When Fantasy Football Impacts the Reality of the Workplace

Many players are deep into fantasy football season, so the question is – are you having fun yet?  Obviously not if you relied upon Antonio Brown or Ben Rothlisberger to carry you to glory, but many supervisors are beginning to feel the effects fantasy football can have on the workplace.  Let’s talk about some of those here:

Goodbye Monday Morning!

Needless to say, productivity is not as high for employees on most Monday mornings, but this is only further exacerbated as team “owners” spend the morning recounting the weekend results with other league members.  Or people are just spending the first hour of their day looking at the week’s results, praying for some result on Monday night, and setting their team up for the next week.

While most employment policies don’t reference fantasy sports, policies on the use of Company resources for personal matters apply, and you can continue to hold people accountable for their deliverables regardless of how their team is performing.  Just make sure you’re not the one creating the problem yourself.

The Problem Boss

Because sometimes, it is the boss that creates the issues.  When supervisors pressure people to play (especially when a buy-in is involved), talk trash constantly about team performance, and let fantasy invade reality, it can be a concern.  Issues may also be exacerbated when a former peer is now a supervisor due to a recent promotion.

This can be a good time to remind supervisors that they are in that role at all times – they don’t get a pass when they put their fantasy team hat on.  A lack of judgment in this setting can have ramifications for the Company, so keep that in mind.  Training, mentoring, and coaching for newly appointed supervisors can be critical to ensuring professional conduct and positive performance.  And if you are the boss who wins, just remember to use those winnings for an end of the season party for everyone.

The Boys Club

Most fantasy football office leagues get set up by dudes asking other dudes to participate.  This can be an issue where certain team members are left out, so remember that office leagues should be open to everyone in the office.  If the league is gathering for a watching party, consider inviting everyone even if they will spend the evening rolling their eyes over the latest debate about which team got an unfair outcome that week.  This is especially true when any supervisors are involved, as there is some potential for Company ratification of the league.  When in doubt, just think about my old colleague Michelle – she’s not only a mother, but also a vegan – and despite the obvious disability of being a UCLA and New York Giants fan, she was able to have a dominant run in quite a few leagues.

Personnel Fouls

Needless to say, some people take fantasy football much too seriously.  They never let up on talking trash; they threaten bodily harm when the commissioner voids a trade; they have that inappropriate team name that they have way too much fun with all year.   Any of these things can cause problematic issues in the workplace, and you once again need to look to your other policies and make sure to enforce them.  Anti-violence, anti-harassment, and anti-discrimination policies can all be implicated during the fantasy football season, and employers should not consider misconduct in this forum to be out of sight, and out of mind.

Dollars and Cents

What happens when the loser doesn’t pay up?  Everyone has good intentions, but by the end of the season Johnny’s team falls flat; he’s stopped paying attention; and he may not want to pay the $20 so Jill can celebrate her victory.  In a work league, the commissioner will often reach out to the Company for help in collecting – which always creates a slippery slope of employer involvement.  Companies should steer clear of these disputes, and should not provide contact information for departed employees regardless of whether they win or lose.

The bottom line is that fantasy football can be a great employee bonding event, but employers should tread carefully.  Just keep a few things in mind for a successful fantasy season:

  • Follow your policies;
  • Consider prohibiting employees from using Company equipment and property, such as computers, email, televisions, copiers and printers, for fantasy football leagues if the workplace disruption appears to be getting out of hand;
  • Supervisors should always act like supervisors; and
  • Don’t draft any Dolphins.