I am sure that a lot of us face the same situation. It does not feel good when you find yourself on a different chair the next day morning or when it's is not even there.

I sit near a conference room and people usually move chairs all the time if I come late or go out for a break.

This also happens sometimes on weekends.

Now I don’t want to have a go at anyone but I need to set something up to prevent this from occurring.


9 Answers 9


There are 3 factors that are at work here. Tackling one of them might solve your problem.

  1. Your proximity to the conference room.
  2. The (apparent) lack of chairs in the conference room.
  3. The fact your colleagues think it's OK to take your chair.

Number one is something that might or might not be fixable. If you can somehow move, that would solve your problem without causing trouble with a whole department. This is your least likely shot, to be honest.

Number two, like BVR said, is fixable through contacting management (or whoever is responsible for the furniture) and asking for more seats in the conference room.

Number three involves knowing the culprits. Here company policy comes into play, and this can't be answered without more info. Depending on which rules apply within your office, you'll either have to go through management, talk to colleagues or label your chair and hope for the best.

If you put a label on the back of your chair, make sure that it is conspicuous enough for it to be very visible from 2-3 meters away, so it attracts attention. Make sure it doesn't damage your chair if it isn't your own property.

Knowing the culprits will definitely help. You can address them and see if they're open to reason. Overall I'd wait with going through management until you've tried this.

  • 22
    Instead of labeling the chair, I might suggest doing what I do and keep a sweater or light jacket draped over the back. The office can get really cold, so I keep one around, and I noticed the side-effect that people would chose someone else's chair over mine instead of removing my jacket from it. I suspect that adding a lumbar support pillow or some other customization might have the same effect.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 14:00
  • 3
    +1 for customisation. Resting my elbows on anything for an extended period of time causes numbness and tingling in my hands, so I always remove the arms on any chair I'm given. (I carefully retain the arms and screws so they can be reattached.) This has the added benefit that no one takes my chair.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 0:51
  • We have a very open office and sometimes have meetings in the work area. Nothing like grabbing coffee and coming back to someone sitting at your desk. But the practice here is to just put a sticker, something personal from a conference, state flag, whatever floats your boat on the back. The company can easily remove if needed later and you can usually find your chair. Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 22:36
  • Another +1 for customisation - I've seen this in action and the chair with a cardigan, lumbar support, and cushion was always the last to be taken
    – Jon Story
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 8:54
  • Try a fluffy pink cover on the chair - no-one nicks anything pink - maybe with a Disney character on it.
    – RedSonja
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 13:04

Throwing a jacket over the back of it (or maybe placing a bag or some papers on it when you'll be away from the desk for a while) works for me.

  • I like this -- dedicate a piece of clothing to always keep on the back of the chair.
    – bdimag
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 21:25
  • What if someone takes your jacket/or other thing, along with chair :P
    – Umair Ayub
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 12:53
  • Well no plan is perfect - I think, in general, the idea is to make it less hassle for the person to take some other chair. If there is a chair with no jacket the you are unlikely to be interrupter by somebody asking "can I just grab my jacket"
    – amcdermott
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 13:00

This is a problem that I also face. Here the problem is not taking the chair it is they are taking the chair without your permission or at least without informing you that they are taking it. Due to this you have to search again and return it back to your desk. The solution is people have to change their behaviour. The below tips or steps will not change the behaviour of your officemates but at least these initiate some change in their behaviour over time.

Here are the few tips that I suggest.

Write a note at your desk and also at the entrance of the conference room : Write a note near to the chair(Usually on a board which is near to the desk) or on sticky note and stick it to the chair, conveying a message similar to this: “If you want to use the chair please ask my colleague and please return it back its original place". And also stick a poster at the exit of conference room conveying same message as most professionals will adhere that.

Talk with HR and request to promote the correct behaviour: In my organisation if we bring these kind of issues to HR or Office Management, They will sent a polite Email to everybody in that office, conveying a message similar to this: "Recently we have observed a trend that people are taking the chairs from our colleagues desks which are near to the conference rooms and not returning those chairs to their original position. We request that you please return those chairs back to their original place and respect the need of others". And that mail should also explains the discomfort and its impact of it on the people such as yourself. They may be able to suggest other activities to promote the correct behaviour to the professionals who work in that office.

You show the example: Next time when you go to any conference and you happen to bring any chair from another persons desk then in that in front all participants, drag the chair back and put its original place. And also if possible in front of others you can ask permission while dragging the chair. Your colleagues will see this and hopefully begin to follow your example.

Promote right behaviour: If you are leading the team or managing a team request your team members politely adhere the practice of seeking the permission before taking and put it back to the original position. And also if you see any person is dragging a chair with out permission, politely request them to put it back to its original position.

  • 2
    if it happens when he's on a break, leaving clothing like a sweatshirt hanging on it can be an idea too. That way it looks like it's being used. Depending on the cleaning people and policies regarding how much personal stuff you can leave around, you can do this at night too.
    – Formagella
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 16:43

A few options not otherwise covered, but which I may be tempted to do:

  • Push your chair in as close to your desk as possible, this may not help but it does send a signal that the chair belongs with desk more than if you leave the chair sitting in the middle of the floor facing outwards.

  • Personalize your chair. It's possible to do this creatively and professionally, here are a few ideas that may not be either of those things:

    • Have kids? Put that #1 Dad poster they made at school on the back of it
    • Have an office nickname? Print yourself out a name badge or Hello My Name is sticker and slap it on the back of the chair.
    • Place an Out of Order sign
    • Add some creative brown stains to the seat
    • Print out a logo or design specific to what you work on or a tool you work with and slap it on there

If nothing else this will make your chair easier to find again, but I think people will be less likely to grab your chair once it's obviously yours.

  • Booby Traps, if all else fails you might as well have fun with it:
    • Bungee cord the chair to your desk, make the cord hard to see
    • Stack a large pile of papers that can topple over easily in your chair and position your chair so that it's hard to see the stack
    • Remove a wheel and place that part of the chair under your desk
    • Place double sided clear tape on the arm rests / any knobs used to adjust the chair
    • If your chair has the option - set to maximum recline when leaned on.
    • Secure the height adjustment lever so that it remains engaged

Those may or may not dissuade future borrowing, but at least it will make it so you'll WANT people to steal your chair. I'd check for tacks before you sit down in case someone retaliates.

  • 3
    Adding brown stains to the chair could be seen as damaging company property. Some of the Booby Traps are a Health & Safety risk which could hurt someone... Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 11:58
  • Yes, if the stains would be permanent don't do that one. Also, If your chair reclines at avalanche pace and drops like a airplane in choppy weather avoid those.
    – DKnight
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 13:21
  • 1
    Taking a wheel of as well will injure someone. Lawsuit waiting to happen depending on the country. Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 13:25
  • Your concern is that they might not notice before they sit in it? Are there chairs that wouldn't immediately be noticeably harder to move due to one leg dragging the ground?
    – DKnight
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 16:21
  • And, let's say your nichname is on the chair and you pull such a "booby traps" : I am not sure everybody will understand the intent. You might be recalled as the crazy guy who thinks he owns his chair and would do everything to keep it. I don't think it is good advice. Putting notes on the chair/desk for people to return it is more appropriate.
    – Puzzled
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 10:13

How you handle it may be a result on the reactions you get when you ask for your chair back. Does it seem like an honest mistake or are there objections to your right to have a chair along with your assigned desk? I'm guessing most people took it because it is convenient and didn't think you were using it at the time. It is a safe assumption, but constantly having to find a new chair is a pain.

Take someone else's chair. Post a sign. Ask for a company-wide email to be sent out (Don't do this on your own.). Move your desk. Whatever you do, make sure it fits in with the office policy and culture. If I had an office that entertained clients, all the stupid signs in the kitchen (You mothere doesn't work here.) and the one on the chair next to the conference room would be removed immediately.

  • 1
    Taking someone else's chair is not a solution for most people - if chairs are adjustable, then many people have adjusted their chair exactly the way they like it, and anybody else's chair just won't do.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 14:27

I made myself removable padded arm rests for my office chair using an orange-and-black Halloween themed Hello Kitty fabric. I needed the padding to avoid injuring my elbows from leaning on the arm rests, and the hideous fabric instantly identified "my" chair (if it did get moved) and made people think twice about it in the first place. Hello Kitty isn't necessarily an icon people in a technology office want to be associated with.

Didn't damage the chair, but basically made it "unusable" for anyone else.

One of those ergonomic lower back support cushions will fill a similar function.


I might get voted down for saying this and I know some people are quite sensitive about their chair, but as long as you have a chair to sit on does it really matter? I used to work with a guy who had a reputation for scouring the building for 'his chair', to the extent he would waste fifteen minutes or so hunting for it each time. In the end the engineering department engraved his name on the back of his chair as a joke. He was immensely proud of this and never understood that it was meant to be a joke about his behaviour. The end result being that he got his chair each day, however it made him look petty and slightly unprofessional in the eyes of his co-workers.

Don't make a fuss, hang your coat or jumper on it if you think this might discourage people but don't make a huge deal about a chair. If it's identical to the other 500 chairs in the office. Remember it's not 'your chair' it belongs to your company just like the rest of the office.

  • 4
    It most definitely matters. I'm used to my chair. Sitting in it for a long time. Any other chair is a real inconvenience.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 14:38
  • 1
    Any equipment that is purchased, maintained and available to do your work can certainly be allocated to the appropriate individuals or stations in order to maintain high productivity. It is the same as a hard-hat. If there are three sizes, and you have a small person, well, that person is doing to have to have the small size. If they don't and somebody keeps taking the small hats and putting them in storage. Well, Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 15:01
  • 2
    Strange how it 'matters' but the vast majority of people in any office sit on whatever without a fuss. I sit with my back to a small meeting room and if I'm away from my desk for a period I will find the height on my chair has been adjusted or possibly face the horror of finding out I don't have my original seat. It takes about 15 seconds to adjust the chair height again and get on with work. If the chair is your personal property or it was specifically assigned to you i.e. you need orthopedic chair that is a different matter.
    – Dustybin80
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 15:01
  • 2
    It also depends on the chair. The office chairs at my company are very ergonomic, with 7 or 8 things to adjust. The chairs are intended to be customised by each employee, and the process is complicated and takes about three minutes. Fortunately there are plenty of spare chairs, so people don't "borrow" chairs.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 0:47
  • +1 The only answer to address the reputational risk (looking petty).
    – A E
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 2:49

Instead of doing something basically ridiculous and 'putting brown stains on it' -

Why don't you just lock it to something? It would be nice if people would return stuff, but that is why offices all over the world have Locks on their cabinets, Locks on their office doors, Locks on the server room where sensitive equipment is installed. Locks Locks Locks. There is no reason to think that your situation is different. If this is a sensitive issue for you, make your desk a 'sensitive' area and LOCK IT UP.

And by all means, don't be a jerk about it. Respect the office, the policies, and the general environment/demeanor. Do something tasteful, simple, and safe. Use your discretion. Making this kind of judgement call is just part of life, and probably part of the reason you remain employed - is that they trust you to have some [judgement].

  • lol. Because shackling your chair to your desk is somehow less ridiculous than pouring some Coka Cola on the seat... Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 23:33
  • @user2989297 Have you provided a good answer to this question? Where is that exactly, if you could remind me - Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 4:14
  • My answer is to pour some Coka Cola on the chair, which has already been provided in this thread. Multiple times. So I didnt create a duplicate answer. Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 15:27

I have an extra chair next to my desk, i use for visitors. One of the managers took his extra chair to use in another office, so when he has someone come in, he always drags my extra chair over to his desk and never puts it back. I am tired of this. I soaked the chair today, and going to see if he does it again. I will say "oops I cleaned up a coffee spill, didn't it dry yet?"

  • 2
    So what happens if you have visitors to your desk? Do they have to stand?
    – Jane S
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 22:14
  • 3
    Sounds rude and pointless, as well as damage to company property. I predict that the tactic will become obvious quickly and get you into trouble.
    – Móż
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 2:06
  • Right, because making a chair unusable is a much better solution than just having a conversation and suggesting that maybe it's time to order a guest chair so the manager won't have to be inconvenienced by having to grab a chair from another desk every time he has a guest.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 21:53

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