But my inbox is right there!
November 20, 2007 1:01 PM   Subscribe

What's the meaning/rationale behind putting paperwork on someone's chair rather than their desk?

Some of my co-workers (I do not know which) will leave paperwork on my chair rather than my desk if I'm not in my office. So I come back from a meeting or whatever, sit down, and realise I've sat on an invoice and crumpled it with my big ol' butt, which is arguably my own fault for not checking first.

Is there a meaning or reason behind this placement? I have a large desk that is usually empty of paper, so there is space to put the paperwork there rather than on my chair.

I'm a foreigner in the US and my interpretation is to feel a wee bit demeaned. The chair is where the ass goes, not the work.

I don't know how on earth I would bring this up with my co-workers, especially since I don't know which of them does this. Help me allay my anxious ruminations!
posted by subbes to Work & Money (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the idea is that you couldn't possibly miss it, and it wouldn't be lost among other papers already on your desk.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:03 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

They want you to not miss it. Apparently, you don't look before you sit.
posted by caddis at 1:03 PM on November 20, 2007

If there isn't an obvious inbox, I don't know where to put it so that it is immediately noticed as having newly arrived. I put it on the chair on the assumption that A) it will bring attention to itself because of its unusual location, and B) they'll for sure notice it if they sit on it.
posted by crickets at 1:04 PM on November 20, 2007

I'm not suggesting there's a one-size-fits-all answer, but I put things on someone's chair when I want to be sure they're noticed, not lost on their desk. Even if the desk is mostly clear, I'm still sometimes concerned that something placed on the desk will be overlooked.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:05 PM on November 20, 2007

If you put it on the desk it could get lost among other piles of paper. By putting it on the chair there’s a good chance they will notice it before they sit down.

I do this to people all time and I prefer when they do it to me rather than putting it on my desk. I can pick it up off the chair, look at it, and decide where on my desk it should go.
posted by bondcliff at 1:06 PM on November 20, 2007

Many people have desks that resemble disaster areas. I could put a huge job folder on one of them and the person would never see it when he or she returns. Even placing the paperwork on a semi-orderly desk runs the risk of a person just not noticing the new addition. But I *know* he or she will be alerted to its presence if I place it on the chair.

The other option is to put it on the person's keyboard. But I never leave something simply "on the desk" if I want it to be seen. I've experienced too many episodes of items simply not being noticed.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:06 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

The same reason people put post-it notes on monitors: it's one of the spots they know you'll look. I've also seen papers left on top of the computer keyboard, since that's another place that would be an obstacle to immediate work and thus be a point of attention.
posted by mikeh at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2007

Nthing everyone else here: it's hard to miss something in your chair. Still, whenever someone does this, I'm tempted to just sit on the item (as-long-as it's paper and won't hurt my delicate bottom) and pretend I didn't see it.

I HATE it when people put shit on my chair. I want to be able to sit in my seat without moving all sorts of crap off it.

And there IS something a little condescending about it. I have an easier time imagining a boss doing this to his secretary than a secretary doing it to his boss.
posted by grumblebee at 1:09 PM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

The answers above are correct in that it's a "don't-fail-to-notice-this" move. However, it is standard practice in every office I've been in, so don't take it personally. I've had people ask me to set incoming paperwork on their chairs when I've placed them on desks, particularly because if they fail to notice incoming paperwork, well -- it's their seat on the line, so to speak.
posted by darksasami at 1:10 PM on November 20, 2007

D'oh! Score one for the answer I never thought of.

Also score one for my being abnormal by plonking myself down without a glance at the chair. Should I sit on a thumbtack, I'll have no room to whine.
posted by subbes at 1:10 PM on November 20, 2007

I like the chair ritual. Everyone has a chair--not everyone has an inbox or uses it in the same ways. Also, when I come back and there's something in my chair, I can put it where I think it belongs. If someone else chooses a place for it, there's a way bigger chance that I'll miss it, even if they do put it in the right place.
posted by lampoil at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2007

I always took it at as, "DO THIS NOW!!!" moreso than just making sure I notice it.
posted by jmd82 at 1:34 PM on November 20, 2007

And there IS something a little condescending about it. I have an easier time imagining a boss doing this to his secretary than a secretary doing it to his boss.

I used to work a lot as a temp secretary, and at EVERY office I was told that if I had to leave something important for my boss, I should put it on his/her chair. The implication often seemed to be that she was far to busy to notice things on her (usually cluttered) desk
posted by smoakes at 1:36 PM on November 20, 2007

nthing the "So it doesn't get lost on the desk" answer and add, "Because I don't understand how you've organized your desk, I hesitate to try to add something to it." No one takes it personally, and I appreciate that no one tries to understand my horizontal-surface filing system in return.
posted by parilous at 1:40 PM on November 20, 2007

And there IS something a little condescending about it. I have an easier time imagining a boss doing this to his secretary than a secretary doing it to his boss.

I do this with my boss all the time. Our desks are both disaster areas and if I put something on his desk, no one would ever see it again.
posted by Lucinda at 1:41 PM on November 20, 2007

I second those who are of the camp that even if there is an inbox/designated place for new incoming items, and even if the desk in question is organized, there is an intention that items placed on the chair are more important and require action soonest.

Of course, most people just move them from the chair to the desk anyway, so... but it's a perception.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2007

I had a coworker who had a fit about putting something on their chair. It was really strange to me. Why is it condescending? I didn't want it to get lost in the papers he had all over his desk.
posted by agregoli at 1:48 PM on November 20, 2007

nth'ing, and adding a comment - I keep my desk extremely organized, but it's a system that only makes sense to me. If someone were to put a file on my desk / in one of my inboxes (yes, i have several), I'd likely end up grabbing the file eventually and be VERY confused as to how it got there -- it would throw my system off balance. My chair is definitely the place to put files.
posted by frwagon at 1:59 PM on November 20, 2007

nthing again- I'm a fan of the chair I use it to deliver goods to others and hope they do likewise for me.
posted by horseblind at 2:18 PM on November 20, 2007

Interestingly enough, it bothers me when someone puts something on my desk instead of on my chair. I have my desk very specifically ordered, and when someone drops something on my desk, inevitably it is in the wrong place. They'll drop important paperwork in my "soon to be thrown away" pile, or perhaps they'll drop the "updated phone list" on top of an important invoice I need to sign that day.

I greatly prefer that people drop things on my chair (as they usually do), so I can file it myself. When dropping off things for other people, the paperwork usually either goes on their chair, or on their keyboard as someone else mentioned.
posted by ceberon at 2:28 PM on November 20, 2007

Yeah, when I leave stuff in a chair, it's not because I fear the recipient will miss it otherwise, it's out of respect for the recipient's organizational system. I *would* leave stuff on an empty desk, but if there are piles of paper, I figure I'm being disrepectful if I just add my stuff to a random pile.
posted by occhiblu at 2:45 PM on November 20, 2007

I don't know how on earth I would bring this up with my co-workers, especially since I don't know which of them does this.

If it still bothers you (because you sit on it accidentally), anything not time critical and not seen by customers can just be sat on. All day. Eventually they'll come by to complain, you can (pretend to) be a bit embarrassed, and hopefully they'll start putting it on your keyboard or desk instead.
posted by Gary at 3:16 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Of course, it's probably better to learn to look before you sit.
posted by Gary at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2007

Leave a post-it note on your chair that says "PLEASE DONT PUT ANYTHING ON MY CHAIR!" It shouldn't be disturbed by you sitting on it.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:45 PM on November 20, 2007

In addition to the chair being the place where new papers would be likely to be noticed, I've always felt like putting papers or a file folder on someone else's desk while the person was out encroached a little too much on their personal space. But if the stuff is just left on the chair, it's not like you're nosing around their workspace looking for some open spot to stick the papers.
posted by emelenjr at 3:53 PM on November 20, 2007

How can you possibly know where to sit if you don't at least briefly glance at your chair?

Anyway, if you ever find paperwork on your keyboard, it's for the same reason as the chair. I do both depending on the situation/desk.
posted by slowfasthazel at 4:20 PM on November 20, 2007

I'm like slowfasthazel: keyboard or chair, depending on whose desk it is and how neat it is. Neat desk: keyboard. Messy desk (like mine!): chair.

And if it's on the keyboard, I try to stand it up in the keys so that they know it was put there deliberately.
posted by robcorr at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2007

Even when things are relatively neat, most 8 1/2x11 sheets of paper look very similar. Unless someone's desk is free of anything resembling what you are placing there, it can get lost. My ex-boss used to toss things on to my desk, it drove me crazy. I prefer it when people leave things on my chair.
posted by chelseagirl at 7:32 PM on November 20, 2007

It's totally chairmail, and I both put items I want people to definitely see, and receive items people want me to see via the chair.

I'm a secretary. Our office (property management) generates a truckload of paperwork (don't they all?). My fear is someone giving me something important and I don't "see" it on my desk. So I'm not bothered by chair mail or keyboard mail at all.

And yes, my in box is three-tiered, and only I know what each level means, along with knowing what the stacks of paper and files elsewhere on the desk mean. I'd be very confused if something showed up in or one of my stacks that I didn't put there. And I may not see something important if it's been placed on my desk, and inadvertently covered with yet more paper.

One boss specifically requested important phone messages be put on her chair.
posted by Savannah at 8:10 PM on November 20, 2007

« Older France vs Quebec   |   We're all dying? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.