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(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail/Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

Nine To Five

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

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers.

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.”

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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.

The First Answer

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.

The Second Answer

Pamela Jeffery, founder, Women’s Executive Network

It seems at the heart of the dilemma is another question: In choosing the bigger, more removed desk, are you in fact choosing isolation? Or, maybe more importantly, will others think you’re choosing isolation?

The fact is co-workers have been getting closer, at least physically, for years. The average amount of space allotted to employees has dropped from 500 square feet 30 years ago to less than 200 square feet today.

People are increasingly organized in clusters and cubicle walls seem to be getting lower and lower to encourage communication and information sharing. This is all in line with flatter organizations and a focus on openness and collaboration.

It also parallels what has long been happening in education. Gone are the single rows of grade school, which have been replaced largely with desks arranged in groups or mini hubs of four to six – again to encourage teamwork.

I remember my own experience in university and when I earned my MBA. We worked in groups or teams to brainstorm and solve problems.We employ that same approach in our own offices. The idea is that collaboration leads to innovation and better ideas.

When you make your decision, weigh what you may be giving up by upgrading your desk.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers.

 
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