When I was a 21-year-old production assistant working in the ESPN offices in Bristol, CT we had an office football pool. The pool was huge – everyone from the office assistants to the former athletes/TV analysts was involved in it. It was run by someone who is now an executive on some of the biggest sports television events of the year but back then we were all working 6pm-3am six days a week with Mondays off – there was no hierarchy. Though I can’t remember how much it was to play, I know it was cheap – I only made $15K a year but the rewards were big. Yes I did win it twice – all luck I assure you – the “experts” never did well and often were at the bottom due to analysis-paralysis. The mailroom guys were often at the top. That pool was the great equalizer. It provided a sense of community and I miss the days when we could do that without fear of the gambling culture casting an unflattering light.
My advice is this: If your office allows a March Madness pool – buy in. It will allow a cross-communication in your office that allows everyone to be on an even playing field. If you are an underling working your way up, the pool will provide an opportunity to strike up a conversation with the boss. And perhaps more rewarding if you are an executive – make an effort to ask the kid in the mailroom “Why did you make that pick?” The sense of community is often missing these days in an office environment and not everyone wants to play Guitar Hero at a company function on their day off. A little office rivalry that updates every day of the tournament may in fact spark a conversation that leads to a healthy dialogue.
In fact buy in twice … once on the “smart” picks … but in your second one go off the chart … let your kids pick … it makes for better conversation.