Football season has begun, and along with it football pools, fantasy football leagues and heated discussions about last night’s game. It can seem like a huge drain on performance and might all that betting be illegal? Maybe you should put a stop to the whole thing right away.
Or maybe not. Now, to be clear, as the boss, you can absolutely ban pools and fantasy leagues while at work (banning discussion is futile). But, people really enjoy these things and doing these kinds of activities can actually help unify your office–if you do it correctly. Here are some tips:
The boss shouldn’t lead the pool.
Or the fantasy league. The boss can participate, of course, but she shouldn’t be walking around signing people up either. Once the boss takes control people feel obligated to participate. This should never happen–especially when money is involved. Bosses are obligated to pay their employees; employees are not obligated to give any of that money back to the boss. Not for sports, not for Christmas presents, and not for Boss’s Day celebrations.
Participation should be voluntary.
Yeah, it’s always voluntary, except when it’s not. You may not even realize how much pressure the pool leader puts on the staff to contribute. “It’s only 20 bucks!” or “Come on, pick your team!” The reality is, some people hate sports. Some people hate football. Some people don’t gamble in any way, shape or form. This is a fun activity, but if someone doesn’t want to participate, they don’t need to participate.
Follow all local laws.
Most of time, the law allows for a bit of gambling as long as no one is making a profit. It’s called social betting and it’s not a big legal deal. But, if your office pool coordinator is making a profit, you can get in trouble. Additionally, if you’re pulling in people who don’t have a relationship outside the pool it can get legally sketchy. Make sure it’s just for fun and all winnings are paid out. If social betting is illegal where you live, then you can’t allow it on company property. You’re unlikely to get busted, but don’t take that risk.
You can also do a simple contest instead.
Instead of having people bet, employment attorney Daniel Schwartz suggests a fun contest instead. There’s no reason why people need to contribute $20 to have a good time competing with each other. But a candy bar for the winner. Or a bunch of kale if your office is more inclined towards health food.
Make sure there are no hard feelings.
In a fantasy football league, sometimes someone can really kick everyone else’s heinies. Sometimes that person happens to be a jerk. The boss needs to reign that person in if there are potential conflicts. If this weekend’s big game happens to be between the local favorite and Bob in Accounting’s hometown team, make sure Bob isn’t tormented if his team loses. Sure, some good natured ribbing isn’t bullying, but it can become that way. People sometimes go crazy over sports.
Above all have fun.
As soon as this ceases to be fun, it’s time to end it. As long as it’s all goodnatured and legal it’s good to go.