Exploring Employee Experiences in a Sport Industry Workplace Through Tournament Theory

Matt R. Huml – University of Cincinnati
Elizabeth A. Taylor – Temple University
Erianne A. Weight – University of North Carolina
Marlene A. Dixon – Texas A&M University

The purpose of this study is to examine the experiences of sport employees to assess tournament conditions and resulting employee outcomes as well as suggestions to overcome detrimental tournament conditions. Securing a job within the sport industry is fiercely competitive, and the work environment is often harsh. Examining employee experiences within these competitive conditions can help organizations identify necessary tournament adjustments in order to maximize employee output and performance. We collected data from employees working within intercollegiate athletic departments (n = 1724). We utilized an imposed interpretive approach to learn about their working experiences in intercollegiate athletics and interpreted the data through a tournament theory lens. Due to a combination of industry passion and pressure of aspiring applicants willing to take their position, they embraced the opportunity to compete in the tournament. Participants expressed limited motivation beyond reaching middle management, creating concerns about tournament conditions. This study extends literature in organizational behavior and tournament theory by providing insight into the intended/unintended consequences of work and life within a “tournament” setting. Our findings reveal tournament condition concerns raised by the participants, increasing the possibility of employees’ willingness to trade off pay benefits in order to secure other, desirable benefits.