March 20, 2011
In defense of March Madness office pools
It never fails. Once the flowers start blooming, my inbox bubbles with press releases warning against the evils of participating in March Madness office betting pools. Please. That's about as effective as telling employees not to swipe the occasional pen or Post-it note pad from the supply room.
[Photo by Minimalist Photography]
An annual CareerBuilder.com survey maintains that one in five workers joins a March Madness pool at the office. And in a new Vault.com survey, 71.5 percent of respondents said they've joined an office betting pool at some point, whether it's for the NCAA men's championship, the Superbowl, the Oscars, or the arrival date of a coworker's baby.
The big argument against March Madness office pools is that they sap worker productivity and, as a result, cost companies millions. (The headline on a recent press release from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. blared, "NATION'S WORKERS COULD SPEND MORE THAN 8 MILLION HOURS WATCHING GAMES FROM OFFICE.")
I don't even like basketball and I find this lament ludicrous. It's been widely reported that most office workers waste at least two hours each workday. If we weren't talking about bracket picks or checking game scores at work, we'd just be watching tsunami footage, IM'ing friends, or venting about something the boss said instead.
I'm certainly not the first to point this out, but I'm a firm believer that March Madness pools offer employees an easy way to blow off steam and share a laugh or two. Given how employers are tripping over themselves trying to dream up new ways to boost employee morale and camaraderie, I would think they'd welcome such low-stakes workplace wagers with open arms.
As for those who complain that March Madness pools are illegal and immoral, BNET's Evil HR Lady put it best:
If your coworker is meeting shady characters in the parking lot and filling his desk with stacks of $100 bills, then I'd start worrying. But, if people are giving him $5 to $10 per bet and laughing while doing it, I'd leave it alone.
[T]he risk of prosecution is almost nil. Your state attorney general's office has far more important things to do than go after March Madness pools.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
- career profile (169)
- cool jobs (74)
- education and training (63)
- entry level (70)
- etiquette (108)
- events (71)
- featured (442)
- finding your passion (98)
- health care (76)
- interviewing (91)
- job fairs (61)
- management (96)
- market trends (92)
- networking (286)
- resumes (103)
- salary (85)
- social media (94)
- technology (118)
- unemployment (57)
- work/life balance (93)