Trivia nights are bonding time for MGAC employees

Company: MGAC.

Location: Washington.

Employees: 96 locally; 106 worldwide.

It was a seemingly impossible tie-breaker question in a hard-fought trivia game: What is the square footage of the Pentagon?

A team made up of staffers from project management firm MGAC wasn’t confident they’d be able to come up with the best estimate. But they soon realized they had a serious leg up on their opponents, because one co-worker had previously worked in the behemoth building’s facilities division and knew the obscure number almost precisely.

With that bit of minutia, he won a round of free beer for his colleagues.

Pub trivia nights have become a regular ritual for employees at the Washington-based consultancy. They often gather as a team at Elephant & Castle, a bar on 19th St. NW, to face off against other trivia enthusiasts.

Their best prize so far, staffers said, was tickets to a Washington Nationals game.

The players are a mix of trivia buffs and relative novices, but MGAC staffers say everyone gets into the competitive spirit. It’s an experience that has helped build camaraderie among the group.

“In between rounds, it’s not like we’re all just staring into our drinks,” said Mark Ryan, an MGAC economist. “There’s lots of conversation going on.”

Though it has become one of the firm’s key team-building activities, it was not originated in the human resources department.

“It just came together,” Ryan said. “It was not an organized, top-down kind of thing.”

But Mollie O’Donnell, the firm’s human resources director, said these self-directed initiatives fit comfortably into the workplace culture MGAC aims to create.

“We’re very entrepreneurial. It’s actually one of our fundamentals,” O’Donnell said.

Kate McLaine, MGAC’s office manager, said that attitude helps cement staffers’ commitment to the firm.

“I think they’re really great about supporting small group activities like this, McLaine said. “And I think it pays dividends for them in a workforce that stays engaged.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.

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