Capitalist Note - I'm running this post today from 2009 - an oldie but a goodie. I remembered it because I gave a person a hard time (in a good natured way) last week about sitting at the head of the table while my CEO/founder/my partner was on the side as our leadership team meeting was about ready to start. I then watch 2 other members of our leadership team come in, look at the seat at the head of the table and pass on that seat. This post tells a earlier story about where people sit, the mind games it creates and the psychology behind it all.
We're doing 2010 planning meetings this week. While we're at it, we did a team Myers-Briggs so we could get into each other's heads like a therapist. Why stop there? I'm a people watcher and one thing came to mind in a big conference room - where do you sit at the table when you have a choice? Reminded me of this true conversation between a younger HR Capitalist and a HR Capitalist mentor/boss:
Boss - What are you doing?
Young HR Capitalist - Huh?
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 had a nice breakdown of the importance of where you sit at the table a couple of years back (the picture above is from that article, 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 from which to stir things up. I can never tell...Oh - and the table we have this week is round. Totally screws up the analysis.
Where do you sit?