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Where is the power seat in the office?

Dear Office-Politics,

I want to know one thing from you… A new manager with years of experience in companies that are famous for office politics joins a new office.

Then, without any significant reason (all the reasons are absolutely silly — that’s for sure) proposes to the boss to change the sitting arrangement of a few other key managers. Is it a means to portray control? Is there any theory in office politics in that regard? Any case study?

Not sitting pretty


dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Not sitting pretty,

Actually Organizatonal Savvy can be applied to seating arrangements. Often we are asked to coach executives who are very smart, competent and who have good values and work ethic. But they come for coaching because they don’t seem to be able to have the impact they want at meetings.

All seats are not equal

Unfortunately for them meetings can have an inordinate impact on career progression. We aren’t defending this aspect of business but often key decision makers and senior management form strong impressions of people based on meetings, presentations and conferences. This group of people we coach often are polite, modest and reflective. These are good life traits but combine to be a disadvantage when it comes to participating in a fast-paced meeting. Sometimes they put themselves at a further disadvantage by sitting in a place where it is more difficult to participate.

These can include sitting behind others at a table, or at a spot on the table that is off to the side and not in people’s line of sight.

Before you take a seat, think…

In addition to coaching these people on the right self-talk, preparation, executive vocabulary and how to respectfully interrupt to get their point across, we also advise them on where to sit. The best place to sit is two spaces over from the most powerful person in the room or the person running the meeting. This allows you to be in almost everyone’s visual path without the risk of looking like you are trying a power play by sitting right next to the leader.

These are some of the savvy considerations about sitting arrangements. Of course we don’t know if this is the motivation behind your coworkers attempts in this direction. We would bet though that it does have some connection to his view of power.

Good luck and we hope that you get the seat that you want. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.


Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.

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