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I have a desk next to an aisle, on a corner leading to a kitchen, toilets and a meeting room. For various reasons, this corner happens to be a place where people seem to have impromptu meetings, or carry on unfinished discussions after leaving the meeting room. If this was rare, it probably wouldn't bother me, but it happens several times on a daily basis and impedes my concentration when I'm trying to work.

I'm thinking of making a sign to put up to express that this is not a meeting area, but think it might give a negative and even hostile impression of me if it isn't done tactfully. Does anyone have any suggestions of how to word it, firmly but politely, possibly even with a little bit of humour?

  • I would simply ask them to move the discussion elsewhere. "Hey guys, I'm sorry to interrupt but would you mind moving your discussion elsewhere? I'm having trouble concentrating on my work right now." After a while people should get the message. If that doesn't help, ask your manager if you can be moved. – Cronax Apr 16 '15 at 15:42
  • I would definitely take this to your manager. You should not put up signs without permission. Ask for a new desk and if he/she says no then ask how to handle this. – paparazzo Apr 16 '15 at 17:00
  • Extreme flatulence as a force field and repels all those who loiter. – Old_Fossil Mar 27 at 5:00
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Don't use a sign. No matter how you word it it's going to give a negative impression of you and will come across as passive aggressive.

How senior are the people who meet there? Is it colleagues, your immediate managers colleagues or more senior staff? If it's senior staff then the best thing you can do is put up with it or ask your line manager if you can move desk. If it's staff members more or less on the same level as you then speak to your line manager about the practice and how it disrupts you. They may well suggest you move, or they may have a word with people and ask them not to stand there.

Alternatively you could ask if any of your colleagues minds switching desks with you. Unless you have assigned desks I doubt any manager will mind if you swap desks with someone.

  • Having reflected on it, I agree with you. There is probably no way to create a sign that doesn't give a negative impression. I'll politely ask people who linger too long move elsewhere, which will still probably cause some negative feeling, but better to appear active aggressive than passive-aggressive, I suppose. – Dave Apr 21 '15 at 11:55
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I've been the unintended concentration-breaker in that situation. In my experience it's not about "seniority privilege"; it's that people are really bad sometimes about noticing these things. You intend to say "hello" in passing, the other person asks about that bug you filed, you say something, and before you know it you're having a full-on design discussion just outside somebody's cube wall. That's no good.

You really have two goals: make this conversation stop, and help prevent the next one. The same remedy addresses both: politely point out the problem and ask them to move. It'll take several times (with different people) and some people will need repetition, but if your set of coworkers is reasonably stable, you can change the culture over time.

Don't use a sign. During a conversation, walk up to the group and say something like "I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you please move this conversation? I'm having trouble concentrating". After you do this several times you should start seeing the participants initiate the move ("hey, let's move this to a conference room so we don't bother Dave"). In the meantime, remain polite and professional but don't be afraid of speaking up.

This won't work if your workplace has a lot of turnover (so it's never the same people) or if you work with rude people who revel in this sort of thing, but for most of us it's the place to start, and it may be easier than moving desks.

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    I'm fully aware that people don't realise that they are being a nuisance, which to some extent, is why they will still get upset by a reasonable request to take their discussions elsewhere. I've resisted putting a sign up, that was a particularly bad day for this scenario happening, I've been working away for the last few days, but I will just keep aking people to not linger round my workspace. People will still be offended however polite I try to be, but so be it. – Dave Apr 21 '15 at 11:45
  • Actually, in my experience (as both loiterer and loiteree) is that the loiterers aren't offended by a polite request; they didn't realize and you're not accusing them of anything, after all. When I'm the one being too loud I'm usually a little embarrassed, but I'd much rather be told than continue to do it. – Monica Cellio Apr 21 '15 at 13:02
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I think the bigger question is why would management put someone there and expect them to be productive all day? At most workplaces I have been in we would normally put in a taller divider to limit the interaction between the heavy flow of people and someone sitting in a hub.

We have also used plants, shrubs, and other things too. More often then not, we put the new guy/girl there or we turn the desk into something like a "printer area".

What can you do? I would first ask to move if you think it is feasible. If not there isn't much you can do other than trying to get an extension put on your cube to block sight lines. Buying headphones works for some but not everyone wants to wear headphones all day. I worked with a woman in this situation years ago and she would act like she was on important calls until they left. I guess the biggest thing is to not engage in their conversation at all and look busy or in a hurry.

  • I think the bigger question is why would management put someone there and expect them to be productive all day? – Dave Apr 21 '15 at 12:01

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