March 15, 2016  

NCAA tournament gives employers tool to boost creativity

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The NCAA basketball tournament could actually benefit workplace productivity, according to a Purdue University expert in work-life issues.

"Employers who encourage employees to take time at work to participate in the NCAA tournament frequently see benefits," said Ellen Ernst Kossek, the Basil S. Turner Professor of Management and research director of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence.

Kossek said bringing the activity into office culture could provide a meaningful long-term productivity boost. She offers the following ideas for management to consider as they plan workflow around the annual sports tournament.

* Innovation is more likely to occur when employees collaborate. "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 said.

* Basketball provides examples of 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 said.

* 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 said.

* Observing sportsmanship and fair play on the court also can be a lesson in ethics. "This is something nearly every business needs," Kossek said. 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 said. 

News Service contact: John Hughey, 765-494-2432,

Source: Ellen Ernst Kossek, 517-388-0952, 

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