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What Your Lunchroom Seating Choice Says About You

Topics: Work Culture

Paying attention to seating choices during a meeting can tell us an awful lot about a group’s dynamics. Naturally, the person running the discussion sits in a position of authority, usually at the end of a table or maybe at the center. Key players file in along at the leader’s sides and folks whose participation is less critical fill the remaining chairs. We choose our seats at meetings for practical and logical reasons. But, could there also be meaning behind where we sit at other times during the workday? Where you choose to sit in the lunchroom, for example, tells others something about you, and could have an impact on how they see you and maybe even on your career. Let’s take a look at some specifics to understand more about lunchroom seating choice.


(Photo Credit: amsfrank/Flickr)

But first, a note on table shapes

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Rectangular tables demand something of us; they ask us to make a choice. Round tables, on the other hand, are the cooperative, inclusive alternative to all that mess. Like with square tables, a circular table only asks that we choose whom we’re sitting next to and across from; the dynamics are far simpler than with a rectangular table. Still, there are a few important things to note about square and circular tables before we move forward.

  • In a lot of ways, circular tables are best. Everyone is on equal footing and everyone can see and hear everyone else. If you have one big round table in your lunchroom, enjoy! This is a great arrangement.
  • A lot of small square or circular tables, the kind that sit between two and four people, can be tricky. By choosing a seat, you are committing to a conversation with the individual or the group already sitting there. It’s an intimate setting. Choose your company wisely.
  • A note on sitting alone: Remember that empty chairs won’t stay that way. It might be better to join an already almost full small table than attempting to build your own from scratch. You never know who will sit down to join you, and it’s important to thoroughly enjoy your lunch break.

Now we’re ready to tackle the more complicated rectangular seating arrangement. The choices you make here say more about you than you may realize.

1. If you sit at the end…

At a rectangular table, the people who choose to sit on the ends are making a statement. Since these chairs are classic power seats, the people who select them are likely fairly confident individuals. But, they also might be the kind of people who like to listen to co-workers’ conversations and feel super involved without actually doing any of the heavy lifting. They can see and hear everyone from this seat, but not everyone can hear them.

2. If you sit in the middle seat…

Hello, life of the party! It’s a pleasure to meet you. If you are brave enough to claim one of the center power seats, you better be ready to shell out some jokes and drive the bus of some conversations. As the occupant of one of these seats, you have the most presence at the table, so be sure to use your powers for good, not evil. When you select a middle seat, you’re telling your co-workers that you are excited about this lunch, and that you’re ready to be a main attraction in the conversation.

3. If you choose some other seat…

If you choose any other seat at the table, you’re communicating that you want to be a part of things, but you don’t really feel like standing out or having too much focus on you today. This is a great place to sit if you’d like to blend in and not make any waves. It’s a team player type of move, and it’s unlikely you’ll offend anyone (or make any hugely positive impressions) with this risk-free seating choice.

4. If you lean against the wall or otherwise choose no seat at all…

Maybe you’re shy, or you just don’t feel like engaging today, or you’re strapped for time, but your co-workers might read more into your decision to opt out of lunch time than just that. If you are in the lunchroom, be of the lunchroom. If you don’t have time to hang out, then you’d be better off taking your lunch back to your desk than hanging off to the side. It feels awkward and standoffish when someone is sort of hovering in the background. When it comes to the lunchroom, it’s better to be either in or out than something in between.

Tell Us What You Think

How does seating choice impact the dynamics of your lunchroom? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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