is it unprofessional to put your feet up on your desk?

A reader writes:

I received feedback from my manager (from an anonymous source, according to her) that I should not be putting my feet up on my desk. I do this typically during long phone calls, because it is comfortable and relieves pressure from my back. I was told that it showed a lack of “executive presence.” Executives occasionally, but not often, do visit our floor. For context, I have an office with a window next to the door. What do others think – is this inappropriate?

My initial reaction is that it’s not appropriate, but it really depends on office culture. There are office cultures where this would be totally fine, and others where it would be wildly out of place.

In this case, though, your boss is telling you that you shouldn’t do it, and so you shouldn’t do it.

Or at least I think she’s telling you that. From your wording, it’s also possible that she’s passing along feedback that she herself doesn’t agree with. If there’s any haziness there, you could seek clarification. But absent some compelling evidence to the contrary, I’d err on the side of assuming that she’s telling you to stop.

Also: “Lack of executive presence” isn’t about whether executives see you doing it. It means that you’re not acting in a way where people would take you seriously and be able to envision you moving up. That can impact what kind of respect you and your ideas get around your office, what opportunities you’re given, how driven (or lazy) people think you are, and even whether you’re perceived as professional.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. Squirrel!

    If you are having back issues when you sit in your chair for long periods of time, maybe you need to get an ergonomic chair? Or some sort of chair attachment for back support? You could also get a couple of empty paper boxes or a small footstool to put under your desk to put your feet up on. That way you’d still get some benefit of elevating your legs, without it being so obvious.

    1. Idaho

      This was exactly what I was thinking. I don’t think putting your feet on tables, desks, etc is ever acceptable, especially in a professional setting. However I’m more comfortable with my feet propped up when I sit, so I keep a footstool under my desk. It’s not a difficult request or adjustment to make on the OP’s part.

    2. AnonyMouse

      Good suggestion! And I’m not a back expert, but it seems like a solution specifically designed to reduce back pain and pressure would also be more helpful/effective than just putting your feet on your desk. Win win!

    3. Melissa

      This…I really, really encourage it. I have hereditary back problems, specifically lumbar, and I thought that back pain after sitting in a chair all day was just inevitable. But I’m in a new job with a much better chair and holy crap! No back pain.

      The other thing I do is get up and stretch my calves and shoulders periodically (my calves are super tight and contribute to the back pain) and, if necessary, take a walk around the block.

    4. Artemesia

      I used to pull out the bottom drawer of my desk and use that as a foot rest. Feet up on desk definitely looks unprofessional almost everywhere — and if your boss is telling you you don’t look like executive material when you do it, I would sure take the hint.

  2. Mike C.

    I love the fact that your manager had to cite an anonymous source rather than just say “hey, this isn’t acceptable behavior”. Talk about avoiding responsibility!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The OP might have meant that an anonymous source reported that the OP had her feet on the desk — that the manager didn’t see it herself. I’m not positive from the wording.

      1. Mike C.

        That’s the way I took it, but by mentioning it you create kind of an bad impression – that you take the word of random people over your own personal judgement, that you aren’t able to make those calls yourself and that your coworkers are spending their day ratting each other out on grey area issues rather than discussing it like adults.

        If the boss had just said, “hey don’t do that”, that’s would be fine. It’s a minor point really but it just rubs me the wrong way.

        1. LBK

          Agreed. A manager should be a filter for feedback brought up by their employees – if something is dumb or the manager doesn’t think it’s a valid concern, they’re allowed to make a judgment call and not bring it to the attention of the employee being complained about. Not every piece of feedback has to be brought up if it’s not important.

          1. AnonyMouse

            I generally agree, but I do think it can be appropriate for a manager to pass on feedback they disagree with in certain situations. For instance, if the OP’s manager really didn’t mind feet on desks but one of the even-higher-ups thought it looked really unprofessional, I could see warning the OP so she didn’t come across badly to the people a level above her current boss (who could potentially be involved in decisions about promotions, terminations, etc). I could even see saying the feedback didn’t come from you, if you wanted to make it clear for whatever reason that you didn’t disapprove.

            But I definitely couldn’t see saying the comment came from “an anonymous source.” It would be more effective to say something like “Just so you know, this isn’t coming from me, but some of the higher-ups around here think it looks unprofessional when people have their feet up on their desks. I know you don’t mean anything by it, but you might want to stop sitting like that in the office.”

    2. some1

      Seriously. I really, really dislike when managers cite the anonymous complaint as the reason you need to change something. It’s abdicating responsibility and it’s too easy for employees to focus on who complained about them rather than fixing the issue. Just my 2 cents.

      1. Maxwell Edison

        This. Last review I came very close to asking who the mysterious “they” are. (I have my suspicions about a couple, but I think most are my boss.)

        1. class factotum

          When my boss told me that “some people didn’t like” the big words I used, he could not give me an example of a single big word or of any people. A friend at work said that “some people” were the boss and that our boss, bless his heart, was not the brightest bulb in the box.

      1. Judy

        I think the point is there is a difference between “You are putting your feet on the desk, please stop it.” and “Someone told me you put your feet on the desk and they don’t like it.”

        The boss should own the feedback.

          1. Ruffingit

            Totally agree with Mike here. If the boss thinks it’s worthy enough to pass on the complaint even if it’s from another source, then the boss should just own it and say please stop doing X.

  3. Kyrielle

    I’m wondering if the letter-writer might be able to put a short stool or tall box under their desk, and prop their feet on that during those calls instead? It would still bring their feet well up off the floor, and assuming a standard desk which doesn’t let you see under, would not be as visible from the hall. (The change in position would probably still be noticeable, but not the actual feet.)

    1. Mister Pickle

      Or an ottoman; it might even look nice.

      I gather that the door/window combo means you can’t just close the door and do in in camera? Can you get blinds or something to obscure the view from outside?

      I like to put my feet up, too – but it sounds like the days of public feet-on-the-desk are over for you, my friend :( The whole ‘anonymous’ / ‘executive presence’ thing sounds to me like the boss is trying to be ‘nice’, but it’s also some kind of test to see whether or not you can take a hint. Many many years ago I worked in my company’s Federal Systems unit, and I received many such ‘hints’ about getting a hair-cut, not wearing jeans, etc. I chose to ignore them, and it didn’t help my career.

  4. Geegee

    My boss does this everytime she has to make a phone call. It annoys me and I don’t get it but she’s the boss. To me, it’s one of those things that’s fine if the boss does it but really weird if a coworker does it. The boss gets a pass. I don’t.

    1. Jennifer

      Yep, pretty much. Bosses can do whatever they want, but you are a peon and must be “professional.”

  5. Kelly O

    I think if your boss says “keep your feet off your desk” then you keep your feet off your desk. And seriously, what is it with people doing this? I mean, we don’t put our feet on the furniture at home, why on earth would you do it at work?

    If you’re worried about relieving pressure on your back, they make foot rests that can go under your desk. I’ve seen people use boxes or other things for the same purpose. Gets your feet up without hiking them all the way on your desk.

    As a matter of personal opinion, I tend to find it a bit off-putting to see someone with their feet on the desk. I won’t say it has to do with “executive presence” but it does come across a bit self-important. Again, that’s just my perception. Your mileage may vary.

    1. Bea W

      I do put my feet on the furniture at home (okay not on the dining room table and not with shoes), but I don’t do it at work. It just seems wrong.

      1. EngineerGirl

        It’s your furniture, so you can do what you want with it. But seriously, we train 5 year olds not to put their feet on the furniture so this concept shouldn’t be surprising to someone.
        I personally take feet on someone else’s furniture as a lack of manners which could definitely degrade “executive presence”

        1. Allison

          To be fair, if the OP is putting their feet on their own desk, the desk might technically belong to someone else, but they’re the only one using it – and, possibly, the only one cleaning it. So I don’t see that as being an issue here.

    2. Judy

      I heard of a HR person who would put his feet up on his desk during exit interviews. It was certainly seen as disrespectful. “So, tell me why you’re leaving.” I would be very careful not to do it when other people are in the room. I’d also like to say that I usually pace during part of long phone calls, just to relieve stress overall.

      1. EngineerGirl

        There’s another side of it. In some cultures showing the bottoms of the feet to another is a high insult – “you are the dirt beneath my feet”. On an exit interview? No need to tell me what the HR person is thinking.

        1. Juli G.

          I actually think this is a VERY misguided attempt to make the exiter feel comfortable and encourage casual and candid conversation.

          1. Judy

            Based on my interaction with that HR person, I would very much doubt that he was trying to make anyone feel comfortable.

      2. Magda

        Wow. That’s breathtakingly rude (said as someone with no particularly strong feelings about putting feet up generally).

    3. SJP

      From my personal opinion this hits the nail on the head totally!

      The company I work for is really laid back and like 2 people out of 30 or so do it. Although they’re in completely different departments, they’re consultants. I am the PA to the consultancy team and If started doing it, it would come across as really unprofessional due to my position. It would look like I was bored/didn’t have enough work to do etc, when i’m actually really really busy, and personally I see it as pretty gross and unprofessional so would never dream of doing it, but thats just my opinion.

      Also I say in a Health and Safety point of view if you’re getting back pain, do as other coimmenters have suggested and get a foot stool, or some sort of aid to raise your legs up, or adjust your chair and most probably your posture to stop the back pain. So many people complain of back ache and actually have terrible posture or habits at work which make them ache

    4. LBK

      I won’t say it has to do with “executive presence” but it does come across a bit self-important.

      Nailed it. “Self-important” is exactly the term I would associate with this image.

    5. Ezri

      I put my feet on my furniture at home. :) I like sitting with my feet up on something while I game. It is situational / culture-related, at any rate. My parents’ employees can put their feet on their desks at their small business, but at my office it’s a no-no.

  6. Bea W

    I’m not a fan of feet on the desk, just due to the ick factor of all the gross things people put on the ground. (I take public transit and walk) OP could maybe keep a foot rest in his office or an extra chair and maybe that would be okay.

  7. Kelly L.

    My first instinct is to say that it shows more “executive presence” rather than less–in the sense that I’ve really only seen people in power do it. So my guess is that someone thinks it either looks lazy or “too big for your britches.” Can you get a footstool and would it help at all with the back issues?

    1. Cat

      Yeah, I thought this was a classic power thing. And, I suspect, the exec bitching about it is also on a classic power trip about it. Whatever; people will play games.

    2. JB

      I agree, kind of. It’s something that only people in power usually do because it’s tacky and unprofessional, and usually you can’t get away with being that unprofessional unless you’re an executive. So for someone to do this in an office where it’s not common for everyone to do it signals that either you think you don’t have to act professional or you don’t realize it is unprofessional.

    3. Clever Name

      This is exactly what I was thinking. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about feet on desks (nobody in my current company does it), but if the boss said something about it, it’s best to stop.

  8. Allison

    I used to have a job in college that involved sitting at a desk in the lobby of a residence hall all night, swiping access cards and signing in guests. At one point the supervisors had to crack down on people putting their feet on the desks. I understood the urge to do this, I mean if you were gonna sit there all night without much to do it’s pretty tempting, but I also understood that a) you could fall asleep if you were too comfy and b) it looked lazy. You could actually get written up for it, and it wasn’t a job I wanted to lose, so I made sure to comply.

    I do have to agree that putting your feet on the desk looks lazy, and you look bored, and you don’t look engaged in what you’re doing. If your boss tells you not to, just don’t do it.

  9. ZSD

    I got similar feedback telling me not to sit on my feet late in the day. (I tend to tuck one leg up under myself when sitting.) My boss specifically said that she thought it was a stupid criticism, but since someone had told her that I looked unprofessional, she felt she had to pass it along.
    Personally, though, I think putting feet up on the desk is much worse. To me, that looks arrogant, like something an executive in a movie would do more than something I’ve ever seen from a real person.

    1. SJP

      Also the leg sitting on thing, really bad for circulation and makes you sit incredibly wonky, so tends to lead to back pain.
      Lame Health and SAfety but if it stops a back injury, then i’m all for it. I can feel more comfy then sitting feet on the floor but actually more likely to cause a muscle injury/trapped nerve etc

      1. fposte

        Actually, I’ve had to do exactly that position as an accommodation for physical problems–feet on the floor cripples me. Bodies are weird.

        (Ultimately, what’s really good for you is not to fix in any one position anyway.)

    2. Arjay

      Fascinating. I sit on my foot all the time. I think it only looks unprofessional when I then try to get up and walk and have to limp the first 10 feet before my circulation gets going again. :)

      1. TL -

        I sit like that and faceplanted one time because I didn’t realize my entire leg was asleep until I took the second step. Luckily, it was at home – unluckily, there were 3 witnesses.

        1. Vee

          This happened to me during a college final when I stood up to hand in my paper. I wiped out across three other desks and the professor accused me of trying to cheat. :(

    3. tt

      I tuck one leg under me too. That doesn’t seem nearly as conspicuous or problematic to me as putting feet on a desk.

    4. Allison

      I do that too! Good to know I’m not the only one. I do sometimes worry that people will notice and it’ll look bad, but no one’s ever said anything. Probably not a great habit though.

      1. yasmara

        I am sitting on my chair with one foot tucked underneath me *right now*! I work at home, though, so no one cares about my posture, except the nerves I’m crushing (it’s a terrible habit & I try to shift into a better position as soon as I notice it, but it must be ingrained).

          1. chewbecca

            I know I developed the habit from being short. I’m 5 foot and my feet rarely completely touch the ground in regular chairs. Having nothing to support your feet gets really uncomfortable after a while.

            Currently, I’m sitting criss cross applesauce (I get why they wanted to come up with a more PC name, but they couldn’t have decided on something shorter?), and usually do that or sit on one foot or the other. I keep a blanket with me that I cover my lap with so it’s not as obvious I’m not sitting properly.

            1. Loose Seal

              I’ve always heard “cross-legged” where you pronounce legged with two syllables (although that pronunciation just might be regional). Or you could borrow from yoga and say “lotus-style.”

                1. JayDee

                  It’s a daycare/early elementary school thing. It rhymes, it’s sing-songy – perfect for convincing a herd of semi-feral 3 year olds to all sit in a circle and pay attention and keep their bodies to themselves. I can sing you some other “group time” and “snack time” related songs that have a similar purpose. Judging from my child, this is some seriously effective stuff.

              1. chewbecca

                I had a duh moment, because almost immediately after hitting submit I thought of cross-legged.

                JB, I think criss cross applesauce is more common in early elementary school settings. At least, I’ve heard it mostly from moms who have young kids.

            2. Allison

              I sit like that a lot too, especially on the couch at home. and when I’m at the table (at home) I often have one leg on the chair right in front of me. it’s a bit immodest when I’m in a dress, skirt, or nightgown so I try not to do it when others are around, but it’s hard! I hate having my feet just dangle in front of me.

              1. another IT manager

                That is at least 30% of why I stopped wearing skirts: regular accidental flashing. Dropped them when I hit puberty, and now I don’t have the skirt-wearing skill to pick them up again!

          2. fposte

            Yes, I think that’s why a lot of people do it–most chair seat heights are very hard on the back for short people.

            1. Anx

              I think I do it because I run a little cold and a little anxious. I think I need the warmth of security of bunching up. I’m 5’5″ and have a very difficult time sitting with my feet on the floor (as noted I may also be ADHD and I understand ADHD and autism may affect sensation)

          3. Ezri

            I am five six and I sit like this as well. My husband says I’m incapable of being comfortable unless I’m cutting off circulation to something.

          4. Nashira

            I actually developed the habit of sitting cross-legged (aka tailor seat for another name) in chairs because I’m pretty tall – 5’10”. Too many trips where I got smooshed in the back seat of a tiny car.

            It also enables me to support myself better when my autoimmune disorder is flaring up. I’m actually sitting that way now, since my abs refuse to work right.

        1. TheTemp

          I’m a foot tucker too, and a criss-crosser. Sitting criss-crossed right now! I’ve struggled with it for years, and I just cannot get comfortable with both legs down. I’ve never had a leg or foot fall asleep and I don’t have back issues. I do tend to do it when I’m cold, which is always because everywhere I’ve ever worked insists on keeping the temp at meat freezer.

    5. Meg Murry

      That’s a tip pointed out in Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office – its recommended not to sit with one foot tucked under because it can look very “little kid” as opposed to “mature, professional adult”.

      While I don’t think it is necessary to follow every single rule in NGDGTCO (the book even points out they are suggestions, not rules), if you are having trouble being perceived as young or immature this may be a mannerism that isn’t helping that image.

      1. Cat

        Kids do it for the same reason as short people – chairs are not built for people with legs our length. I do make a point not to tuck my foot up under me when I’m in formal settings and at the end of the day it is basically agony.

        1. Anx

          And of course women on average have more of a difficult time fitting into work and office furniture (and even home furnishings), but the adaptation to this is perceived as juvenile instead of innovative.

          My femurs aren’t long enough for me to sit with my back against many chairs and still be able to bend my knee over the edge.

    6. Twig

      I do this all the time! How did they notice? My legs are usually covered by my keyboard tray, though.

    7. Melissa

      I tuck one or both of my legs up underneath me at work for short periods of time. It makes me feel more comfortable and I actually sit up straighter. But I have to remember to unfold them otherwise I fall over when I try to stand up, lol. But I don’t interface with public and no one ever comes through my office other than the four other postdocs I share the suite with.

  10. HR Manager

    My manager does this, and I admit to finding it really odd at first, but now that I know his very laid back style and personality, I know it’s not intended as disrespect. I never took it as disrespect in the first place, but I’ve gotten used to it. To me, it’s almost such a bad cliche of the ‘powerful executive’ that it doesn’t even enter my mind as something real people do in the office.

    1. LBK

      I think it might be more appropriate/less weird for an executive to do it, because I agree that there’s a certain cliché about it. If the OP is low enough on the totem pole for a manager to be criticizing their sitting position, I doubt she’s at the level where it might be acceptable.

    2. Ms Enthusiasm

      I agree that I didn’t think people actually did it. Personally, I think it would look very unprofessional. Just like I would never lay my head down on my desk. I recently had to tell someone I lead to pick their head up off their desk because it looked like they were sleeping. I would be so embarrassed if an executive walked by and saw it.

  11. LBK

    Ugh, please don’t do this. I have a coworker that does the exact same thing – puts his feet up during long conference calls – and it drives me nuts. It looks way, way too casual for most office environments and gives off an air that you’re not taking your work seriously. I throw my feet up when I’m kicking back at home relaxing with a beer and watching TV. That’s not a position that should be associated with doing work.

      1. LBK

        I mean, I don’t go around licking my desk and I definitely don’t lick other people’s, so if they want to put their feet up I don’t have a hygiene problem. But the image is just wrong. It’s the same as throwing on a hoodie in an office that has business dress or taking your shoes off where people can see them. It’s just not appropriate for a working environment.

        1. Cat

          Hah, my rule is that after 6pm, the shoes come off. If I’m there through dinner, I will be doing it barefoot.

          1. LBK

            I had one coworker who took his shoes off when he was at his desk, but put them back on if he was going to walk around. I thought it was kind of a funny quirk but it didn’t bother me as long as they were under his desk where I couldn’t see them – I only even knew about it because he told me.

              1. Melissa

                1. I love her!

                2. “I don’t know how many times I’ve kicked off my shoes. Including the time some reporter said something like, it took me a long time to get up from the bench. They worried, was I frail? To be truthful I had kicked off my shoes, and I couldn’t find my right shoe; it traveled way underneath.”

                I have definitely done this before. “Wait…I’ll be right there…” *hunts for shoe*

            1. Magda

              I used to do that! Back when I had a pretty closed-off cubicle and did work that involved long hours of reading/focus. At my current job, I sit in a much more open area and don’t feel nearly as comfortable doing that.

            2. Melissa

              I do that, too. In fact, April through October I am typically wearing flats so I can slip my shoes off underneath my desk. I always put them back on before I shuffle around, though.

            3. Pennalynn Lott

              I had a coworker who would take off his shoes *then* put his feet up on his desk. Nasty, sweaty feet. Yuck.

          2. V. Meadowsweet

            I once spent 6+ months walking around in sock feet in the office because if I was wearing shoes I got a shock from everything I touched. No idea why, and changing shoes didn’t help, so socks it was!

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.

              Oooh, yeah, my last office was shock city, so people had all kinds of coping mechanisms!

          3. Hlyssande

            I almost always slip shoes off at my desk (helps when I get momentarily overheated) and I always ALWAYS put them back on if I’m not wearing socks, but I have been known to take short trips (two cubes down to my supervisor, or across the room to the coffee machine) in sock feet. Never to the bathroom or anywhere farther, though.

        2. Samantha

          Ick. It’s one thing to kick off your shoes under your desk, but it’s another to walk around the entire building barefoot :/

          1. some1

            Weirdly, the workplace where barefoot coworkers was most common had hardwood floors and a casual dress code where any shoes were acceptable: sneakers, flip flops, crocs, hiking shoes or any kind of boots, so it’s not like anyone had the excuse of their dress shoes hurting their feet.

  12. tt

    Ditto on Alison’s comments about office culture. Some people may see it like it’s a too casual posture/behavior for the work place. Maybe there’s some other way to alleviate your back discomfort? I’d be more worried if you were putting up your feet on someone else’s desk, which I find completely inconsiderate.

  13. The IT Manager

    I think “lack of executive presence” actually means unprofessional. ie LW looks unprofessional when she does it. I agree.

    I do put my feet up at home almost all the time when I am releaxing – seriously I have an Ottomon next to the living room chair and the reading chair in my bed room has one too. So I understand the impulse, but it definately 100% looks unprofessional.

    It also can be a power pose in that it looks so unprofessional that only someone with a lot of power and clout in the office can do it without being told to stop. You, however, just got told to stop so stop it.

  14. hayling

    I have a little footrest thing that I got at an office supply store that makes sitting in a chair for long periods much more comfortable.

  15. Nanc

    I’d say if your back bothers you during long phone calls, stand up! I have knee issues and sitting for too long makes it worse. I always stand during phone calls and mostly stand while on the computer–I have quite the collection of boxes for getting everything the right height but maybe your company would get you a kangaroo computer desk.

  16. just passing through. . .

    This is a classic example of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’

  17. Rat Racer

    I really hate the term “Executive Presence” because in my former company, it was used as a catch-all reason for not promoting people. As in “Jane is a great consultant, does fabulous work, but she lacks a je ne sais quoi… Executive Presence.” What are you supposed to do with that feedback? (Assuming, of course, it is not accompanied by examples of behaviors, like putting feet on desk, biting nails in meetings, skateboarding through the hallways, or anything tangible that one could actually correct.)

    1. Cat

      I think the real answer is probably usually that you should travel back in time and be born male into an upper class white family, just saying.

    2. Kelly L.

      At one of my jobs, I’m pretty sure “lack of managerial presence” meant “female vocal timbre.” Amusingly, I was reprimanded at the next job for my voice not being “nice” enough, though I think I ranted about that in a different thread.

      1. Anon246

        I would love for Alison to do an open thread on executive presence – what does it look like specifically, especially for women? Body language, etiquette, appearance, etc.

    3. Mike C.

      Yeah, that’s pretty much the Silicon Valley “not a good culture fit” excuse. Then they wonder why they’re 2% women…

  18. Shell

    Two of my three bosses put their feet on their desk, but they’re the owners and it’s a small firm. In a bigger one, I absolutely agree that feet-on-desk isn’t a good image you want to project to others for all the reasons listed above (it looks lazy, it looks arrogant, etc.)

    Standing up and walking in place during those phone calls will probably look better than feet-on-desk, and probably help out your back too. (On preview, foot rests will probably also help if your chair isn’t at an ergonomic height.)

  19. Karowen

    I feel compelled to share that I put my feet up on the side of my manger’s desk during our small group meetings. (Not on the desktop, but on the wall of the desk for lack of a better word.) It’s not professional but our group is casual and it’s more comfortable for me. At my own desk, though, since I don’t have desk “walls,” I have a footstool I can rest my feet on if I feel like I need to put them up.

    All of this said, I have asked my boss multiple times if it bothers him and he doesn’t care. If he cared in the slightest I wouldn’t do it.

    1. Kelly L.

      I have a habit of resting the top of my foot against the side of my desk–like against the second drawer-ish. If I’ve got my legs crossed, doing that seems to just come naturally.

      1. Karowen

        I’ll do that too, sometimes, but more frequently the soles of my shoes are flat against his desk.

    2. Loose Seal

      I have pulled out the lowest drawer of my desk and propped my feet on it. My desk was situated so passers-by couldn’t really tell and I’d have time to get my feet down if someone came in.

  20. Juli G.

    Yeah, this is not a good idea. It’s just too unprofessional. And I would love to put my feet on the desk because at 8 months pregnant, the footstool is no longer cutting it – honestly, I could probably get away with it right now but a few hours of stiffness is worth maintaining my professionalism.

  21. Sarah

    I put my feet on my desk during long calls, but I’m in a completely hidden cube on a mostly empty floor. If I hear someone come in the door, down come the feet so no one is the wiser. My boss and I both tend to sprawl/lean far back in our chairs when we’re meeting but it’s a very casual office (construction industry). I would definitely call this unprofessional in most environments.

    1. JB

      I also put my feet on my desk sometimes due to circulation issues, but I shut my door first. If someone knocks, I take my feet down. And I put them on my rubbery desk mat thing (what is that?) so that I can clean it after. I would never ever do this where anyone could see me.

  22. Gene

    Much of my job requires reading long, boring laws and ordinances to evaluate how they will affect what we do. I regularly lean my chair back and put my feet up on my desk when in one of these session. My boss has no problem with it and recognizes that I’m concentrating and tends to leave me alone then. The desk I’ve been at for 23 years now has a wear mark where my ankle sits on the edge.

    It’s an office culture thing. Evidently not an accepted thing in the OP’s office.

  23. TotesMaGoats

    In my first job, one of my coworkers had her husband make me a wooden footstool. We are both very short (under 5 feet). He’d made her one and I got one that year as a Christmas present. I’ve carried around with me ever since.

    I also rarely sit properly in my chair. You can find me crossed legged, sitting on one leg, and even sometimes with my feet propped on my desk for long conference calls. Mostly you’ll find me with out shoes on. Maybe that comes from growing up in the deep south and spending most of my childhood without shoes on while running around outside.

    1. HR Manager

      I’m a shortie here too, and office furniture never quite fits right. When I can, I have them order me a foot rest to help with posture, but even regular office chairs usually don’t have the right depth for proper posture.

      I used to sit cross-legged or Indian style because it was more comfy, until my chiropractor told me how bad my back and alignment were. She said that’s what happens with not sitting properly, so I now have to remember to sit up straight. :(

  24. soitgoes

    I had a manager who, when he would step in to help on phone calls, would sit at employees’ desks and put his feet up. We ate our lunches at our desks, and we knew he had a lot of pets at home. It struck me as a horrible thing to do, especially since he would see us disinfecting our spaces when he was done with the calls.

    1. Kyrielle

      Oh, ugh. I don’t care one way or the other about someone’s own desk – maybe it looks unprofessional but if they want their feet on it fine – but someone else’s?

      This is why the two guys who put their feet up on the tables in our computer lab during meetings bug me. The rest of us use those tables too….

      1. soitgoes

        Exactly. I feel the same way when my pens are borrowed by coworkers who don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom. (I throw those pens out, wash my hands, then pick a new pen out of the supply closet.) Obviously a few germs won’t kill me, and a lot of workplace hygiene stuff is debatable, but these things seem obvious. Wash your hands after using the restroom. Don’t put your cat hair-covered shoes where people eat.

  25. ACA

    Honestly, I’m just baffled by having enough empty space on the desk to actually be able to put your feet up. I couldn’t do that at my desk without knocking over two or three stacks of paperwork!

  26. PghVP

    This is all so interesting. I am the original reader who asked the question. I have stopped this behavior, although I find myself doing it occasionally and have to catch myself. I am very short, and I do already have a footrest, but during phone calls I would traditionally turn away from my computer screen, towards the window (partly to focus on the call vs. my screen), and put my feet up on the part of my desk near the window, usually without shoes but it doesn’t matter since that’s the part of my desk that I don’t use for anything else. I have taken your advice and retrieved a large sturdy box from recycling to use as a footrest. Thanks for all of your opinions!

    1. JayDee

      Are you me? That’s exactly what I do too. I don’t want a box. Thankfully no one in my office has complained about me putting my feet up on my desk (actually my filing cabinet behind my desk). But this whole thread has me feeling very self-conscious.

    2. Caroline

      I find this interesting, too, and think it definitely depends on your workplace culture. I actually work for a government, but my department in particular is very close/comfortable with each other, and very casual. We take our work seriously and are slightly more buttoned up in meetings, but in general the office culture is pretty easy-going, and I put my feet up on my desk often. Particularly if it’s been a long day and we’re taking a break to chat, or if we’re brainstorming about how to solve a problem, or any number of things. I definitely wouldn’t put my feet up if it was a serious situation, or if I was new to the organization, but in a general day-to-day when things are casual and it’s aligned with the company culture, I don’t see a problem with it like everyone else seems to.

  27. Ruthan

    I don’t suppose there’s a secluded conference room where you could take calls (and put your feet up as much as you like)?

  28. Jake

    I put my feet up on my desk at the end of a long hard day once in a while, but it is always when I’m the last one in the office, and it probably happens a couple times a month. It is pretty lame that a relaxation technique like this is viewed as lazy or disrespectful.

  29. illini02

    Add this to the list of things that I really don’t understand why it would bother anyone. If your boss says don’t do it, because of appearances, thats fine. But why would it bother a co-worker? It’s kind of like the post yesterday of the woman who was surfing the net and being on her phone. If the work is getting done, why does it matter? If you were putting your feet on the lunch table, sure I get why that would be gross and unsanitary to people. But I mean, what I do at my desk (which no one else uses), shouldn’t be of concern to others. Unlike sounds like tapping or humming, or smells, this really doesn’t affect anyone else. If you don’t like how it looks, look away. People need to stop paying so much attention to others and focus on themselves.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Depends on who the coworker is. If it’s the OP’s manager’s own boss, for instance, it’s totally reasonable for her to say something about it to the OP’s manager.

      1. illini02

        Thats fine. I guess I just wasn’t considering the term “co-worker” applying to one of the higher ups. Its like you said, if an edict comes from higher up about what is acceptable in that office culture, I get it. I just don’t see why one of your peers should be bothered enough by it to go to the manager

  30. Nashira

    Oh man. I have sometimes put my feet up to signal that I was on lunch/a break, on days when my diabilities meant I was too tired/pained to go sit elsewhere. But I think I’m going to never ever do it again. Other coworkers do it for the same reason, but I think it would be better to just snag another empty paper box and use that when I really need to get my legs up. The last thing I need is to give more fuel to the wannabe bullies in my office…

  31. Janis

    Ooooh, how Don Draper-y! I agree that it seems much more like something an executive would do than someone in a cube farm. Honestly, some of the cubes we have are so tight that the person would be out in the walkway if they put their feet up.

    I am a foot-putter-upper. Only occasionally, and usually in the late afternoon, if I’m on the phone or if I’m thinking something over. I also sometimes lace my fingers and put them behind my head to assist in the mulling process.

  32. Snork Maiden

    This is one situation eliminated by having a standing desk at work. Unless you work with yoga types or dancers, that is.

  33. Hooptie

    I cringe when I see pictures of a POTUS with their feet on their desk. This isn’t party specific either (google if you don’t believe me).

    To me, it is disrespectful and arrogant. Photo op or not, the PEOPLE bought that desk, darn it! Use a footstool!

  34. shirley

    I worked in a very casual office but I think it’s pretty rude to put your feet up on the desk. I’ll never forget one time when my dear friend and coworker died suddenly, and we hadn’t cleaned out his desk or moved any of his things yet because it was just too painful and soon. The CEO of the company came and sat at my late coworker’s desk to make a cell phone call (because it was obviously empty) and proceeded to put his feet up on the desk/all over the coworker’s papers and personal things that were still sitting there.

    We all just stared at him. It just felt so disrespectful.

  35. JustMe

    I had a manager whom during a 1.1 took off her shoe and put her bare foot on the desk. She then turned to me and said something about her feet. I can’t remember the exchange exactly. I remember replying she may need to get it looked at. I was truly disgusted, and couldn’t find it within me to give her an ounce of respect after that. I don’t care how high up on the totem pole you are, (you can fall) I don’t want to see your nasty bare feet on the desk at work – even if it’s your desk. She was one of the worst managers I ever had too, so that didn’t help any.

      1. Hooptie

        Gross gross gross.

        I have a big problem with feet in general. I don’t even like looking at my own. In an organization that is very casual (bare feet are encouraged) I’ve learned to ignore the thwack thwack thwack of flip flops and look away from bare feet.

        I was in a meeting in our board room with a bunch of executives, and a former Marketing Director hiked his leg upon the other knee, took off his sandals, and started digging the crud out from between his toes. He wiped it on his pants. At the break, he was the first one in line for the food. I did not eat that day. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I ate much of anything for the next few days. That particular director didn’t last very long after that. His overall lack of emotional intelligence, common courtesy, and disregard of societal norms got the best of him. He was only hired because at that time in our company people got moved up whether or not they were actually a great fit. Thank goodness we learned (the hard way) not to do this now for the most part!

  36. JaneJ

    Question for Alison. You said she might be “passing along feedback that she herself doesn’t agree with.” I had a boss do this once, or at least it seemed like she was because she gave me vague feedback she said she was receiving from others (not higher-ups, people one level below me and not my reports). When I pressed for examples or asked if there was anything specific she wanted me to handle differently, she said “no, I’m just making you aware of what people are saying.” I left that meeting confused.

    Do you think it’s ever constructive for a boss to do this? I feel like if you don’t agree with the feedback (and it’s not coming from your superiors) why pass it on?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Rarely. I suppose there are some very limited circumstances where it might make sense — like if the fact that people had those concerns was going to make your job more difficult, so you’d benefit by knowing about it.

    2. Boo

      Yeah, my last boss did something similar. She gave me a”feedback” that a coworker X said I was sometimes difficult. I asked for examples. She didn’t have any. To be honest I thought that was a totally ridiculous, counterproductive conversation and left it with even less respect for my manager and animosity towards my coworker. God, I hated that job and the terrible toxic people in it.

  37. Audiophile

    This came up at my job just the other day. The consensus seemed to be that it was unprofessional and disrespectful. I’ve never done it, since I was always told you treat others property like or better than your own.

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