Workplace seating arrangements - WWYD?

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DarkOne
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Workplace seating arrangements - WWYD?

Post by DarkOne » Mon Jun 19, 11:23 2017

Hypothetical "What would you do?" question of the day:
Scenario: You are a the supervisor of a group of 7 men and 1 woman in a male dominated field (avg. 15% female). You have a new hire -- a woman -- and you have 2 possible locations for her (see diagram).

* In spot 1, she would be sitting next to a woman whom you have seen before is a good mentor for cubicle neighbors, technically competent, engaged with interns/new hires, makes herself available.
* In spot 2, the particular men on either side are technically competent, agreeable, slightly more experienced (seniority-wise, 5yrs more) than the woman next to spot 1, but not very good mentors (one is shy and speaks as little as possible, one is barely at his desk, has been seen to be disengaged/borderline neglect assigned interns previously, and is noted for not being the best team worker.
* In either location, she'd have access to the rest of the group, but, in your experience, employees rely mostly on the people next to them, followed by people in their cubicle unit (no walls between them), followed by the rest of the group.
Image

Do you:
1) Sit the new hire in Spot 1?
2) Sit the new hire in Spot 2?
3) Flip a coin.
What factors into your decision? No, you can't move current employees around. At the heart of my question, I'm mostly concerned about the pros and cons of "lumping" women together in the workplace (practicality, perception, ...) , with a few twists to spice up the decision. Is it a sex/gender blind decision? Should it be?
"Winston Churchill once said 'The eyes are the windows of your face.' " -A man who's very scared of plants.

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Re: Workplace seating arrangements - WWYD?

Post by Bork » Mon Jun 19, 14:56 2017

Can you ask if she'd prefer a corner cubicle or one in the middle of other people? I would be inclined to go with spot 1, since that sounds like a better place to put any new employee given the mentoring personality of the cubicle mate.
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Re: Workplace seating arrangements - WWYD?

Post by melsbells » Mon Jun 19, 15:09 2017

I saw the question and immediately looked at the diagram and thought 2, before I even saw the F and M notations. Then I definitely thought 2, wanting to submerse the new hire in the midst of coworkers instead of on the end of the bench to be overlooked, not letting the other co-workers view her as part of the team. Once you put the twists in, it's harder for me to stick with 2, but I think I will. Even if there is other reasoning, I don't think lumping the two women together would help the acceptance of potentially either woman as part of the work team. They'll be "the girls" even more so if I, as a boss, enhance the image that they're a pair by grouping them together and having one mentor the other.

I'm wondering if I could assign one of the unknowns in the cubical 2 block as a mentor. I don't think it's necessary to have a mentor physically located next to you. It may even give a little more self-confidence if the mentor can't just happen to look over your shoulder all the time. I'm also going to assume that even without being next to each other, the woman next to spot one is likely to reach out.

I don't think it should be a gender blind decision, but I would pick spot 2 either way.

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Re: Workplace seating arrangements - WWYD?

Post by DarkOne » Mon Jun 19, 17:35 2017

Bork wrote:Can you ask if she'd prefer a corner cubicle or one in the middle of other people? I would be inclined to go with spot 1, since that sounds like a better place to put any new employee given the mentoring personality of the cubicle mate.
No. Her cubicle has to be set up with a computer and phone line bye the time she reports to work in the same day.

This hypothetical may or may not be inspired by true events... ;)
"Winston Churchill once said 'The eyes are the windows of your face.' " -A man who's very scared of plants.

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Re: Workplace seating arrangements - WWYD?

Post by rowan » Tue Jun 20, 7:31 2017

Can you ask her?

In my experience good mentors are key, I'd probably go with spot 1, based on the work dynamics/mentoring aspect. I agree there might be a little issue with the "girls spot" that melsbells bring up but if the guys can't mentor then that's a problem.
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Re: Workplace seating arrangements - WWYD?

Post by DarkOne » Tue Jun 20, 8:23 2017

rowan wrote:Can you ask her?
Not customarily with new hires. Usually a spot is assigned ahead of time to set up computer/phone. Plus, the new hire wouldn't have enough background regarding cube-mate personalities or the benefits of a mentorship relationship, so she'd mostly have to go by whether she'd prefer the corner or the middle. When you're a new hire, you usually want to at least appear to be engaged and into teamwork, so I think she'd default to "in the middle". But I do think if I was the supervisor, the decision would involve my impression of the personality of the new hire. With a more reserved personality, I'd be more inclined to initially co-locate her in the corner with easy access to a mentor for less technical issues, because I think people in general would be more likely to walk over to someone else's cubicle to ask a technical question than to ask about other work-environment but not strictly technical issues. Then, once rapport is established, I'd change the new hire at the next chance.

In any case, I thought it was an interesting conundrum a colleague faced recently.
"Winston Churchill once said 'The eyes are the windows of your face.' " -A man who's very scared of plants.

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