To move or not to move: The politics of desk positions

Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail

From Globe and Mail (Excerpt)

The Question

Should I move desks? At work there is an empty desk beside me. It’s bigger, more private, but it’s one desk further from the “office hub.”

Yesterday my manager said the good thing about my current desk is that I am able to overhear what goes on and that helps me do my job. A co-worker said I may give the wrong impression if I move.

My current desk is more in the hub but the new desk will give me piece of mind, more space, more privacy to think, and make me happier, but now I’m concerned about the message I may be sending. We are talking one desk over … but now I’m rethinking, and I don’t want to make a move that – politically – might not be considered good for my career.

Colleen Clarke, career specialist and corporate trainer

You listed five valid reasons why you should move desks and one reason why you shouldn’t. Is moving to a new desk that allows you to do your job more effectively a wrong move politically? Generally speaking, the reason you show up for work is to work as productively as possible, not to be “in the hub” and listen in on everyone’s goings on. If this move supports that reasoning, then is there an issue?

If you are able to make the decision on your own with the support of your manager, go for it. Make a point of telling your colleagues why you are moving over – more space, bigger desk and the ability to focus on your work more.

Different people have different work styles, which can include a different work environment than the norm. For you to be most productive your preference may be to have time and quiet to think things through, whereas others need to be in the “hub of things.” It could be that your manager doesn’t understand your work style and could be missing out on understanding others’ work style preferences as well. Would explaining that help your case?

On the other hand, if your manager feels that you are better off where you are, then it may be a moot point. But, know why this is important to your manager. If you move, who will sit in your desk? Will that empty seat be the elephant in the room? Can the office be reconfigured to accommodate other peoples’ preferences?

If this move is really important to you, then negotiate with your manager. Ascertain what the benefits are to the company or your department if you were to change desks and use those points as your argument. Trying to sell your manager on why you want to move won’t have the same impact as the benefits to the department will.

Talk about how you will be more focused on your work, your ability to concentrate more easily thereby increasing productivity and output while decreasing mistakes and interruptions. All these benefits will allow you to finish your work more expediently, which will free you up to help your manager or colleagues with their work.