Seating positions can indicate our reason for meeting, be it ‘affiliation’ – to build group cohesion, ‘achievement’ – to get things done, or ‘power’ – to emphasis control. How a meeting is organized typically dictates how meetings will transpire.
Casual corner positions where speakers meet across the corners of a rectangular or square table preserve closeness between people, but still offers the security of a partial barrier. The side-by-side seating position creates cooperation and when facing across from one-another, but not head-on, independent though is fostered. When facing directly across from another person, competition is created. Therefore we should aim to set up meetings depending on what we aim to achieve.
Leadership studies show us what we intuitively already know, that leaders take up the head position, that those at his or her flank receive trickle down leadership, and that even when seating is pre-determined (not self selected), leadership is assigned to the head of the table. Square tables include both competitive and cooperative seating positions because a set of people sit to the left and right, and another across the table. Circular tables have similar outcomes to square tables where it’s mostly an affiliative arrangement, except if an obvious leader is present. In this case there is a trickle-down-leadership-effect as leadership is assigned left and right around the table. In this case, the closest to the leader deemed most powerful and the person opposite the leader finds himself in the competitive head-to-head position.
Desk placement and office artifacts are crucial in an office and give us clues to the personality of the people they belong to. A photo can show that a person is a family man, a trophy can show his interest in tennis or golf, books shows he is learned, and so forth.