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Embracing March Madness

Did you get your NCAA tournament brackets in on time?  Thanks to a timely reminder from a colleague, I got mine in with 11 minutes to spare.

I doubt that anyone would argue that March Madness directly impacts workplace productivity. Actually, of all of the major sporting events, March Madness seems to have the most significant, negative impact on workplace productivity, followed by fantasy football and the Super Bowl. In fact, 86 percent of U.S. workers expect to devote at least some time at work this week to follow the games. Forty-five percent of Americans are likely to enter at least one college basketball pool between March 11 and March 18.

According to the Baltimore Business Journal’s non-scientific poll 69 percent of voters (220 as of Friday morning) thought that March Madness activities in the workplace were nothing more than harmless fun. Of course, the fun is no longer harmless when your office network grinds to a halt because of unusually high number of employees covertly streaming the games on their computers.

At least one social psychologist reads significantly more into March Madness-related activities. Don Forsyth says employers can learn a lot about their employees by observing how their employees fill out their brackets

“You could tell how each person made decisions, how they exhibited bias, whether their choices were rational or irrational, if they used mathematical analysis or if they based on emotions,”  he says.

Wow.  I hope no one is analyzing my March Madness picks that closely.

While I have yet to find a company that analyzes its employees’ brackets in any kind of detail, I think most firms have decided to embrace March Madness. After all, a large number of employees are going to watch at least some of the games. Having a TV on in the break room should help ease network traffic, at least to some extent.

More importantly, the tournament provides a natural ice breaker and can encourage a sense of community and the building of relationships. And rivalries. (Friendly ones, of course.)

Now, excuse me while I go spend some time plotting my chances of moving up in the rankings — I’m sure I can get out of this 10-way tie for 149th place. (Hey, it’s a big pool!)