I have my office set up so I am facing the door. There are several people who insist on walking around my desk, putting them in uncomfortable proximity, and allowing them to hover over me. Is there a way to set up my office to discourage these people from coming around my desk? I think there must be psychological tricks I can use to make the office space less inviting to them.

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    Is there a suspected reason why they do so? E.g. are you hiding behind the monitor, is there unobstructed line of sight or a place, where they can sit and maintain eye contact?
    – luk32
    Oct 30, 2018 at 21:23
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    Is it you alone in the office or are you in a big room with others? Are those people visiting you to discuss something or just standing around / talking amongst themselves? Oct 31, 2018 at 0:12
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    "There are several people who insist on walking around my desk," so that they can .....? see you? talk to you? see what you're doing? look out the window? When you know why, you'll know how to fix it
    – UKMonkey
    Oct 31, 2018 at 11:08
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    Could you add some more details about the current office layout, perhaps a roughly to scale overhead diagram of the door, walkways and main furnishing as things currently stand? This could suggest why people end up behind you presently.
    – TafT
    Oct 31, 2018 at 11:51
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    can't you just ask them not too? its an invasion of your personal space, just ask them to go to other side.
    – Jacobr365
    Nov 1, 2018 at 14:00

7 Answers 7


Probably the best approach is to make being somewhere else feel more natural and appealing - difficult to be specific without seeing the office but I would try:

  • Place a comfy-looking chair opposite your desk (angle the chair so as to be slightly diagonal to your desk to signal that it's "open").

  • If the people visiting you are needing to see your screen then make sure it's mounted on a monitor arm or something similar that will allow you to easily rotate it so that both you and the person in the chair can see it.

  • If you anticipate that the person is going to be in your office for more than a few seconds smile, gesture at the chair and invite them to "take a seat" - you're then putting them in the subconscious position of having to refuse your polite invitation if they want to not sit there, and in many cultures the majority of people will prefer not to start an interaction on a confrontational note (even a minor one)


You have to ask yourself, why are they going to the trouble to walk around the desk and stand behind you? This doesn't seem like normal behaviour. Especially if you've created a cramped and uncomfortable place, moving your desk close to the wall and put in obstacles to stop them coming close (bags, plants on the ground, furniture, coat stand, etc), and maybe followed other people's suggestions to put in a chair or create space for people to stand in front of the desk. But is there a particular reason for it? If it's only a few people, why do they do it and nobody else? If you consider this, then you could work out the specific reason and take counter-measures.

Maybe they don't want to stand by the door. That's understandable: they might be creating an obstruction, or in the way of somebody else coming in, or in a draft. Or maybe they are using your office as a place to hide?

Are they wanting to be somewhere nice, such as by a radiator/air-con, or a bowl of sweets, or to look at your desk toys/photos/novelties, or to look out your window?

Maybe being behind you is a comfortable position: they like to lean against a wall, or sit on the edge of something. In that case, you could put something up against the wall or attached to the wall, or move what they're sitting on, or provide a chair/space.

Maybe they are wanting to see your screen or check up on you. Consider moving it, or ponder why they feel the need to check up on you.

A less pleasant possibility is it's some form of sexual harassment, trying to lean in close, see down clothing, touch. (Or similarly, it could be bullying or intimidation by a boss who likes to tower over underlings and physically intimidate them.)

In some cases, rearranging your office will be sufficient, but that isn't necessarily the case (and if they're being sleazy and pressing up against you, narrowing the space will only make it worse). In other cases, you may have to deal with other workplace issues (trust, boundaries, etc). Finally, if you really think someone is being inappropriate or is making you feel seriously uncomfortable, it is legitimate to say something. You could make it light-hearted ("Why so friendly? What are you looking for?") or if it's more serious escalate it to a manager or HR.

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    If you were not taking the level down of the answer bringing sexual harassment into talk, I would upvote it. Oct 30, 2018 at 17:53
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    OP is possibly presenting an XY problem, but the solution is to comment (or vote to put on hold) asking for more detail rather than to speculate wildly. Oct 30, 2018 at 20:53
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    "This doesn't seem like normal behaviour." Can confirm it is for some. Oct 31, 2018 at 12:45
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    This is very normal in an open office setting. There usually aren't extra chairs kicking around. Also some people can't sit for long periods of time. I would say it is completely normal. Oct 31, 2018 at 13:15

What your visitors want, is access. They don't want to talk to you from the other side of a desk, they want to be on your side, both metaphorically and physically.
So allow for a way for them to come over to your side, without having to walk around to behind you.

Set up your office so you don't face the door, but rather have your side to the door. Have a chair for your visitor on that side, so the visitor can sit and you can swivel around in your chair to face them.

If you put your monitor on an arm, you can turn it to show your visitor something if needed.


Sit with your back against the wall, as close to it as possible.

Backpack on the floor on the open side will also give them less room.

  • 3
    Maybe a desk that goes "all around"? Where you have to physically lift up a hinged part to get out (like a concierge in a hotel). Even better - maybe a glass wall (bullet proof glass) ? Oct 31, 2018 at 10:24

Have you considered strategic placement of plants? Most people won't stand in the middle of a ficus spread. If you really want to make it difficult, get something with thorns or spikes. A barrel cactus on a stand behind where they tend to stand will dissuade most people. They can cause injury if you bump into them so if you are a little clumsy or forgetful you might want to go with something less dangerous.

A heavy pot might be a good choice if they aren't getting it and will attempt to move it out of the way.


Get a convex mirror and place it on your monitor. Works great on the psyche.


I had missed the hovering over part and had assumed the offenders were behind OP for which a convex mirror.

But I have a solution for the hovering over aspect as well. Have a wireless camera/wired camera that sticks on the top of your cube facing outside, towards the door and also capturing activity on your cube. The immediate response would be for people to shy away from cameras.

Both the convex mirror and the webcam ideas are at my work place and the convex mirrror personally deters me and I have people talk to me about the webcam as well (since he is a colleague of mine). So, I am certain it will deter most folks if not everyone.


or something like this that runs on battery


  • 4
    @JoeStrazzere I'm guessing the idea is that people will feel more self-conscious about "hovering over" the OP if they actually see themselves doing it. I don't know if that's true, but it's an interesting idea. Nov 1, 2018 at 1:26
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    works great -- is this merely your opinion or you can back it up somehow?
    – gnat
    Nov 1, 2018 at 6:12
  • @JoeStrazzere Have you ever noticed yourself in the rear view mirror while riding in the back of someone's car, and felt compelled to scoot over so that the driver isn't essentially staring you right in the face? I'm guessing not. Nov 1, 2018 at 15:59
  • @JoeStrazzere then your colleagues will need a more powerful deterrent to keep you from lurking behind their desks. But for Lori, this just might work. Nov 1, 2018 at 18:20
  • @DoctorDestructo : The car rear view mirror is an incorrect analogy. Car mirrors are set to capture the view of the rear window, not people sitting inside the car. Nov 5, 2018 at 22:09

Have you asked them why they do this? If you're working with a computer, they may just want to watch and comment upon what you're doing. If so, then turning the screen so both you and the guest can see it when the guest is where you want them to be may solve the problem.

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