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Watching March Madness at Work? Read This First…

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CPT Ethics Blog March Madness

I looove March Madness. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t watched a single regular season game of college basketball, when March comes around I’m a shameless bracketmaker. I don’t care if it’s Coastal Carolina playing Albany, I’ll watch it.

There’s a problem, though… Many of the games are played during my work hours. So it can be difficult to focus when I know my favorite team is on the court, or my bracket needs updating. Am I the only one who prefers sports over spreadsheets?

Research says no.

The average employee steals about four hours of time each week. Between videos, personal conversations, texting and extended lunch breaks, the time adds up quickly.

In light of that surprising figure, I thought it’d be good to share some tips on enjoying March Madness without compromising your integrity or committing any ethical violations at work.

1. Check Your Company’s Policy

Before filling out your office bracket, check your company’s policy to see if office tournaments are permitted. The Code of Federal Regulations prohibits workplace gambling in most states. So if you do join an office pool, make sure the winner only gets bragging rights. Any prize with a monetary value could be considered illegal.

2. Bypass the “Boss” Button

This neat little feature is included on several March Madness websites and allows users to temporarily minimize the website, while opening a screenshot of an email or document. One second you’re watching Marcus Paige drain a three-pointer, the next second you’re “just finishing up those expense reports for accounting”… Unless you’re seeking to take advantage of your company, avoid using the boss button. Your integrity is more important than your bracket.

3. Take it Outside

Consider inviting your coworkers to lunch at a nearby restaurant to watch the games outside of the office. You’ll have more fun and it’s a clear separation between your break time and work time. Besides, it beats hunching over a computer screen.

While March Madness can cause a drop in some employees’ efficiency, it’s also been shown to be able to boost morale and bonding within the office. Some organizations embrace the camaraderie by showing games in a break room or conference room during lunch hours. So March Madness at work isn’t inherently bad, but it can be if it isn’t handled properly.

The key is clarity. Employers should be upfront about employee expectations and policies, while employees should be willing to ask if their actions are acceptable. If you’re afraid to ask your boss or human resource representative if what you’re doing is okay, that’s a clue that it’s probably not okay.

This is also a great time to step up and be a leader. If you know employees who are abusing their computer privileges, ask them if they know about the company’s policy on personal internet usage. And remember that following the rules doesn’t mean you have to be the fun police. Consider following up, on your question about internet usage, with an invitation to go watch the games together after work or during lunch.

No one can predict who will win or lose in this year’s March Madness. But, as ethical leaders, we can know how our integrity will fare after that last line on the bracket is filled in. It’s entirely up to us.

Always remember, Leadership is a Lifestyle.

Ryan W. Hirsch
Operations Manager, NASBA Center for the Public Trust