the company president took my chair and I’m sick of being disrespected

This was originally published in March 2014. (I’m reprinting it today so that I could take some time off this weekend. New posts are coming later today.)

A reader writes:

I started the position I’m in just two months ago as an account executive. Before this position, I was an admin assistant and volunteer coordinator elsewhere. I am also 23, I’ve been working since I was 14 and been in office roles since the age of 19 — meaning I’ve been working long enough to pick up on office politics, and to avoid dramas.

Quick background of my current workplace: 12 full-time employees. Most employees have worked there for over two years. Some six years. Pretty much everyone is close but nice, and I’m the newest and the youngest. I’m sure the next youngest person is 30.

Yesterday afternoon, I ran out to get a quick snack only to return to see the president of my company in my seat talking to my coworker/ supervisor. Okay, that’s fine — her back is to me so she didn’t realize I was back so I spoke up said “hello,” and since she didn’t budge, I grabbed my water bottle and went to the cooler to fill it up. I returned — placed it on my desk with a thud and home girl is still there! Okay … I decided to sit on a couch nearby. I sat there for 15 minutes, really beginning to fume. I pulled out my phone and ended up browsing, texting some friends –- from the corner of my eye I counted amount of times she turned around to look at me. Three! At that 15-minute mark, I got up, excused myself, and reached behind her to unplug my laptop, then returned to the couch. Of course I was too pissed to really do any work — I pretended to. She got up five minutes later. No apology.

I know for a fact she wouldn’t do that to anyone else. Even at my previous job as an admin assistant, my department supervisor was just the nastiest towards me, I was always overworked –- I came in on weekends and very often stayed hours after work. In fact my position was terminated mainly because I didn’t reply to an email she sent me after hours until 10 a.m. the next morning.

It’s all catty and unfair and it’s a shame because all of my past and current coworkers respect me enough and see that I am capable of delivering. It just seems like the C-levels are the ones not seeing that. It happens to a lot of my friends, and I just hate to see talent like me be disrespected because (a) we look/are young, and (b) we’re the newest or different a demographic. I refuse to tolerate things like this because that’s how patterns form.

How can I command respect from people like this? I’m not trying to be best of buds, but I would appreciate being acknowledged.

Note: This small company doesn’t really have an HR, but had I known better and have been less naïve at my previous job I would have went months before.


Going just on what you’ve written here, which is all I have to go on, this a wildly out of proportion reaction.

Your company president sat at your desk for 15 minutes. While you fumed. While you got too angry to be able to work.

She sat at your desk for 15 minutes.

This is … not a big deal.

Yes, it would have been more thoughtful for her to vacate your chair when you showed up. Yes, it’s annoying to be displaced for 15 minutes.

But you know what? She’s the company president. It’s her call. It’s not the most polite call, but it’s just really not that big of a deal. She didn’t lock you out of a meeting or ask you to clean a toilet or insult your mom. She took your chair for 15 minutes.

Now, should she have gotten up? Sure. But it’s hardly the slap in the face that you’re making it out to be. And your reaction here is so out of sync with what’s warranted that it’s actually a far bigger problem than the relatively small offense that she committed.

I’ve had bosses borrow my chair, make me wait outside their office when they were late for meetings, keep me hanging on the phone while they ordered lunch, and signal that my time was less important than theirs in all sorts of ways. Because my time was less important than theirs. I didn’t take that personally. I did, at times, think to myself, “You really shouldn’t be paying me to wait here like this.” But it wasn’t personal, and I didn’t take it as a reflection on anything other than the prerogatives of their place in their hierarchy. If I’d taken it personally … well, I can’t even imagine the effect that would have had on my career.

“Refusing to tolerate things like this” isn’t going to earn you respect. It’s going to earn you disrespect, because people will interpret that kind of reaction as being wildly out of touch. You’ll lose credibility too, and it won’t be there during the times when you really do need to be able to say “no, this isn’t okay.”

Do good work, stand up for yourself when it matters, and let the little stuff go.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. JokeyJules*

    Phew. I can feel the anger from OP, even now.
    It’s just not that deep.
    You got up and she took a free spot and then finished her conversation. And honestly, as a fellow admin, I’m sure the conversation was more important than whatever you probably had to do work-wise anyway.

    1. Yojo*

      She says that she understands office politics, but I think LW is fundamentally misunderstanding what her relationship to C-suite executives is supposed to be. The president isn’t necessarily going to acknowledge or praise you–it isn’t disrespectful, it’s just how those hierarchies work.

      “How can I command respect from people like this?”
      You don’t.
      You do your job well and the only people you should worry about impressing are the ones you interact with and directly report to.

      1. JokeyJules*

        also you can’t “command” respect. that’s not really how it works unless you’re a dictator

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Or the military, police force, etc.

          You know, the LW’s tirade really reminds me of when I was that age. Hindsight. I thought I could be SUCH a fabulous contributor – if they would just see my abilities and potential. But it doesn’t work that way. Despite the four years in office politics, clearly the LW still need some ‘seasoning’ to gain some perspective. Here is the most important: that president basically owns that chair. Period. If she wants to take your chair for the day, do the adult thing and find a conference room to work in, file something, tell someone you’re going for a walk, etc. You don’t sit there and stew ‘because conspiracy’.

          That said, no messaging would have gotten through to me at the time because I was too attached to my self esteem and how it related to work to listen to anything other than my own perspective. *shrug*

          1. Ego Chamber*

            It’s been 4 years since this letter was published! :D

            I hope OP now has better-calibrated reactions and is in a better situation (it sounded like she went from a toxic environment to a normal one, and personal experience says it takes at least 1 normal office to “rebound” from a toxic one) and has had the chance to develop the hindsight you’re talking about.

      2. MRSCHX*

        And her referring to her supervisor as “coworker/supervisor”.
        And was the President looking back because you were hovering over them and their conversation?
        And why on earth didn’t you just open your mouth?!

        1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

          That last — “And why on earth didn’t you just open your mouth” — strikes me strongly. A cheerful “I’m so sorry to interrupt but can I just get to my desk, please?” would have gone so much further than slamming water bottles and angry stomping.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, I think the two reasonable responses here were:
            a) “Sorry to interrupt; can I have my desk back so I can finish payroll?” (insert other time-sensitive task)
            b) Nod faintly to people and go play games on your phone in the break room for 15 minutes.

            The boss might have been somewhere on the mildly out of line scale–depends on both the importance of what they’re discussing and the potential blowback on OP if she can’t do anything for 15 minutes. Alas, her response switched the office attention fully onto that, and no amount of “but my seat!!!!” is going to move it elsewhere.

          2. Not Rebee*

            Yeah, either you had something time sensitive to do or not, in which case you should have opened your mouth, at the very least to inquire if you should grab your laptop and go do something else elsewhere or if this was a “I’ll be out of your chair in the time it takes you to grab a water” conversation. And honestly for fifteen minutes, it’s not the end of the world when there are clearly other chairs and your computer can go with you. Next time “So sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to know if I should grab my computer and head somewhere else while you guys finish this conversation.”

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            If someone on my staff were to slam down their water bottle and sit behind me fuming, I can pretty much guarantee they wouldn’t be coming back tomorrow.

          4. Staphylococcus anonymous*

            “That last — “And why on earth didn’t you just open your mouth” — strikes me strongly. A cheerful “I’m so sorry to interrupt but can I just get to my desk, please?” would have gone so much further than slamming water bottles and angry stomping.”

            Because – having worked for managers who pull “power plays” like this (there is literally no reason to ever sit at somebody else’s desk, unless you are IT) – I can tell you she would have been called insubordinate for speaking up.

            And then when she submitted her e-mail her, for sure she’d get dogpiled *for being insubordinate by wanting to get back to her desk and do her job*.

    2. Zennish*

      Hello, Gen X calling… Nope, it wasn’t a big deal. Yes, the president’s time is more valuable, just ask the payroll dept. Yes, the president could have been more courteous, but given the way they describe their own behavior I’m not sure if the OP was already throwing attitude when they said “Hello”… and just in general, having passive-aggressive tantrums in front of the president of the company is not exactly the quickest path to respect and advancement.

      1. Wesley Long*

        Gen X’er here, as well.

        I’ve had a *SUBORDINATE* take a call at my desk because that’s where they happened to be.

        You know what I did?

        I pulled a notebook out from under the “Pile o’ Files” on my desk, turned it to a blank page, pulled a pen out of the cup on the desk, put it on the page in front of them, and then went and took care of something else while they finished the call.

        You want respect? Be respectful. Sometimes it’s not about you. Sometime’s it’s not even about the “boss.” It’s about taking care of the customer on the phone. Give a bit, now and then, and understand that sometimes things just happen.

        1. MissPettyAndVindictive*

          Just wanted to say you’re awesome for letting people use your phone and not worrying about it. My boss often lets us use her office (with a door that shuts, we don’t have doors) to take calls if the caller is hard of hearing/hard to hear, or if it is personal, and it really does make a difference!

          1. Christine D*

            At my old office we didn’t have any space for nursing mothers and I was the first woman in many years to have a kid. My immediate boss, one of the senior executives, and the head of the agency (all 3 were men) offered up their office to pump since they were often gone on business.

            Yes, it was super awkward at times pumping in the president’s office, but it gave me warm and fuzzies to know just how willing they were to make things work for me.

      2. MissPettyAndVindictive*

        As a fellow Millennial, I just don’t get this attitude the OP has at all! Like, none of my friends in admin work (all same age bracket as myself) would ever act like this with even like, a colleague, let alone someone superior to my position.
        I mean, I have the odd joke to my team leader/manager “well if you’re gonna hog the printer I just won’t print anything!” and her usual response is to the tune of “no, you don’t get to print today. No printer time for MissPetty! The printer hates you!” and then she laughs, and then we get on with our day.
        But full on stomping, slamming water bottles, staring? That’s freaking off putting to start with, let alone rude.

        Though I do think it may not be a generational thing, rather a personality thing. Some people just think the sun shines out their inappropriate-for-work-orifice.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Yeah, if this is generational, we’re going to have to talk about microgenerations and I haaate that. The only potentially valid “generational” point to be made is really more of a “time in the workplace” point, and that’s where we usually should be anyway.

          4 years in is not the same as 14 years in (even though LW and I are both Millennials), and 4 years in is really, really different than 24 years in—which seems to be the point Xers keep trying to make, even though they couch it in generational divides for some reason.

          Tl;dr: Completely agree it’s more about personality, past experience, and an individual’s good or bad reaction to their current environment than any sort of “kids these days” situation.

    3. Staphylococcus anonymous*

      “You got up and she took a free spot and then finished her conversation. And honestly, as a fellow admin, I’m sure the conversation was more important than whatever you probably had to do work-wise anyway.”

      Where do you get the impression this is true? For all you know the conversation comprised completely of small talk and miscellaneous BS unrelated to work at all.

      This is incredibly dismissive and baseless.

  2. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, this is not something to get worked up about. And your company president probably got a very bad impression from you because of this incident. Hopefully, they’ll cut you some slack because you’re young (yes, you are, doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working).

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think it might have been okay to say something along the lines of “If I come back in half an hour, will that give you guys time to finish meeting?” or “Excuse me, I’m just going to get my laptop,” but deliberately putting down the water bottle with a thud isn’t a good way to handle it. Or, really, much of anything.

        To be fair, I wouldn’t, as a manager, sit down in somebody’s chair and not acknowledge their need to use it. But I don’t think it’s worth this level of emotion, and I don’t think the reaction was useful.

        1. Psyche*

          It also makes me wonder if perhaps losing the previous job was less about not responding to an email after hours and more to do with a passive aggressive response to being asked to respond to the email sooner. (Which is not to say that expecting people to work 24/7 is at all ok).

          1. fposte*

            This could be a Last Toxic Job carryover, in fact. If the previous one had no time boundaries, her invasion sensors could be on high, which is why she sees this as “catty and unfair” and all part of a piece, and I just see it as a situation where an impromptu meeting happened inconveniently.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              This is how I saw it too! I spent over a decade in Call Center Hell and I’m appalled by the way I behaved at the jobs I had in the few years after that—I wasn’t passive-aggressive or invested in stirring up petty drama, but I was overly paranoid, constantly watching my back for the inevitable knives, and tended to not believe the (totally sincere) things people tried to tell me.

              It’s been 4 years. I hope LW has been able to work through her toxic job experience and is in a better place.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Maybe. I agree on not making people work 24/7. That crap annoys me more than almost any other work thing. I don’t think that slamming her water bottle down “with a thud” is at all passive. That’s all aggressive right there. I’m also willing to bet that her reaching behind the president to unplug her laptop (did she even say anything?) was done with attitude. She hates to see “talent like me” wasted because the C-suite people won’t recognize her wonderfulness? Me thinks the Dunning-Kruger is strong with this one.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          It wasn’t only not useful, it was inappropriate and out of line. It has nothing to do with her age but OP seems to think she is on an equal level (“coworker/supervisor”) with the president of the company, and is trying to “command respect.”

          My overriding reaction is “Who the hell do you think you are? That’s not how this works!” It’s not her chair, or her desk, or her spot. All of that belongs to the company. Sure the president may have been slightly rude, maybe, but OP is way, way, way over the top in her reaction and expectations.

          This was 2014…I’d love an update.

          1. Zillah*

            I think the president was talking with her coworker/supervisor – she wasn’t saying the president was her coworker/supervisor. (I’m also not clear on whether there were two people involved in the conversation or three – she might have been saying that the president was talking to her coworker + her supervisor.)

      2. JSPA*

        Perception of time shifts with age. I think people are vaguely aware of that from hearing older relative complain about how fast time goes by. But some people may not realize it’s not a figure of speech, or a comment on being unable to keep up with the pace of modern life and electronics–it’s a real facet of how we age, neurologically.

        Anecdotally, I sure remember how much longer 15 minutes felt, when I was 23, than it does now. Heck, 5 minutes of doing nothing would drive me up the wall; now, I’m lucky if I notice that 5 minutes have passed.

        So (for the OP, if she’s still around, out there) and for anyone who finds this thread by googling about being made to wait for 15 minutes:

        if your boss is 30 years older than you are, that time spent talking probably felt half the length, because she’s significantly older. Then, half her perceptual time again, because she was engrossed in conversation, and you were on hold. So it probably felt like 3 or 4 of your perceptual minutes to her.

        Similarly, when you ask your 5 year old to sit still for 5 minutes, it’s going to feel like…20? 30? of your minutes, to them. And when you remember your parents expecting you to sit still for “forever,” it…probably wasn’t.

        Granted, this is a YMMV thing. Not everyone’s perceptual timing slows equally, nor linearly. It’s also not only possible but probable that some people really perceive more “moments” in every second, than others (not even bringing in actual pathologies like Parkinsons).

        Keeping the range of human experience in mind can really help when you wonder why someone operates the way they do. Sure, some people are behaving “at” you. Or being rude in ways that are either intentional or thoughtless. But many of them are just existing and processing at their own pace. This may or may not be compatible with your needs / the company’s needs, but it’s not an intentional rudeness, nor a sign of some moral or attitudinal failing.

        1. KX*

          I remember getting 15 minute breaks at the university bookstore. I would leave out the back, go into the student center lounge, NAP for a little bit, and then return to my shift. NAP! Now 15 minutes is barely enough time for me to feel like I can run to the drugstore in my current building without feeling rushed.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Heh. Some years back they realized there was a problem doing sleep studies on undergraduates, because they uniformly react to “Want a nap?” by instantly falling asleep.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          I don’t dispute what you’re saying here—the science of the perception of time in relation to aging is real and fascinating—but in this situation, I think the perception of time was more affected by what each party was doing.

          The boss was engaged in conversation while LW was killing time waiting for that conversation to end. Things always seem to take longer if you’re waiting (see: watched pot boiling theory). Things also seem to take longer if you don’t know how long the thing you’re waiting for will take (consider waiting for a table at a restaurant: being told you’ll be seated in 20 minutes is much different than “I don’t know but we’ll put you on the list!” even if the latter only ends up being 10 minutes).

          None of this makes LW’s reaction okay, but this is why I try to put a clock on everything. If someone tells me they’re going to be late, I ask “How late?” and if someone is sitting in my chair at work, I ask if I should relocate to a conference room with my laptop for half an hour while they finish up what they’re doing. Bonus: they usually say “No thanks, we’re almost done. Why don’t you go get a coffee? We’ll have this wrapped up by the time you come back.”

          1. Birch*

            Yes, this. Time perception is more strongly affected by attention. If you’re just sitting there waiting for one thing to happen, there’s a strong dilation effect and it feels like time goes really slowly because you’re just waiting for something to process. Still, if OP realized it was only 15 minutes after the fact, the logical part of the brain should have kicked in and warned them not to rant to an internet advice column about it…

            1. Emily*

              15 minutes can still be complain-worthy in the right context. I once pulled up to my pharmacy’s drive through window and it took 13 minutes for anyone to even acknowledge my presence, let alone assist me. Even looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I still believe that 13 minutes is at least one if not two standard deviations too long to wait for someone to help me in a drive through. I’m betting LW was making a similar assessment that wasn’t about how long it felt at the time, but her belief that 15 minutes actually was unacceptable in that context.

          2. Emily*

            Yeah, I’m far enough along that I’ve definitely noticed the speed-up in my perception of time, but that hasn’t stopped me from having a very strong aversion to waiting. (I pretty much refuse to stand in a line for anything other than life-saving medical treatment or entry to an event I’ve already paid for. I will bail on almost any other intention that I had to do anything else if I get there and there’s a line.)

            What has made me bored less often is less that time passes more quickly for me now, and more that I am too busy to be bored most of the time. Boredom comes when you have nothing to do, or nothing you *can* do. I’ve got a backlog of to-dos that would take me days/weeks to clear most of the time, and on the rare occasion that I clear my plate, I’m so exhausted that “recharging” is the thing I’m doing, which looks a lot like doing nothing, but resting purposefully and being involuntarily unable to do anything are two very different things.

      3. Emily*

        When I read it I could almost hear the pointed, huffy impatient sighs I’m sure she was making.

  3. Mike C.*


    It was disrespectful not to leave the desk immediately and being president doesn’t negate that. One doesn’t become royalty just because they’re in management.

    No manager I’ve ever seen, no matter how high, has ever not immediately vacated someone else’s desk when the original owner came back. Just because you’re ok with being treated like crap from management doesn’t mean that it’s something to be tolerated by employees or encouraged by managers.

    1. Roscoe*

      I mean, its a bit rude, sure. But the level of anger isn’t proportionate to what happened. I can definitely understand being a bit annoyed by this. But not THIS worked up over a damn chair.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      It was *15* minutes. The reason the president acted like it wasn’t a big deal was because it wasn’t a big deal. The only reason it was a big deal was because LW decided to get worked up into a snit about it. The rest of us, I hope, would have said, “Oh, excuse me–I’ll be back in a few minutes,” and . . . gone and gotten a drink of water or something. If it went on longer than that, all she had to do was say, “I’m sorry, could I get my laptop?”. The fuming and stomping part was completely out of line.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s about respecting the people you work for. That conversation could have happened anywhere else.

        1. Alli525*

          Uh… the CEO doesn’t work for the OP. The OP works for the CEO. Yes, CEO could have realized that she was slightly impeding someone’s work, but ultimately OP had a laptop for a reason – sounds like the company encourages working not-from-your-desk occasionally – and therefore her fury was completely inappropriate.

          1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

            This is a terrible attitude to have in a workplace, regardless of your role.

            The *president works for the company, and the company is comprised of employees. Executives would do better to remember who they work for.

        2. Hills to Die on*

          I agree with you. It’s an oddly rude and thoughtless thing to do. I understand being frustrated with it because it’s not about the chair; it’s about the lack of respect for the OP’s presence and contribution to the company. I agree that OP overreacted but that doesn’t negate the CEO being disrespectful to her own staff.

          1. shep*

            I think I fall along the same line of thought, but I realize my perspective is colored by how this would be perceived in my own office. Everyone very much has Their Place (assigned offices and cubes with personal items), and if someone else is in it, even an upper-level executive, there would at least be an, “Oh sorry, I’ll be gone in just a minute,” or something along those lines.

            I do agree that the OP’s anger is disproportionate to the situation, especially considering their seating arrangement sounds more fluid, but it would bother me a bit if someone took my seat (again, thinking in terms of my current office environment) and didn’t even acknowledge me when I came back to claim it again.

            I also wonder (and I realize this is speculation and there’s no way of knowing) if perhaps the exec just didn’t realize she’d taken OP’s spot. I know I can be pretty oblivious sometimes if I’m in the middle of something, and could easily see missing those cues, especially if I know I’m only going to be there for a few minutes and don’t realize someone might actively need their seat back.

            1. mcr-red*

              I agree. I have had coworkers plant themselves at my desk when I’ve gotten up to go the printer to have a little chat with the person I sit near. And I will walk right up to them and either hover right over them or say, “You sit at the desk, you’re doing the job.” And they will get right up. I have also have coworkers have customers sit at my desk, again when I’ve gotten up, and I’ll tell them, “Excuse me, I need my desk back.” Much like you mentioned, shep, it is our personal space with personal items including my coffee and purse sitting right on the desk. It’s obviously occupied and I’d rather you not be sitting there, thanks.

              The CEO would probably get the “excuse me, I need my desk back,” comment, as I have no idea what he looks like and would take him for a customer. My grandboss would probably get a “Hi there, don’t suppose I could have my desk back?” as I know him and he’s mostly pretty laid back with all of us.

          2. It's Pronounced Bruce*

            Yeah, this is a pretty crappy thing for the CEO to be doing. People keep saying that the duration negates that, but it really doesn’t in my opinion. If anything, the fact that the CEO has sweeping authority should make her more careful around the most junior employees, not less, knowing that the power dynamic makes it more difficult for someone like the LW to speak up.

            Sure the LW’s emotional response to it was more intense than was probably necessary. Her fuming in a letter to AAM doesn’t somehow make the actual action less crappy, though.

            1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

              ” If anything, the fact that the CEO has sweeping authority should make her more careful around the most junior employees, not less, knowing that the power dynamic makes it more difficult for someone like the LW to speak up.”

              +10000 I’m surprised at people denying this is a power play, simply because when there is a major power dynamic like this, every little thing that imposes one’s authority over somebody else *is necessarily a power play*.

          3. Nice Nik*

            I am surprised that this is seen as trivial. Imagine if the chair was the office managers, and they had to take their laptop and go elsewhere. What would happen to that managers respect? Would the rest of the staff feel that the CEO valued them? Why is it different for someone at a low level? If it was me, frankly I would start looking for a new job.

            1. Emily*

              I’ve worked for/with some pretty high-maintenance executives, and I’ve never extrapolated their treatment of lower-ranking staff that way. I’ve always interpreted it as being about the executive’s personality and the role they serve in the company, not a value statement about the other employees.

              What makes this whole situation ridiculous is that LW allowed the situation to just carry on while she fumed and stewed. Yes, CEO violated a boundary. But it was a pretty small one, all things considered, that she was most likely not violating maliciously, specifically to screw with LW. I’d be shocked if a simple, “Excuse me, I’m just going to grab my laptop while you guys are chatting,” wouldn’t have completely defused and resolved the situation, either by graciously giving her space to the boss or nudging the boss to realize she was taking up LW’s space. And I can’t see anyone losing respect for an office manager who was gracious and secure enough in her position to know it didn’t reflect on her value.

              I can understand the argument against being deferential to senior employees, that some people really don’t like hierarchy or seniority-based privilege. But in offices that work that way, it frequently has nothing to do with whether the seniors respect the juniors, and nobody thinks that seniors exercising privilege implies the juniors aren’t valued. In (normal, functional) offices that work that way, it’s pretty much universally seen as a senior exercising a privilege that comes with seniority and just something you accept as part of working with senior staff. Cyndi the VP will share long, irrelevant personal stories in every meeting and nobody will cut her off even though anyone else who goes off topic gets reined in. Sal the Director isn’t responsive to junior staff over email so anything you want him to review needs to be printed and carried to his office if you want it reviewed in less than three days. Dale the C-suite exec never shows up before 10:30 in the morning and everyone knows that you just don’t schedule Dale for meetings before 10:30. Gerry only responds to emails with ‘k’ or ‘thx’ no matter how much detail you put into your email to him. It’s all stuff that could be interpreted as disrespect if you take it personally, and would be way too out of line for a junior employee to get away with, but senior staff can get away with it, and because everyone knows that, it’s just seen as “typical senior staff mildly bad behavior that we’ve all agreed isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things because of all the other value they bring to the team/company.”

              1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

                You can’t say “she should’ve spoken up” and then, in literally the next sentence, argue for the virtues of being “deferential to senior employees”. If you are expecting deference, then speaking up in this specific scenario would be perceived as insolent.

          4. grey*

            Exactly. As someone who is constantly disrespected by the people I work with and for; I could totally see being very upset about this.

        3. Eddiesherbert*

          To me, I think it depends on the conversation. If it’s a work-related thing, I would just accept it (with a twinge of annoyance, yes!). If it was social, I’d be upset (but I’d also feel comfortable asking if I could have my seat back in the moment then).

          1. GlitsyGus*

            This is a big part of it. If you need your seat back to work, and the CEO doesn’t seem to realize that, then the appropriate course of action is, “Excuse me, will you be long? I need to get ready for my next meeting/get back to my report/ whatever.” Slamming your water bottle down on the table and garing at them from a sofa is NOT the correct way to tip anyone off to the fact they are in your space, CEO or otherwise. The OP is convinced this was a slight, but she really doesn’t know if that is true because she didn’t SAY anything to the person in her chair so she does not KNOW the situation. It could have been a very serious discussion that needed to be completed, or it could have been something silly that could have been wrapped up or moved, she has no idea.

            Sure the CEO was being less than considerate, but the OP did not handle it in a way that will earn her any points.

        4. KC*

          Maybe not worth fuming over, but definitely very inconsiderate, especially considering the power dynamics.

      2. MJLurver*

        Personally, I’d love a 15-minute break that is this kind of non-negotiable scenario. I’ve had similar things happen in the past and I used it as an excuse to sit somewhere else for a minute and do ANYTHING I wanted to do while my boss was at my desk/seat.

        It’s funny, I bet if this happened 7-8 years later in OP’s work life, their take on the situation would be 180 degrees from their reaction in the letter above. They’d not only have more experience in an office environment (to reconsider the angry response, if they felt that way), but a “free” 15-minute respite would probably be appreciated more than resented.

        It seems like a combination of inexperience, youth, and maybe just plain old not understanding office culture in general. I do know that if I were her superior, the reaction described above wouldn’t impress me or help OP’s reputation.

        1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

          You assume that OP wouldn’t be reprimanded for not doing her job, even when prevented from it.

          Source: I’ve been in OP’s seat, as OP, and I’ve made a point to never take an employee’s seat, as a manager.

      3. Nice Nik*

        Exactly. It was 15 minutes. That is a long, long time. Imagine you are in a queue at a coffee shop, talking on your phone, and you wait 15 minutes to order after the barrista asks what you want. You think that barrista will feel respected and patiently wait for you? Do respectful people do that sort of thing? No, they react immediately to the situation, with apologies.

    3. Amtelope*

      I don’t get it — you’re not harmed or being “treated like crap” by having to wait for a few minutes to get back to your desk. Given that the OP has a laptop, I think rather than sitting and playing on her phone, it would have been better to interrupt politely and ask if she could grab her laptop, which might have prompted the president to move, and if not would at least have let the OP get back to work. But even if she wasn’t able to work while waiting to get her chair back, I don’t get the level of anger over having to move temporarily so that the company president can sit and talk to someone.

      1. Mike C.*

        You’re way too focused on the perceived level of anger (folks are allowed to vent in letters to advice columns) and are completely ignoring the fact that this person believes that simply because they’re in management they can displace others who are working without a single word.

        This isn’t something normal adults do to each other.

        1. JokeyJules*

          I really dont think the manager was thinking about it that way at all. OP had vacated the seat, the manager probably got into the conversation, figured OP was on her break, and sat down, and then got wrapped up into the conversation.

          1. Cat Fan*

            That’s probably all true. However, when OP came back the manager should have simply stood up and continued her conversation so OP could have her desk back. I think it is really strange that she didn’t. I can’t imagine anyone at any senior level where I work just taking over someone’s desk for any amount of time. It’s weird, more weird than a manager ordering lunch while Allison is on the phone or any of those other examples. Time constraints would explain all of those other suggestions, but nothing explains taking someone else’s seat at their desk and staying there when the person comes back.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              The manager should have simply stood up.

              Sure. But she didn’t.

              Now that the social contract has been violated, OP can respond by proffering a polite request for her spot, or by asking if it’s okay if she comes back later. The slamming and stomping and snitting were uncalled for.

              And were the chair occupied by office peer Fergus, sharing his latest GoT theory, I’d say “Fergus, move” would be a far better response than slamming, stomping, and snitting,

          2. LadyL*

            That’s probably part of the issue, the manager wasn’t thinking about the power imbalance at all. If OP’s desk was occupied by a peer OP would probably have felt much more comfortable just saying, “Hey, can I get my desk back?” and figuring it out from there. The OP was at the mercy of the manager’s schedule, and it wasn’t occurring to the manager that the OP wouldn’t be comfortable asserting herself.

            OP reacted too strongly, but I think all managers need to remember the power imbalance they have and to be extra courteous to employees, so as to not accidentally be using their power in a way they don’t intend to.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Sure they do. People sit in empty chairs all the time. It’s not like the president walked up to the OP, pointed to her and said, “You. Peon. Get up so I may speak to your neighbor.” The OP wasn’t there, so the president sat down. I simply cannot see this as being as nefarious as you do. Perhaps thoughtless or not thinking it’s a big deal. I’d rather save my fury for stuff like not getting paid enough or being told I’m an idiot or being left out of important meetings.

          1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

            “People sit in empty chairs all the time.”

            people’s temporarily unoccupied designated workspaces =\= random empty chairs

          1. JM60*


            While it’s not that big of a deal, if that’s her assigned spot where she always sits, then I can see this as being a step or two beyond the trivial, non-personal things that AAM mentions in her reply. If things like this were often done to me and only to me, that would be pretty annoying and may make me feel disrespected if there wasn’t some practical reason why it was specificly done to me.

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          TBH… I’ve done it to my manager before… his chair is next to a dev I often chat to, and if he wasn’t there, I’d nab his seat for a couple of minutes… so I’m not seeing it as a power thing, just a “oh, there’s a chair” thing.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              But OP didn’t stand around :) She said hello, grabbed a water bottle and headed off.

              Generally, yes, I’d give the seat back – often he’d say “it’s OK, I’m not staying” -once I think I didn’t notice until he asked for it back. Not a big deal – and I’ve had similar stuff with other colleagues, some of whom were not as senior as I am.

              And director has been in my seat before when I’ve turned up – if he notices I want it back or I ask for it, he moves, if I grab my cup and head to kitchen, he doesn’t.

              Bottom line – use words! Saves so much hassle!

              1. Cat Fan*

                Should she have asked if she could have her seat back in the middle of their conversation? Obviously she went and got water and came back to her desk and then went to the couch nearby. It should have been pretty obvious that she would be sitting at her desk if someone else wasn’t there. It’s all about the fact that the CEO did not even say a word to her about using her desk or asking if she needs it when she came back. It’s just rude.

                1. Akcipitrokulo*

                  Not really… glancing at her on phone could have been checking “Does she need seat? No, still ok…”

                  So miscommunication. They happen… and usually no malice on either side.

                2. Nita*

                  Yes, I think she should have asked in the middle of the conversation. Just cut in with a “Sorry, will you need a few minutes? Mind if I grab my laptop then?” If she went to lunch, the CEO could have assumed she’d be gone longer. Or that she’d be back with the lunch and then head off to eat it somewhere else – not everyone eats at their desk!

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  That’s where you need some skills to determine if this is an idle chitchat conversation or a grim eyebrow conversation, and adjust your interrupting accordingly.

                4. Emily*

                  My view is that, “it should have been obvious that…” is a terrible approach to interpersonal relationships both inside and outside of the workplace. You’d be surprised how often you’ll find that if you speak up, what seemed obvious to you, and like it *should* be obvious, had not even crossed the other person’s mind. In any given moment there are literally hundreds if not thousands of observable facts around you, and our brains work by filtering out the unimportant (“there is a piece of lint on my colleague’s shirt collar”) from the moderately important (“the light switch is by the door”) and the very important (“someone carrying a heavy water cooler jug has tripped and is falling rapidly in my direction”). The filtering happens on an unconscious level and two different people sitting in the same room can filter things very differently and take notice of completely different facts and derive a different meaning from the scene as a whole. Lots of perception brain teasers are based on this aspect of human cognition (like the, do you see a young woman or an old lady in this ambiguous image?).

                  That’s why you don’t assume you know why someone is doing something, and if you want them to change their behavior, you tell them directly rather than hinting. Don’t get upset about thoughts you imagine someone else is having without at least confirming they’re actually having them.

                  Maybe the CEO was being aggressively rude, or maybe she was just thoughtless. Being thoughtless isn’t a positive or likable trait, for sure, but it’s something that busy execs are usually cut some slack on, and it isn’t a slight against the person they failed to think about.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Using words. If OP cannot find words to work through this situation then how will she find words for a difficult situation? That will be the first thing a boss thinks of.
                If I were a boss I would be wary of letting OP work on a difficult situation. If a chair issue causes a meltdown then how will she cope with something more difficult.

          1. JM60*

            There’s a bit of a difference between borrowing someone’s chair and borrowing someone’s spot. The former is a mild inconvenience remedied by grabbing another chair. The latter can seem a little bit more personal if that space was carved out for you (even though it’s owned by the organization, not the employee).

        4. Micromanagered*

          I’m with you. It was really rude. Not “kind of annoying” but really rude. If the president had said afterward “I needed a quick place to chat and that went on longer than I intended” or something, then yeah, I’d say OP should let it go. But I can totally see how a person could get to “fuming” about this–and I’m not a person who flies off the handle about small things at work.

          As far as how to handle it, I think OP would’ve been within bounds to say “Sorry to interrupt, but do you need my desk for a bit? I can take my laptop to the conference room if so.” (This probably also depends on what kind of conversation it appeared to be. Like if they were casually chatting about the McGregor fight, then yes. If it looked more serious, then maybe just hold off.)

          I think OP could also have asked her supervisor “What’s up with that?” after the fact. OP’s manager might have been able to give some context that would make this (otherwise really odd and rude) behavior make more sense, even if it’s just “Yeah the president does jerky stuff like that without meaning to.” or something.

          1. Eddiesherbert*

            +100 to saying something in the moment. I like Micromanagered’s comment of just asking if she needs your desk for awhile.

          2. CM*


            To me this is a Use Your Words letter and not a Respect the Hierarchy letter. The OP clearly wanted their chair back, so the best thing to do was to ask for it. The only time that wouldn’t be right call is if the CEO and coworker were obviously having a really sensitive conversation that required privacy (in which case, ideally they wouldn’t be doing it in a shared space in the first place, but sometimes that happens).

        5. neverjaunty*

          While I agree with you that this was a complete jerk move by her boss*, the point of the letter isn’t “venting to an advice columnist”; the OP mishandled her reaction and is in a towering rage, which is not proportional or helpful to dealing with the incident.

          *frankly I’m gobsmacked by the ‘my time is less important’ part of the response justifying thoughtless behavior and overt displays of power by senior people.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah that grabs me also about “my time is less important”. I do understand Alison’s encouragement to work through it, Alison is saying this is how to succeed in life by finding tools to cope with difficult situations and difficult people.

            But I still think less of a leader who believes my time is less than theirs and acts in alignment with that belief. I believe them to be an inferior quality manager/leader.

            On the other hand, I kind of get a chill up my spine with “commanding respect”. It’s not lost on me that the CEO seems to be commanding respect and it angers OP, yet OP wants to do the same thing. Respect is a two way street. I have a boss who gets lost in conversation. Yes, I have to tell her she is in my chair. She knows she gets lost in conversation and she knows she wants me working not waiting for her to finish a conversation. I simply say, “Hey, Boss, can I have my chair?”

            People do not mind read, OP. I have never worked anywhere that I did not have to explain something obvious (to me) to some else. Explaining obvious things without being condescending or angry is a good skill to have.

            1. Kobayashi*

              In a business context, someone’s time IS less valuable than another’s. If the CEO is being paid $300,000/year and the admin assistant is being paid $50,000 a year, then obviously the admin assistant’s work time, per hour, is less valuable to the company than the CEO’s work time. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to have a CEO spend their time filing paperwork if someone else can do the work for less — because that amounts to something like $144/hour for filing papers, which is not a good return on investment for that time.

              1. neverjaunty*

                That someone’s time is “less valuable” doesn’t make it okay to waste that time, or use it up in ways that have no business purpose. Especially if wasting their time is done thoughtlessly or as a power game.

                1. Anna*

                  That put my back up too. Yes, I may make less money than a CEO, but my time is just as valuable if you want things that only I do done.

                  In a culture that equates personal value with how much money you make or what you do for a living, maybe it’s not a good idea to tell someone they are worth less than a CEO. You are telling a person they are less valued as a human than someone else. (There’s a reason the word “guillotine” is seeing an uptick in usage.)

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  @Anna “maybe it’s not a good idea to tell someone they are worth less than a CEO.”

                  Alison never said that, and neither did any of the commenters in this thread you’re replying to. She, and they, said LW’s time cost the company less than the CEO’s time, which is a purely business reading of what should have been a business interaction. LW tried to make it personal by turning the interaction into a value-judgement, and said her time was just as valuable, which isn’t true from a financial perspective, which is what Alison was saying.

                  This is not the same as saying a person is less valuable than another person, and it’s funny that you took it there while decrying the culture you’re basing your statement on.

              2. Kobayashi*

                I disagree that saying someone’s work time is less valuable equates to saying they are less valuable as a human being. The CEO is in charge of the business, so if they want to pay someone $15 to $20 to stand around, that’s there prerogative. Anyone who somehow thinks that means the person making $15 / hour is less valued as a human being in general has priorities way out of skew. That’s the whole point of saying “In a business context.”

            2. Esq*

              But C-suite executive’s time IS more important. I’m a newish partner at a law firm. My hourly billing rate is about $500 more than a new associate’s. The senior most partner’s rate is about $500 more than mine. That’s is how economics works.

              1. Anna*

                That’s how capitalism works; not economics in general. Just the economics of this particular form.

                If you’re time is so much more important, tell me how much you could get done without the help of all the people whose time isn’t as important as yours.

              2. neverjaunty*

                And if the senior partner ordered you to shine his shoes, that would be crappy and demeaning.

                1. Julia*

                  But that didn’t happen to OP.
                  Sure it bothers me when I have to waste work time to stand around waiting for someone, but if someone has to wait, it should probably be the one that costs the company less.

          2. Staphylococcus anonymous*

            “*frankly I’m gobsmacked by the ‘my time is less important’ part of the response justifying thoughtless behavior and overt displays of power by senior people.”

            Thank all that is good and holy, because I honestly was starting to think I was alone here. *Nobody’s* time is less important. Somebody’s *work* may be more *valuable*, but time is time. No person is more important than another, therefore nobody’s time is more or less important than anybody else’s, and this idea that somebody’s station or status makes them more worthwhile as a human and therefore gives them a pass to act inconsiderate (at best) is sickening. I’m profoundly, viscerally disappointed to see this mentality here, considering “I am more important than you” is pretty textbook Bad Management.

        6. Uncertain*

          I’m with you on this Mike. It’s weird to me that Alison is so dismissive of the letter writer because they were upset. Yes, their level of anger feels excessive, and it’s probably right that they should address that, but I don’t think it’s right to give the boss a free pass as if taking someone’s chair and ignoring them while they hang around for 15mins is an ok thing to do. It’s belittling, bullying, and arrogant.

          Also, can we collectively agree that the whole “I’ve been treated crappily by people in power so you have to put up with the same” is an unhelpful thing to say? I get that Alison is trying to say that this is somehow normal behaviour and the OP is out of line for being upset by it, but given everything that’s been going on in the news in the last few years I’d have hoped we were moving away from accepting bad behaviour from senior people, and supporting people who’ve been forced to put up with it.

          1. heyho*

            I agree – it’s rude of the president not to get up.

            Based on the letter, it sounds like OP has had trouble gaining respect at a lot of his/her jobs. I had similar issues when I was younger, and I get where OP was coming from with getting so mad. It SUCKS to feel like you aren’t valued because you’re the youngest, or newest, or “just” the admin.

            I think OP will need to learn how to become more confident and outspoken at work, but it’s a hard thing to do in jobs that beat you down.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I do agree that we should not tell people that they should put up with crap we did. However, I don’t think that we should encourage people that workplaces are all rainbows and sunshine either. Reality is that there are difficult people out there. There are very few people I know who have not had their share of misery. I do think that AAM (Alison and commenters) do a good job of saying when to get out NOW.

            A boss sitting in your chair for 15 minutes is not worth walking off the job over. To me it’s not even worth getting angry over because if it were me I would tell myself that I failed to use my words to remedy the situation. I took no real action, so I need to vow to do something different the next time.

            OP, people do not mind read. People can be oblivious to their own behavior. This happens all. the. time. It is helpful to develop ways to deal with that when you see it.

            I go back to what my first boss said, “Part of what we are being compensated for is our willingness to get along with others.” Your willingness was running low here, OP.

            1. Zillah*

              Yeah, this is where I am, too.

              There are some things that are absolutely unacceptable, but ultimately, we’re never going to have a dynamic in which people are perfectly polite and treat us in exactly the way we want to be treated. You have to distinguish what’s worth walking away from and what isn’t, and what a proportionate reaction to something is.

              Slamming things and generally acting out pretty significant anger isn’t a proportionate reaction to someone taking your seat for fifteen minutes.

          3. Staphylococcus anonymous*

            “Also, can we collectively agree that the whole “I’ve been treated crappily by people in power so you have to put up with the same” is an unhelpful thing to say? ”

            YES! It’s awfully hypocritical, or at least inconsistent, for Allison to come down on this side when you consider so often she (and commenters here) are giving the advice that bad workplaces and bad management can warp your perceptions of normalcy, and they can normalize the inexcusable, and you need to step back and evaluate things objectively and not on the basis of “well that’s just how it is done.”

        7. Katherine*

          The “perceived level of anger” is evident not only from the tone of the OP’s letter, but *from her own description of how she reacted in the moment.* She describes slamming her bottle on the desk, huffing and puffing, and generally making it *crystal clear* *to her boss* that she was annoyed. Alison herself said the following: “it would have been more thoughtful of her to vacate your chair,” “it’s annoying to be displaced,” and “should she have gotten up? Sure.” Alison is *in agreement* that it was a rude thing to do. The point is that the OP’s reaction a) is out of proportion to what happened and b) could affect her standing at the company. Right or wrong, the manager outranks the OP, and the OP’s behavior *as she described it* could have negative effects for her at work. Alison is suggesting that it’s probably in the OP’s best interest to have a less emotionally charged response to something that, while disrespectful, had little to no effect on the quality of OP’s life at work. No one’s saying it wasn’t rude on the boss’s part. Most adults learn early in their careers that you can’t go nuclear every time someone does something wrong.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            “She describes slamming her bottle on the desk, huffing and puffing, and generally making it *crystal clear* *to her boss* that she was annoyed.”

            This is not how adults ask for their chair back.

            We here can’t prevent other people from making poor decisions we can only guide the LW on how to navigate other people’s poor decisions.

        8. VictorianCowgirl*

          I am in agreement with you Mike; while I don’t think OP handled it well at all, I perceived the C’s actions as quite rude and out of place. I’ve worked closely my whole career with C suites and would be shocked to see this.

          I do agree a simple “excuse me, may I grab my laptop so I can keep working while you are meeting” would have made every point.

          1. Quackeen*

            I don’t really understand what’s shocking about a CEO needing to chat with someone for 15 minutes. In my experience, senior level folks can have jam-packed calendars and if one of them has the opportunity to stop by for a few minutes to clear up an issue that needs immediate attention, that’s the best way to handle it, even if it means coopting someone’s chair for a short while.

            Sure, it would have been great if the CEO had said, “Sorry to displace you; we just need a few more minutes to handle a situation” or something like that, but the LW’s reaction seems WAY over the top to me. Like you said, a simple request to grab her laptop and keep working would have been a better way to handle it.

        9. Amtelope*

          In my experience, yes, the company president can sit anywhere they want for a few minutes to have a conversation, and other people need to either a) politely interrupt, if they’re working on something time-sensitive, or b) just wait, if they’re not. Part of showing respect to someone who’s the boss of the entire company is letting them sit wherever they please, and putting up with minor inconvenience so that they can have a conversation more conveniently.

          Would it have been more polite for the president to apologize or ask if LW needed the chair back? Yes, sure. Is it a big deal? To me, no. And my concern is not with the level of anger that the LW feels while writing their letter, but with the level of anger displayed in the situation (putting the water bottle down “with a thud,” sitting and fuming and playing on their phone instead of waiting patiently or grabbing the laptop and getting back to work) — even if you are genuinely angry at the company president over minor rudeness, displaying your feelings that openly is unprofessional.

        10. Not So NewReader*

          “This isn’t something normal adults do to each other.”

          Right, normal adults do not do this to each other.

          Next step in the storyline here- at least 50% of the bosses out there do not behave like normal adults.

          I think the idea would be *polite* adults as opposed to *normal* adults. I no longer believe politeness is a norm in many companies. So, yes, I have to separate those two terms. If OP believes that her boss is one of a kind this might encourage OP to go from job to job looking for that perfect boss. Even Alison has stepped back from doing “Best boss of the Year” because no boss is perfect at all times.

          I can tell you right now, I would probably fail as OP’s boss. I don’t mind read and OP does not use her words. At some point OP would encounter a bumpy situation with me and just assume I am out to get her, I am disrespectful, etc. I am set up to fail here as OP can’t work through a simple transgression that happens routinely. I am sure at some point, OP has been sitting in a chair that someone else wanted. It happens that often.

        11. Czhorat*

          Normal adults also react reasonably.

          “excuse me, I’m back now. May I?”

          That’s normal.

          Lurking over their shoulder, slamming a waterbottle, pointedly sitting and stewing in a corner.. .that’s passive-aggressive at best, childish at worst. It’s an escalation of what should be a very minor matter.

          1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

            Next time your president swipes your chair, *please* politely ask them to vacate *your* seat. I can verify from personal experience that the kind of person who inconsiderately claims a space that is not theirs, is also the kind of person who will be sure to remind you that their position is higher than yours, and how dare you challenge their authority by trying to get back to work.

      2. MRSCHX*

        The idea of it being “OMG SO DISRESPECTFUL”, is baffling to me.

        OP could have went to get her water, and when seeing that the President hadn’t budged could have politely asked if they’ll be awhile. Or just ASK FOR YOUR SEAT BACK!

        1. Cat Fan*

          I think OP could have said, “Sorry to interrupt, but if you’ll be much longer I’ll take my laptop and go to another room.” However I really can’t think of any other way for OP to ask for her seat back. What would you say to the CEO in this case? I don’t think, “Can I have my seat back now,” would go over well.

          1. OhNo*

            “Sorry to interrupt, but I need to get back to work. Would you mind…?”
            This is something I’ve said to my direct boss before, but we have a fairly relaxed relationship, so how it would go over in anyone else’s workplace would depend on the personalities involved.

            A CEO isn’t royalty; you can just ask for what you want politely, like you would with any other human, and it’ll normally go over fine.

          2. uranus wars*

            I think it depends on the office culture, honestly. I haven’t had to say “hey, you’re in my seat.” but I have have said to the owner/CEO “hey, you’re over your slot in the meeting room I need and I can’t push meeting back, how do you want to handle it.” He wrapped up and a couple of months later told my director supervisor include my ability to prioritize and speak up as a positive in my review. He used that specific example, even though I am sure there were others. FWIW I was in my mid-20’s.

      3. Izzy*

        Agreed! Coming from an FOH “if there’s time to lean there’s time to clean” background I’m really surprised that the OP decided that the best response to her chair being taken was to, what, check out completely and text her friends and play Candy Crush? When her laptop was evidently accessible and able to be moved? (And even if it wasn’t, is there no filing to do or cupboards to organise or photocopying to be done?) And she’s doing this in front of the company president? I would kind of love to hear a letter from the company president, tbh.

      4. McWhadden*

        Twenty minutes (and it was twenty not 15) of being ignored and displaced without any acknowledgement is not a few minutes to get back to your desk.

        It’s unbelievably rude. And the idea here that people not only have to swallow rudeness from their superiors (which is true) but also shouldn’t feel angry or upset about it at all is really shocking.

    4. Alton*

      I think it is inconsiderate, but that it’s a small enough thing in isolation that reacting angrily (especially in a visible way) is counterproductive.

      I also think that with admin work in particular, sometimes the lines get blurred between personal workspaces and communal ones.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t think this is worth that level of fury. All the OP probably had to do was say, “Oh, excuse me, President! Let me grab my laptop,” and the woman probably would have vacated the seat. It’s highly likely she didn’t know the OP had come back at first. And then the OP decided to “fume” which is just disproportionate. It’s a chair. She has a laptop, which presumably means she can work on that couch for a brief period of time. Some things are worth little more than an eyeroll and some moving on.

      1. Psyche*

        I agree. The response was disproportionate. The company president was rude. At the very least she could have told the OP that she needed to meet with the coworker for 15 minutes and apologized for the inconvenience. But since the OP had a laptop and another workspace readily available, it isn’t a huge deal. Boycotting work while fuming is a big deal. If it happened often or the meeting was long then it might be different. But not having your desk one time for 15 minutes is minor.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, if the company president had written in, I think we, and probably Alison, would say that people’s workspaces are important to them and it’s preferable not to displace them, and if you do need to do so for a short time, it’s advisable to manage the situation directly with the employee (“Sorry, we’re going to be about 15 minutes more–can you work with your laptop?”). I think I’m less bothered by the sitting than by the leaving OP adrift on the what-to-do question about the disruption.

          But it still wouldn’t be a major thing, and the president didn’t write in. So I’m going with “What she did wasn’t ideal, but it also was a quick ruffle, not a personal slam, so let it go.”

          1. Lady Blerd*

            Agreed. Also, it was a one time occurence. Had it been part of a recurring pattern, it would be a different situation.

            If grand-boss was in my seat and I had no urgent deadline, I would take that as time for a personal break.

            1. Annie Moose*

              This is what really gets me about this letter… LW says she knows “for a fact [the CEO] wouldn’t do that to anyone else”, except it sounds like this is the first time it’s ever happened to anyone. There’s nothing in the letter that indicates LW is experiencing consistent, ongoing disrespect from the CEO, or that the CEO has multiple times displaced her or otherwise disrupted her work.

              ONE TIME her boss was thoughtless toward her. LW says “that’s how patterns form”, but… it isn’t. One instance of thoughtless behavior is not a pattern, and can’t automatically be assumed to be the start of a pattern either.

              1. wherewolf*

                I agree, if there had been some background about how this is one point in a pattern or ongoing problem, I could see this as rude. But as it is I honestly don’t see this as any more rude than, say…borrowing someone’s pen and not giving it back until asked. It’s not KIND, but the CEO is allowed to borrow your chair, or your desk, or your laptop if they need to… just go get a drink or take a leisurely bathroom break. I really don’t understand why LW is interpreting this as a personal attack.

      2. logicbutton*

        Coming from a job where she had a mean boss, she might not have realized that was an option. I can absolutely see her being paralyzed with indecision (“What if boss yells at me for interrupting? What if boss yells at me for NOT interrupting?”) and having that anxiety manifest in the way she reacted. It might not be the approved correct reaction, but it isn’t incomprehensible.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Absolutely understand the stressed should I/shouldn’t I/maybe I should have but it’s too late now reaction… I’ve been there! And it stinks and gave me stomach ache.

          But taking a breath and saying, with a smile “excuse me…” or “would you like me to take laptop elsewhere?” is a better way to handle it. And harder at first!

          I suspect she may have been assuming motives her last boss may have had. It can take time to get used to working in a not toxic place.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah. The behavior strikes me as inconsiderate/thoughtless, but not deliberately rude or so inappropriate that it transgresses normal workplace boundaries and behaviors. I’ve been displaced by my boss, interns, etc., and I just let them know I need my desk back. The one time it happened with a supervisor, he was extraordinarily apologetic and kind.

        OP’s reaction is definitely disproportionate, but the underlying (rude) behavior is not so egregious or flagrant in most white-collar offices. I reject the “higher up’s time is more valuable, therefore I should tolerate relatively bad behavior” element, but I do think this was an opportunity for OP to use her words instead of fuming and using passive aggressive substitutes.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think it was pretty disrespectful too. I mean, the manager can take a meeting anywhere she wants – I don’t have a problem with that part. I think refusing to acknowledge the person whose chair she was sitting in, however, was rude and demeaning. All she had to do was look up and say “Sorry, Sansa, I’ll be done in a minute.” I think the OP went a little overboard in the righteous fury department, but yeah, this would have really bugged me.

      1. Else*

        What I’m wondering is – where was Sansa standing when she came back to her chair? Did the manager even know she was there?

        1. Bea*

          She plunked her water bottle down and then grabbed her laptop. So it’s hard to think the president didn’t know she was there.

          However by not saying “hey, I’m back. May I have my seat?” or something similar, the president probably figured it was a non-issue.

          1. Cat Fan*

            I would not suggest that a junior employee ask the CEO “hey can I have my seat back”. That is not a real world solution.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Different wording :) but letting them know you need your seat is ok. Asking if they’d like you to work elsewhere works.

            2. Myrin*

              It totally is when worded differently, though – “Are you going to stay awhile?”, “Should I go somewhere else?”, “Do you want me to come back in 15 minutes?”, etc.

            3. JSPA*

              True, “should I get another chair” or “may I get you a chair” or just…getting her a chair, would all probably work better.

              Ditto, “If you need my chair for a while, yet, let me grab my laptop, thanks so much.”

              There are all sorts of ways to signal, “I’m cool with whatever you you need, but I’m also eager to do my work, if you don’t need to be in my spot.”

    7. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      Ha- I’m a graduate student, and this happened to me last week with a high-ranking professor. He was sitting at my desk when I came in- he acknowledged it was mine, but didn’t get up for probably half an hour. I just grabbed my computer and moved to another place to sit till he was done- it’s really not a huge deal.

      1. Anna*

        I think the difference (or part of the difference anyway) is that it was acknowledged. By ignoring the OP, the CEO intimated she wasn’t worth her acknowledgement and that’s crappy and rude. The OP is making a bit too much out of it and didn’t react at all appropriately, but it’s crappy to be ignored so thoroughly by the person you ostensibly work for.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Suggested, yes, but I think the signs that the OP was seeing as crystal clear could easily have been missed by someone deep in conversation, who may have seen the going to phone thing as a sign she was happy to wait.

      2. Murphy*

        Yeah, I don’t get why OP didn’t say something. Not like “Dude, move.” But more like “I’m sorry to interrupt, let me just grab your laptop if you need this seat for a little while.”

      3. Hills to Die on*

        I think she probably figured it out when she kept turning back around to look at the OP. Nobody is that obtuse.

          1. Manya*

            You seem to be attributing a serious lack of social IQ to the CEO. Most of them don’t get where they are by totally misreading cues. The CEO almost certainly understood, but just didn’t GAF.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Or would have moved if asked politely but wasn’t going to reward petty huffing and water-bottle slamming.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Yeeeaaah. It’s not a trait I’m proud of, but when people turn passive-aggressive with me or try to use guilt to get their way, I get really stupid really fast. Not acknowledging childish behavior is how I survived my family, and it’s had about a 50/50 success rate in the workplace, depending on which of us was out of sync with company culture.

            2. Lehigh*

              TBH, even with a peer I’d be mighty tempted to keep the seat once the passive aggressive huffing started.

              You want the seat? Use words. You want me to figure out that *water bottle slam* means you want your seat back? Enjoy the couch.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I dunno, given her behavior as described, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was muttering under her breath or texting as loudly as possible or heaving sighs from the couch and the CEO’s repeat checking was more ‘wtf is going on with her’ side-eyes.

      4. Staphylococcus anonymous*

        “There’s nothing to suggest it was clear to CEO that she wanted her seat back though!”

        There’s something to be said about picking up on context clues and nonverbal cues. Somebody in an executive position should have more people skills.

    8. DouDouPaille*

      I’m with Mike. This reads like an incredibly disrespectful “power move” on the part of the CEO. Of course the CEO’s time is more important than yours, but this is not the same as making you wait for a meeting because they got over-scheduled. This goes beyond the socially accepted inconveniences that management is allowed to inflict upon people. Taking over your desk when they are aware that you are waiting to use it is deliberately rude and obstructive. Besides, they pay you to work, and provide a place for you to do that, so preventing you from being able to work at your own desk is kind of contrary to the company’s own interests.

      1. Alli525*

        It’s not a power move – at most it’s a temporary failure of situational awareness, and as a lowly peon myself, I think it’s perfectly acceptable for a CEO with (presumably) a lot on her plate to occasionally slip up. This is absolutely an inadvertent inconvenience.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, there’s no need to read an agenda or message into everything someone does just because they’re in a position of power. People are human. Sometimes they’re oblivious. You either speak up and say, “hey, could I get back in here?” or you grab your laptop or so forth, but you don’t need to fume and read disrespect into it.

          1. DouDouPaille*

            I’m not defending the level of rage expressed by the LW, I’m simply providing an alternative perspective on the chair-stealing. We can’t necessarily assume benign intent on the part of the CEO. Also, even if it wasn’t an intentional power play, it’s a dick move to be occupying someone else’s desk for any amount of time when you know they need to work. If nothing else, it’s ridiculously oblivious to not realize that you may be inconveniencing someone when you are sitting at THEIR desk in the middle of a work day. Especially after they have made their presence clear. And to say “it’s only 15 minutes” doesn’t really matter – clearly the CEO didn’t realize how much time had passed, which is further evidence of obliviousness. I would rather work for a thoughtful, not a thoughtless person.

            1. Cheryl Blossom*

              I think just *assuming* it’s a power move without any other evidence that the CEO makes petty power moves like that is unwarranted and will just lead to unhappiness.

              Are there a-holes in the world? God, yes. But it’s a lot easier to muddle along when you generally assume that people have reasons for what they’re doing, and that those reasons seem good and sensible to them.

            2. agodhzgxncjbk*

              > We can’t necessarily assume benign intent on the part of the CEO.

              Whoa, ever heard of Hanlon’s Razor?

            3. Zillah*

              But what kind of actionable advice is there in assuming that the CEO is malicious? I just really don’t see any useful approach coming out of assuming petty toxicity over one incident when it’s really not the most common explanation.

          2. Close Bracket*

            People in power might not have ill intent, but the fact of being in power amplifies the effect of their rudeness to the point that it may as well have been a power move. OP didn’t have to fume, but she’s not out of line in seeing disrespect. Not thinking about the effects of your rudeness is disrespectful.

            Of course, one of the privileges of power is not having to think about the effect of your actions on others.

          3. McWhadden*

            How is it possible to NOT read disrespect into this? She sat in the chair for 20 minutes (15 was while LW fumed then she got her laptop then another 5 minutes until she left) without acknowledging the human being who occupies that space.
            It’s incredibly disrespectful. And no one is so little that they don’t deserve basic respect.
            The LW’s fury may be overdone but she is right that being treated this way isn’t OK.

        2. Zillah*

          Yeah, this. Absent any other really problematic behavior, I think that it’s more reasonable to read this as an oversight that wasn’t ideal rather than a massive power trip.

      2. Izzy*

        Unless there’s some context that the OP hasn’t mentioned, it just doesn’t seem that likely to me that it’s an intentional power move thing – like, what, the company president is just dying to display her dominance over the 23-year-old admin by sitting in her chair for 15 minutes? Seems far more likely to me that the OP has carried on a lot of baggage from her last job and got worked up over something inconsiderate but ultimately quite minor.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          *grins* that hadn’t occurred! Yeah, a ceo establishing dominance through chair stealing may have read the wrong “how to show gumption!” book!

        2. Kathleen_A*

          I agree. What seems like a “power move” to the lower-ranking person almost certainly didn’t seem like a power move to the higher-ranking person.

          The thing is, OP, confident and competent executives don’t feel the need to demonstrate dominance to subordinates. If they are confident in their authority, they don’t make power moves to show subordinates they’re in charge because they don’t *need* to.

          So it’s a mistake to go through your career actually looking for and anticipating this kind of one-upmanship from all of your superiors. Naturally not all executives are competent and confident, and I’m not going to promise you that they all will be. So if this particular executive isn’t confident and competent, maybe it could have been a power move.

          But that’s not the most likely scenario. The most likely thing is that she got into a conversation and thoughtlessly didn’t realize she was in your way. Should she have moved when she saw you had returned? Sure. Should you “fume” about it for hours after it’s over when there was no actual harm done? No.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Exactly. Based on the situation as described, the CEO is guilty of rudeness and, unless a total jackass, is not trying to power play an admin. Now, it’s a small business, so maybe that’s the case, but OP’s level of rage is disproportionate with the offense, and the passive-aggressive bottle-slamming and couch-seething doesn’t reflect any better, really.

          When I worked in a small office, we all camped out in each other’s space from time to time – the polite people would immediately get up if the desk-owner returned, but that wasn’t always the case, and it was usually obliviousness that was solved with a simple, “I know I’m in your space, can you give us five more minutes to sort this out.” or “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but I’ve got a deadline and need to get back to my machine.”, which would usually elicit at least a “my bad” from the interloper.

        4. Annie Moose*

          Yeah, my boss and grandboss have both ended up stealing my chair while I was away from my desk before to talk to someone near me (we work in an open office so this is easy to do), and I have zero reason to think it’s any kind of power move. And yeah, sometimes they haven’t noticed me come back or I’ve ended up grabbing a different chair because they looked like they were deep into something, or whatever, and I don’t get my chair back right away, but… it’s still not a power move. They’re just borrowing my chair and aren’t thinking about me at that time. (and it’s easy enough for me to be like “hey gimme my chair back” (we have that kind of relationship) or just pull up another chair or whatever)

          Could a specific type of very petty boss do this as a power move? Sure! But in that case, their pettiness and passive-aggressiveness is going to be coming out in other ways, and LW doesn’t mention any other instances of rudeness. So I concur that it seems extreme to assume it’s a power move.

          1. Nita*

            Yeah, once in a while I’ll come back from a field meeting and someone from another office will be at my desk. Definitely not a power move, more likely some crossed wires – I assume an admin told them I would be gone most of the day. It would be much odder to find someone sitting at my desk after stepping out to lunch, but that’s because there are several actual conference rooms a few steps away. It would be different if I had a desk in an open area and someone wanted to sit down to rest their legs while they chatted with my neighbor.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, my grandboss will occasionally end up sitting in my chair if she comes to talk to my boss and I’m not there. Sometimes when I come back, she’ll immediately get up and they’ll move the conversation a few feet away. Sometimes they’re engrossed in something important, and barring my being on a deadline for something important, I just do something else with myself until they’re done. If I have a deadline, I’ll say “Sorry to interrupt, but such-and-such report is due at 4:30”, and they’ll move. I just kind of weigh what I have going on versus how engrossed they seem to be and at what level of importance . . . and that’s a calculus that I understand stresses some people out, but it’s kind of the way these things work.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Well, if a person feels that strongly, of course they can just quit the job. However at some point we have to figure out how to make a job work out in our favor so we can stay put.

        I don’t think that 15 minutes in OP’s chair makes the boss the Devil Incarnate. Especially since OP did not use her words to try to find a solution to the situation. Instead she pouted, slammed things and wasted company time. I can see children reacting to a parent that way, it doesn’t work with most parents and it really doesn’t work with bosses.

        I am not sure how telling OP this boss is So Evil helps OP. I am kind of startled that people could measure a person’s entire character by one situation. We all make mistakes, we all can get hyper-focused from time to time. This stuff happens. The boss may be arrogant or not, we do not have enough facts to know for sure based on this letter.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Yes, barring other indicators of arrogance or whatever, there just isn’t any reason to assume that if Boss did this particular single action, it absolutely means boss is a bad, awful, rude or otherwise unpleasant person. There are of course single actions that would indicate this, but…waiting to rise from another person’s desk when that person comes back from her break just doesn’t qualify. As bad behavior goes, it simply isn’t that obvious or egregious, and it will do the OP *no good* to go on thinking that it is – that she has been seriously and irrevocably disrespected.

    9. LQ*

      But this isn’t being treated like crap. This is someone else using your desk chair for a few minutes. This isn’t management being treated like royalty at all. This is someone else needed to use the chair. I’ve been kicked out of my desk and office for maintenance folks to run cables. They were doing their job and needed my space to do it.

      This is the exact same thing. The boss is doing their job and needs your space to do it. You get paid. You step out of the space. It’s not your space, you don’t own it. Someone else need the space to do their job, shrug and sit down for 20 minutes and play a game on your phone.

      1. logicbutton*

        But the maintenance people told you what they were doing there, right? You didn’t just come back from a break to find them in there and have them deliberately ignore you for twenty minutes? And they weren’t people who had power over your job?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Exactly. “I need this space” isn’t the problem. “I need this space and I’m going to completely ignore that you also need this space” is the problem.

        2. LQ*

          No the maintenance people were actually huge jerks about it. They took over the space and then left with no answer as to when they’d be back or if I could plug my things back in. Then again. We have a jerk maintenance dude, but that doesn’t mean that all use of space is a personal affront.

          I still fully stand by this isn’t any different. If when my boss took my space they were a jerk then they’d be a jerk. But the taking the space for their work that needs to be done isn’t jerky. And at least with my boss if my work isn’t done because my boss is occupying the space my boss won’t wonder why I’m behind in my work…It really isn’t a big deal. It’s not your home.

      2. Alton*

        I don’t think it’s exactly the same because maintenance people often need to access people’s offices to do their job but routine work conversations can often be had without taking over someone’s desk. The president was likely sitting at the OP’s desk because it was convenient and because she associated admin areas as being communal spots to talk, not because she needed to use that workspace specifically.

    10. gecko*

      I in fact completely agree. I mean, you’ve got to *deal* with it because the president is the president, but you don’t have to hunker down and say “oh well, if this happens it just means that I’m less worthy of respect.”

      I’d be venting too. It’s not something you can take a ton of action on, and it may not be worth a full-blown grudge unless it’s a pattern, but it’s really a jerk move and you don’t need to minimize that.

    11. AmazinglyGuileless*

      I agree that it is disrespectful of the president, although I echo others’ saying that the OP’s response is way over the top. But it definitely strikes me as disrespectful too.

      It reminds me of our issue at my current job with conference rooms. We only have two large meeting spaces (spaces that can accommodate more than a handful of people) so it is company culture (re-enforced by HR and the CFO) that when booking meetings, one must also book the room and everyone must be respectful of the room schedule (don’t let your meeting go over its time, no stepping in for a quick phone call, etc.). Of course, this doesn’t apply to the CEO. If he wants the room, your meeting is switched to the other room or, if that one is unavailable, just flat out cancelled. Even if you’re mid-meeting, he’ll knock on the door and kick everyone out of the room if he wants it.

      Can he do it? Sure, he’s the CEO, has been for decades. Is he going to change? Of course not. Is it disrespectful as hell? It is. Of course, I don’t sit and fume about it. But it is disrespectful, and so was the president’s taking of the chair, although to a much lesser degree. (Still, though, OP: Not a good reaction, and best to let it go.)

      1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

        Wow, that sounds super frustrating about the conference rooms! But I agree, this is the type of behavior that would have any victim of the disrespect just rolling their eyes once the president/CEO/whoever leaves. It sucks, but because of their authority there’s not much to be done about it.

        That being said, 15 minutes is kind of a long time to be displaced and I feel like the president could have done much better. I mean, assuming they’re physically capable of standing for that long.

      2. Mike C.*

        That’s one other thing I appreciate about managers here – they respect those schedules. I’ve actually kicked a vice president out of a meeting that went way too long and even he said it was the right thing to do.

      3. ChachkisGalore*

        Oh man – this brings flashbacks to my reception days at a company that was short on conference room space. There was a whole hierarchy that dictated how I handled conflicts (whose meetings would get bumped, whose meetings could run over, which department’s internal meetings were allowed to use the “nice” conference room – there was a corner one with gorgeous views that everyone want, whose meetings could be booked in the nice room but would be bumped if need be vs whose meetings were not even allowed to go in the nice room because it needs to stay open in case CEO needs it, etc).

        When training my replacements, that was probably what we spent the most time on.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Oh lord, yes, the conference room hierarchies and whose meetings are allowed to run long and who has to wait. With folks higher up the hierarchy having an important meeting, I would let them go five minutes over before knocking and saying, “Sorry, the room is booked after this . . . ” and they might take 5 – 10 more minutes to wrap up. If some low-level meeting is going on, and a higher-level meeting is waiting, I’m waiting a couple minutes past the end time and then running them out of there (politely but firmly). It’s like a social-discernment juggling act.

    12. Cat Fan*

      Mike is right, this is just plain rude. It’s not rude that the CEO borrowed OP’s chair, but it is incredibly rude that she did not even acknowledge OP’s presence when she returned and continued to sit in the chair for a quarter of an hour without a single word about how long she would be or any apology for the inconvenience, even if she is entitled to inconvenience OP.

      OP, I understand your frustration at this, but Allison is indeed right that you cannot demand respect from others. There’s not really anything you can say to the CEO about what happened. If it happens again, you probably should just keep your emotions in check and collect what you need to work elsewhere. Just know that some of us commiserate with you.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That’s the part of the letter to Alison that says:

          “I looked over at my employee several times and she was playing with her phone on the couch. I thought she was still on her break so I left her alone. The more I left her alone the more angry she became. (Check this out, I left her alone! I did not bug her!) I know she gets a 15 minute break so I made sure to leave at the 15 minute mark, rather than interrupt her train of thought on the phone. The whole situation was very awkward. I would think if she wanted her chair she would just say so. Now I have this very angry employee and I did not realize temper was such a thing with her.”

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes, and when she saw the anger building, even if Boss realized then “is she upset that I’m in her seat?”, she probably jumped to the more important question of, “Why on earth would that make her act like this? Do we need to have a talk about professionalism?”

    13. Leslie knope*

      Yeah, although it’s objectively true since CEOs have bloated salaries that make them “more important” in terms of time = money, I will pretty much never be comfortable with how okay we are with that concept.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I do agree here. And I think CEOs have more of a responsibility to show basic respect than most people. With the right to lead comes the responsibility to those who are being lead. I read leadership as a service position, leaders serve their people who actually make the company a viable entity. This means offer the damn chair back. But people are people, sometimes they fail. Part of work and part of life is how we deal with other people’s failures and shortcomings. We have a choice we can blow a gasket or we can look for solutions, very seldom can we do both simultaneous.

    14. Archaeopteryx*

      She didn’t use her words. “Sorry, do you mind if I grab my seat back?” is an easy, polite way to flag up that you’re not sure what else to do until they get up. Huffing and puffing and hovering is not.
      (And to ward off comments from the why-should-she-be-sorry brigade, in this sentence it’s short for “Sorry to interrupt.”)

    15. Doctor Schmoctor*

      I agree. I don’t get this idea that you just have to bow down to the all powerful CEO, because they’re more important. I was taught to treat all people with the same respect, whether it’s the CEO or the lady who cleans the floors.

    16. CeCe101*

      Thank you! Somebody said it! This is one of the first times I don’t agree with Alison, except for on the matter that I don’t think the OP shouldn’t have gotten so worked up. Brush these people off for acting like a pompous jerk and move on with your day. If they want to pay you to wait – let them. No one’s time is truly more valuable than others. No one is really that much more important than anyone else. This is that hierarchical bullshit that makes some people snap and attack coworkers.

      BTW – I am also a millennial but probably older than the OP just a touch. And this might be something millennials see as culturally wrong with the American workplace.

    17. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A more appropriate response than fuming is to say something.
      “Excuse me MadamPresident, I’m working on the X project on this computer. Could I ask you two to move your meeting to the conference room so I can log back in?”

    18. cit cat*

      I’m honestly surprised at how many people thought it was no big deal. I’ve never had someone sit at my desk and not say a word to me about it. I’ve worked at Fortune 200 companies where a regional VP would be visiting and standing at my desk talking to someone and say “oh excuse me” when I came back. In my opinion, it was rude. You’re a president of a small company, not a Queen.
      Now did the OP need to snatch their laptop and stomp / fume? Probably not the best move. I agree a simple “may I please grab my laptop” would have sufficed. It sucks, but you have to handle even rude situations with professional decorum, especially when it involves people higher up then yourself.

    19. J H*

      I thought I was the only one who felt like LW was justified in her anger. I don’t see how this boss’s behavior is acceptable *at all*.

    20. Staphylococcus anonymous*

      Thank you! Lately I feel like I’m taking crazy pills, but then again, this blog has always had a strong “the Millennial is always wrong” lean.

      Sitting *at* somebody’s desk is a disrespectful, putting-you-in-your-place Power Play. Unless the president needed to access something from OP’s work space, or was training her, or is an IT technician who was installing, troubleshooting, repairing whatever, there is absolutely no reason to sit at somebody else’s desk, and certainly not for a prolonged period while you have a long conversation.

      Forget “you can’t demand respect, you must command it through your behavior.” Intentionally or not, OP’s president was sending the message, “I know I’m more important than you, and I know you won’t check me on it. Go ahead. Tiptoe around my authority. I dare you to take a step.”

      Now if THAT is not throwing your weight around, I don’t know what is. But it is rude, it is not only counterproductive but ANTI-productive (prevents OP from doing her job), it is demoralizing, and frankly? It sets up a terrible dynamic between subordinates and superiors. It is poor management, period.

  4. Roscoe*

    I’m not going to say anything about millenials here, but this reminds me of when how when I was a teacher a few years back, so many kids thought EVERYTHING was “disrespect”. Like they threw out that word so often that it lost any actual meaning. Everything to them was disrespectful. Telling them to stop talking during class, somehow disrespectful. Making them follow the dress code without saying “please” disrespectful. It just was a joke after a while. And my understanding from my friends still in teaching is that it hasn’t changed.

    This sounds exactly like that.

    I know this is an old post, but this person really needs to get over herself

    1. Constanze*

      It is entitlement from the CEO. Now, maybe one could argue a CEO has a right to be entitled, but I would argue that when you pull crap like that, it doesn’t command respect from other people. Maybe you don’t intend it a personal direspect twoards the OP, but it is certainly not okay.

      Such a move would be unimaginable the other way around.

      OP was certainly reaaaally more worked up than she needed to be. But I think this is very rude from the CEO : no apology, no acknowlegment, no nothing ? Come on… it os a big deal, and such a move would absolutely make me think less of the CEO.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, I agree that the CEO was rude to not acknowledge OP at all. If they’d just said something like “I’m going to need this chair for a little while” it would have made it a lot better.

    2. Proxima Centauri*

      I’m not a Millennial, but this is very disrespectful. I’ve certainly borrowed a seat at someone’s desk if needed, including people I manage or in my management line. But if they come back to their desk, I’d get up. Because I’m not an entitled jerk and have at least a base level of social awareness.

      Just because you’re higher on the food chain doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. Sure, technically you can, but it makes for very poor leader.

    3. Bea*

      It’s a maturity thing not a generational one. I’ve seen emotionally delayed folks flip out over “the disrespect” at all ages.

      I had to soothe the ruffled feathers of grown men who had meltdowns over what was viewed by them as disrespect.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        This exactly. Whenever someone goes off and fumes about “disrespect”, that is a big waving flag saying “I’m immature”. Every minor inconvenience is “disrespect”. Every time they can’t do what they please when they please, it’s “disrespect”. I too have had to soothe butthurt grown men who got their nose out of joint over the smallest, stupidest things. It’s ridiculous. Emotionally mature people handle actual disrespect much differently, and don’t wail about it when someone does something slightly inconsiderate.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep, I had to tell someone a few months ago that the twenty-something who came up with a great solution that was different from their wasn’t “disrespecting” them by not taking their advice, they were taking what they’d learned from them and others and applying it, which was exactly what we wanted them to do.

      3. doreen*

        It’s definitely not a generational thing- I had someone over 40 tell me last week that it was disrespectful for me to say ” I don’t think its unreasonable to expect professionals to plan their schedule two weeks in advance. ” According to her, since she only wanted to plan her schedule one week in advance , I was implying that she is unprofessional.

        ( This inability to plan more than a week ahead only applies to work, though- because not ten minutes later, she was complaining about not being able to get approval now for a vacation she’s planning in December 2019)

        1. Esq*

          I don’t know what line of work you’re in, but telling finance/law/consulting/advertising firm people to plan their schedules two weeks in advance is laughable.

          There’s a reason airlines get away with exhorbitant last minute airfares – they know business people will willingly pay them.

          1. Doreen*

            It’s not unreasonable in my field – and I’m not talking about planning every hour of every day or something that can’t be adjusted if necessary. The work doesn’t lend itself to a M- F ,8-4 sort of schedule, so every 2 weeks each person proposes a schedule . That schedule might have them working from 5am- 1pm on Monday , 8am- 4pm Tuesday, 4pm to midnight Wed and so on. It’s really no more difficult for them to do it for two weeks at a time rather than one.

    4. SR*

      Kids who you were teaching, presumably in high school, “a few years back” are not millennials. Millennials are currently ages 25 and 36, maybe even up to 40.

      Just an FYI from an old millennial who doesn’t like her generation lumped in with “kids these days.”

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “when are we going to let this die already.”

          Shit-talking the younger generation: Probably never, if the past is any indication of future patterns.

          Shit-talking Millennials specifically: Probably right around the time when Gen Z gets a proper name. Very few people criticized Millenials back when we were still called Generation Y.

      1. Miss Wels*

        Thank you! I am one of the youngest millennials and I am almost 26! My three youngest sisters, ranging between 12-20 in age, are Gen Z, NOT millennials.

      2. anon4this*

        I thought millennials started around AIDS (1980) and ended around 9/11 (2000). It’s at least more than 15 years to “define” an entire generation, right?

        1. Miss Wels*

          Yup, this is correct. My aunt, who was born in 1980 and is a grandmother of two, is a millennial.

      3. Kathleen_A*

        If it’s any comfort, we Baby Boomers (I’m a late-season Boomer myself) heard a *lot* of those “Kids these days” comments ourselves when we were younger. Which means that we ought to know better, and I hope and pray that I do.

    5. MLB*

      I don’t think it’s a specific generation thing, I think it’s a “being young” thing. I don’t care if LW has worked since she was 14, and in an office environment since she was 19. She’s acting immature. Not every office dynamic is the same, and being that she’s new, she seems to have a lot more to learn about this one in particular. Was the CEO rude? Yes. I’ve never had that happen to me without the upper level manager jumping up immediately and giving me my chair back. But her passive aggressive hissy fit and fuming were way over the top. A simple, “Let me grab my laptop and let you 2 finish up” would have been sufficient.

      I’d be interested to get an update.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Eh, old people can do this too. I supervised a 50 year old person who would complain and complain.
        “Did you talk to that person about this matter?”
        Some how the offending party was supposed to automatically know what they did wrong and fix it by themselves.

        Now that I am pushing 60 I still see this among my peers. It’s a timeless thing.

    6. Totally Minnie*

      If you’re not going to say anything about millennial, why mention it?

      It’s certainly true that people who are newer to work environments often need to calibrate their expectations, but that’s more an indicator of lack of experience than of what year an employee was born.

      In OP’s case, she does have a lot of office experience, but it seems like a lot of that experience was in a dysfunctional office where expectations were different from the norm.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t know that the other office was necessarily dysfunctional. I mean, sure it could have been – but sometimes when a person has a problem at more than one job, with more than one supervisor that person is not entirely blame free. And a couple of the OP’s statements (like “I know for a fact she wouldn’t do that to anyone else”) make me wonder if she was predisposed to see everything in the presidents actions in the worst way possible.

    7. Temperance*

      Meh, I saw the same kind of behavior from older people in blue collar jobs. It’s not an age thing, it’s a maturity thing.

    8. DArcy*

      As a recently (ish) student, I’d say it’s disrespectful to selectively enforce the dress code against certain students while allowing others to flagrantly violate it all the time. It is also disrespectful to enforce racist dress codes that ban natural ethnic hair styles and sexist dress codes that restrict what girls can wear for the sake of boys.

      1. Lamb*

        So true DArcy.
        Not to mention, if Roscoe talked TO those students the same way they just talked ABOUT them, it’s not really surprising the students didn’t think Roscoe respected them.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        OT AF but I need to agree with this. I was fat in high school and the vice principle was constantly talking to me about my “overly revealing” above-the-knee length shorts and sleeveless t-shirts (it was the 90s) while ignoring the skinny girls walking past him in spaghetti-strap tank tops and cut-off denim mini skirts that barely covered their asses.

    9. lifesp*

      Not sure what you mean by “a few years back” or what level of school (I assume high school or below based on having a dress code) but millennials have been out of high school for 4 or more years. I know this isn’t the point you’re making but your implication that they were millennials… might be incorrect…

      Only reason I bring this up is because of how often I see/hear people refer to the 14-20 range as millennials when the youngest millennials right now are 22.

  5. LadyL*

    While OP’s reaction to this is really intense, I do think the above scenario would kind of stress me out. If the only way I could do my job was to be at my desk and my boss was sitting there and didn’t say anything to me about it (like, “Oh hey, sorry I just need to talk to Sansa real quick, then I’ll be outta your hair,” or something), I would feel a lot of anxiety about what to do during that time. Just hovering seems inappropriate, as does just full on getting on my phone or reading a book, and talking to someone else myself means two of us are now not doing work. I wouldn’t know what would be the most appropriate way to occupy my time, and that would really stress me out. OP’s fuming was way over the top, but I wonder if they are also the kind of person who freaks out when they don’t have clear expectations set for them.

    1. Sandman*

      I agree. The reaction is too much, but I would stress about what I should be doing too. To me the social signals on what’s expected of me would be unclear in this situation and I think that uncertainty would throw me off.

    2. Alton*

      Yeah, I’ve been in situations like that, and it can be annoying or awkward, especially if you can’t do much work without access to your desk.

    3. Yojo*

      As AvonLady Barksdale says upthread, it would have been as simple as “hi there, just gonna grab my laptop” and moving to the couch.

      Even if LW had a desktop computer, she still could have said “just gonna grab those files” and picked up anything off the desk. It would have clued the boss in that she was present and ready to get back to work.

      1. LadyL*

        Eh, OP says she said hello and got her water bottle, and boss didn’t give her anything in response. Seems that boss knew she was present.

        And I agree with you that’s what a person could do. How the OP responded was not appropriate, but reading the letter I wondered if maybe some of the ire OP had about the situation was from feeling uncertainty about how to respond, and then added in anger that OP perceived an inability to address the boss like she might a peer in order to gain clarity on the situation. If a peer was sitting in your seat and not acknowledging you, you can respond, “Hey, know how much longer you’re gonna need my desk?” or “Is it cool if I grab you a different chair? I really need my desk,” and then the two of you can negotiate on next steps. It seems OP was not comfortable asking boss for more clarity, and then felt forced to just stand there waiting for the situation to be over. That would freak me out, I’d be panicking because I’d be like, “Is she just wondering why my lazy @ss isn’t doing work right now? Should I walk away so I’m not eavesdropping? But then how will I know when to return? Should I interrupt her to ask what she want me to do, or will that be too rude? Is she just thinking about what an awkward stupid lazy person I am, while I stand here sweating and completely flummoxed????”

        Basically, some of us start to lose our minds when expectations aren’t clearly set out for us (or when those expectations are subverted, such as “me at work = me at desk. boss is now occupying my desk, so me at work now = ????????”), and if you throw in the unbalanced power aspect it can really throw a person off. None of that means OP was right to react the way they did, I’m just saying I can understand how that scenario may have made OP feel so frustrated. We can’t control our feelings, but we do control our actions.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          “Seems that boss knew she was present.”

          Well, the boss knew *someone* was present, but she had her back turned and “didn’t budge”. A random “hello” is a mental low-priorty interrupt signal – if I’m deep in a conversation, it’s not a “I’m back, could I have my seat back” it’s “there’s someone who’d like to talk to me once I’m done with this.”

          1. Academic Addie*

            This is such a good username avatar combo.

            And I agree. I think it’s far more likely that the employee pays more attention to where she sits every day and when she goes on break than the boss does. Boss probably knew someone was there, and didn’t take the chair to spite this specific employee. When OP came and left, boss probably thought she was still on break, or was picking up an item left during an earlier meeting. Not saying it isn’t a little rude, but boss didn’t write in. OP did, and OP needs to find some way to disentangle themself from the dynamic in the last workplace so she doesn’t find herself fuming and unproductive over mild annoyances.

    4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      This would be my response, too. I’d feel awkward interrupting, but also wouldn’t want the boss to think, “Karma wasn’t at her desk this whole time?” Like to her it was five minutes, but wondering where I was would turn it into half an hour and AHHHHHH.
      With that said, this has happened to me at work before, my boss, someone else higher up. They’ve always acknowledged they were in “my spot” and offered to get up. I say, it’s fine and go get something for five minutes and come back and it’s wrapped up or they’ve moved. The ignoring thing is strange to me. Even a one finger up, “wait a sec” would be better, I think.

      1. LadyL*

        Yeah, if the boss acknowledges that they are in my spot, then I feel safe just waiting it out. They know they’re interrupting my work, so they’re probably not going to be mad if I check my phone for 5 min, or grab my laptop, or get water, or whatever. The lack of acknowledgement means that all bets are off, and I have no idea what the boss knows or understands about my job at that moment.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      In past jobs – I’d have had major stress over this. I think reassuring OP that it is OK to say “hi – do you mind if I interrupt?” or something similar won’t (in any reasonable environment) be an issue.

      But I definitely get how the fear cycle can start!

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      I have been in situations like this and it stresses me out too. What do I do? Should I interrupt? Is this going to take awhile? I can only hover for so long before it gets weird, but I don’t want to look like I’m not working…. Ahh!!!

      Very often I invent something to do in a different area and leave. Boss is busy BSing with someone and sitting in my chair? I just realized that I need to go to the copy room and look for very specific office supplies, or that I really would like to have a word with Sally, or possibly I have been dying for a cup of tea and will be several minutes making it. What I don’t do is have an emotional meltdown in full view of my boss and everybody.

    7. Katherine*

      Except that the OP doesn’t seem to actually care that she couldn’t work, just that she was being disrespected. See, e.g. “Of course I was too pissed to really do any work — I pretended to. .” – this is after getting her laptop, which apparently would have enabled her to work if that was actually the crux of her beef with this situation.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Honestly, I can’t speak to OP’s interpretation and reaction to the situation at all. It is so far removed from my, I guess personality. I work with one woman and I know she would have no problem speaking up and asking if she should stay or move (she might cross over into being to too flip, “I see I’ve been replaced. Haha.” which is know your audience kind of thing.) And then there I stand, awkwardly waiting, hoping she’s not critiquing my desk too closely. But to feel disrespected? No, not getting it. And not getting the slamming the bottle down.

  6. MuseumChick*

    This falls into the “Annoying” rather than “Righteous Indignation” category. More over this could have been solved easily by the OP saying something like “Hi Jane, sorry to interrupt! I’m on a deadline for X project could I get back into my chair?” keeping their tone light and casual.

    1. Red Reader*

      Right? I kept waiting for the “And then I asked her if I could get back to my desk to work and she spit in my face and ran the chair over my foot,” but just kept getting buried in the toddler-like stomping and water bottle slamming wordless tantrum.

    2. Tableau Wizard*

      Or even saying that but changing the question to “I’m just gonna grab my laptop real quick.”

      That might’ve been enough to prompt the president to either vacate or give an estimate of how much longer they needed.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Exactly – the lack of acknowledgement by the CEO bothers me far more than the chair “stealing”, but it’s eyerollworthy, not rageworthy.

      I will also admit to being irritated by people who behave passive-aggressively and then expect people to figure out what they want/need rather than just saying so. MuseumChick’s suggestion could have resolved this whole thing very quickly.

  7. PSB*

    I wonder how apparent the OP’s irritation was to her boss at the time. It’s hard to imagine that someone who gets this worked up over something relatively minor is able to conceal all outward signs of her ire. I’d be curious to hear how this OP’s sense of professional norms has evolved over the last four years.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, that’s a good question. We do occasionally get updates even from the reposts, so it’d be interesting to hear. I also think these things matter a lot more when you feel like you’re not getting much–it’s a scarcity response. Farther along in your career, if it’s going well, you may find you mind less.

    2. BRR*

      I’d be curious about that as well. Honestly, I’d be pretty irritated in this situation too. 15 minutes in this type of scenario feels like a looonnngggg 15 minutes. But there’s not really a way that the LW will come out of this looking good.

      1. fposte*

        I think also it feels long because you don’t know it’s going to be 15 minutes while you’re in it so you’re trying to figure it out. You figure it’s just a minute, then it’s two. Well, hell, you take your phone out. Okay, now it’s five. Is it going to be ten or sixty? You take your laptop and wonder if you should go to the coffee shop or stay so you’re here when it breaks up. Would it look bad if you went or are you supposed to stay and wait? You don’t know.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I’m guessing those three glances at her weren’t spurred by concern or guilt over taking her chair, but gauging just how extreme her negative reaction was getting.

      The president should have said something to acknowledge borrowing the chair and either gotten up or given a short time frame. The OP sounds like she reacted poorly and obviously to feeling disrespected. Neither was ideal but the latter is a career limiting move.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, interpersonal dynamics are kind of like driving. Even if the other person made a wrong move, you often have agency to keep traffic flowing rather than getting into an accident.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          And that is it in a nutshell. OP gave up her agency to remedy this situation, without that sense of being able to help one’s self anger can settle in pretty good.

        2. Lehigh*

          “interpersonal dynamics are kind of like driving” –wow, that’s a great analogy!

          It’s true, we all need to sometimes cut each other some slack on the road. I can get a little eye-roll-y when someone cuts me off or forgets a turn signal or something, but I sure am grateful when it’s my turn to get some grace from the other drivers!

          I had never thought to compare that to conversations/relationships, but it fits so well!

    4. Yojo*

      I can’t imagine the optics for OP were great. Yes, the president is being a bit inconsiderate or a bit oblivious, but if she’s glancing at you and you’re on your phone (visibly fuming or not) when you’re clearly capable of grabbing your laptop? Not the best look.

  8. Laurelma__01!*

    I’m wondering if OP’s last job was so stressful, and they were treated badly enough that they are not used to workplace norms. That there can be some underlying resentment from past experiences that need to be worked on so that do not carry into the current job.

    OP if you are carrying resentment from past jobs & it’s coloring your current position you need to work on it somehow. Use the company’s EAP if it’s available. I had to use my four sessions when I took this job just to learn to work with my odd boss. I had to find a communication style that would work without making her angry because she perceived every suggestion as an insult, etc.

    Good luck!

    1. Psyche*

      That’s what I was thinking. They are so used to being treated poorly that they now have zero tolerance for even minor things and view it in the worst possible light.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, it sounded like some carry over going on there. Hey, the best defense is a good offense. Get that guard up and leave it there. (nooooo……)

    2. gmg22*

      Yep. This part of the OP’s post is the tell: “Even at my previous job as an admin assistant, my department supervisor was just the nastiest towards me, I was always overworked –- I came in on weekends and very often stayed hours after work. In fact my position was terminated mainly because I didn’t reply to an email she sent me after hours until 10 a.m. the next morning.”

      She was still furious about how she was treated there, and she let it color how she felt about what amounts to a minor oversight here. It is so hard to NOT drag at least some feelings from previous bad experiences with us to the next job, but it is important to try.

      Given that this is an old post, it would be so interesting to hear from the OP now (if she happens to still read AAM) to see how her experiences since this incident have shaped (or not shaped her views).

      1. Laurelma_01!*

        I’ll never forget a teacher for communications / public relations stating that “we view life through a filter of past experiences.” That has stuck with me, made me stop and think a few times before I open my mouth. Probably not as much as it should.

  9. Incantanto*

    Is there a frequency of things like this wjere annoyed reactions do start becoming justified? I used to share an office with the CEOs PA, and they’d have confidential calls and meetings that locked me out of the office for a couple of hours a week, and I was never ever warned. I definitely got annoyed at times.

    1. Quackeen*

      There’s a difference between being locked out of your office for a couple of hours a week and being displaced for 15 minutes, though. In your case, the management should have recognized that it was a situation that happened with enough regularity to make it so that CEO’s PA had his or her own space.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      Based on the context of this letter alone, the reaction was WAY out of proportion. However, I agree, this could just be the “last straw” in the grand scheme of how the office climate was for OP.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Absolutely – your situation is far worse than OP’s. In yours, you were being prevented from doing your job for extended periods of time, which isn’t okay. It makes sense to keep confidential calls confidential, but then they needed to think more about the seating arrangement or, at minimum, provide you with an alternate workspace and a notice. It’s not only annoying but it impacts your work significantly.

  10. Belle8bete*

    Use your words use your words use your words use your words

    A normal thing would be “oh excuse me, but let me grab my laptop so I can keep working on x.” This allows you to either get your stuff and relocate and function like a person or for the boss to realize they are in your way.

    And yes being 23 probably does mean you will be treated in a certain way because you are the most junior person there.

    1. Excuse me, Can I have my chair?*

      This was my first thought too. If you dont say you have a problem, most people wont assume that you do, especially someone so many levels up.

      I would assume OP seeing me there and then going to do soemthing else meant they were ok with me being their and did something else productive. If i knew they were nearby i would glance up occasionally to see if they working or politely waiting. On a phone or laptop would signal they didnt need the chair.

      My main focus would be the person i was talking to, so i would continue on with that if there were no overt signs.

      OP kept themselves busy and even got their laptop and let the meeting finish, i would take that as acceptance that nothing was wrong. A thudded water bottle would be… a thudded water bottle. Waterbottles arent a form of workplace communication.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*


        Possible CEO thought process “Oh, she’s on her phone – that’s good, I don’t have to move yet…”

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I was waiting for the part of the letter where the OP said something – anything – to let them know she was there and waiting to use her desk.
      Yes, the senior person could have been a bit more alert and could have said something (whether it was “Could you give us a few more minutes?” or “excuse me, let me get out of your way”) but it may be that she didn’t register that OP was waiting. It may be that she assumed that OP was on a break . or assumed that of the OP wanted the seat that she would say so. It’s also possible that the boss was being arrogant and deliberately ignoring her, but it doesn’t strike me as the most likely reason, specially as OP doesn’t suggest that this individual has done anything else to imply that she is arrogant or rude.

  11. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’m curious if OP bothered to speak up and say anything. Like, “excuse me” or “how long do you think you’ll be”. That would have been a far better move than silently fuming.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, that’s a big life lesson in general. It is never going to be better to send a message by banging a water bottle than by using your words.

    2. Xarcady*

      This. There was a lot of hinting that the OP wanted her desk back–thumping the water bottle down, getting her laptop–but no actual use of words to find out how long the president would be.

      And we all know that hinting almost never works.

  12. Akcipitrokulo*

    This isn’t trying to be mean – because I *SERIOUSLY* get it and can easily see me in the past getting into a vicious cycle of being too scared to interrupt and scared of not getting back to work and its just getting worse as time goes on… but just pointing out what may have contributed to the situation so it could help for next time?

    You didn’t ask for your seat back.

    So you’ve left, she’s grabbed a spare seat, you come back and don’t ask or indicate you want it back – you go and play on your phone, so it’s not unreasonable to think you’re on a break? – then take laptop and go to use it – again, yes, she might have thought “oh, I should ask if she wants chair back…” but just as well could have thought “oh, that’s kind of her to let me keep talking” and moved on.

    If you need your seat back, it is OK to say “excuse me” or “sorry to interrupt – do you want me to come back in a few minutes?” – I get this is awkward! And if you don’t feel confident enough to say that to the CEO, that’s understandable – and taking your laptop to a couch is certainly a good way to get on with work.

    This is one to let go. It’s OK to do a light and friendly “is it OK if I get back? I need to do X?” and it’s OK to back off and let her finish – but either way, getting this stressed is only hurting you.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      THIS, plus the “water bottles are not a form of communication” comment from earlier. The company president is probably used to people working around her as needed, and OP could have been going off to a meeting when taking the laptop.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Yeah, I was wondering how the company president was supposed to read the OP’s mind and magically know that the OP wanted their seat back right then. Maybe she was engrossed in the conversation. Maybe she thought the OP would have duties elsewhere at that time. Maybe she really was being rude and simply pulled rank and ignored the OP’s return. Whatever. A tantrum is an odd reaction to someone being mildly inconsiderate, which is how I’d classify this. I’ve had bosses bluntly tell me to leave both their office and my office when they wanted privacy for whatever they were doing. Confidential phone call, sensitive documents, difficult and private conversation, whatever. It’s annoying but it really doesn’t warrant such an outburst. Unless it’s part of a larger pattern of not valuing the employee’s time and contributions at all, it’s a minor inconvenience and nothing more.

      1. logicbutton*

        I disagree that it would take a mindreader to guess that someone whose seat you were sitting in, who needed the things at that seat to do their job, would prefer to have that seat back when they returned. At the very least, the boss could have said something – and I actually think she had more of an obligation to speak up than OP did, not only because she was the one on OP’s turf, but because, if anything, more power means more responsibility to consider colleagues’ feelings, not less.

  13. epi*

    I worked in an open area in my first job, as one of the most junior people there, and this happened to me all the time. Basically everyone was senior to me so I didn’t know what to say to any of them. I didn’t get as mad as the OP, but I would otherwise do the same thing of hovering awkwardly around, then just leaving. I think it is actually common to get really angry about stuff like this– you feel like you have to justify why it’s a problem, ruminate on it as you make your case to the tribunal in your head, and end up working yourself into a fury. I have done it myself so many times.

    Just nip it in the bud and say something! It always feels better. For someone you don’t feel empowered to ask to move, it works to say something like, “It looks like you are in the middle of something here, how about I get coffee and come back in 15 minutes?” At least then, you get a break rather than feeling like you need to hover. For a reasonable person, still being there when you get back is a sign that they’ve been talking for a while and maybe they do need a conference room.

  14. Rachael*

    Here I am thinking that I would have been super petty and squatted down at my desk to work on my laptop :P

  15. Sue Wilson*

    I think the silent fuming is really telling. You’re angry not just because you feel you’ve been disrespected, but because you don’t really think you have the power to speak up without a negative effect. That’s usually where some passive aggression comes from, and I agree with the people above that this seems to be carryover from your previous job.

    So instead of thinking that your experience helps you understand what’s going on, it’s going to be more fruitful to come from a place where you don’t have much experience of the norms in your company, and you’re going to need your co-workers to tell you what’s up.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s a really good observation about passive aggression there, Sue. So maybe, if it were 2014 again, a piece of homework for the OP could be asking her co-workers whether this is something the president does regularly and what the protocol is.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Yep. I read once that people respond with passive aggression when they feel they cannot be direct. The youngest and newest person in the office really can’t assume that she can be direct with the CEO. I’m neither young nor new, but if someone senior to me was in my seat, I would let them have it. I would fume invisibly, though.

  16. animaniactoo*

    [calmly, inquisitive inflection, with a half-smile] “Excuse me… sorry to interrupt, but do you know how much long you’ll be? I need to get back to the stuff I was working on here.”

    The fact that she didn’t say anything doesn’t mean that you can’t – calmly, professionally – and willing to figure out some other solution or ask them if it would be possible to move to another location to finish the conversation so you can have your seat back.

    The main trick with this is that you have to be willing to hear whatever form a “No, I’m not going to move” is going to take and then calmly and professionally move yourself “Alright, let me just grab my laptop then and I’ll see if I can work out of one of the conference rooms for now.” and proceed to do so. Because while the stronger likelihood is that the president will say “just a minute, we’ll wrap up now” or “Oh! Sorry, I didn’t realize this was your desk” and get up, they might just determine that taking the time to find another place to continue the convo is not worth their time and would be disruptive to them in other ways – and as the president. It might be a petty power play or it might be a practical evaluation that it doesn’t make sense to spend 2-3 minutes moving to another space to finish a convo that will take just a few more minutes or would change the dynamics of the conversation to something they’re not looking to do.

    1. Mediamaven*

      If we are talking about disrespect, that’s probably it right. Frankly, she’s the one that sounds disrespectful to her boss.

    2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      Yeah, the whole tenor is so off – the president of the ENTIRE COMPANY commandeered my chair for 15 minutes, during which time I did not simply grab my laptop and relocate, but instead took every opportunity to non-verbally display how put out I was by this, but she’s the one who was disrespectful – ?

      I feel bad for the OP, I assume she has grown up since this letter, and may be horrified to find it still in circulation. I would not want to be continually confronted with my immature ideas about my place/rights/respect in the workplace when I was 23 (which, mercifully, occurred in the dark ages pre-internet).

    3. Bea*

      I flinched. It’s an out dated term for one and also shows an immaturity I’m uncomfortable with.

      She’s the president of a company, not some random.

    4. Kobayashi*

      That struck out to me, as well. Home girl? If you cannot give the CEO respect appropriate to that position, why would you expect others to respect you?

      1. Yeah I'm Commenting!!*

        This seems to be pushing it to me. The term is still in common use in many places and I’m sure the OP wouldn’t refer to the CEO in that way in person. Either way, it certainly doesn’t rise to the level of her losing all respect from her peers.

  17. ACDC*

    Also, if you think this is disrespect, go read Reset by Ellen Pao. That is disrespect, not the president of your company sitting in your chair for a few minutes.

    1. Leela*

      I’d say it’s disrespectful even if we can name other things that are more disrespectful. It puts OP in an awkward position, especially as she doesn’t know how long she’ll be waiting (like if I knew that it was only going to be a minute or two I’d just circle back, if I spent every minute wondering if the next minute was the one I’d get to go back to work, I’d be pretty irritated and it’s rude to make people wait with uncertainty like that), I don’t know intimate details of her workplace but was she on a deadline? Do they have a culture where she’d get blamed for not working? Would she be expected to make up that time? Why was this happening at OP’s desk and not in a meeting room?

      I don’t think that OP reacted the right way but I do think that the supervisor was disrespectful, even if it wasn’t as bad as what Ellen Pao experienced, and even if the supervisor didn’t mean to

  18. LQ*

    I guess I fail to see what the big deal is here. Other people need to use my space fairly frequently, at this job and in previous ones. Sometimes, as I mentioned above, maintenance folks who needed to run cable or repair something, sometimes I was the only one with a computer that had the right software, sometimes someone else needed a private meeting space and I had one, sometimes someone urgently needed to make a personal call and I offered mine. At no point did I feel offended or affronted by any of this. Someone needed space, usually to do their job, they needed the space I was using, so now they are using it. So what?

    1. Leela*

      None of these examples sound like you came back to your workstation with no idea of how long it would be out of service, without having been given a heads up in the first place. I’ve had my workspace used for lots of the reasons you listed above, but I’d still be annoyed and coming back to my workstation and finding out I couldn’t use it, with no word from the people using it about how long they’d be or (it sounds like) even acknowledging that I was there

      1. LQ*

        I mean I was annoyed, but I’m still on the so what train. So what. You have a laptop grab it. You have other work take it to the couch. You use your words like a professional and ask. So what. You don’t get to use your space for a few minutes. If your boss tries to scold you later for being not done with your project 15 minutes earlier that is worth feeling concerned about (assuming you use your words and tell your boss why it was late). But if someone else needs the space then so what.

    2. McWhadden*

      So when you returned to your desk the maintenance people didn’t acknowledge you as a human being whose space they were occupying without any head’s up for 20 minutes?

  19. Urdnot Bakara*

    “It happens to a lot of my friends, and I just hate to see talent like me be disrespected because (a) we look/are young, and (b) we’re the newest or different a demographic. I refuse to tolerate things like this because that’s how patterns form.”

    I want to preface this by saying that I 1.) agree that this was incredibly rude of the manager but also 2.) don’t think it was that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. However, this particular line makes me think OP may be a person of color, and also makes me think this may have been part of a pattern. I realize that this letter is from 4 years ago but this seems like a big part of the letter that went unaddressed.

    1. Urdnot Bakara*

      To clarify: it’s not a big deal on its own, but it’s a considerably bigger deal if OP is a person of color in a predominantly white space and feels like this is one instance in a larger pattern of behavior toward her, whether consciously or unconsciously done by the other employees.

    2. Miss Wels*

      As a young, mixed race person, I can speak from experience that POC are usually perceived as younger than white people of the same age, so it does kind of go hand in hand. When I am in my homeland, I am perceived as a few years older than my age, but here in the mainland US in a city that is 75% white, it is very common for people to think I’m a decade younger than I am. My mother still gets carded. And I’ve heard that black women in hospitals giving birth oftentimes deal with discrimination from nurses assuming they are teen moms when they are actually 30.

    3. Maya Elena*

      Whether a person of color or not, “use your words” and “keep things in perspective still apply.”

      1. Leela*

        Yes but if POC have to “use their words” and “keep things in perspective” at a higher rate than their peers because they’re put in situations that their peers aren’t, but are but at much less frequency, it’s still a huge problem and having POC be endlessly gracious with their time/energy is not the solution

      2. McWhadden*

        In addition to what Leela said POC are more likely to be perceived as “aggressive” when they use their words in what would be considered a professional way by a white person.

        1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

          +1. I hadn’t even put together that OP may have been a WoC prior to this thread, but thinking of it now… Speaking up to your president is *already* risking crossing a line. There is *already* a power dynamic. Throw in racial or ethnic or visible religious divides and now that power dynamic is all the more delicate, because minority peoples always have an additional layer of implicit prejudice to work against. e.g. if LW is a black woman, there is the stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman” that colors how her behavior is perceived. If she is Latina, there’s a stereotype about Latina women being “spicy” aka loud, hotheaded, passionate. If she is Asian, there’s a stereotype that expects her to be meek and docile. *All* of these facts color how the president would perceive insubordination, regardless of – or rather, in conjunction with – LW’s relative youth and junior status.

    4. EmilyG*

      I also got that vibe–that the OP may be someone who has been on the receiving end of microaggressions in the past and not just in this office. I’m white, so it got me wondering how a mid-career POC would navigate the situation, both in the moment and long-term with that boss. I think Allison’s advice would be spot-on for me but anything along the lines of “just put up with it” doesn’t sound great with this framing.

    5. ThisIshRightHere*

      Absolutely this. I related very much to this letter. Not in the whiny, entitled sense. But in the “ok, how is my value and personhood going to be ignored/undermined today?” Microaggressions can really wear on a person, and what may seem like an overreaction to a small issue could actually be the culmination of hundreds of little slights to which the observer was not privy. And AAM’s response, essentially: “hey, calm down. It’s not that serious. Actually, the fact that you’re upset reflects poorly on you,” is exactly what I would have expected (and have received) from white people from whom I’ve sought advice on how to deal with feeling like I’m being constantly disrespected at work. And now that I’m many years in my field and now entering upper management, I still spend a shocking amount of energy on counteracting the effects of discrimination, and being as palatable as possible to people who would instinctively label me as “aggressive” or “difficult” or “angry” for saying/doing things that anyone else can apparently say/do without a second thought. And I assure you, there is absolutely no recourse. To preserve their own feelings and avoid introspection, people in power will attempt to convince professional POCs that they are imagining this well-documented phenomenon for the rest of their days.

  20. Xarcady*

    I cringed a little when the OP said that while she was sitting and texting her friends, the president looked over at her three times. Not the best optics, the OP sitting and playing with her phone during work hours. The president might have been wondering just what the heck the OP was doing and why she wasn’t working.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ahhh now THIS would’ve made me mad. Meaning, if a higher-up booted me out of my workspace and then reprimanded me for not working while they were in my workspace, that would’ve made me pretty angry. Then again, I would’ve said something right away, like “hey, BigBoss, I’ve got to get back to working on my TPS reports now, would you like a spare chair?”

    2. buttercup*

      Did you not read the letter? The OP was displaced from her desk! I think the OP didn’t want to interrupt the conversation to ask for her laptop. (I could see myself being in this awkward position of not wanting to interrupt the CEO but also not wanting to waste time. I would probably just end up going to the bathroom or something.)

  21. Not Australian*

    I think the expression she’s looking for is “Shall I come back later?” – it alerts the boss to the fact that she’s keeping a member of staff away from her desk but at the same time indicates a willingness to accommodate boss’s wishes. From that point on, if she’s kept away from her work, boss takes the responsibility. Not exactly ‘rocket surgery’…

  22. Anon For Always*

    I think that you really have consider if these things are isolated events with this particular person or if there is a pattern.

    I don’t think sitting in someone else’s chair for 15 minutes when you are the company president is a big deal. However, if the company president undermines you in meetings, sits in your chair, regularly calls you by a different name, etc., then I think it’s worthwhile discussing this with your boss.

    But, I also think that the OP has a pretty big chip on his/her shoulder. If you’ve been working in an office since you were 19 and you are now 23, you’ve had four years of office experience. In the whole scheme of things that isn’t really very much. You are still very junior in your career, and you probably have a lot to learn (just like we all did!). If you walk around demanding respect then it’s unlikely you’ll get it, because most people far more senior will see you as a junior employee with a lot still to learn.

  23. Kate*

    I think it’s important to note that the OP commented on the original post and acknowledged that she was blowing it out of proportion and thanked Alison and commenters for helping her see that! No need to yell at her now!

    1. fposte*

      Oh, thank you for finding that! Usually I hunt for that and I forgot. I hope she found that to be a great job since, too.

    2. Annie Moose*

      That’s great to hear! (OP’s name in the other thread was just plain OP, for anyone trying to find those comments)

  24. Pam*

    Personally, I would assume that the CEO either didn’t know it was my seat or thought I was on break. I would have used my words- either asking if she could move or if I could get my laptop. That being said, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid most toxic workplaces, so I’m not assuming that things are problems.

  25. Emily*

    I love basically everything about Alison’s advice in general, except for this one theme that comes up occasionally in letters — the idea that your time is “less valuable” than people who make more money than you within your company. I understand the reasoning, but I disagree with the premise. I don’t think that people in management should be given a pass for taking people’s chairs, showing up late to meetings, or not responding to emails just because they have a higher salary. The idea of making allowances for small instances of disrespect just because someone is highly paid really irks me. Everyone’s time is valuable if they are making a contribution to the company.

    1. Noah*

      It’s not about how much they are paid. It’s about the importance of what they are doing at the company. I often have a bunch of meetings scheduled back-to-back. I can’t avoid that. Sometimes, the 8am is more important than the 9am, but I don’t control the 8am meeting. If the 8am goes to 9:15, the people at my 9:15 are going to have to wait for me, because my time and the time of the person i’m at the 8am meeting with is more important to the company than that of the people I have the 9am meeting with.

      It’s not about respect and it’s not about salary. It’s about efficient use of company resources.

      1. Staphylococcus anonymous*

        Scheduling meetings that overlap and therefore making people wait on you hardly qualifies as “efficient us of company resources”. In fact I would argue it is wasteful, and yes, disrespectful, and ultimately it reflects poor planning and foresight.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t think that’s the way Alison is using valuable though.

      The more you’re paying for someone’s time, the more value you want from their work product. You’re not going to pay someone $20/hour to stuff envelopes if you can pay someone $10/hour to do it. You’re going to have the $20/hour person do something that provides higher value to your organization.

      1. Lehigh*

        Right. So 15 minutes of the OP’s time maybe costs the company less than 5 minutes of the CEO’s time wasted by moving the conversation.

        Or, for example, if you have the “how can I be more valuable to the company” conversation with a manager, you want to know what tasks warrant more money per hour. It’s not a comment on your personal worth.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes, but, well, that’s how it is. There is a hierarchy and you can’t get away from it. It’d be nice if everyone was equal but there’s a power structure for a reason. The higher ups are more valuable to the company and their pay reflects that, not the other way round. They’re not valuable because they’re paid higher, they’re paid higher because they’re more valuable. They have skills, knowledge, and experience that makes what they do, and hence their time at work, more valuable to the company. I’ve been the most junior person doing menial monkey work and while I was definitely contributing and the things I was doing needed to get done, having me wait, say, 15 minutes for my boss to talk to an important client was definitely within the scope of things I was expected to put up with. My 15 minutes wasn’t costing the company nearly as much money as the equivalent 15 minutes of my boss’s time would cost, both in salary and level of business conducted.

      No, they are not more valuable human beings in the grand scope of the world, but in that particular environment in that particular context, their time is quite literally worth more. It’s not a value judgement on the employee as a human being.

      1. LarsTheRealGirl*

        This: They’re not valuable because they’re paid higher, they’re paid higher because they’re more valuable.

    4. chi type*

      She’s not saying non-CEOs are less valuable human beings, just that their time literally costs the company less money the CEOs. It’s value in the dollar sense and (like it or not) that’s, again literally, the bottom line when it comes to business.

  26. Bea*

    This breaks my heart that the world is so skewed depending on what angle you look at it from.

    It sounds like you’re looking for reasons to feel disrespected due to your age. I wonder the perception a few years later

    I was the youngest for the first decade of my career. My bosses were my parents age and often had kids around my age. They adored me and still do tbh.

    Then I finally did get a boss who was sexist and ageist among other things. It blew my mind and I was 33 by that time. I can only laugh now that I’m away from that nonsense.

    I just truly hope things have changed over the years and you’re not still angry over things like this.

  27. Lora*

    Dude. OP. This is not disrespectful. It’s a momentary thoughtlessness. That’s all. It was not personal.

    Someone upthread mentioned Ellen Pao’s experience. There are countless other examples of real disrespect. And sadly you will eventually encounter them and believe me when I say that swallowing that down is a LOT more difficult than saying “sorry, let me just grab my laptop until you’re done” to the CEO.

  28. Noah*

    There’s a huge piece of additional advice missing. How about saying politely, “Would you mind if I sat back down at my desk so I can get back to work?”

    I mean, even then, if Boss hadn’t moved, this would be a huge overreaction. But it’s really (not-at-all) amazing how well asking politely works in terms of getting what you want, even if you think the other person already knows what you want.

  29. Angela Ziegler*

    While I think the reaction was too much for what happened (it’s a small incident in the scheme of things after all) but I can see why it would be frustrating. The president was, frankly, really rude. If she had been so caught up in talking and didn’t notice OP came back, finally realized, and stood up while continuing the conversation- that would have been one thing, and something you’d expect in an office. A quick, even careless apology would have been pretty normal too- Just a ‘Sorry’ thrown OP’s way while the conversation continued. While a little annoying, it would have been pretty typical of office behavior and making use of a space.

    But yeah, the president was pretty rude. If she looked back at OP multiple times, acknowledging full well that she was taking OP’s seat and getting in the way of her work, but not caring about it and keep talking at her leisure- That’s pretty rude. OP shouldn’t have thrown down her water bottle and made passive-aggressive hints while fuming, but it’s completely understandable to get frustrated by that situation. While it’s possible the president was just not concerned about what she was doing, or too focused on the conversation, it could also read by ‘I’m the president, so I don’t care if you’re waiting on me and if this is your chair. I can sit where I want and you’ll have to wait.’

    As I said, it’s a very small situation in the scheme of things and not fuming about respect over. But it was honestly rude behavior, and ideally you’d expect better behavior from someone so high up. Literally getting in the way of an employee trying to get back to work, and that you don’t care about it at all? Not a good example to set, honestly.

  30. Dance-y Reagan*

    Disproportionate reaction or not, 15 minutes is an insanely long time to hover like that. It’s not long for a meeting itself, but to just loiter near your cubicle for a quarter of an hour like you’re waiting for a bus? If I were borrowing someone’s seat, the awkward would overtake me within a minute or two. I can’t imagine digging in my heels and staying in someone else’s chair that long while they stare a hole in my back.

  31. Triplestep*

    The LW’s reaction was over-the-top, but since we have so little info on the office’s physical layout, I don’t think we can determine how much of an affront the seat-borrowing really was. Maybe it’s because I design office space, but to me the question of office layout/culture is part of the equation. Is this open space plan with no walls and a very informal “work anywhere around the office” kind of culture? I imagine it that way due to the couch mention, and I tend to think in that kind of an office it’s not that big of a deal.

    But if it’s a high-walled cubicle kind of a place without alternate seating in which to work, and it’s hard to see who is around or find an empty desk, then it’s a little more problematic when someone takes your seat.

    And honestly, for all the office savvy this LW claims to have, an Account Exec should be able to work anywhere and often does. An Admin (her previous job) would not be as likely have their seat borrowed. Often when I’m working with a group that is transitioning to some degree of unassigned seating, the Admins are not part of that deal. They need their seats – and the SAME seats each day – more than many other roles do.

  32. kjdubreuil*

    Company owner here. I often use two of my employees desks/chairs (in our shared office) for meetings with outside reps. If the employee returns I look at them and say “do you need your desk back?” If they say yes, we move. However these particular employees are close to my peers (associates) not admin persons. The admin also shares the office (on the other side of the room) and if I was using her desk/chair and she returned and sat down on the other side of the room I would likely say to her “can you take your laptop and give us 15 minutes?”

    Yes, I would say something. However if I did not I would expect my employee to be gracious and unobtrusive. Because they work for me, not the other way around.

    I would be quite unhappy if the admin inserted herself into the meeting, hovered nearby while playing on her phone, put things on her desk with a thud or took her laptop without excusing herself for interrupting. I would expect that she would say something like ‘when should I come back?’ or ‘sorry for interrupting, I’ll just grab my laptop and get out of your way.’

    If a person returned and just ‘told me they needed their desk back’ I would not take that very well. Because it is not actually their desk. I actually own the desk and everything else in the office and they work for me so if I want to use it they should accommodate me graciously.

    In this case the OP probably misunderstood the company norm which apparently was ‘if the CEO is using your desk for a meeting, quietly gather your things and leave for a while’ instead of ‘hover nearby while glaring at the CEO.’

    1. Lumen*

      Sounds like you and OP’s boss both need places to hold such meetings. Like conference rooms. Or your own desks.

      I’m not disagreeing that the OP’s behavior as self-described was inappropriate, exacerbated the rudeness going on, and didn’t help their case for respect. And I’m really glad that several years ago when this was posted, the OP took that advice to heart and hopefully has handled such awkward situations better going forward.

      I’m just baffled why this (yes, kinda rude) behavior on the part of the boss is necessary. Is there literally nowhere else to be? Would it be that much of a burden to stand up and walk somewhere else with the person you’re speaking with when your employee comes back to their desk?

      Why dig the heels so much? That’s what makes it seem like a ‘power move’ to me: it’s not the initial action (taking an empty seat to chat with someone) but the insistence that this is the right and privilege of bosses and how dare anyone question it or suggest that alternate behavior might be called for. Why is that the hill to die on?

      It just seems like the same problem the OP had: “Dammit, I WILL be respected! *thuds water bottle! or sits in a seat they don’t need to make the point that they can!*”

      1. Mediamaven*

        It doesn’t sound like it was a formal meeting being had at the desk, but an impromtu thing that happened and the boss just wanted to finish it.

        1. Lumen*

          Again: would it be that hard to see someone come back to their chair, stand up, and walk the impromptu conversation elsewhere?

          Why pull the ‘boss card’ at all in a situation like this? Why risk needless resentment over something so petty? Why do it simply because one has the ability to do it without consequences? This isn’t requiring the employee to ‘show respect’; it’s requiring them to show subservience. That’s something entirely different, and it makes it really hard to trust leaders who feel the need to elicit visible submission from their employees.

    2. Mediamaven*

      This. I’ll sometimes sit in my employees chair to chat but I’ll move if they return. That said, if I chose not to move because I’m in a conversation they can wait. I never like to pull the “I’m the boss” card, but, like I am and sometimes you need to show respect for that.

    3. buttercup*

      I don’t disagree that the OPs behavior was inappropriate, but you have to understand that your behavior is rude, too. Bosses who always take advantage of their title breed resentment, even if you may not know it.

    4. Bea*

      I think the OP is overreacting and frankly is fighting the wrong battle.

      However it’s also an over reaction if you get mad at an employee for saying that their designated work space is “theirs”. That’s a reaction that parents have when their kids are being insolent. “I’m the one who bought it, it’s mine, you’re only allowed to use it when I say so!”

      Bad dynamic to have with your staff. You want them to have some ownership in their work station so that they feel connected to your company and you.

      1. Lamb*

        It’s a bad dynamic to have with your actual kids too.
        “I own this and it is only by my grace that you are permitted to use it” is almost never a card pulled on someone you respect

    5. Annie Moose*

      “If a person returned and just ‘told me they needed their desk back’ I would not take that very well. Because it is not actually their desk. I actually own the desk and everything else in the office and they work for me so if I want to use it they should accommodate me graciously.”

      I’m pretty sure I have used that exact wording (“can I get my chair back”) with my grandboss before and he, being a reasonable person, was like “yeah sure” and gave it back to me. Flipping out on an employee because they used commonly-understood phrasing is a very strange reaction. It is well known to native English speakers that the possessive doesn’t always mean “I own this thing”, but can also be used to mean “I am the habitual user of this thing/I am closely associated with this thing”; in that sense, that desk is absolutely your employee’s desk. That’s the desk that was assigned to them, that’s the desk where they perform their work, that’s the desk where they spend most of their time; it is absolutely “their desk” in that sense.

      1. DArcy*

        Yeah, this is an unreasonable semantic nitpick. It’s exactly like homeless people telling security they can’t remove them from “my property” because they’re not the actual owner.

    6. Ego Chamber*

      “If a person returned and just ‘told me they needed their desk back’ I would not take that very well. Because it is not actually their desk. I actually own the desk and everything else in the office and they work for me so if I want to use it they should accommodate me graciously.”

      How strange. I got nearly this exact speech from someone I used to work for. Key phrasing: “used to.” I’d forgotten all about that. Thanks for the nostalgic trip down Toxic Garbage Lane. :)

  33. Not A Manager*

    The way I read this, I don’t think LW somehow failed to communicate that she wanted her chair back. I think with all the slamming and fuming and huffing and puffing, it was probably really clear to the CEO that she wanted her chair back.

    In fact, when I imagine how this played out, I think LW’s behavior might have been the *cause* of the manager’s apparently ignoring her. I think the manager might have been so amazed and put off by this pantomimed temper tantrum, that she decided not to dignify it with a response. I think when the manager kept glancing over her shoulder at LW, it shows that she was monitoring LW just as much as LW was monitoring her. “Is she still at it? Oh yeah, she is.”

    Now, maybe that’s a power play in itself, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an inappropriate one. Sitting in someone’s chair because “bwahahaha I’m her superior and I can” is an inappropriate power play. Remaining in someone’s chair because IN FACT that is your prerogative and they don’t seem to understand that and are having fits, actually might be a reasonable response.

    1. wherewolf*

      I had the same thought. Like when a child is acting out for attention, and you ignore them to not reward their tantrum with a response.

      I wonder if LW is the kind of person who reads a text that says “k.” as a sign that that person secretly hates them and actually is badmouthing her to their friends… it sounds like LW takes incredible personal offense at things that warrant, like, an eye roll.

  34. Jennifer Juniper*



    Rank Hath Its Privileges.

    Say this fifty times every morning to yourself. Write it on your mirror in lipstick.

    The workplace is not a democracy.

  35. buttercup*

    So I get Alison’s point that this isn’t the hill to die on, but people in my office are so polite that I can’t imagine my boss, or even the CEO, randomly occupying my designated seat and not apologizing for momentarily displacing me. If I were the OP, I probably wouldn’t fume about it, but I would definitely read it as “yeah…this is happening to me bc I’m the most junior/in an admin role”. I also think it’s possible that the OP is blurring her impressions of this company with her last workplace, which obviously had boundary issues.

  36. Pickaduck*

    I am over 50, and a department director. If the CEO sat in my chair in my office and was having a conversation with someone else I would…excuse myself and let them finish. You don’t own that chair or office, and it’s the CEO’s call on how to handle business.

  37. Jennifer Thneed*

    > Because my time was less important than theirs.

    Alison, I feel like I said this already? Maybe in response to a similar comment, because: No. Your time may have been less *expensive* than theirs, but it was not less *important*. This is really important. We’re all human beings and we all get the same number of hours in the day, just some of us get compensated differently for those hours.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In the context of what was most important to the organization, my time was less important. That’s a different thing than overall value as humans in general.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I think sometimes, though, it’s necessary to be careful about how we view that. Because while it is often true that someone who is higher up has more time demands and for more important matters, it sometimes the foot soldiers get the stuff done at the bottom who need to get their work done by x time so that the higher ups can take it and build on it or do whatever they’re planning to with it. Which can bring the level of importance closer together or even flip it upside down and I think that across the board we all need to be more aware of that. Paid less or handling something with fewer major consequences is not quite the same as not needed to be as on top of getting their work done right at that moment.

        Part of the reason I think that’s important to note is that not getting back to someone — because you’re triaging your e-mails — who can continue on doing other stuff, is different than actively interfering their ability to perform any of the functions the company is counting on them to perform, and their work effort and ability to do it needs to be respected from that standpoint. Even if that particular work is stuffing envelopes. Because the envelopes need to be stuffed. Especially if you have a mailing deadline that needs to be met for legal reasons or because doing it that day rather than 2 days later means you capture a particular weekend’s sales or some such.

      2. Kms1025*

        That is the most important point that many seem to be overlooking. Human value aside for the sake of this discussion, if the CEO wants to pay her employee to sit and play on her phone…that’s her prerogative ; )

    2. buttercup*

      I understand why people traditionally think this, but I don’t always understand why. For example, my company specializes in producing “teapots”, and my and my coworkers’ title is “teapot producer”. However, we are still considered junior to and paid less than the executives and manager. But like…do you really want to take time away from your employees’ teapot producing time bc they’re more junior?

      1. Amelia*

        Because, to use the Google Maps perspective Allison used once, managers tend to have the more global view, rather than a street level view.

        On my plate for the week might be:
        close four 50K deals
        complete one compliance course for the company by Friday
        finalize expense reports within 30 days but do it this week if there’s time
        return customer calls of varying urgency

        On my boss’s plate might be:
        close four 250K deals
        rest same as me

        On my asssistant’s plate might be:
        close four 5K deals
        rest the same

        So there is a hierarchy. Both in terms of the work of 3 of us and within our workload.
        Closing business comes before internal trainings before expense reports etc.
        Large deals come before small deals etc.

        A good manager has a more global view of this.
        Some less senior employees have a great grasp of on the macro needs of the company, but for many people, including me, it takes time to develop the perspective on timeliness and importance.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I think this is situational though – if your assistant’s work is “do the research right now so that you can close 2 of those deals tomorrow before they decide to go somewhere else” then your assistant’s work and time needed to do that work is in that moment just as important (and possibly valuable – we have weird ideas about what’s valuable) as yours is. Because yours is built on hers and without hers you can’t do yours.

          1. Amelia*

            But the role of prioritizing workload is both management’s discretion and their responsibility.

            If I tell my assistant, “this research is urgent, I need you prioritize it over all other work for me,” then it’s urgent and needs to move to top of the pile. I also am aware of what I’ve assigned and its relative importance to my own work.

            Some of her work is indeed high priority and rolls up to me, some is critical and does not roll up to me and there are also plenty of medium and low priority tasks mixed in.
            For example, she needs to update her internal corporate bio anytime in the next 6 months, must be done but it’s neither critical nor revenue generating. It’s a slow day activity.

            Also if my boss comes in and says “okay, this larger urgent deal has now taken precedence,” then that’s the new urgent for both me and my assistant. Even if neither of us know every single detail or what makes it quite so critical.

            Alternatively, if I speak to the client later in the day and the specs suddenly change, then the directive to my assistant might change. Sometimes I have time to fully explain the reasoning behind the client’s changes and sometimes, when the clock is really ticking, I don’t.

            The point is that good bosses both have large scale view of organizational needs and what needs to happen for overall success. My own daily workload is very important to me, but my boss ultimately knows things I do not and part of her role is to help with agenda-setting. Just like that’s my role with my assistant.

            1. animaniactoo*

              Right, I’m not disagreeing with that – I’m just talking about when we’re looking at a standpoint where a) I would not expect the president of the company to know what I’m working on at any particular moment and therefore could not possibly be making a decision about my work vs their work based on that info, and b) setting up an active situation that someone in that lower level person’s space that they either have to work around or handle with more stress later because it couldn’t be worked around at that moment.

              There are many people who are higher up who actually *don’t* value the time and results of the lower person at points when they easily could because they don’t care if that person has to stay late or rush and stress to turn something in or offload stuff that can become a rolling downhill stressball for 2 days from now… and then next week… and then… What they care about is what they’re doing in that moment and whether they themselves will have to stay late. But part of the responsibility of authority and managing is recognizing when spending a minute or so to do something a bit differently lowers the impact on the people below them and choosing to spend that minute in a very conscious way.

  38. LGC*

    Did LW ever follow up? Because I’m reading SO MUCH into this, and my instinct is that it isn’t about the chair. (For what it’s worth, about the chair thing itself: LW wildly overreacted, but also I feel like the CEO should have been a bit more aware.)

    One thing I noticed was that LW really emphasized her age – that she was the youngest person on the team by far. I know she wrote that she felt respected by her peers, but…not knowing her, I’m not sure. I know a lot of my employees have freaked out about really minor things like people taking their chairs – but also, I’ll admit…our office is really crowded. (A lot of our offices are.) Since I can only do so much to alleviate the crowding, I’ve tried to do little things like making sure everyone has their own filing cabinet, a mostly stable assigned desk, so on and so forth. Even then, I’m not perfect, and moreso I can’t singlehandedly fix everything.

    (And my employees would possibly say I don’t do a good enough job of appreciating them!)

    Yeah, I TOTALLY agree that LW wildly overreacted to the CEO sitting in her chair for 15 minutes and not acknowledging her. (This letter is so heated I’m not sure whether I should be using the past or present tense.) And on top of that, LW does present as entitled, and further I wouldn’t expect the CEO to care that much about the seating arrangements or to know that it was LW’s chair. But what I’m seeing is that LW feels unappreciated (which is valid), and somehow the CEO became LW’s BEC (except she kind of DOES own the place), and

  39. Former Expat*

    Given the frequency that I read about people saying that they look young here, I’m going to start assuming that the nice young women selling Girl Scout cookies outside my supermarket are all 46.

  40. The Doctor*

    On the one hand, the company president should have had her own chair and desk (in an office). On the other hand, as least she didn’t write up LW for not being at her desk for those 15 minutes.

  41. Imaginary Number*

    I thought this was going to be something where the president took the chair that OP brought from home or the chair that OP had specifically had ordered for ergonomic reasons.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Ikr? I’ve probably just been here for too long because my brain immediately went to something like:

      “I have a medical condition and used the ADA process to get a special chair that I need to work. I came in today and the company president had taken my chair ‘because its more comfortable than hers’ and won’t give it back. HR is afraid to intervene and won’t authorize the expense of another chair. I really need the chair to do my job comfortably and I’m in a lot of pain until this is resolved. What are my options?”

      Got all cozied up under a blanket with a bowl of popcorn and Sour Patch Kids mixed in for nothing. :(

  42. Greg NY*

    I’ve been busy today and haven’t had a chance to read through all the comments, but I’ll post my thought anyway.

    The only thing that matters here is that there is no double standard. The answer to this question, regardless of what the actual answer is, is equally applicable to the CEO and to the janitor or mailroom clerk. If the CEO can sit in a chair and interrupt someone else’s work, so can anyone else. Conversely, if the culture of the place is to not take over other people’s workspaces even temporarily, the CEO shouldn’t be doing it either. I keep saying this, it’s particularly important for those in charge to be setting the example they want to see from others. It’s exactly the same as why it’s so important for parents to be setting the example they want to see in their children.

    In my own particular opinion, LW, you overreacted, rather badly in fact. I would have taken the interruption in stride, but at the same time realized that it’s OK for me to sit in someone else’s chair the same way the CEO did. In this workplace (which you may no longer be at 4 years later), having conversations seems to trump timely access to one’s workspace.

    1. Mediamaven*

      But see, this isn’t true. One person makes the rules, and that’s the CEO. It doesn’t mean the rules are always fair, but that’s not the issue here. There is never a situation where it is ok for an employee to enter my office and sit at my desk just because I may have sat down on their chair for a few minutes. This is entitlement. Because someone else has different privileges based on their position in the hierarchy does not at all mean that everyone is entitled to those same things. While it’s good for the boss to set the example, it’s not necessary or even healthy to expect everyone to have the exact same rights in an organization. And I am not a parent to my employees, I am their boss.

      1. LGC*

        It looks like you and Greg are arguing two different things, though.

        From what it looks like you’re saying, the CEO has a lot more latitude to do whatever she wants because she’s the big boss. I think Greg is saying that she SHOULDN’T, because that sets a poor example for everyone. I think you’re both right – but I lean more towards Greg’s perspective.

        This doesn’t mean that the CEO needs to grovel to borrow someone’s chair. Or that the LW is justified in declaring a blood feud against the CEO. It’s just that just because she can doesn’t mean she should.

        1. Mediamaven*

          I understand that Greg is arguing that they should. But I don’t agree. We don’t own my company, I own my company. We are not equals in my company. We are equal human beings but we do not have equal rights when it comes to this business. I should be always respectful to my employees and treat them well. That does not mean we have the same rights when we are here. Or, if we want to be equals than Greg can cut me a check biweekly for my work and if I get sued we can both be on the hook for the liability. Sorry if I’m coming across as agitated but frankly, it is good to set a good example to employees but the CEO gets accommodations for their roles that are earned. And for what it’s worth, I don’t and wouldn’t commandeer anyone’s work station but if I did borrow someone’s chair it’s not me being disrespectful.

          1. LGC*

            Apologies if I said anything to agitate you – that wasn’t my intention!

            I follow your point about ownership and responsibility – and to be honest, I completely agree with your last sentence. But also…I feel like part of being a good leader is modeling the behavior you want to see from your team. I guess that’s what I’m picking up on – it seemed like you said in your initial response that because the CEO is more important, she gets to do whatever she wants.

            I wouldn’t go to the other extreme that Greg was arguing for (that anyone can just interrupt anyone else as they saw fit), simply because that read as so absurd I just dismissed it out of hand. (I hope he wasn’t serious about that! Just the thought of running an office like that is agitating me!) But…like, also, I can imagine that the small inconvenience that the CEO would have had if she’d moved to another chair or the couch would have paid multiples in making LW happier. To me it feels like the CEO missed a few minor ways to build good will, but that’s being obscured by the LW’s terrible behavior.

            (And…yeah I’m validating the LW. Who I hope is older, wiser, and suitably embarrassed for writing this letter. But also, that’s actually how I feel about this, she’s an adult, and I’m not her caretaker.)

          2. Ego Chamber*

            “We don’t own my company, I own my company. We are not equals in my company. We are equal human beings but we do not have equal rights when it comes to this business. I should be always respectful to my employees and treat them well. That does not mean we have the same rights when we are here.”

            Wow. Please tell me you make this speech to candidates during their job interviews? And if you do, I’d like to know how many people laugh in your face and end the interview after “we do not have equal rights when it comes to this business” because that’s where you lost me: you don’t have “rights” in a business, you’re talking about different people having different privileges and policies, but your phrasing just makes it sound so very very dire and authoritarian. (It’s the attitude I can’t get behind, not the statement.)

    2. Bea*

      As adults in the work place you can’t run on the idea we’re all created equal and “if the CEO does it, the janitor can too!”

      Our CEO does a lot of things none of us can do. Sign off on purchases comes to mind. And the whole hiring/firing thing. By your comment that means if the CEO can buy lunch for everyone next week, the receptionist can just go ahead and order up lunch any other day. The CEO can create a new job and hire someone. I feel like an assistant. So I’ll just go hire one, we’re all equal here!

      People have different roles and authorization across the board. So no. Just because the CEO chooses to displace someone for any reason, it doesn’t mean anyone can do it without getting into trouble.

      I’ve never had a tyrannical boss but sure they get to do things I don’t. My CEO doesn’t even need to tell me if he’s out sick or leaving for the day but he does so I don’t worry. But if he no calls no shows one day am I just going to fire him like anyone else would be? No. Come on now.

      Private business is not about equality.

      1. buttercup*

        I think this is becoming a discussion of how much bosses are allowed to intrude on their employee’s boundaries because they’re the boss. In this letter, the boss occupied the LWs work station, and put her in an uncomfortable situation where she had to potentially interrupt her boss’s conversation to be able to resume her work. When I first read the title, I actually assumed this was a recurring situation rather than a one time thing. I agree that the LW behaved inappropriately, but if this were a repetitive thing that was happening to her, I would say that her boss was being kind of an ass for making her uncomfortable. Bosses get institutional privileges, but they still need to demonstrate good character.

    3. Not A Manager*

      “The answer to this question, regardless of what the actual answer is, is equally applicable to the CEO and to the janitor or mailroom clerk. If the CEO can sit in a chair and interrupt someone else’s work, so can anyone else.”

      But why? The only answer I see you provide is “It’s exactly the same as why it’s so important for parents to be setting the example they want to see in their children.”

      First, nothing in the workplace is “exactly the same” as parents and children. It’s not parents and children, it’s the workplace.

      Second, parents’ setting an example doesn’t mean that EVERY ACTION is exactly the same as the kids’. Parents set an example of healthy eating and getting enough sleep. That doesn’t mean that they go to bed at 8 pm just like the kids, or that they never have a cocktail. Parents set an example of being respectful of other people. That doesn’t mean that they never boss the kids, or that they never scold them.

      A boss should set an example of observing cultural norms, sure, and of not overstepping. But that doesn’t mean that the cultural norms should NEVER differentiate between the boss and her employees.

  43. Greg NY*

    I just made a comment, didn’t see it posted, then tried again and got a message saying that it looks like a duplicate post. Is there some software bug today?

    1. buttercup*

      This happened to me once. It probably just went to moderation. Mine got approved eventually.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      I’ve had that happen and my post was there when I reloaded the page, no moderation or anything. It’s just something that happens sometimes, never thought to question it. :)

  44. Recovering journalist*

    This response is so over the top. I’m so curious if this young employee ever figured things out or has continued to be outraged by perceived disrespect in the ensuing years.

  45. LibraryMan*

    First, I’d divide this into what I *can* change, and what I *can’t*. I cannot change other’s perceptions or actions. And while it would be nice to make everyone in my office hypercompetent, kind in word and deed, and able to smash evil bureaucracy by the power of magical girl friendship!!! – that’s just not going to happen.
    But I *can* realize that we’re all jerks (me included), just some less so than others, and that nobody has commented on my particular brand of embarrassing immaturity lately. In return, I need to let this go, to preserve my emotional balance and in the interest of office comity.
    But perhaps my lack of outrage is partly dictated by my advanced age and general uncaring nature. (And by the fact that I am at the top of the hierarchy in my office.) Should this happen here, I’d apologize for giving offence – and tell them to grow up and act like an adult, as well. Get your warm fuzzies from your friends and family – I pay in cash. Not emotional validation.
    It’s just one of those cold, hard facts about the world that helps when you recognize it and expect it.

  46. Indie*

    Young people genuinely do get treated like crap and talked down to on the regular. I think this letter really reminded me of when I entered bitch eating crackers territory in my tweens and could no longer tell what was a purposeful snipe, what was ‘you don’t matter’ dismissive and what was just average no-big-deal thoughtlessness which would continue to happen as you age. As always, a poker face will serve you well while you work it out.

  47. Djuna*

    I sit beside someone who frequently has director level peeps popping over for a “quick word” that goes long.
    I tend to ramble around the office at work, so coming back to someone “fancy” sitting in my chair happens more than you’d expect. If I *really* need to be back at my desk (regardless of who is in my chair), I’ll find a spare chair, roll it over to the other side of my colleague, apologize for interrupting, and offer the visitor that chair. Minimal fuss, always works.

    I do this because when people are deep in conversation they probably don’t notice me being back (or maybe don’t even know they’re sitting at my desk). It’s not a status thing, it’s a politeness thing. Comes from the same place as putting on headphones when people are discussing something I probably shouldn’t be overhearing. Doesn’t cost me anything and makes my life easier.

  48. Heat's Kitchen*

    The thing I thought of while reading that Alison didn’t mention: Even though this person is the President, you can politely ask them to move/give your spot back/how long they’ll be hanging around.

    “Oh hey Suzi! Nice to see you! That’s my desk, are you going to be talking to Cory for long? If so, excuse me while I grab my laptop so I can work in the break room.”

  49. No1CatParent*

    As someone who was in a similar position (working since early teens, office jobs in late teens and on, 23 in 2014 and the youngest person in my office), I wonder how OP feels now. There were definitely times when I misread situations and felt a lot of defensiveness starting out. Even though it didn’t *feel* like starting out because I’d worked so much more than other people my age. I can see ways in which starting to work young has helped my career now, but now at 28, I sometimes still feel that I’m in the early part of my career. I feel that more now at 28 than I did at 23 because I have more perspective now than I did then.

  50. Yessss to Bananacrackers*

    This letter could not have been more timely.

    What do you do when you work with someone like LW who takes power moves very personally? I’ll admit that our ED is not always the most considerate of people’s time and needs, but most of us are able to brush things off as personality quirks and general humanness. She’s generally a respectful and supportive person to work for. We do have some employees who take actions like being late for meetings or leaving meetings in the middle very personally, to the point where they feel constantly disrespected. I feel like they’re overreacting and will have a hard time being happy in ANY organization if they’re unable to look a few things and give people grace. In my org, I’m in a quazi-HR person and I’m not sure how to approach these conflicts. Do you indulge these complaints and try to mitigate the issues that cause them to feel disrespected? Or do you go with a tough love approach? It’s gotten to the point that some people are so disgruntled that they’re poisoning the work environment for happier folks.

    1. Bea*

      I ignore complaints about this kind of stuff. I’m not here to make sure nobody sat in your seat or excused themselves early in a meeting.

      If someone talked to me because someone threw a fit, didn’t use their words to ask if I could vacate their seat or whatever, that’s my cue that I will need to leave the job. That’s a lot of eggshells to walk on.

      And as someone high enough in most ranks, anyone who wasted HRs time with nonsense would be transitioned out.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Being a high level exec and running from meeting to meeting to meeting is not fun so people need to get over themselves. I vote tough love.

    3. LGC*

      Neither. Remind them that it’s NOT ABOUT THEM.

      It sounds like I’m endorsing “tough love,” but it’s more like…your ED is a bit of a jerk sometimes (you even said so yourself) to everyone! That’s just the way she is. It’s not throwing her under the bus, I think – it’s more of a gentle shove reminding people that it’s a “work hazard.” You know, kind of like how sound carries in an open office.

      It took me a while to internalize that one of our VPs isn’t always the most pleasant. (Ironically, she heads up a division that’s supposed to be really caring!) But once I got it through my head that she wasn’t (usually) mean TO people, she’s just brusque, dealing with her became a lot easier.

    4. Lamb*

      Who is scheduling these meetings that your ED is leaving half way through? If she were setting the time for them or they were scheduled for a time she was available, but once they’re set she often manages to find something more important to do I could see how this would feel like a slight.

      Taking your word for it that this isn’t about her dislike of these people or her lack of interest in their work or career development, does she let people know before the meeting how early she needs to leave so they can arrange the agenda accordingly? (She should) Does she duck out of all departments’ meetings equally, or does she prioritize staying to the end for some and never make it through others? (A possible reason it could feel more personal)
      And aside from feeling insulted are the offended employees suffering any ill effects from her early exits? Are their projects getting delayed because they thought they’d be able to show the ED where they were at and get her approval or feedback? Are their achievements and contributions being overlooked because she doesn’t stay long enough to hear about them?
      Basically, given how strongly they are feeling about her treatment of them, have you examined her actions separat from how much you like working with her? I agree they shouldn’t be spoiling everyone else’s workday but their discontent isn’t automatically groundless because you’re happy.

  51. NotAnotherManager!*

    As an aside, based on the title and it being identified as an older letter, I was convinced this had to be from someone I worked with when I first started my career as there was a rash of actual chair theft going around. HR had some weird, hierarchical rules for office chairs, and people who were in the office later into the evening would swap and, in a few cases, outright take people’s chairs. It was nearly always a joke between work friends, but it occasionally became revenge for being a terrible coworker. There was a particularly obnoxious person who’d curried favor with a c-level person, who got them a c-level chair, and that person came in one day to no chair one morning. The person who took it (who was not me, I swear!) was smart enough not to put the chair in their own office, but it took them several days to find it, and HR intervened and overruled the c-level person’s chair giving.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      This is hilarious and better than the actual letter! Reminds me of my time in Call Center Hell—you would not believe the amount of time devoted to chair politics in a call center.

  52. Oof*

    To read the OP’s update, search “Thank you Alison and commenters.” Happy to help!
    I thought it was interesting how some commenters have changed position or approach since then too.

  53. GH in SOCal*

    When I read the headline I thought the CEO *took* the OP’s chair, as in, noticed the OP had a particularly comfy or ergo chair, and just decided “My chair now.” I say this as someone whose printer apparently got lost in an office move, only to turn up in the office of another department head. (It was very clearly labeled with my name and our department .) When I pointed out that I had paid for it myself, he returned it begrudgingly — if it had been company property, I’m sure he would have kept it and considered it only his due.

    So hearing that “took my chair” meant “sat in my chair for a few minutes” makes the whole thing seem *so minor* to me…

    …Although to be fair, I am still stewing about that asshole who took my printer 15 years ago, so I guess it is all about the feeling of being so *dismissed,” and not the printer (or the chair) in itself.

  54. JessaB*

    Honestly when I read the headline, I though this was going to be about someone with a specific chair, either adaptive or set to certain settings due to a disability accommodation, having their chair appropriated, as in moved away from their desk by someone else, or had the settings reset (I fought dozens of battles over this issue in call centres because of my disabilities, I mean “leave my damned chair alone, it has a sign taped on it not to mess with it. Really. I mean it.”)

    This was not what I expected and by now OP has been told by everyone else why this isn’t right. so I’m just going to say x1000 to everybody else.

  55. LadyPhoenix*

    If this was just a one time thing, I would chalk it off as an annoyance and let it go. It doesn’t look like this was an actual attack.

    The fact the OP had to be passive aggressive though speaks volumes. Slamming water bottles? Sulking on couches and texting? Pretending to work while you fume?

    You know you could have just said, “Excuse me. Can I have my seat back? No? Ok, then can you pass me my laptop while I work from the couch over there? Just let me know when you’re done.” How hard is that?

  56. Courageous cat*

    Since this is pretty old, I feel ok about being a little more blunt than normal, and I seem to be in the minority on this specific POV: but absolutely y i k e s at the phrasing across this whole letter. I guess it’s subtle but I’m seeing a lot of things here that are coloring my perception of the situation.

    First off, starting anything at all with the “I don’t like/avoid drama” trope is never a good sign, because IME most people who tend to outwardly state that (especially right off the bat, like in their Tinder profile, or at the beginning of a letter as seen here) are the ones that find themselves embroiled in it the most. People who truly avoid drama don’t typically have to communicate that kind of thing because drama just doesn’t find them often enough to warrant a statement about it.

    And then some other little comments: “it’s catty and unfair”, “I hate to see talent like me be disrespected”, and the whole thing about how her past supervisor was also the nastiest towards her, and the perfectly innocent reason why she “mainly” got fired… honestly, from all of this language, I suppose I don’t buy that the OP doesn’t cause a lot of her own problems. It creates a narrative about oneself being always really great, and everyone else being always really bad – a narrative that probably rings false to a lot of readers, if there’s no acknowledgement that there could have been anything she could have done better.

    What the CEO did was annoying and disrespectful, but not even close to being worth fuming over. If you want to avoid drama, use words and communicate your feelings.

    I realize this isn’t the most gracious interpretation, but this kind of attitude bugs me, especially in the workplace where it behooves us all to be as objective about ourselves as possible.

  57. Bowserkitty*

    There are so many comments by now I am unable to figure out if original OP has come back for an update, but given this was 4 years ago I do wonder if OP is able to look back on this with a different view. I still cringe at stuff I pulled/felt 4 years ago, even though at the time it seemed totally justified.

  58. MissPettyAndVindictive*

    OP, as a fellow young person in a work environment (and as a professional woman to boot) I can understand the gut reaction that people are not viewing you as a professional due to your age, especially if you have left a toxic environment.
    I would like to give you a mantra my fiance has taught me – never attribute to malice what could come from ignorance. In this case, instead of thinking it was a power play to intentionally upset/hurt you, assume it was just that the exec didn’t realise that sitting in your chair and not moving when you got back would be frustrating.

  59. Rachel*

    I think going forward OP should keep a guest chair near and then whoever is visiting can use that chair. Or if the visitor happens to take OP’s chair despite the guest chair, then OP can sit there with the laptop. I’ve done this when my chair was taken and it solved the issue.

  60. NoahK*

    She certainly overreacted, but I definitely understand how she feels. We go to the office every day, where we spend most of our waking lives, and every part of our day there is controlled by someone else. What to do, how to do it, where to go, how to dress, how to talk. With that amount of powerlessness in your life, is it any wonder she wants to control something in her work life, even it is something as silly as who sits at her desk? I think we can all understand how she feels, even if we don’t condone how she acted.

  61. Former Employee*

    “I know for a fact she wouldn’t do that to anyone else.”
    How exactly does the OP know this?

    “I returned — placed it on my desk with a thud and home girl is still there!”
    As soon as the OP referred to the CEO as “home girl” she completely lost me.

    The amount of time the OP has spent working in offices seems to have done her as much good as the years I spent working around people who speak Spanish. I still can’t speak more than a few words/phrases of Spanish and can comprehend only slightly more than that.

    1. ThisIshRightHere*

      What is it that irritates you about her use of “home girl?” It pricked me as well, but I’m not sure I know why. I mean, obviously it would be unacceptable to address the CEO that way, but in her casual retelling to a bunch of strangers who have no way of knowing either of them, what’s the actual problem with it?

      1. Me*

        For me it’s because, most people, even when casually retelling, maintain some…i don’t know professionalism? To me the entire tone, including that phrase, is indicative of someone who is highly unprofessional at work and feels they are entitled to act that way. It just reeks of attitude between the lines.

        In a way I feel bad for the LW. She seems unfulfilled by her role to the extent she takes everything as a slight. Shes not doing herself any favors – in her bid for being taken seriously and professionally she comes across like shes throwing a tantrum.

  62. idigflowers*

    “Note: This small company doesn’t really have an HR, but had I known better and have been less naïve at my previous job I would have went months before.”

    No, you would have “gone months before”

  63. Delphine*

    It is pretty rude to take a person’s chair and then not get up when they return…or even let them know you’ll just be a minute. I can’t imagine ever thinking it would be okay to behave like that, whatever my position in a company.

  64. Me*

    Boss was kind of rude. But…and it’s a big but….

    I was an admin for a long time. My job as an admin was quite literally to make my boss’s life at work easy. If that means making 500 copies of a report or twiddling my thumbs while he wrapped up a conversation while sitting in my chair that is what I’m getting paid for. I’m much higher on the ladder now, and that is still my philosophy. The people above me are paid more for a reason. I may not like them. I may be better at the job then them. I may know more than them. In fact current boss is a buffoon at best. But he’s my boss. If he want’s to waste my time by standing in my door and waxing poetic about his army days, well then I get paid all the same now don’t I?

    If you are going to get this angry over 15 minutes, that’s not hurting anyone but you. Is this the hill you want to die on? I doubt it or else you would have quit on the spot. So re-frame it. Instead of stewing, you could have chose to view it as a 15 minute free break. Or worked from your laptop on the couch and shown you were flexible and dedicated. There will always be someone who thinks they’re more important than you. Sometimes, a lot of times, they’re higher on the food chain.

    Also an opportunity for a moment for reflection – what do you want to convey at work? I can assure you in no office is slamming your water bottle on your desk and likely oozing attitude through body language considered professional. That doesn’t mean be a doormat. That does mean learning how (and when) to appropriately stand up for yourself.

  65. Ulf*

    Here’s what happened to me today:

    I work in a school. I share an office with two other people; we are support staff (learning specialists, etc.). Each of us has a small desk with a chair, and a laptop on the desk. We are in and out all the time–off to classrooms, meetings in other parts of the buildings, working one on one with students, etc.

    This morning I came back into “my” office. One of my colleagues was there, sitting in “her” chair. She was engaged in conversation with a teacher I don’t know well at all. The teacher was sitting in “my” chair.

    What did I do? I walked behind the teacher, grabbed my laptop, walked around a bookshelf, and sat down on a kid-sized chair at a worktable we use for small groups of kids. Ten minutes later the teacher left. Ten minutes after that I returned to my desk.

    Then later this afternoon I read this letter. I dunno, maybe I should’ve felt disrespected this morning…
    …but I didn’t. Still don’t for that matter! These things really do happen, and you lose so much time and energy taking it personally…

  66. lifesp*

    I know that it’s rude and unproductive, but the way OP was behaving… I probably would’ve stayed in that chair for another 15 minutes watching the passive aggressive behavior with mild amusement. Because if they had just asked politely, this 1-sided drama probably could’ve been avoided.

  67. Old fat lady*

    Couldn’t resist commenting on this thread…..

    Though I agree if this was an isolated incident, they should let it go but there is a significant danger in letting things like this go too often. It’s very true if you don’t fit in the typical demographic of the company.

    I really feel for this thread because at my last job my chair was never taken because I never was given a chair in almost two years at an employer. Really! I was an older woman at a company that was 95% young males.

    I kept justifying it. At first it was because I was only hired for a few months, when I was hired perm I kept joking about not having my own desk and chair. I would get a laugh and “yeah, we should get you one”. I almost quit when everyone was bought brand new chair except me. I made a mistake of telling a co-worker I was upset and the CEO called me at home to assure me that the company really respected me.

    It wasn’t until the hired a new college graduate and immediately purchased him a fancy chair that I realized I was used. I quickly found out I was training this new person on all my work and procedures without being given any additional responsibilities. It was obvious I was being moved out. I helped them through their critical transition and created new policies – things were going fine now and they didn’t need me.

    The lack of chair wasn’t some silly oversight. It was an obvious sign they didn’t respect me and plan on having me stay long.

    So no it’s not silly to be upset.

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