OK, now you see some of the problems, how do you solve them? Cancel the sport? No, but as they say, if you can’t beat them join them. If you have found that March Madness is a disruption, then it’s time to put this on your meeting agenda to work out some ways to keep employees focused on their jobs while also giving them the information they are so desperate to have. If you ban it, they will find ways to work around it and you as the Manager or Supervisor will spend your next few days being the going insane due to the Madness.

It would be better to have one employee take some time out to post scores, track the brackets in the break rooms or even send out an email (do not allow gambling), than to have 50% of your staff stopping what they are doing to do the same thing. Put it out there that you as the company will update and post this information as a favor to the employees and so that production does not suffer. Did we just turn this negative into a Win/Win for both sides? Dr. Stephen Covey would be proud of us.

For all my fellow Operations and Human Resources Managers out there, let’s all remember that while we enjoy the excitement of March Madness and cheering on our favorite university and the excitement of betting (not gambling) that we will pick the final four and win the bragging rights, we also want to make sure that come April, our businesses are still operating efficiently and were all still employed. Let make sure that your Alma Mater is the only one who loses during the madness.

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