my boss treats my chair like an in-box

A reader writes:

I’ve been working at my current job for a total of about 3 years now, and my boss recently announced that he is retiring. It’s a small shop and the new boss has been slowly taking over, while the old boss has stayed on to train him. We’ll trying to adjust and I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, but there’s just one thing that drives me up the wall.

Whenever the any of the three front office staff is away from our desk and he wants to give us something, instead of putting it in our in-boxes or on our desks, he puts it in our chairs. And usually the stuff he puts in our chair isn’t priority, it’s just normal work stuff. It also doesn’t matter why we’re away from our desks; I’ve come into work to find stuff in my chair and I’ve come back from the bathroom to find things in my chair. Other than that, he seems to have no trouble hitting my inbox.

My coworker, who has worked here for much longer than me, asked him to stop doing that to her, to which he responded that he wants to make sure she sees it. She told him she’d see it in her in basket, asked him to stop again, and left the room. So far, he hasn’t done it again to her, but I don’t know how long that will last. How should I ask him to stop doing it to me? And am I wrong in being annoyed by this?

Um, yes?

He puts stuff on your chair. Who cares? You see it, you pick it up, you put it where you want it.

In the realm of Problems With Bosses, this one doesn’t really register. I can’t figure out why you and your coworker are so annoyed by it.

Does he give you clear goals and expectations? Does he recognize good work, and give you feedback about ways you can do better? Do you have the resources to do your job? Does he address problems and resolve them? That’s the stuff to focus on.

{ 279 comments… read them below }

    1. camelCase*

      Yeah, we do this all the time. Also, stickies on the monitor. OP, please focus on the big stuff. This is not big stuff. It’s just a change in your office that comes with a new manager.

      1. Chinook*

        There was one boss who would dump her work on her AA’s keyboard when the AA was away from her desk. This made it impossible for the AA to even login in the morning without first dealing with that boss’ work (which I think was the point). The point is that some people are just not aware that they are not special or that you are capable of keeping organized and getting their work done and you have to suck it up.

        On the plus side, your coworker has handled it correctly and is “managing up” by consistently letting the boss know the best way to do something.

        I did this with the “dumping boss” by reiterating, whenever I was there when she would dump something on my desk, that items that are urgent need to go in my inbox with a sticky note saying who it is for and a “need by” time (I was doing work for an entire department and some of them were brand new acccountants) and anything not marked as such would go to the bottom of the pile. Considering my boss liked this system and didn’t like “the dumper,” he happily backed me up. When she complained that she was still waiting for work that needed to be done urgently, my boss asked if she had put her name and a deadline on the documetns and put them in my inbox. When she said no, then he pointed out that I would get to it when I had the time.

        Did I mention that I loved my boss?

        1. Bluefish*

          So do people only have to remember your organizational system? Or do they have to do this with everyone they leave documents for? I have to leave things for many people many times a day. It would be a little absurd if I was expected to remember and follow each person’s personal preferences for work flow. By leaving it in a neutral zone (the chair) I am not micromanaging how they should do their work and I’m letting them proceed how they see fit. Lots of people seem to think the only correct way to do things is via inbox. That seems very black and white to me.

          1. Chinook*

            “So do people only have to remember your organizational system? Or do they have to do this with everyone they leave documents for?”

            In my case, I was the only one they ever left work for, so they only had to remember my system (which was easy because I left the sticky note and pen next to the inbox with a sign asking them to do it). Before I did this, I would get 4 sets of financial statements at once and not know who they were for or when they were needed by, which often meant I wasn’t working on the most timely item.

        2. Cat*

          She’s not forcing the AA to deal with her work before she logs on. She’s forcing her to move a pile of papers to another place. That is not a big deal.

      2. Bea W*

        Same in every office I have worked in. “I put it on your chair”, “Put it on her chair.”, and even “Just put it on my chair.” are common phrases in the cubical world. It is the easiest way to leave something in a way that it won’t get lost on the desk or missed. I’m also guilty of leaving stickies on the monitor, and have received them myself. Personally, I like it because the item stands out, and I don’t miss it. I tell people who want to leave me something to put it on my chair.

        I came back from vacation once to a huge stack of FedEx packages on my chair that went above the chair back. Annoyed? Hardly. I LOLed at the ridiculous height of the carefully arranged stack and quickly sorted through them to see what I could put aside for later and what I had to put on my desk to open right away.

        OP – Don’t sweat the small stuff. This is very normal and unoffensive office behavior. If you really hate having things left on your chair, you can do what your coworker did, ask him politely to stop putting things on your chair and use your inbox, and then remind him if he forgets. He’s probably just used to using to doing it in other offices and not purposely trying to be a pest.

        1. Vicki*


          In fact, at LastJob, I sent email to our Facilities folks asking why we even had “inboxes” in a “mail delivery” room on our floor as no one ever used them.

          Boxes were delivered to desks. Papers from co-workers were delivered to desks (or chairs). Once in a great while something would show up in the “in box”. Those things could be missed for months.

          In these days of email and IM, the safest way to know someone will see something printed on paper is to put that paper were the person can’t miss it — their chair.

    2. Trillian*

      Or set your in-box on your chair when you’re not sitting on it. That way if your boss has an in-box aversion, his missives will wind up on your desk.

  1. Mary*

    Putting stuff in chairs is common in my large office. We do this to make certian someone see’s it. Not everyone has an “in-box” so putting something in a chair is sort of like using the in-box. I agree with Allison, it’s so not a big deal!

    1. Tara B.*


      We do this all the time in my office. If my desk is already full of piles of paper and other stuff, I’m will overlook something that someone may have placed on my desk if I’m not in my office. If you put it in my chair or stick a post-it note on my monitor or keyboard, I’m guaranteed to see it.

      I will put stuff on people’s desks if they’re neat freaks with very clean desks, but the chair is an easier way to call attention to the fact that you stopped by their desk and dropped something off.

      1. Jamie*

        stick a post-it note on my monitor

        I hope you mean the plastic frame and not the screen itself – because they might as well tag it with gang signs if they are going to do that.

        Why, yes, stuff touching monitors is a pet peeve of mine. :)

        1. carlotta*

          Oh no, I hate it when someone touches my monitor. I actually will wince if you poke at my screen with your greasy finger. It’s is not a touch screen, so therefore, not for touching.

          1. KarenT*

            Agreed. There are finger prints on my monitor. I’ve never touched a monitor screen in my life. I want to know who did it!

          2. Jamie*

            It’s is not a touch screen, so therefore, not for touching.

            I’ll be taking some time off soon and may take up stitching to keep busy. This is going on a sampler.

        2. camelCase*

          Jamie, have to tell you this story. I used to work with a guy who had exactly that pet peeve. He claimed he had to clean the monitor if someone touched it. So we *all* left fingerprints on it one day. He took the prank well, but said we had ruined his monitor. So, being friendly and helpful IT types, we immediately replaced his monitor. With one we took off an Apple II. :p
          (Yes we all played pranks in that workplace, we were all 20-somethings fresh from grad school. You can imagine.)

      2. KarenT*

        Agreed–leaving something on someone’s chair is office shorthand for ‘this is important and I wanted to make sure you saw it.’

        1. camelCase*

          That really is office culture dependent. I think it’s shorthand for “here you go”. A big giant hot pink sticky on my monitor means “important stuff here”.

          1. Liz*

            Same here. Something left on my chair with no note means “Take a look at this and do it when you can”. Sticky on my monitor/keyboard means “Come see me/do this ASAP”.

    2. Yup*

      Same here, and I work in a very small office. Not everyone has an in-box, and some people use their in-boxes as a storage area. I always leave papers on people’s chairs so they can deal with it as they see fit.

      Why would this be bothersome? Unless the boss is throwing papers in your trash can and expecting you to locate them in there, this sounds like totally acceptable office behavior.

    3. Katieinthemountains*

      At my (small) office, placing documents in a chair usually reserved for that one person who truly won’t see documents placed in her always-full inbox.
      On the few occasions when it’s happened to me, I’ve found it surprisingly infuriating. Like, your thing is sooooo important that I can’t even sit back down at my desk without handling your stuff first.
      OP, why don’t you try your coworker’s method, keeping all irritation out of your voice? Just smile and keep repeating that you’ll see anything placed in your box. If both of you are saying that – and making sure to respond quickly to documents placed in your inboxes – maybe you can retrain the boss. It’ll probably take a while to change the habit, and yeah, you’ll sound petty if you act annoyed during the process, but if the coworker is having success so far, give it a try. :)

        1. Jazzy Red*

          Listen to Alison!!

          This guy is the boss – it’s YOUR job to adjust to his style of management, not the other way around.

          Why piss him off if you don’t have to?

      1. businesslady*

        I completely agree that you need to let this go. however–I can sympathize with everyone who finds this irritating. I had a boss who would frequently put stuff on my chair/desk, & for some reason it would ENRAGE me to come back from the bathroom/a meeting/whatever & find something sitting in my space. which was probably not unrelated to my preexisting frustrations with my boss, their work methods, & the fact that I didn’t have a private enough desk.

        I never acted on my irrational anger about this, but I do totally get that it’s a Thing for some people. :) whenever I felt my blood boil about it, I’d just go take another walk (& hope, of course, that more paper didn’t materialize in my absence…).

        1. Cat*

          I think the fact that you were annoyed about this because you were annoyed with your boss already is probably the key here. If someone is constantly making unreasonable demands on you, it’s easy to see this as another unreasonable demand. If you have a reasonable boss who is reasonable with her demands, it’s just . . . a thing. It doesn’t signify anything good or bad.

          1. Tax Nerd*

            I hate hate HATE people leaving stuff on my chair. Like businesslady, I get enraged at the symbolism of “You can’t even _sit down_ before you handle this”. It just makes my blood boil.

            My desk is pretty clean. Put it next to my keyboard with a Post-It on top, and I’ll see it. If my desk is covered in piles of paper that are meaningless to you, then ok, the chair is fair game. Especially if it’s urgent. But if there’s somewhere else available, then put it there.

            1. Cat*

              I agree if someone’s desk is completely clean you might as well leave it there. I know very few people who fall into that category. For most people, leaving something on the chair doesn’t say “drop everything and do this,” it says “I wanted you to know I dropped this off.” Which is reasonable.

              1. Twentymilehike*

                This exactly. I only put stuff on people’s chair if it’s evident they’ll never find it on their desks. Not trying to make it stand out as urget, but more like , “hey there’s a new thing on your desk.”

                And if you’re on the receiving end, the idea is to pick it up, acknowledge it, then put it where you want it.

    4. Helen S.*

      We do this all the time too in my office too!

      I feel like dropping something on my coworkers’ messy desks or inboxes is risky, because everyone has their own organizational system, and I don’t have any way of knowing that they will see it right away. I don’t want to sneak something onto their desks and then find out they never knew I left it there.

      If you leave something on someone’s chair, you know they are going to see it right away and have the opportunity to take appropriate action, including filing it away according to whatever their organizational system they like to use.

      1. Rana*

        Agreed. I actually preferred it when people put things on my chair, because then I’d have a physical and visual memory of its existence and where I stashed it.

    5. Ellie H.*

      We do this too. I actually sort of prefer it because I regrettably don’t always keep a super clean desk and probably won’t notice something new in my inbox. (I look at it now and it is overflowing with unopened envelopes.)

      I have to say I kind of understand how it could come off as presumptuous to some people (“My document is so important you can’t even sit down without addressing this piece of paper first”) but honestly, it is not a big deal, and it takes less than a second to pick up the piece of paper and place it in your box.

    6. Jennifer*

      I hate the whole stick-it-on-your-chair thing (what if you sit on it? my cousin sat on papers for 2 days and didn’t notice…yes, she might be oblivious), but unfortunately, it seems to be default office protocol and there’s not much you can do aobut it.

      1. Bea W*

        Pretty sure the issue there is with your cousin. I can’t imagine going for 2 days sitting on papers and not noticing the crinkle or some other weirdness or getting in and out of my chair and not visually seeing something on it.

        Then again, I have had other riders on the subway sit smack on my hip and/or leg because they were way too wide for the space they were trying to fit into, and they either ignored it or didn’t notice. (I sure notice. It’s always on my bad side too. OUCH!)

    7. tcookson*

      +1 — in the chair or on the keyboard are the common places people put things when people are away from their desks. I came back from lunch just an hour or so ago, and there were documents in my chair from several different people. I actually like it when people put work either in my chair or on my keyboard, because that alerts me that this is new stuff. And also, I don’t have an inbox . . .

    8. AdminAnon*


      I am an Executive Assistant to 3 C-level execs and I have 3 different inboxes as well as a ridiculously cluttered desk (thanks to constant interruptions and priority shifts). All 3 of my bosses know that, if they want me to see/deal with something immediately and I am not around, the best place to put it is in my chair.

  2. Anon*

    My staff always put important stuff for me on my chair. Lord knows I’d never find it in my wasteland of a desk top. This isn’t an issue to get wrapped around the axle about. +1 to AAM’s advice.

  3. The IT Manager*


    Great answer Alison. I kept wondering what the problem was as I read the question. And I was already saying that he wanted to make sure the employees saw new document before the LW told us that that was his explanation.

  4. RJ*

    It sounds like the OP’s situation is different, but in my office, there are very few people who truly use an inbox and outbox as their names would imply.
    I have unlabeled trays on my desk that I use for storage. If someone just put something into the tray, I might not see it for days. (And by days, I mean months. :)) So around here, we will leave papers on someone’s chair or keyboard so they have to physically touch it in order to go back to work.
    If that’s not the way this shop works, but it’s the type of environment the new boss is used to, it might be more helpful to reassure the new boss that you address everything in your inbox within 4 hours or whatever time frame is appropriate.

    1. Cat*

      Yeah, I was going to say: if anyone in my office is reading this, please, please put things you want me to see in a timely manner on my chair.

    2. Jamie*

      Yep – keyboard – that’s where I leave papers when people are away from their desk. I don’t know who regularly checks their in-box and who doesn’t – this way they can put it where they want it, but I know they’ll see it.

      When I first started reading I thought there was going to be something like the boss is doing this to someone severely arthritic or recovering from surgery and it’s hard for them to bend…because it causing physical pain to pick them up from the chair is the only reason I would think to get pissed about this.

      This is so not the hill you want to die on.

    3. Ellie H.*

      Yeah, I too have unlabeled trays for storage. I have eight of them in fact if you count those multi-level trays. (Probably too many . . . yikes.) I too hope that people aren’t using any of the “other” ones as an “inbox.”

      1. Kelly L.*

        I had labeled trays and sometimes they’d get used as a whole different thing! I found inbox items in trays that were labeled for something else entirely. Very nearly caused a big problem.

      2. Jamie*

        I just went through mine because of this thread. Oldest thing in there was from 2008 – most recent 2010.

        No one uses my inbox…including me, apparently.

        1. Chinook*

          This exact problem is why I have folders for everyone I need to have stuff signed and returned to me that, on the front (not the dinky label part – I use that for the receiver’s name) have written in large felt marker “Please sign and return to Chinook.”. This way, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this doesn’t belong on their desk permanently.

    4. tcookson*

      I have a set of stacking trays. The top tray, I suppose, qualifies as an “in box”, but I’m the only one who puts stuff in it because it is for stuff that needs to be entered into our procurement system. Stuff that needs to be done that I haven’t started on yet goes in the top tray, and then I move it down a tray at each step of the process (“Waiting for PO”; “PO issued: Check Payment Status”; “Waiting for a Check” . . . and finally, “File up Front”). I wouldn’t even want other people putting anything in my “inbox”, because I have a totally separate pile/file system for work that isn’t procurement.

    5. Erin*

      I teach high school, and I have labelled inboxes for each class’s work. But if they want to turn in a late assignment or missing work or anything like that, I have them put it on my keyboard. If I had a separate box for stuff like that, I would never look at it!

      1. Chinook*

        When I was teaching I had an inbox where the students could put their assignments and, at the end of the day, I would quickly tick my attendance list which students had handed in which assignment. I had to start doing this after one student swore that they had handed in an assignment and I must have lost it before I could mark it.

  5. PJ*

    Ditto. Not something to stir up an issue over, and you most likely will not help your relationship with your new boss to get off on the right foot by complaining about such a minor thing.

    A mantra I’ve used throughout my (very long) career is “the boss’s way is my way.” By this I mean if I prefer to communicate by phone and my boss prefers email, I communicate by email. If I like short frequent meetings and my boss likes ’em longer and less frequent, we do it his/her way. I serve at the pleasure of my boss. If there’s a battle to be had, it would never be over something so minor.

    Your boss delivers stuff via chair. It works for him. Make it work for you.

    1. JessB*

      “Your boss delivers stuff via chair. It works for him. Make it work for you.”

      That is great advice, my friend!

  6. The Other Dawn*

    I put stuff on people’s chairs all the time. It’s kind of hard to say you didn’t get something when you have to move it in order to sit down. Plus it ensures it doesn’t get lost in a sea of white paper on the desk.

  7. Shelley*

    At my workplace, the entire desk surface is a giant inbox. Needless to say, if we want something immediately done/read, we’d stick colourful sticky notes on it, lay it on top of their keyboards, or stick it on their computer monitor. Putting it on the chair seems very similar.

    +1 to letting it go.

  8. Dallas*

    Yeah, of course he puts it on your chair. If someone put a random piece of paper on my very messy desk, it’ll be lost to the paper Gods. Boss’s way or the highway, unless his way is abusive or unethical.

  9. tango*

    Well if it’s anything like my office, each person I work with has an in box located in a different location in their space and half the time they’re not marked. I try to ask if the person is at their desk if I don’t know where their in box is but if they were gone and I really wasn’t sure &/or the desk was a disaster area and I was afraid what I left would be missed, putting it on the chair seems a reasonable thing to do.

  10. OliviaNOPE*

    I am the boss at my job and I always leave things on people’s chairs. A lot of people forget to check their in box (ours is inconveniently located so it becomes an “I’ll check it every other day” thing). I also never want to touch the stuff on people’s desks because I A) don’t want them to feel like I was snooping and B) don’t want to inadvertently move something and screw up whatever system they have going on the desk. If anyone ever came to me and said they preferred I just leave stuff in their box I wouldn’t be offended, though.

  11. EM*

    Uh-oh. I do this all the time. I just want to be sure my boss sees things I’ve left for her. In my defense, she doesn’t have an in box.

    1. tcookson*

      I haven’t heard of the “leave it on the chair” practice flowing in the opposite direction (from employee to boss). If I have something for either of my bosses, I have to hold it on my desk until ready to present it to them. They leave stuff on my chair, but it would be a transgression if I left stuff on their chairs. I have a “Boss 1” tray and a “Boss 2” tray on my desk where I keep things that I need to give to or discuss with either of them.

      1. EM*

        Well, we’re pretty casual. :) I work for a real estate agent and she is very often out of the office on showings and meetings. She leaves me things on my desk, I leave her completed things to review on hers.

          1. Jessica (the celt)*

            When my boss is out of the office for more than a day or two, I put less important things in a pile on her desk, but make sure the “I know you’ll want to see this stuff ASAP” stuff is on her chair. She leaves things on my chair that she wants me to deal with as well, but neither of us have a real inbox, so it works for us.

        1. tcookson*

          Actually, it’s Boss 2 who would have a hissy fit if I left anything on her chair; she has a specific set of power-dynamic principles that she lives by, acquired from coming up as one of the only women in a field dominated by men, and she enforces them by giving a public, verbal evisceration to anyone who violates one of them.

          My other boss just reaps the benefits of the minefield I walk to appease this one.

      2. Beebs*

        I’m more or less the boss and my staff leave stuff on my chair all of the time. Course, I’m a messy-desk person . . .

        1. Beebs*

          Come to think of it, I also leave things on my own chair if, say, something comes in right as I’m headed home and I want to make sure I remember it first thing the next morning.

      3. Bea W*

        I’ve seen that happen a lot where I’ve worked. The chair is the universal inbox, no matter what your position on the pecking order. I’ve heard bosses tell people, “Leave it on my chair” or “Slip it under the door” – depending whether or not the door would be open or closed.

      4. themmases*

        I support a bunch of doctors (so they’re above me and set the priorities for what I spend time on, but aren’t responsible for my reviews really), and I let myself into their locked offices to leave stuff. Everyone at my level — research and support staff– does. The reasoning is pretty much that most of them are too busy/unreliable to have them come to you, and since they’re doing clinical stuff they usually stop by their offices but can’t be found there reliably. Clean people get stuff left on their desks, cluttered people get it left on their keyboards, messy people get it left on the chair. If something is super urgent, I page them to come to me. People do the same thing to me: let themselves into my office and leave stuff on my desk.

        Now that you mention it, I guess I never do this with the administrator I actually report to. But he is usually in his office, so there’s no need.

        Also, in my area of work if we’re passing stuff up the chain of command it’s usually just for a signature. So I’m not usually leaving work on people’s desks for them to do– more like stuff they need to approve and give back to me.

  12. some1*

    I sympathize with the LW because co-workers leaving stuff on my desk chair has always been my pet peeve, too. However, it’s not the hill anyone should die on, especially when it’s your boss, so I learned to live with it.

    1. Yup*

      Could you elaborate on why it bugs you? I’m sincerely curious. Is it because it interrupts your flow, or the papers sometimes end up on the floor, some other thing? It doesn’t even register for me, so I’m trying to get inside the pet peeve perspective.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I put stuff on people’s chairs nowadays, but there was a time where it drove me absolutely crazy. I think for me it was that it seemed so…demanding. I’ve always been the go-to person so I’m constantly inundated with people asking questions, popping by, being pulled into someone’s meeting, etc. So I guess I saw it and thought, “What the hell so I need to do NOW?!” It was another thing I had to pay attention to. But I now understand why people put stuff in my chair and it doesn’t bother me anymore.

      2. Kerry*

        I’ve never had this happen to me, but for me my brain flow goes something like:

        1. I am walking around/getting water/going to the loo/whatever – and I’m not in Work Head. I might be idly thinking about it, but I’m mentally not in Go Go Go mode.
        2. I sit down, with everything I need in front of me, including any new papers and emails, take a breath, and get back into Work Head.
        3. I start working again, possibly re-prioritising everything first based on the on new information, making a plan and getting into the zone.

        Putting things on my chair means I have to jump immediately into Work Head while I’m still on my feet. It’s not the end of the world, but if it happened a lot I could totally understand it throwing off my flow, and making me grumpily think “I can’t even sit f*cking down first?!” That moment of transition from Tea Break to Work Head is quite important to the way I am able to focus and plan.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This, and sometimes I make the mistake of moving the item out of the way before switching on Work Head. Break Head puts the paper somewhere completely at odds with my “system,” and then Work Head can’t find it later or completely forgets about it. My inbox is meant so that whether I’m in Work Head or Break Head, I know what it’s for. Like you, it’s not the end of the world, but this is why it sometimes irks.

        2. Cat*

          The thing is, you don’t. You can just move the piece of paper to wherever you would normally put it and then deal with it when you get a chance.

          1. Kerry*

            to wherever you would normally put it

            Right, but Work Head, not Tea Break, has to make that decision about where the best place to put it is.

            1. Kelly L.*

              This! And sometimes Tea Break just thinks the “best place” equals “out of the way” and then Work Head wonders two days later why there’s a work item draped over the desk lamp.

              (Exaggeration, but you get my meaning.)

                1. Kerry*

                  It’s not a big deal at all – again, I’ve never had this happen to me that I remember. I was responding to Yup’s question, “Could you elaborate on why it bugs you? I’m sincerely curious. …It doesn’t even register for me, so I’m trying to get inside the pet peeve perspective.” I was trying to answer that by explaining why I could see it very slightly bugging me if it happened to me often.

            2. Bea W*

              I just put it on the desk directly in front of my monitor/chair. No thinking required. It’s there in front of my face so I don’t forget it.

          2. Windchime*

            That’s what I’m thinking. I have put papers on peoples’ chairs/keyboards before (and found papers on mine), and not once did I interpret it to mean,”This must be done IMMEDIATELY, before you even sit down!”. To me, it means, “I wanted to be sure you saw this.” I guess I thought that’s how most people felt–I didn’t realize it could be interpreted as being demanding.

            1. tcookson*

              I’ve never interpreted it as demanding; I just take it and move it onto the bottom of my work-pile. I try to do a first-in/first-out rotation, so whatever new comes in, goes to the bottom of the pile (unless it belongs to Boss 1 or Boss 2 — their stuff always goes to the top of the pile). I follow that order unless the person comes and stands in front of me with some reason why I need to focus on theirs out of order (like, they need a rental car tomorrow morning or something like that).

            2. Kerry*

              I’m definitely in favour of leaving things like that on keyboards! But I do think there is a very small something (again, I really don’t want to blow this out of proportion, it’s just that some people seem confused over how it could register at all) about walking back to your desk with a cup of water or a mug of tea, getting ready to settle in and have a sip before you jump back into work, and having a physical Work Thing you have to pick up, look at, process and put in the appropriate place before you can simply sit down. It’s like 0.00003% demanding compared with the 0.00001% demanding of leaving it on a keyboard, but I understand why that 0.00003% could be more and more annoying over time.

              1. Cat*

                See, this is where this all falls apart for me. Because the fact of the matter is, it’s a job: sometimes people are going to give you thinks and ask you to do them , and you’re going to have to think about them even if you’d rather be sitting back and sipping your tea. When it’s a major work flow issue – e.g., you need peace and quiet to deal with complicated algorithms – sometimes you’ll need to carve out uninterrupted time. But that really can’t extend to thinking you’re entitled to get each piece of paper in precisely the way you prefer lest your sense of calm be upended. That is the fundamental thing about having to go out into the world and interact with it in exchange for money; your preferences are no longer the only thing that matter.

                Now, if your masseuse starts leaving papers for you on the massage chair, I think you have a valid complaint.

        3. Bea W*

          For me it’s a bit opposite. Things in my chair are advance warning I might have to launch into work head quickly after I sit down, and they help refocus my attention back to work head.

          Don’t read chair documents standing up. Move them to the desk, sit, get centered, and *then* start then looking through them.

      3. Arbynka*

        I can’t answer for some1 but for as far as I go, I just need to have certain things in certain order. I am somewhere between Sheldon Cooper and Monk. But as I said, I just learned to move stuff to a acceptable place. Sometimes it is tougher than other times, but I am working on it.

      4. ExceptionToTheRule*

        It bugs me because it can very easily slide off my chair. Then I have to get down on my hands and knees to crawl under my desk and retrieve what turns out to be something inconsequential.

        I will note that I have a chair seat that’s slippery & a nice clean desk to put stuff on.

      5. CollegeAdmin*

        I find it insulting, actually. If it was important paperwork, fine, but it NEVER is. It makes me feel like my boss (who does this, see below comment) doesn’t trust me to know how to handle my work, despite the fact that she has frequently said that she greatly appreciates me and that I’m doing well.

        Also, the fact that she usually is letting herself into my (shared) office after hours to do it is very off-putting.

        1. Joey*

          But what about it is insulting? Unless there are other issues I don’t see how you could interpret it that way without it being your own insecurities and baseless speculation.

          1. CollegeAdmin*

            To be fair, I am leaving out a lot of other circumstances, including her micromanaging.

            My above comment was poorly phrased – I couldn’t think of the word I wanted. I feel like she’s being condescending – not that she’s doubting my work (and not that I am insecure).

            1. Bea W*

              If you boss is condescending and difficult in general, it could be you are transferring that impression to the leaving of documents on your chair.

        2. Cat*

          Where is she supposed to put documents that she needs to give you after hours when you’re not there? Is she supposed to wait until the morning and make sure she catches you at your desk so she can hand them to you? That seems incredibly inefficient.

          There’s an important and not particularly subtle difference between your office and your apartment; the former is not private.

          1. CollegeAdmin*

            Sorry, I’d referenced this in my below post. There is an inbox located outside my office that she knows I check frequently – multiple times per day, in fact.

            I would be okay if she let herself into my office after hours and put things in my inbox/on my desk, but the fact is that it’s not just my office – it’s a shared office with coworkers who do not work for her who have requested that she not let herself into our space when we’re not here.

      6. Chris80*

        I don’t know if it’s the same for some1, but for me, it’s that nothing anyone leaves for me is really SO important that I can’t even sit down before I look at it. That seems to be the implication when someone leaves something on my chair. In most workplaces, nothing is that important/urgent. Still, it’s not the hill I want to die on, as others have said.

      7. some1*

        No problem! There are a few reasons:

        1) It implies I won’t see/handle it unless it’s placed on my chair. If I have the reputation for consistently checking my in-box, prioritizing my tasks and getting everything done in time all the time, it’s not necessary

        2) It implies whatever is left on my chair has to be given priority. That is fine if it’s my *boss* telling me it’s a priority, but random co-worker deciding I need to sign up for someone’s birthday potluck over reports I need to do before I go to lunch? Not so much.

        3) When something is left on my desk, I am forced to do something with it before I sit down. No, it’s not too much trouble to put it in my inbox, or the file cabinet, or wherever, but it’s the sense of false urgency that gets created.

        4) At a former job in another life, I was tasked with pulling hundreds of contracts to look up something specific in each and create a report with that data. So at any given time there dozens of files on my desk, and a lot of co-workers took it as a sign that I was just too lazy to keep up with my filing so they left stuff on my chair as a passive-aggressive way of telling me to clean my desk (I was told this later.)

        1. Jamie*

          It implies whatever is left on my chair has to be given priority.

          Not necessarily. Some people may do this as a passive aggressive thing, but the act itself doesn’t imply that…you’re inferring it.

          For me the only thing the act implies is “here – I’m leaving this for you and don’t want to screw up your system…put it where you want.”

          1. some1*

            I definitely get that I have no way of knowing that person who left it means for me to do it right away, but it’s the only reason why *I’d* do it so it’s where my mind goes. But I wouldn’t mention to my co-worker either way, and wouldn’t dwell on it.

            1. Cat*

              You could ask. A simple “hey Lisa, does this need to be done ASAP” clears that up and yields useful info.

        2. Yup*

          Thanks for elaborating! Very interesting — I wouldn’t have figured the implied urgency piece. It’s helpful to know that’s how some folks are perceiving it.

        3. Bea W*

          It doesn’t have any of those implications for me, but that could be after 14+ years of people leaving things on my chair, I learned it can be anything and that there is nothing wrong with sitting down first and then looking at them and the only message attached to it is simply, “This is for you, and your chair seemed like a convenient place to put it when I stopped by.”

          I’m kind of perplexed at the amount of reading into this that people are doing. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.

      8. themmases*

        This bugs me sometimes, depending who it is and how it’s done. Not liking the work/person/my work area has a lot to do with it.

        Also, I think working in a support capacity (I support doctors’ research projects) can be very fraught. People can demand a lot of you but also seem to condescend to you at the same time. It’s easy to end up being treated as a personal assistant or an intern or a worker of last resort– someone can always make a case that a job no one else wants to do is your job. And there are very high expectations to accommodate even unreasonable or obnoxious desires of others’– more so than in other jobs (at least office jobs). Working out in the open or at a “front desk” just heightens that, where there’s very little privacy and people consistently violate your personal space (at least IME). I think it’s very easy to put a lot of meaning in little things about how your work is given to you, under those circumstances.

      9. Anonymous*

        I’ll preface by saying that this doesn’t really bother me – not enough that I would ever feel compelled to ask someone to stop doing it. But I can understand why someone might feel that it disrupts their flow, just slightly. If you are working on a deadline and really need to get something done, you have to stop doing that long enough to figure out what this new piece of paper is and whether it is a higher priority than what you are already working on. If you’re someone who really likes to focus or you like to plan out what you are going to work on at certain times of the day and this keeps happening over and over again, I could see why it might get annoying.

        I could also see it slightly seeming to imply that the person is so disorganized that they won’t notice unless you shove it in their face. If someone’s desk is a mess and a new piece of paper would easily get lost, or if there isn’t anywhere obvious to put it, then I think it makes absolute sense to put it on the chair or keyboard. But if someone is neat and organized and doesn’t regularly forget to complete tasks, then I would probably opt toward putting it in the middle of the clear space on their desk.

  13. Arbynka*

    I am a bit OCD so things that do not bother others might drive me up the wall. But I always took it that it is my annoyance and no one else’s. So if you put something in a place that I do not want it in, I just move it to a place I don’t mind it.

    1. khilde*

      “But I always took it that it is my annoyance and no one else’s. ”

      Right! I think that’s a good practice and mindset to adopt in general. People do things for their reasons, not mine. Unless there is a history of conflict with the person doing it (or if I’ve addressed something and the person still continues to do it), I have found much peace in the perspective that the other person is probably not doing it to send a message or drive me crazy. They’re doing it probably because that’s how their mind operates and assumes my mind does, too.

      Everyone should probably just be more aware that we all have different preferences for nearly any thing we do and to not take it as a personal affront when someone does something differently. Communicate it to the other person if it’s a make-or-break deal; otherwise chalk it up to a thoughtless, but harmless quirk.

  14. Anonymous*

    Agreed, I’m not sure why this is really a problem/inconvenience. The only thing I can think of is that these two co-workers have a normal system of receiving paperwork which is supposed to be processed in the order received, and this disrupts their order. It might be a little like calling instead of emailing for something that isn’t urgent – it requires the person to pay attention to that issue immediately. If someone left paperwork on my chair, I would probably read it when I picked it up and then I might feel compelled to deal with it immediately. But I think that could be very easily remedied by just asking the boss if leaving things on the chair implies importance or urgency, or if it is fine to just move the paperwork back to the inbox once received.

    1. Chinook*

      “these two co-workers have a normal system of receiving paperwork which is supposed to be processed in the order received, and this disrupts their order”

      This is why putting stuff on my chair/keyboard at the accounting firm made me batty whereas I have no response to it at my current job. Here, I am not swamped with tasks that have conflicting priorities and no one is trying to sneak their work into my pile rather than them doing it themselves.

      At the firm, though, I would have multiple documents due that day and one partner, who wasn’t in my department, who would ask me to do her a favour if her AA was busy (ignoring the fact that I was supporting 4 other partners, 4 managers and multiple staff out in the field). I had created a systemwithin my department that allowed for everybody to pass work to me without making anyone wait to get my attention or track me down and she was the only one who thought she could bypass it.

  15. Charlie Horse*

    If it bothers you so much, what’s stopping you from telling your boss the way your coworker did?

    The only way I can see myself getting annoyed is if there were like 100 stickies on my chair everytime I came back to my desk. Lol.

    1. Arbynka*

      I wouldn’t mind. But the stickies would have to be
      a) all the same color
      b) color organized by row
      c) I could possibly tolerate a creative pattern :)))

    2. Chinook*

      “The only way I can see myself getting annoyed is if there were like 100 stickies on my chair everytime I came back to my desk. Lol.”

      That sounds like my current boss’ desk. She is a very visual person and currently has 20 sticky notes underneath her keyboard (but none on her screen – she was taught well).

  16. Ann O'Nemity*

    Reminds me of one of my first bosses. Except he didn’t just put stuff on my chair, he *taped* them to my chair. And it was usually yellow legal paper with with a lot of angry looking arrows, exclamation points, and underlining scrawled in red. Effective, I guess, but not cool.

    1. Arbynka*

      So did he use scotch tape, masking tape…. ? Maybe bungee cords would have worked better ? You did not happen to take picture of it, have you ? I want to see all the angry looking arrows :)

  17. Jeanne*

    At my last job we ALL did this. It was just standard. Just let it go and when you find things put them where you want them.

    1. Arbynka*

      Me too. According to OP, coworker told boss not to do it to her again and left the room ? Wow. That’s sounds a bit disproportional to the situation.

      1. Forrest*

        “Dear AAM,

        Today my employee, who I’m still new to managing, flipped out at me because I was putting documents on her chair rather than her inbox. But I just wanted to make she saw them and prioritize appropriately. Am I justified in think she’s a little…off?”

        AAM: Yes.

        1. Chinook*

          “But I just wanted to make she saw them and prioritize appropriately. Am I justified in think she’s a little…off?”

          I would hope that AAM would turn this around and ask if there was any reason that the new boss thought his employee wasn’t capable of seeing/prioritizing the documents if they were put in her inbox. Is this employee new? Is she scatter brained? Does she frequently miss documents? Passive agrresively trying to undermine you by ignoring your paperwork? If she is an experienced employee who never missed documents that were put in her inbox in the past, then putting them in her inbox now should create the same result.

          1. Cat*

            That’s only true if there’s an established office culture that people leave stuff in in-boxes and deal with it frequently. At most places I’ve worked (all of them, in fact, come to think of it) that wasn’t the case. There’s no reason the manager should assume it is and that at this particular office, people are weirdly psycho about stuff HAVING to be left in the inbox lest it be treated as a MORTAL insult.

            Seriously, if your boss doesn’t respect you; is constantly messing with reasonable priorities; is making unreasonable demands, etc., that is a problem. If she is leaving stuff on your chair and then making unreasonable demands about that specific stuff, I see how it can be wrapped into the larger annoyance. Without that? It’s really just a thing.

            1. Chinook*

              “That’s only true if there’s an established office culture that people leave stuff in in-boxes and deal with it frequently.”

              The OP mentioend that the boss doing this is being trained by her old boss and that she and the other employees all had inboxes. To me, this implied that it was the established culture and that the new boss was bypassing it because she didn’t trust it. Now, if the employee was the new one, I would definitely see her having to mold to the boss.

              1. Cat*

                Perhaps the old boss didn’t know her employees were psycho about this issue and didn’t think to mention it. I certainly wouldn’t. I also have an inbox and yet people reasonably leave things in my chair. Te fact that they have a box doesn’t mean there’s specific office protocols about it and you’d think op would have mentioned it.

                1. Anonymous*

                  +1 I’m seeing the training from the old manager being something like, “oh, ABC documents go to Jane for processing. Just give them to her.” Not “Put ABC documents in Jane’s inbox only. You cannot leave them anywhere else in her work space.” Granted, I’m not one who’s been super annoyed to come back to my desk and see stuff on my chair or keyboard (in fact, I find it kind of helpful because, while my desk is organized, it makes sure I see it) but even if this is an office culture issue I don’t know that anyone would even think to explicitly mention it to the new manager at this stage since they’re most likely focused on making sure he’s up to speed on the more major tasks they need him to do in the role before the old manager leaves.

        2. Bea W*

          But we don’t know the reason he left them there was to “to make she saw them and prioritize appropriately”. It could have easily been he was just doing what he was used to doing in other offices or thought the OP might want to file them the way she preferred rather than him doing it for her or just not realized she had a specific inbox where she wanted everything delivered, no exceptions.

      1. tcookson*

        Probably high maintenance and/or set in her ways.

        That’s what I tend to think when people can’t or won’t roll with the [minor] punches. They are either a high-maintenance PITA, or they lack an adequate amount of adaptability, which always comes across as mentally narrow to me (and yes, I know that my traits drive them crazy, too).

        1. fposte*

          And this is a new boss! Do you really want to start your relationship with your new boss by saying “I refuse to do things your way”?

  18. Ethyl*

    This has been common at every single office I’ve ever worked at. I can understand it being a “pet peeve” level of annoyance for some folks, but I kinda feel like the level of outrage expressed is outsized to the habit in question. OP, are there other things going on you’re not happy with that you’re taking out in this other area?

  19. Ashley*

    This doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is when I unlock my office door in the morning and someone has pushed paper or envelopes under my door, so they are right in my path when I walk in and they get stepped on, or I stumble trying not to walk all over them. I have an inbox, located outside of my locked office, for a reason. Please use it! However, even this isn’t something I choose to fight over. Much more important things to spend my time on!

  20. Victoria Nonprofit*

    Oh, man, I do this all the time. And I think it’s a good idea – it does ensure that the person will see what you’ve given them (it’s like leaving my dry cleaning in a pile next to the front door).

    However, if someone told me they weren’t comfortable with it, I’d stop – as long as they demonstrated that they were going to be on top of the things I hand off to them.

  21. Lily in NYC*

    What the heck??? It amazes me how people can find offense in the most innocuous things. Someone once left me a cupcake on my chair as a present and I didn’t see it and sat on it. Instead of getting upset, I laughed it off. I mean really, who leaves a cupcake on a chair? But it’s not like the person was trying to trick me – she just wasn’t thinking. To get upset about your boss leaving you something on your chair is just ridiculous.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m getting up now and will be away from my desk for about 10 minutes.

      When I come back I want a cupcake on my chair. With sprinkles.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Don’t sit on it because people will think you had an accident and soiled yourself. Of course the one I sat on was chocolate.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m back and there is no cupcake. Although my boss did buy me lunch and it was fabulous. Has anyone ever had a pasty? I had read about then in the Cat Who…books but never tried one.

          It was spinach, mushroom, and cheese…like a non-Italian calzone. This make me want to try a calzone…because everything is better with a little Italian.

          Where was I? Yes, topic, and this is why every lady should have a long cardigan in her office…for cupcake/pants emergencies. :)

          1. PontoonPirate*

            On topic: yeah, I hate finding stuff on my chair. My desk is pretty clean. And you putting it on my chair doesn’t mean I’ll get to it any sooner, so if that’s your intention, you’re in for a surprise…

            Off topic: I LOVE the Cat Who books! I started reading them as a wee lass (my mom read them and passed them off to me) and now, re-reading the earliest ones, it’s so odd to see all of the embedded and antiquated social norms and casual” -isms” that abound, and the change when LJB started writing again decades later. Also: Down Below is totes Detroit, sorry.

            1. KarmaKicks*

              Woot! for the Cat Who books…and now I’m jealous because I’ve never had a pasty. I’ve always wondered what those taste like :)

            2. Jamie*

              It totally is Detroit!

              And I officially love you for this post. I’m getting ready for some medical leave and I’m going to go through the whole series at once, start to finish!

              And yeah – if I need something taken care of immediately I’ll find them and put it in their hands with an explanation of why it’s time sensitive. If I’m just leaving it for someone it’s always in the “whenever you get a chance” or “fyi” category.

              1. Chinook*

                “if I need something taken care of immediately I’ll find them and put it in their hands with an explanation of why it’s time sensitive”

                And, if you can’t find them (experience has taught me that all employees above a certain level on the org chart should be tagged with GPS locators whose information can only be accessed by their AAs), then leaving them on their chair with a sticky note explaining that it is urgent and (if necessary) who left it, also works.

                1. Jamie*

                  That would work – but I prefer to hunt them down like a feral tiger prowling the factory …saber teeth glistening under the fluorescent lighting…silent but ever vigilant.

                  Then, when I spot my prey I skulk behind them, and graceless me usually trips over something and knocks my safety glasses askew while I shove the WIP reports at them and tell them I need their adjusted numbers by 4:00 today or the accountants will be sighing loudly at our delay.

                  But a post-it would totally work, too. :)

                2. AdminAnon*

                  “(experience has taught me that all employees above a certain level on the org chart should be tagged with GPS locators whose information can only be accessed by their AAs)”

                  +1,000,000!!!! That would be SO helpful.

              2. PontoonPirate*

                Thank you! Someone tried to tell me once it’s Chicago–NOPE.

                I’d love to reread the whole series, especially the older ones. I fell out of love with the series toward the end, and probably never picked up the last handful. I really like the few years where he’s still getting settled in Pickaxe best.

                I bet Qwill would definitely twitch his moustache to see people putting papers in his chair, though.

                1. PontoonPirate*

                  Sorry–this shoulda gone above Chinook’s comment. But I have to validate you, skulking feral tigers = post-it, absolutely.

                2. Jamie*

                  Topic: I did little look-see around the office and of the 18 employees in the front office only 3 have in-boxes. So if we didn’t improvise we’d be in trouble.

                  And I had a whole off topic post written about why it can’t be Chicago among other things…are we getting an Open Thread tomorrow? Because I have a new friend! :)

                3. Chinook*

                  I am interested to hear why the “Cat Who” books are any given city because, as a Canadian, I just knew that place as a generic American city and never thought of them as set in a real place.

                4. Ellie H.*

                  Oh man. I loved, loved, loved the Cat Who books too. For some reason I read them all when I was really young (12?) and I found some of the murder parts pretty disturbing. I really loved the ones about the early days in Pickax, too.
                  I’m pretty convinced Down Below is Chicago though.

            3. ThursdaysGeek*

              I love mysteries and cats, but I can’t stand The Cat Who books. The last one I read, the only mystery I could find was what happened to the plot. It never did show up.

          2. Jessica (the celt)*

            Yes! When I moved where I currently live, I saw a sign for a pasty shop. I thought it was a different kind of shop, because pasty was pronounced differently and meant something … else where I grew up. (It didn’t help that just a few blocks before there was an “adult” shop, so I said, “Why are there two [blank] shops within a few blocks here?” My then-new husband said, “That’s a food shop!”) I’ve talked to a lady whose theory is that pasties are popular in mining areas, because they’re easy to eat, which I could see. Apparently, they are also popular in parts of Chile, too, which is why she started thinking about similarities between our area and other areas where she’d seen pasties.

            Sorry. Too much information on pasties. Where I’m from, we just called them meat pies, even when in the more traditional pasty form.

            1. CathVWXYNot?*

              I’ve heard the mining thing, too (my Dad grew up in a coal mining town in the very North of England, and most of my relatives from that side of the family were miners). The theory is that a) you could eat them without cutlery, and b) you could hold it by the thick pastry edge (which you’re not supposed to eat), which prevents all the dirt on your hands from getting on the part that you eat.

              They’ve made a comeback in the UK quite recently (i.e. since I left, which was 2002) – there are West Cornwall Pasty shops all over the country, with many of them in stations so you can grab one and run. Delicious! I have at least three or four every time I go home for a visit :)

              1. Jessica (the celt)*

                I’ll have to tell my coworker that! She’ll be pleased to find that her theory is correct. :) Our area is known for taconite mining.

                Once I found out what they were, I was shocked that there was an entire restaurant just for that, but they are super popular around here. You can get them (in addition to the actual pasty shop) at gas stations and frozen ones in the grocery stores. Various types of pasties are on the menu at almost all of the local restaurants, too.

            2. Julie*

              That’s funny! When my mom and I had them for the first time, she said you’d have to be careful how you pronounced “pasty.” It was funny because my mom is usually pretty reserved and polite and lady-like, but every now and then she comes out with something slightly “racy.”

      2. AMG*

        I got you a vanilla cupcake with a small mountain of vanilla icing and lots of sprinkles while I was at lunch, but then I realized I don’t know how to find your chair. I ate it. *hangs head in shame and wipes sprinkle from lip*

        1. Bea W*

          Mom came to my house once, walked in the door and said, “I had a candy bar for you, but I ate it in the car.” Then in case I might not believe her, “I can prove it! I have the wrapper! I really was bringing you a candy bar.”

        2. Chinook*

          “…but then I realized I don’t know how to find your chair”

          Isn’t that what the sliding drawer thingy on the computer with the hole in the middle is for? To put cupcakes and coffee in and then, when it closes, the items can then be transported via the internet?


          Uh oh.

  22. Victoria Nonprofit*

    I’m interested to see how many people hate this. Next step I’m in this situation (I work remotely now and never have actual paper to give anyone) I’ll ask if this is bothersome to folks before I start doing it again!

  23. Seal*

    Having things left on my chair is major peeve of mine as well. For me, it goes back to a job I had early in my career, where I was the target of a pack of bullies. One of my responsibilities was receiving and processing materials after they had been routed to other staff members. After a remodeling and reorganization of our office space, I sent out a message asking that all routed materials be placed in my inbox so nothing got misplaced. Not only did the bullies go out of their way to put routed materials on my chair and anyplace BUT my inbox as requested, they bragged loudly about doing so. As an added bonus, they harassed me when routed materials inevitably got lost because I never knew where to look for them.

    So to this day I am a bit sensitive about where my incoming mail goes. As a result, I make a point of having a well-marked inbox and not letting things pile up in it; my staff knows not to put stuff on my chair. A bit anal, perhaps, but it helps me maintain my sanity.

  24. Tina*

    We’re supposed to keep our offices shut/locked when we’re not in there, though not everyone does (which is how a coworker’s wallet was stolen). So, when it comes to paper sharing, you a)put it in the person’s mailbox, of which I’m one of the few who actually checks b)put it under the door c)give it to them next time you see them. Most people in our office do C.

    It would annoy me a little, just because it’s not the MO in my office, so it would be weird if someone started doing that. Not a major deal, and certainly if the boss were doing it, oh well, deal with it. But I can see how some people would perceive it as a coworker telling them that this request came first and was trying to control how they prioritized their work.

  25. KarmaKicks*

    I have to agree that letting it go is probably the best option, as it really is a small thing.

    That said…I’m so glad to find I’m not the only one that has that frustration! I have an inbox for a reason and most people use it. My desk isn’t cluttered and the box is nearly always empty because I tend to work on things as they come in. However, I have one person in my office that either puts things on my chair, or smack dab in the middle of my desk and it irritates the heck out me. I don’t know why precisely, but I guess there’s a part of me that feels like they feel their paperwork is more important than anyone else’s, when in fact it’s just routine and I’ll handle it like I normally do. I just remind myself to take a deep breath and let it go, because in the long run it really doesn’t matter.

    1. Bluefish*

      My take away: some people who have and use inboxes seem to be under the impression that everyone else in the org knows, or should know, that they do, in fact, have and use an in-box. Id urge those that think “chair mail” is being rude or presumptuous to broaden their way of thinking and consider the fact that people have their own way of doing things, and thus, do not always know of your inbox preferences. They are not trying to boss you around by leaving chair mail, rather they are picking a neutral, convenient location to leave things where a reasonable person would be able to see it and proceed to their own preferences :)

        1. TK*

          I think the update was that she got a lunchbox with a lock, which made her boss constantly refer to the fact that he could no longer steal her lunch because it was locked. Bizarre behavior for sure.

            1. tcookson*

              I forget, when reading these old posts, that the last comments are from 2011 or some such, and in the heat of reading them, I get carried away and respond :-)

  26. CollegeAdmin*

    I’m with the OP on this one. My boss regularly lets herself into my office (that I share with 3 other people, who do not work for her) and places work on my chair. I have multiple problems with this:

    1. There is an inbox located in the main office on the floor that I check regularly – she should place items there.
    2. My coworkers are upset that she is coming into our office when we aren’t here. She’s invading their space as well as mine, and she has been known to nose about others’ desks.
    3. If she insists on letting herself in, there is a clearly labeled inbox at my desk that is empty at the end of every day – I will see something in it.
    4. My desk is very neat – she could even put it on my desk or on my keyboard, and that would still be better than the chair. It would not get lost on my desk.

    If that’s the norm in your office, as many commenters have indicated, that’s a different story. But at least in mine, it’s highly unusual, to the point that she’s the only one to do so. My inbox(es) are there for a reason, and I completely feel the OP’s pain.

    1. Jamie*

      Unless she’s breaching security protocol of your office, I don’t see why your boss can’t go into your office whenever she likes. You report to her – she works there.

      If she is nosing about other desks maybe that’s an issue – so they should address that with their manager asking the best way to keep confidential material from her. If that’s the problem. If this is just a territorial thing and they just don’t want her in there…it’s an office not your home.

      My office is locked when I’m not here, as are some others for security reasons. But I wouldn’t care if my boss came in here to do whatever while I was gone…and I have no problem going into other people’s offices if I have a business need to be in there. I don’t snoop – but I have full clearance to be anywhere I need to be so I’ve never thought twice about going in other people’s offices when they weren’t here.

      There must be something I’m missing, because I don’t understand why this would be an issue.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        If it was just my office, I would be okay with it – as you said, it’s an office. But it is my coworkers’ space too.

        1. Jamie*

          But it’s still just their office, owned by the company and while your manager may not be their manager she works there, too. If she’s not prohibited by policy from entering the office, it’s not reasonable for them to assume a right to privacy.

          1. CollegeAdmin*

            Curious: do you think there is a difference by department, even if it’s not specified in policy? (Unsure if we even have a policy, written or unwritten.) I share an office with those in finance and in contracts – she deals with far less confidential paperwork.

            1. Chinook*

              I do believe that there is a difference in going into the offices of someone from a different department, especially if they are in finance or HR. Some departments have confidential information that shouldn’t be shared within the company and, while they should be locked up when you are not in the room with them, I would wonder why someone who wasn’t in HR was in the HR person’s office without them.

            2. Jamie*

              I think there should be protocols for dealing with confidential information. I.e. put away when not in the office, or whatever. So if someone is just walking through your office on the way to someone else’s desk they don’t see what they shouldn’t.

              But a manager should be able to walk into one of her employees office, regardless of who they share with. If the company was concerned about security they should have the department with confidential information have their own office with a lock and a list of people allowed in.

              For example – IT, a records office, HR…they should all (imo) have locking doors with limited access by authorized personnel. And they shouldn’t share with other departments. So there are definitely times where there should be limited access to an office. But if it rose to that level, again imo, they shouldn’t have them sharing an office with you because if your boss shouldn’t be in there alone with their information than you shouldn’t be either.

              And a boss shouldn’t be locked out of someone’s office because of who is sharing it.

              I would approach it from a business standpoint. What needs to be done to keep information secure and go from there.

              But in your situation, if she was actually opening drawers and rifling through your co-workers information that’s something I would think should be investigated.

  27. BCW*

    Wow. This is really something people are annoyed by. This blog never ceases to amaze me how many little things that people get upset about. Do you get mad if the font is wrong on your email too?

    1. RJ*

      Ha, I know you were being facetious, but my answer is, “Yes.” We have signature guidelines that are very clear and very simple. I’m sorry if you don’t like your name in 10 point black Arial, but that’s the guideline. I get mildly irritated by every signature I see that’s 14 point purple Vivaldi or whatever. Although I haven’t confronted the offenders or written into Alison about them… yet. :)

      1. Jamie*

        Force a universal signature through Exchange. That’s what I did.

        I’m not a designer – took me far too long to create that thing so it looks okay – everyone is using it, dammit!

        1. RJ*

          I wish I had the power to do that. Sadly, as an “individual contributor”, my power is limited to glaring at their ugly, non-compliant fonts and thinking bad thoughts about them.

      2. LV*

        One woman in HR at my organization has a signature about a mile long, using different fonts, font sizes and colours… on top of the fact that she uses email stationery in a tasteful pink and yellow floral pattern.

        It makes it surprisingly difficult to take her seriously as a professional and not, say, a 12-year-old girl from 1996.

          1. TL*

            Aw, when I was 12 I thought email stationaries were the coolest thing – I’m glad you reminded me they existed!

          2. tcookson*

            I hate email stationery! Especially when it quits being in the background and becomes a separate picture file that you have to scroll past to get the email text.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh yes, all of these and then a bunch of sparkly smilies complete with, at the bottom of the email, a banner ad telling me where I could get the same array of smilies!

        2. tcookson*

          email stationery in a tasteful pink and yellow floral pattern

          Is it the one with the pale yellow background and pale pink daisies blurred nearly to the point of being indistinguishable as flowers? Because I just got an email from another admin with that exact same stationery!

      3. Just me*

        Exactly. I use my inbox for my priority flow. If someone puts something there I may or may not see it till I address the things I put on top of it! I prefer the chair or keyboard for this exact reason. I’ll see it and address as needed.

    2. MrsG*

      Oh my lord I had a coworker who one day told me she thought my signature was too big and that it was like I was screaming my name at the end of every email (funny thing though, I had copied hers and filled in my information when I started). She then proceeded to log in to my account and change all of my signatures and reply fonts for me.

        1. MrsG*

          It was a temp job and she was the only other person in the office. The company let her have control despite her not being my boss or the office manager for my branch.

    3. Joey*

      They’re more common than you think.

      I once had someone tell me she couldn’t function with the ac on 75. 74 was okay, but if it went to 75 it was suddenly so hot she needed a fan because it made her uncomfortable. My solution-leave it on 75 and turn the thermostat screen off.

    4. Grey*

      Yes. I received a condescending reprimand from a superior who mistakenly thought I’d mishandled something. It was typed in large-font Comic Sans. It read as if she was speaking to me as a child. Annoying, but I just let it go as most people do with their pet peeves.

  28. Bluefish*

    I do this to everyone. I always leave things on the chair to make sure they see it. You seem to think this is his/her way of trying to prioritize your workload for you. As in, I’m putting this on the chair because I want it done now. That almost certainly is not the case. I don’t leave things on people’s chair because it deserves immediate attention, I do so so I can be 100% sure they’ll see it.

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, I don’t really have an inbox. Well, wait…..we have this big wall for everyone in the department that has a slot, but that’s usually where they put things that everyone gets, like a newsletter or something. The other day I saw we all had a company calendar in there. I check mine maybe once per week. Almost everything else is done in email, so on the rare occasions that something is on paper (a birthday card or an expense form for the boss to sign), I put it on his chair or keyboard.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      So am I! I tried that and it didn’t really work for me. I had so much in my inbox that I eventually avoided it and things were missed. Now everyone just tosses crap on my desk or in my chair and I deal with it. Or they email me.

  29. Jazzy Red*

    We always called that “chair mail”.

    It’s not a judgement on you or your abilities, so let it go.

    Be glad if he doesn’t run the business into the ground, like my employer.

    1. tcookson*

      We have a version of “chair mail” at home, too: we use our places at the dinner table as our mailboxes. Anything that we want another person to receive or notice goes in their place at the table. All the bills go in my husbands place, and all school documents needing a parental signature go in my place.

  30. Bluefish*

    For all the people who are annoyed by this try to imagine it from this perspective (this is why I leave things on chair and not inbox). I know that everyone I deal with on a day-to-day basis had their own systems for organizing. Not everyone uses an inbox. I cannot begin to keep track of every person’s work flow. Therefore, as a favor, I’m leaving what I have for you in a neutral zone where you can pickup and move in a manner that works for you. The fact that this is being perceived by some as “do this right now” strikes me as a little hypersensitive. IMO, leaving something on your chair says that I am respecting your own personal workflow and organizational system, and I trust that you will proceed accordingly. To simply assume that everyone uses an inbox is pretty short sighted.

    1. Ethyl*

      Right — how am I supposed to know that the random half a cardboard box on Jane’s desk is her inbox, while Jim has a wire mesh basket on his guest chair, but Jill uses a particular folder on a shelf on her bookshelf, and Wakeen uses a hanging magazine holder next to his door?

  31. MrsG*

    People with the inbox obsession drive me nuts. You know if I put it in your inbox then you’re going to tell me it’s turned the wrong way, so I’d just rather you do it. I personally love it in my chair so that way I can delegate it to whatever pile I wish. Obviously your boss trusts you to know what you’re doing.

  32. Random*

    This is actually really common in Law practices … I’m surprised that it would bother someone enough to write AAM! Interesting! :)

  33. Jim*

    This seems rude to me, leaving on the keyboard or the desk is better. The manager knows its annoying and still carries on acting the same makes me think he’s an ass, but as its such a small issue it’s no worth making a fuss about, if that’s how he operates just suck it up.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      How is leaving it on your keyboard less rude? I’m genuinely curious; I understand the sentiment that placing something on a chair suggests that it’s more important than other things/must be dealt with right away/etc. But doesn’t the keyboard placement suggest the same things? You still have to move it before you can do (most) other work.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        I think it’s a question of levels. I personally find the chair most annoying – as someone said, you can’t even sit down to begin your day if there’s work on your chair. Keyboard is still rude in my mind, but less so – you’ve allowed me to sit down before I have to deal with it (even if “dealing with it” is just moving it for now).

      2. Jen*

        To me, the chair is more annoying because I can’t even sit down before I have to look at the papers. If it’s on my keyboard, I can plop my ass down, grab my coffee/tea/water, THEN look at the paper. It’s a minor thing, but it would definitely annoy me.

  34. Brett*

    People don’t leave stuff on chairs around here because we had one of those bizarre 1 in 1000 incidents.
    We have one higher up who likes to pull innocuous pranks (I think I have mentioned him before). Well, he had wound down the chair of one of his peers who had a tendency to plop herself down into her chair and left a note on her chair.

    She comes into her office in a hurry and does not notice either the lowered chair or the note. Plops down, hits the note and slips forward off the note to the front edge of the chair. Chair starts to flip, then snaps in two! Top half flips up in the air and lands on her head, smacking her head into the desk.

    Fortunately no serious injuries, but we don’t mess with people’s chairs around here any more. (Now we mess with their phones instead.)

      1. Brett*

        No idea. Both people involved were quite a ways above me. She never got medical treatment, so probably nothing was ever filed.

      2. FD*

        Probably in very dry and boring prose. I’ve written incident reports for some amazingly bizarre situations.

  35. Kou*

    So crowd consensus this week is that it’s ridiculous to be annoyed by chair mail but also outlandish and presumptuous to send someone a calendar invite for their meeting. It’s unreasonably annoying to delete or ignore an invite, but not to have to sort papers before you sit down?

    I get that everyone has their individual preferences, but I’m surprised at how strong the opposing trends are here.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      I actually think the chair mail discussion is pretty divided. If anything, I’d say the consensus is: Chair mail is annoying, but don’t mention it to your boss.

    2. BCW*

      I think the difference isn’t that it was presumptuous to send the invite, but not a big deal. It was a big deal to be annoyed that they declined, even though it could disrupt your calendar.

    3. Forrest*

      Its about positions of power and authority. You usually want to tend to those who have it needs first.

      IE the interviewer outranks you. Follow her lead. Your boss outranks. Follow her lead.

      This doesn’t apply to everything of course. But minor things? Just let it go.

      1. Kou*

        I don’t mean actions though, because you’re totally right there. Just how you feel about how aggravating something is. Because here it’s all “yeah so what, it’s a chair, let it go, just put it where you want it” but the calendar comments were more “my calendar is the way I want it and I should not have to delete your invite.”

        1. Forrest*

          Oh, well, then yea, I kind of agree. Kinda of because in one situation people are viewing it from the “power” position – the interviewer and the other situation as an employee.

          That said, I skipped the whole calendar discussion because I don’t even put that much thought into my own calendar and I don’t need to know about others. I just thought it was a waste of time for the person to send an invite and kind of rude because it assumes the interviewer isn’t organized – but not “ugh it messes up my system!”

    4. fposte*

      Interesting–I see these as utterly congruent and not opposing at all. The trend is that the person higher in the hierarchy sets the pattern, and that pushing back against it or trying to make them operate a different way is a bad plan unless it’s a matter of real import and not just one of taste.

      1. Kou*

        Ah yeah, I guess I should have said it would seem these things should go together but clearly the line about what’s allowed to be annoying is flowing more along rank than the actual invasion into your time. I don’t even mean pushback, just what people are allowed to be annoyed about in the first place.

  36. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    This all sounds a lot like the “my boss emails me at 2 in the morning” issue. Just because they’re sending you an email at 2 AM doesn’t mean they expect an immediate response. They’re the boss, and they’re doing what’s convenient on their end. You are welcome to shuffle stuff around to however you want it.

    My boss leaves stuff on my chair, instead of my desk, anytime I’m not there to take it directly. It never once occurred to me that that was stuff I needed to deal with immediately, or that it meant anything other than “This is for you.”

  37. CubeKitteh*

    There are folks who do this at my office, in addition to leaving things under keyboards or the phone. While I find it mildly annoying as I do keep a clean desk, I usually let it go unless it is a document that contains sensitive information. Such information should not be left on a person’s chair, desk, whatever, per our policy, and I am having a heck of a time convincing one of my staff that 1) yes, this is company policy and 2) sensitive information should be handled with care. But I keep trying.

    1. tcookson*

      That was my initial thought — that OPs ire is really more about the change in leadership/any change than it really is about the chair mail.

  38. Pat*

    I had a boss that was so disorganized we all left paper on her chair in the hopes that she would pay attention to it. She called me once to ask where something was and I went into her office and had to point out to her that she was sitting on it!

  39. Elizabeth West*

    We did this at Exjob all the time. Most people had reams of paper on their desks; if you left it in the chair when they were away, you could be sure they would see it. I had an inbox and people STILL left stuff in my chair. I didn’t mind very much, unless they pushed the chair under the desk and it went flying when I pulled it back out.

  40. Kerr*

    I admit, I feel for the OP – even though papers left on chairs/keyboards at work never really bothered me (maybe because I never had an inbox). Even if the act of moving the papers isn’t really a big deal, it’s still incredibly annoying to have someone dump things in an area that you want to keep clear, while ignoring another option (the inbox) that is just as easy for them, and a million times more comfortable for you. No, it doesn’t make total sense, but I understand the annoyance.

    Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the OP asking her boss to simply drop papers in her inbox, unless they’re very critical, since it makes it easier for her to keep things organized that way (or whatever reason sounds best – she shouldn’t say that it drives her crazy). I’d avoid making a huge deal out of it, but one very friendly, cheerfully-toned request seems like it shouldn’t be a problem.

    1. AB*

      “Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the OP asking her boss to simply drop papers in her inbox, unless they’re very critical, since it makes it easier for her to keep things organized that way”

      Here’s what I see as wrong with this scenario: if I have 5 people reporting to me, and Jane and Wakeen asks me to drop papers in her inbox, but Alice and Bob like the chair because they use their inbox for another purpose, soon I would need to carry a checklist to confirm the preference of each subordinate.

      No, unless there is just one employee (so it’s easy for the boss to remember), I don’t think it’s acceptable to ask your manager to do things a certain way when they’ve adopted a different method.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think the question would really take me aback, especially the way the OP makes it her co-worker sound. I’m also hearing some questionable context in the “We’ll trying to adjust and I try to give him the benefit of the doubt.” I would imagine you want him to give you the same, so why make it hard by trying to micromanage up on things that don’t matter?

        If I were the new boss, I would be really concerned that such an employee was unwilling and unable to adapt to new management. To some extent, OP, you have a new job now, and you don’t want to become one of those people who talks all the time about how your old job did things. Those people don’t tend to fare well at the new job.

        1. AB*

          Yes, fposte, it always surprises me how many people seem to get irritated with minor changes in the workplace that wouldn’t bother me one bit.

          I suppose being a consultant (and having to constantly adapt to different environments with very diverse work styles) has “trained” me to be very flexible and easily adjust to changes much bigger than papers-on-chair-rather-than-on-inbox-or-desk”.

          Really, people need to look at the problem from the manager’s perspective. Even if a boss *wanted* to bend to his subordinates’ desires, it would be very hard to remember every single preference his directs have regarding where to leave papers, who prefers to have a cup of coffee in the morning before being given a new task, who gets annoyed if you enter their office without knocking first, etc. etc.

          (Someone in this thread mentioned adjusting to the preferences of a coworker, but that’s very different than being a manager and having to memorize all the preferences of the people who work for you. The opposite makes much more sense: you adapt to your manager’s style, not the other way around.)

        2. Kerr*

          Granted, the coworker’s handling of the situation makes it tough; I can see how bringing it up now could be problematic. However, if the OP’s coworker *hadn’t* said anything, I’m not sure why it would be a problem.

          To me, it sounds like the office culture to date has been fairly consistent: papers go in inboxes. (I could be wrong, but it doesn’t sound like everyone has wildly differing preferences.) And the new manager, for whatever reason, is putting papers on chairs.

          I know it’s a different situation, but once as an admin, I was happily leaving stuff on coworkers’ chairs or desks (I forget which). At some point, one of the employees gently asked me if I would please leave their papers in their inbox. No harm, no foul, and I then discovered that practically everybody had inboxes in that office (they weren’t labeled), and switched my paper delivery methods accordingly.

          Now, obviously, I was the admin, not the manager. It’s *not* a huge deal, and I would advise the OP to be willing to adapt and let it go. But to me, it sounds more reasonable to state a preference up front, especially if it requires little effort on the manager’s part, than to stew in silence over something that could be resolved easily.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s possible to *ask*, so long as you’re aware that it’s essentially a favor you’re asking, not a right, and I’d suggest mentioning it during a longer talk about something else. But “stating a preference” to your boss who’s already indicated a different preference? Not a great plan. And it’s not a choice between saying something and stewing in silence–you can choose not to stew because it’s insignificant.

            My real concern here is that it sounds like the OP and the co-workers generally consider it the new boss’s job to adapt to the way they’re used to doing things, even in areas where it doesn’t matter. That is a way to make yourself really unhappy in the workplace or get yourself fired from it.

  41. Gilbey*

    Lots of people have pet peeves and I by no mean am taking away their right to be irritated by them.

    I just feel people need to put things in perspective to everything else.

    At one job, I once sat next to our manager ( a partition seperated us) and when there was a problem with an order and I had to listen ( as well as the entire floor) her berate an employee while pounding her fist on the desk. I can’t tell you how upsetting that was to hear. It was distrubing on the highest level. ( The gal left at 5 and never returned)

    Papers on my chair? Listening to my boss yell at a co-worker? I will take the chair issue anytime.

    Again it is not to invalidate peoples way of thinking, organizational needs and so on. I am just saying we need look at the grand scheme of things, and be thankful if we have a great manager and company and we like our job before getting mad a stuff that has not really made or broke your day/life at work.

    1. Julie*

      I agree with you, and I like the way that you put it. When I read the original letter and answer, I was glad that I work remotely a lot of the time, so I don’t need to worry about the papers-on-chair issue. But after reading a lot of the comments, it started to bug me that several folks have said, “What’s the big deal? Just get over it.” I assume that it wouldn’t be a big deal to the people saying that, but it clearly is a big deal to other people. It just seems rude to tell people that the thing that really bothers them (whether they would say anything about it or not, and most have said they wouldn’t/haven’t/won’t) isn’t worth getting upset about.

  42. Just me*

    Where I used to work, we always did this. Because there was so much paper, and things needing to be signed, it was the only way to ensure it was received. If it’s on your chair, you have to pick it up and do something with if. You will see it. Whereas if I put it in an inbox, it would get covered with other items and probably sit there. Personally, I use my inbox as part of my filing system, so I don’t mind if people put items on my keyboard or chair.

  43. LCL*

    My office is organized by the towering stacks of paper plan. Those of us who successfully use that plan really do remember where things are. People put things on my chair because that is the only clear space. That said, other people need a very specific workflow to handle their work, and if they want their work to start at the inbox, tell everyone that!

  44. SB*

    I always keep my desk meticulously clean (Papers not labeled in folders get spilled on, trashed or lost). I also never leave stuff in my inbox. Inbox stuff gets sorted in time delineated to-do folders. People made jokes about knowing their place in line when I moved their paper to the folders.

    My previous boss, however, had the messiest desk. I used to put important stuff in his chair and leave sticky notes standing up between the keys on his keyboard. He wouldn’t see things otherwise. I am very happy to move to a (mostly) paperless office. I only ever have to give my boss paper copies of things that need signing, and then I scan them immediately. I went from two big file cabinets to two drawers.

  45. OmarF*

    Hey, if you want me to take something seriously, scan it and email it. I’ll probably have to do that anyway. I don’t keep papers. If it’s something that must be kept for business reasons, the originals go to that location.

    Just don’t do like one guy. He prints emails, scans them and then sends them to me.

    I get annoyed at the papers on a chair thing too. I like an orderly office. I enter the room and it’s not orderly if paper is on a chair. It adds a subtle bit of tension. But that’s just me, and I won’t go out of my way to stop someone from doing it.

    But, if you want my best attention, you’ll get it to electronic format for me before you give it to me.

  46. SizeSix*

    My former boss would come in everyday and throw her coat on my desk. She also called me by her former assistants name and would make outrageous requests, like for books that hadn’t even been published.

    1. Lisa*

      You posted this before I had a chance to!


      Seriously all I could think about while reading all the comments was the montage of the coat-and-bag-thrown-on-keyboard-or-draped-over-monitor shots…while she was sitting there!!!

  47. Shannon313*

    While I agree this is a petty complaint, I have a colleague who is great in every way but HATES things being left on her chair. So even though I don’t understand it, I respect her wishes. To me, it’s an equally small thing just to stick it in her clearly marked inbox, so why aggravate her? Her boss respects her wish on that, too– no need to get a high performer in a tizzy for no reason.

  48. martini*

    Leaving stuff on your chair is the in-person equivalent of requesting a read-receipt on an email IMO, and I find it irritating for the same reasons. Having said that, I do have times where I am in someone else’s office and I dither about, trying to decide where to leave something (usually when their office is messy and they don’t have any visible inbox), and end up defaulting to chair/keyboard as well, so when people do it to me, I try to not let it bug me – some days more successfully than others!

  49. Ramona*

    I also don’t see what the big deal is. The new boss is probably has a lot more things to worry about than locating your inbox. At least he’s putting documents where you can find them.

  50. Paras*

    I actually prefer people leaving things on my chair, this way i see it, my desk is full of organized stacks of papers and folders and this way i can kind of sort and determine they way i need to deal with the things left, whether its urgent or it can wait. Like most people have mentioned, this is not a big deal.

  51. Cassie*

    My sister hates when people put stuff on her chair – she has a hanging inbox (mandated by the bosses) so what’s the point of that if people ignore it?

    Personally, it’s not as big of a deal for me, but I’d prefer people just leave it on my desk. (Hopefully I’ll be able to tell who left it – otherwise, leave a note!). I have a clean desk with nothing on it except keyboard/mouse/monitor, so it’s not like I’ll miss it. I once had someone leave a receipt under my keyboard and I had no idea it was there until the person told me the day after. I think some people may choose to leave stuff on my chair because they think it is more private? I sit in a cubicle – anyone walking by can see my desk.

    Now, I have one boss whose desk and office is a mess. My only option is to put stuff on his chair.

    I don’t think this is that big of a deal, but if someone told me they preferred inbox rather than chair or chair rather than inbox, I’d be inclined to remember. Whatever I can do to help them (so I get what I need from them), I’m glad to do.

  52. FD*

    If you already had a solid relationship with your boss, this is something you could probably address in a simple, non-confrontational way:

    “Hey, Jane, is there any way you might put my papers in the inbox instead of on my chair? I sometimes forget to look and I keep squishing them.”

    BUT…from the way you’ve been talking, it sounds like you haven’t built a good relationship with her yet. Whether that’s because of her or you or both, we can’t tell from the letter. So, you should probably wait at minimum until you two have a more comfortable working relationship. See, here’s the thing. If she already knows that you’re competent and generally a sane person (sanity counts for a surprising amount in the workplace), she’ll probably be willing to cut you some slack on a few things you’re anal about. But if she doesn’t know you, or if she feels you don’t like her, she’s liable to see this as you being unreasonable and/or intractable. Which likely will just make her less likely to do what you want.

    Basically, I think you probably could address this eventually, but I think you should wait until you have a better relationship with her. At this stage, you’re likely better off letting it slide even if it drives you nuts.

    (As a compromise, you could also put a basket on your chair so that it’s easy to move them from chair to wherever you want them when you return.)

  53. CollegeAdmin*

    Late addition to this, so not sure if folks will see it: If this was a new coworker leaving paperwork on a chair, not a new boss, would that alter anyone’s opinion?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure. You could say, “Hey, would you mind not leaving things on my chair and putting them in my in-box instead?” And the OP could have originally said that to the new boss too. But at this point, with the coworker already having made a big deal about it and in a weird way, I wouldn’t bring it up with the boss. Not right now, at least.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      You could also let people know that you check your inbox several times a day, and make sure that nothing is there from yesterday.

      I’ve known a lot of people who use their inbox for storage.

  54. holly*

    as a manager, i totally leave stuff on chairs so it won’t get missed. i learned this from a former boss who both left things on chairs and wanted his assistants to leave stuff on his chair. that way we can all put the papers where we want to.

    now i work somewhere with inboxes, and sometimes i totally don’t notice stuff when it’s in my box. oops.

  55. Working Girl*

    I have to say that I have gone to someones desk and didn’t know what pile to put something on and so I left it on their chair – no insult intended, just wanted to make sure they got it.

  56. Tara T.*

    I definitely agree with AAM, Holly, & Working Girl on this. It is over-sensitive to get mad over things being left on the chair. I have had the bad experience of leaving things in a person’s In-Box, and them not bothering to look in the In-Box and then asking me, “Why didn’t you give me that?”

  57. Anon*

    I do that with people at my office. I learnt it at another office years ago, and really liked it because it was a clear indication that the item(s) to be actioned are new.

    If someone I worked with or supervised said they didn’t like it, I’d be happy to do something different… perhaps if you simply asked your supervisor to use your inbox.

    Personally I prefer my co-workers to put things on my chair (my desk is that messy). I like to be able to view and prioritise new items so that they don’t get missed.

  58. Laura*

    I am late to the party – But I wanted to give my dissenting opinion here.

    I agree that in the grander scheme of office annoyances, this is a small one. However, one of the three attorneys I work for was constantly doing this, and it annoyed the hell out of me. I’ll tell you why: He is one of those “I have something to prove” people, and everything he sends me is an emergency, every task needs to be explained three different ways, I have to get to his work first because he is “a young lawyer” and thus has a “big future at the firm”, etc…

    So, the fact that he was placing all his documents in my chair instead of on my desk was just another one of his annoying ways he’d grapple for my attention and time FIRST. Nevertheless, I dealt with it the way one commenter here suggested – sent him an e-mail asking if I could ask him to place documents on my desk instead, as I routinely sat on things in my chair (wasn’t a total lie, I had done it once). His response: “But how will I get you to notice my work?” This annoyed me further, because my desk is extremely neat and set up so I notice everything placed on it. I just reiterated this and he hasn’t put anything in my chair since, so it wasn’t a big production, like the OP’s co-worker.

    Still, OP – I sympathize!

    1. Laura*

      Forgot to add – there is a Dilbert comic out there with Alice screaming over her cubicle about documents being left in her chair, which I loved so much I printed it for my desk :)

  59. Jeanette*

    I think it’s rude, I agree with you 100%. I’m a manger myself, it seems insulting that someone would put something on my chair….do you think Im too stupid to find it otherwise?? If someone does this to me, it goes to the bottom of my to do pile. My chair is for sitting, not for paper work. If there is no visual inbox I would be able to accept this, but if there is an inbox on my desk that is clear as day please use it! I know how to do my job, you should trust that I will go through my inbox often enough to get things done. I do feel it’s best to speak up no matter how small the issue is. As long as it’s done on a respectful level what do you have to lose? Now harm in pointing out where it would be most helpful that documents be left for you. If they respect you they will make note of this.

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