WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - For some employees, the NCCA basketball tournament is an experience they savor each year. For others, it is a yearly detour into the world of low-stakes betting in office pools. And for still others, it is something in which they have no interest and wonder what all the fuss is about.
As an employer, the decision on whether to encourage employees to participate in NCAA festivities on the job is not one to be taken lightly, says Ellen Ernst Kossek, the Purdue University Basil S. Turner Professor of Management and research director of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence.
Kossek says that although it might be easiest to ignore the fact that some workers are watching games at their desks, it might be a useful management tool to address the tournament head-on.
"There can be some potential benefits to employers in encouraging employees to take some time at work to participate in events such as the NCAA tournament," Kossek says.
She offers five ways that tournament watching might be more of a boon than a distraction to a business:
* Basketball provides a great way for employees to observe teamwork in action. Sometimes the game hero isn't the top scorer but the one with the most assists and rebounds. "As in business, employees learn you can't win the game trying to score all the baskets yourself," Kossek says.
* Games also provide lessons in leadership, from those who inspire the team on a roll to those who help overcome a dry spell in scoring.
* Watching the shifts in tempos and leads can show how quickly fortunes can turn. "How a team handles adversity tells a lot about mental and physical toughness, resilience and how not to let setbacks mushroom into major problems," she says.
* Creativity and innovation are more likely to occur when employees collaborate and have some fun. "Having some levity in the workplace can help people decompress from stress. Food and social events can be shared in the conference room and not the local bar, which may be appealing to many workers," Kossek says.
*Observing sportsmanship and fair play on the court also can be a lesson in ethics. "This is something nearly every business needs," Kossek says. Flagrant fouls and disrespectful fans demonstrate more clearly than any lecture the value of taking the higher ground when competing.
"While not every employee will relish basketball being brought into the office, an employer who uses the tournament as a way to discuss teamwork lessons or simply have a good time may find that there's a big payoff for the business," she says.