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updated 3/22/2013 10:18:49 AM ET 2013-03-22T14:18:49

It's March Madness and you know what that means: U.S. companies are poised to take a productivity smackdown. Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., estimates that March Madness will cost at least $134 million in "lost wages" over the first two days of the tournament, as an estimated 3 million employees spend one to three hours following the basketball games instead of working.

John Mahony, chief operating officer of staffing services firm Kavaliro, which has offices in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, doesn't buy that. He advises companies to embrace March Madness as a morale-builder and a chance to have some fun. In his company's headquarters, the conference room television has one of the games on it when the room isn’t in use and employees engage in friendly ribbing over favorite teams. Here are four lessons he says companies can learn from March Madness.

Related: Kentucky Businesses Brace for NCAA Final Four Madness

1. Underdogs win. From the Murray State Racers to the Butler Bulldogs, every year, a Cinderella team upsets one of the legacy teams. When your company is up against a big competitor, this reminder can be inspirational and encourage your employees to bring their A-game, no matter what the odds.

2. Working together works. The big trophy goes to teams whose members work together. Backstabbing, infighting, blame -- these are poisonous habits for companies just as they are for basketball teams, Mahony says. The big wins happen when everyone works together for the good of the team (or the company).

3. Fun matters. Basketball is fun. It's fun to watch the games. It's fun to try to predict who is going to win. It's fun to trash-talk with your co-workers. Enjoying the tournament together instead of fighting with employees about sneaking a peek at the games is going to build good will and make the office environment a much more pleasant place to be.

Related: What Really Motivates Employees? [Infographic]

"When you let people enjoy the things they love instead of trying to control them, and you trust them to do the right thing, that pays off for the company," he says.

4. Some moments really matter. The NCAA tournament is a chance for the teams who made it to leave behind their season records. It's a blank slate where anyone can win title "National Champions." Mahony says the lesson for employees and companies is that they can shake off previous losses or setbacks and use every day to start again, making progress toward their goals.
 

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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