Where Do You Sit at the Table

The conference room was empty for my client meeting yesterday, so I flipped the light switch to on and surveyed the table to decide where to sit. As I chose a side chair, passing the head of the table position, which had chairs at either end, I wondered briefly why I didn’t claim that spot.

It’s a common dilemma and one we don’t notice as often as we do it. I’m the public relations consultant. I know my stuff. My client hires me to be an authority counsel, guiding them in growing their exposure in the public and among existing constituents.

So why would I leave the head seat for someone else?

If I were a man, I bet I would have plopped right down at the head of the table.

In fact, research shows that where you sit, determines where you stand. Kick back against the wall and no one will notice you. Claim the head seat and claim it with confidence, and people will pay attention. Blend in with the crowd and that’s exactly what you’ll do.

More women than men leave the head seat open. I’ve seen it with offices, too. A female executive doesn’t push for the biggest office because she doesn’t want to upset anyone, but if she’s the #1 or #2 in the company, shouldn’t it be hers? A man would take it without looking back.

Is it a desire that women have to be liked in the business world? Is it that maternal nurturing instinct rearing its ugly head?

Whatever the reason, I watched myself sidestep the oval-shaped table, navigate all the way around, and plop down in an obscure side seat. I used the chair beside me for my purse and work bag, and when others filed into the conference room to meet, and no one needed that seat, I marveled at the fact that I was taking up two seats but afraid of the one at the head of it all.

Interesting, isn’t it? We want to command attention, but we’re not sure we should. Or that doing so is comfortable. Or deserved. Or earned.

If we don’t take our leadership positions and assert our knowledge, no one else will. So slide into the head seat and make your voice heard. After all, no one’s going to do it for you.

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