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Office Politics - You Are Where You Sit at the Table...

True conversation between a younger HR Capitalist and a HR Capitalist mentor/boss:

Young HR Capitalist - (Sitting down for a meeting at a chair on the wall away from the  conference room table)

Boss - What are you doing?

Young HR Capitalist - Huh?

Boss - Why aren't you sitting at the table?Conference_room_2

Young HR Capitalist  - I know we are having a lot of people here and I'm not really involved in this one, so I was going to sit off to the side where I could work a little, ya know?

Boss - Sit at the table.  Like a player, cause you are one.

Young HR Capitalist - Did you always sit at the table coming up through the ranks?

Boss - When I was an analyst at (Name of Company deleted), I got to meetings early, sat right at the middle of the table.  The VP's came in late, I dared them to call me out in front of the team.  (expletive deleted) them, get to the meeting earlier.  Like you now, moving up to the table (motions me up and stops talking and goes back to blackberry).

Young HR Capitalist - (Moving my work up to the table, turning off Blackberry to avoid temptation to check it and the resulting public humiliation.  VP's filing in see no open seats, glare at me in my non-VP-ness, then take seat on wall, making mental note to make life difficult for me moving forward.)

And so it goes in corporate America, where the type of office, the type of laptop, the type of phone and now, where you sit is all a part of your status and identity in the pack.  Business Week has a nice breakdown of the importance of where you sit at the table, including the following intro: 

"The client was a senior female executive at a major global company. She was hardworking, bright, and well-liked, but she had one big frustration: People often ignored her ideas at meetings.

After watching the woman interact with colleagues, executive consultant Constance Derick offered several suggestions. One of the most important: "I told her to stop sitting against the wall and sit around the table instead." Within six months, co-workers were commenting that she had more "executive presence and spoke with greater conviction," says Derick.

The moral of the story: Where you sit influences where you stand. If you take away their Brooks Brothers suits, Manolo Blank shoes, and BlackBerrys, managers are little more than naked apes--social mammals with primal methods of expressing group power hierarchies. Over the past few years, psychologists and consultants have begun to decode the secret meaning of office behavior and to understand one of the business world's deepest mysteries: Why do people tend to sit in the same place at routine meetings?"

Me?  I prefer the seat at the middle of the table.  If you believe the chart above from BW, that's in line with the HRness of the Capitalist.  Paid to mediate, using powers for good, not bad. 

Or maybe it's the best seat to stir things up from.  I can never tell....

Where do you sit?


evil  HRIS Guy

Most of the conference rooms in our building have a small a/c-heating unit along one of the walls.
I get there early and sit near the controls so I can set the temp of the room.

Ask a Manager

This is so true. It hadn't occurred to me to encourage more junior staff to sit more prominently, but I'm going to start doing it. On the opposite end of things, I will sometimes intentionally sit nearer to the wall and away from the action if I want to encourage my staff (I'm the manager) to speak more freely without feeling like they have to defer to me or cast me glances before speaking.


I'm going to have to take a look next time we have a meeting to see who sits where. Not sure if all of this applies in our office, but the wall/table divide is certainly true.


When you call the meeting, it is expected that you sit at the head of the table. When you are invited to a meeting, you must choose where to sit when you walk in the room. Don't hesitate, for that shows the head honcho that you may be indecisive. Take a seat and get through the pleasantries and get ready to take notes, listen intently and get into the discussion when it is appropriate.

Some meetings are more "listen" type meetings and others are more "talk" type meetings. Don't be so terrified as to not even speak up when the opportunity presents intself, and don't raise a point everyone already knows just to make yourself heard.

No matter where you choose to sit, try to be a participant when necessary and a fly on the wall when the situation calls for it.


If there are so many people in the meeting where some must resort to the wall, perhaps there are too many people in the meeting. Or is it not really a meeting but a "presentation"?

Someone once said "Any meeting with more than two people is likely a waste of time." I've often found this to be painfully true.

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