A few weeks ago, I entered our office board room and randomly chose to sit next to my boss who was, obviously, at the power seat. If you are not familiar with the power seats, they are the ones at either end of rectangular or oval conference tables. They can also be created at round or square tables by pushing the seat slightly back away from the table. What came out as rather obvious, to me at least, was that on this day I was rather confident and outspoken. Later on, I stumbled upon a theory on influencer Just Ivy’s Instagram stating that where you sit in an office meeting matters.
Has it ever occurred to you that so much happens in the unspoken things? Gestures, non-verbals, and seating positions are all examples showing that there is power in the things that seem ‘silent.’ The next time you enter an office meeting, consider that your choice of sitting position may influence your performance in that meeting. Let’s delve deeper into different seating positions in the office and what they mean.
- Power seat
We’ve talked about the power seat already. The one at the furthest end of rectangular and oval tables. Most times, it is the heads of departments that take up this position. According to Psychology Today when a person sits in a power seat it sends a message to others that you are the leader and in control. This is the most visible seat in the room; the head of the table, if you will.
This key position puts you at the centre of the discussion, where you can use your unique vantage point to control the conversation. So if you’re seeking to command attention and steer the direction of a meeting, be sure to snag this seat. Important to note is that sitting in the power position doesn’t mean you have the biggest ego. As Chair, you need to keep the agenda moving, keep people on task and get to the decision.
- The focal point/ The seat on the other end
Typically, a rectangular or oval table will have two sits at either end. The seat on the other end is directly opposite the power seat. This is the second power position. It is visible to all and a good location for people who need to pop into the meeting to present specific items on the agenda. This end seat can be a powerful spot to voice disagreement with the Chair. You sit here and you sit opposite the leader.
Some leaders choose not to have a seat on the other end, especially when they want to minimize divisiveness.
- The flanking seats / The second in command / The influencer seats
Some organizations may not directly have a hierarchy of power after the boss, and that’s where this sitting position comes in. The individuals who sit next to the Chair have the ear of the Chair. When you sit in this position you can influence the flow of the meeting by assisting the Chair. In medieval times, the King’s right hand was normally seated on their right. Research shows more deals are made when one sits to the left of a potential client. Research conducted by the University of Oregon has indicated that sitting to the left of a person in the power seat yields far more favour from them, whereas the seat to their right is often viewed as more powerful, hence the term right-hand man. If you’re looking for upward mobility, make a beeline for either of these coveted seats.
- The debater/ The middle few/ The collaborative seats
Lastly, we have the seats in between the flanking seats. These seats represent you are at the meeting to collaborate, hear ideas and work together. If you are in the middle seat the message sent is; you are part of the team and approachable. An important pointer is that the individuals who sit in the middle are out of sight to many at the table. They are being talked over and around. The middle of the table is a good place to sit if you don’t want to be heard. Sit here if you are unfamiliar with the group and you’d like to quietly size up the situation.
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