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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where does your boss sit?

Have you ever thought how it impacts the way you sit in an office floor? More importantly, have you ever noticed how our line managers/bosses are seated relative to other staff and how it conveys certain work place cultures? Traditionally in almost all the companies that I have worked in or visited in Bangladesh are really effective in making clear by way of artefacts, physical boundaries, glass walls, bigger and more comfortable chairs (often wrapped with clean towels) – who the boss around is. There is this invisible space that is being created by virtue of various furniture and demarcations to establish the work place hierarchy. But to what extent that influences the culture that you have in your company? More importantly I am not sure how many companies in Bangladesh take up office interior designing as a professional service and to what extent they consult companies on the setups of office spaces and links to company culture that it nurtures. 

I have worked in office environments where my immediate line manager used to sit next to me, his line manager just opposite where he used to sit and his one next to his right – all just on either sides of a low partition, not exactly a cubicle.  You may argue that line managers need certain privacy when they discuss confidential matters or when they need to entertain important business visitors. But imagine that for all these concerns – you will ideally have dedicated spaces allocated in your office – a private meeting room, confernece call center etc.  I have found that by removing any physical boundaries between you and your high-up colleagues, the artificial distance is removed and transparency, exchange of tacit knowledge and work relationship is increased. 

So next time you are planning to revamp your office set up, think about the culture you want your company to nurture. If you want to be clear about who the boss is and impose a certain degree of distance between you and your employees – go ahead lock up yourself in a private air-conditioned cabin, glass wall or not, order a comfy, bigger, chair and place two or more smaller ones on the other side of your mega desk – so as to be explicit that you have climbed higher up in the organogram to deserve entetaining guests at your desk. Otherwise if you want relationships between employees to be fluid and transparent – remove what is not required. It does not mean that you will be casting the eye of the Big Brother all the time around other people’s monitor to see if they are Facebooking or not – ideally that would mean that either you or your staff doesn’t have much to do in any case and the problem lies elsewhere.  

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