Bob Sutton’s post yesterday about the potentially sexist implications of where we sit around the meeting table was thought-provoking. The snap judgments we make when assessing who’s in charge in any particular situation are still too often clouded by irrelevant gender and racial prejudices. (Don’t consider yourself evolved if you’ve just swapped those biases for new ones based on fashion choices; they can also be dead wrong, as Christina Ayiotis pointed out in a panel discussion we both participated in last week. Just because a lobbyist dresses better than a congresswoman doesn’t mean he’s in charge of a meeting — no matter what end of the table he’s sitting in.)
The graphic Sutton revived from a Businessweek story about the seating topic a couple of years ago was also illuminating. I’ve worked at companies where seating shifted constantly for meetings, depending on when people walked into the room and who needed to make a presentation that day. I spent most of my career working for a company that used assigned seating based on the department the person represented, not their individual status, though the departments themselves had their own hierarchy. Woe to the newbie who just walked in and plopped into any old chair. I found this practice ridiculous.
Do you feel your employer’s practices reflect underlying values at your workplace? What’s your preference for seating at meetings?
Image credit, llawliet