new hire keeps kneeling in front of me

A reader writes:

Perhaps you can help me figure out how to best approach this strange situation at my office. I’m a senior (male) engineer in my late 30s. Recently my company hired a new college grad as a junior engineer. So far this young man seems reasonably competent on a technical level, but he has some mannerisms that I can only describe as strange. Let’s call him Sam.

I am usually the lead engineer on projects which means I’m responsible for all design decisions and thus I often have people in my cubicle to go over designs, give direction, check calculations, etc. When Sam comes into my cubicle he will opt to walk past the extra chair … and he kneels. I don’t mean he puts one knee down and jots down a quick note from a quick question. Sam will kneel down at my desk with both knees and a straight back for an extended period of time.

The posture and body language of it all makes me a little uncomfortable. This is especially true when I turn my body towards him to have a conversation when we aren’t focused on a piece of paper. Just imagine you are sitting in an office chair, you turn your body to talk to someone, and they are there facing you on their knees. It has like a corporal punishment, suggestive, or submissive vibe to it and it’s just strange.

I’ve tried saying things like “This might be a while, so grab a chair” or “Jeez, seeing that makes MY knees hurt, haha. Why don’t you take a seat?” … all to no avail. He just says things like, “No, it’s OK” or “my knees are fine” or “I like to kneel sometimes.” There is no indication of discomfort due to sitting in a chair. He goes on runs as exercise so I don’t think he has any hidden issues that make sitting tough (he sits at his desk just fine). I think he just doesn’t mind kneeling and he doesn’t see it as strange behavior in an office.

But it happens daily. I’ve mentioned it to a couple colleagues and they have noticed, but they don’t seem to care as much (they also don’t work with him as much). I think HR would be overkill, and I would hate to go to his manager over something like this.

For what it’s worth: I’m not a manager, this is his first office job, and he doesn’t seem to have any difficulty sitting at his desk or in his chair. I have also seen him sitting (not kneeling) in the offices of managers and VPs, but that could be due to the layout of those spaces.

With that I have two questions:

1) How much of my discomfort is my own baggage? I’m not blind to the fact that his posture is almost certainly innocent intent.
2) What can I say to get this guy to just sit in a damn chair?

I used to work with someone who did this to me too! Like Sam, he was young and a recent grad, and I think he just didn’t realize it was odd. He also used to call me Ms. Green until I told him repeatedly to stop. (But he was lovely and I’m still in touch with him to this day!)

I don’t think your discomfort is misplaced. Someone kneeling on your office floor once wouldn’t be that big of a deal (maybe they’re just pausing for a second to write something down, but then it turns into a whole conversation and they’re comfortable where they are), but doing it daily is A Lot. And yes, it feels really subservient — there’s a ton of imagery and baggage in our culture associated with kneeling. If it’s something that Tom Wambsgans would make Greg do on Succession, it’s a safe bet that you don’t want people walking by to think you’re doing it to Sam.

But I also think it’s more easily dealt with than you realize! You’ve tried hinting (“seeing that makes my knees hurt”) and you’ve tried suggesting (“this might be a while, so grab a chair”) so it’s time to get more direct. The next time he starts to kneel, say this: “Actually, would you take that chair instead? It feels odd to have someone kneeling in my office.” You can replace that last sentence with “it’s going to look odd to anyone walking by” or “the last thing I need is people thinking I make junior staff kneel when we talk” or whatever explanation you’re comfortable using.

Also, though, might anything about the configuration of your furniture be in play? You said you’re in a cubicle so I assume the chair is reasonably close by, but if it’s not, moving it nearer your desk might help. Or hell, it could be the opposite — if it’s right by you, maybe that’s weirding him out or feels too close for Covid and so putting more distance between the chair and your desk could help. Either way, though, you’re going to have to get more direct and just tell him clearly that the kneeling feels odd and to please sit in the chair instead.

Let it be known that “my coworker is doing something relatively minor but still quite odd” is my favorite kind of letter.

{ 313 comments… read them below }

    1. EggyParm*

      When I watched the episode where they played “boar on the floor”, I couldn’t help but imagine someone witnessing that game and then writing into Alison for advice the next day. I definitely could see Alison’s letter starting with “W.T.F.”. 10/10 would take her reaction to the series!

    2. Tob*

      Forgive me if this has already been posted.
      Can you just ask him, i.e., ‘I’m curious, why do you kneel when you come in here’ or something similar yet direct.

    3. Marie*

      I feel like there was a short-lived series of Allison giving advice to fictional characters? Succession would be an amazing edition.

  1. John Smith*

    First thought that popped into my head was that it might be cultural. Similar way that people in Fiji will sit on the floor as a sign of respect. Or maybe it’s a concentration method. but my suggestion … Just ask him!

    1. Presea*

      It could even be cultural-ish if OP and Sam are from the same basic culture… Sam might have just never picked up on the cultural symbolism and baggage around kneeling that OP has, for any number of reasons not worth speculating on here.

      1. Your local password resetter*

        Kneeling tends to be pretty common and a big deal though.
        I’m hardly a global expert, but I can’t think of any cultures where you missed the idea that kneeling had a lot of power symbolism tied up in it.

        1. Jillian*

          I wonder if he played a sport for many years. It’s not unusual for a coach to have everyone take a knee while they talk.

        2. Claire W*

          I mean, I know that in certain circumstances there is symbolism there, but in my experience (UK/Ireland) it’s perfectly normal if you’re going to help someone at their desk that you might kneel with your laptop/notes/etc on the side of their desk so you aren’t standing hovering over them as you work together. This is coming from open plan offices where we don’t have personal offices/cubicles nor a bunch of spare seats…

          1. Ailsa McNonagon*

            I’m UK based and have never really seen anyone kneeling in an office, or certainly not for more than a couple of minutes.

    2. Cold Fish*

      LW mentions that Sam is a runner. I’m wondering if it has more to do with exercise and the idea that sitting is “bad”. Kneeling would provide the extra balance and core work while bringing the eyes down more in line with a sitting person. I’m curious if he’d choose to sit on an exercise ball instead of kneeling (if there is room that is).

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        I had a coworker who set up a kneeling desk! He was into some sport, maybe running but it could have been rowing.

    3. Original LW*

      Hi, I’m the letter writer. Its alsmot certainly not cultural. We are just a couple of white guys in the Midwest USA.

      1. Victoria*

        Any chance he has a bad back? Leaning over a desk or sitting properly in a chair makes me hurt. I’ll kneel like this, and I have a chair my doc suggested that encourages leaning forward.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          OP says that Sam is healthy, so I’ll accept that… but yes, I try to avoid leaning over things because it can aggravate lower-back issues I have. (Why did the word “lumbago” go out of fashion? It’s a perfectly cromulent word — and yeah, it’s kind of that, not-wholly-predictable attacks of medium-to-severe pain, not-uncommonly sparked by leaning over too long/too much.)

          I wouldn’t kneel, though, as my knees would hate me for it — I’d want to be able to stand up or sit down, and bring anything I’m supposed to be looking at close enough to my face to read.

          1. Rose*

            I think there’s a difference between trusting letter writers when they tell us their own experiences vs trusting someone’s speculations about a coworkers health. I run regularly but my back gets stiff from sitting very easily, and a lot of chairs exasperate hip issues I have from running.

            1. Original LW*

              I’m definitely speculating about his health because I have never asked him about his health, his back, his knees, etc. But, the facts are: he’s about 22, 5′-10″, very slim, a runner, and he has no observable issues sitting at his own desk throughout the day. All those signs point to it not being a back (or whatever) problem. That alone is not conclusive proof that he doesn’t have some hidden physical ailment, but a physical ailment just seems unlikely.
              This is part of the reason I wrote to this column. I am simply unsure how to approach this because there is a small chance its a physical ailment, and I would hate to be perceived as someone that’s insensitive to the needs of my coworkers.

              1. CanRelate*

                Just going to say that if it was a bad back, its pretty likely he’d be taking other accommodations at his desk.

                Before WFH, my husband took many accommodations for his back, but his preference was standing. He would let people know, because it makes people equally uncomfortable when you dont sit down, and just letting people know it was lower back issues set folks at ease. People usually noticed, because he also had a standing desk, would sometimes need to lie flat on the floor, and was doing months of PT work.

                I would argue that this is a missing social queue, as generally my husband just inherently understands that people will continue to offer him chairs if he does not explicitly state “Sorry, do to some physical issues, I sometimes just need to stand”. Because back issues are so common in his industry, he usually feels comfortable disclosing.

                So, It could be something that he doesn’t feel comfortable disclosing, but to me its more likely that he is missing the queue that you are offering him a chair because socially it is uncomfortable for him to be in a different position to such a large degree. I generally agree that in this case you’ll need to be more direct, so he can provide that additional context if he needs you to accommodate his kneeling, for some reason.

                My Guess:
                He’s a recent college graduate and used to student interactions where sitting on someone’s dorm floor or in weird places in general is not super weird, and he’s never had to deal with HR and think of power dynamics.

                I, for instance, still struggle to remember sit normally at a picnic table. In college we almost always sat and lounged on the table and put our feet on the bench when we were hanging out on the ones outside near the dorms, they were a bit short for lanky/tall art kids. I imagine if I sat this way on an office cafeteria table, it would also read as unprofessional and make people a bit uncomfortable, and Allison would get some email about “My coworker is sitting on the office lunch table and its grossing me out”

                1. That_guy*

                  You make good points, and when I was a runner before my knees went bad, I would often have to stand instead of sit. That was for my hamstrings and quadriceps instead of my back; they would tighten up if I sat from lack of use and standing would prompt me to keep changing positions.

                  I hate to be grammar police, but I used to struggle with this one and you might want to know that “queue” is a line (like waiting at the cash register) and I think you meant “cue” as in a indication or clue.

                2. Lars the Real Girl*

                  That_guy: I’d urge you to look into how grammar policing is a symptom of racism and classism and all around gate-keeping of open communication. If their intention is clear and their message is understood, it’s fine for it to be left alone.

                  Signed, a former grammar police chief who is learning every day how not to perpetuate harmful societal norms.

                3. CanRelate*

                  I’m not much of a writer so I don’t bother doing intense grammar checks on my internet comments, but he was pretty kind about it! English is so quirky.

              2. Haunt*

                Just a thought, could you say, “Why don’t we go to your office/cubicle to talk about this?” That way he can sit in his chair and you can be standing or you can grab a chair! If he kneels then, it’s definitely a submissive/ cultural thing and not a health reason! At which point I would directly ask him in the nicest most professional way possible why he does this. Then explain to him why this is not okay and what this may look like to outsiders. I imagine he is a perfectly reasonable man. The thing that gets me is that he does it to you, but not higher ranking executives. Good luck and I hope this helps.

              3. Kesnit*

                “But, the facts are: he’s about 22, 5′-10″, very slim, a runner, and he has no observable issues sitting at his own desk throughout the day. All those signs point to it not being a back (or whatever) problem.”

                I started training for a duathlon last year. I run and/or cycle 5 days a week. It used to be 6 days a week, until I hurt my hip last fall. Sitting for long periods of time made my hip hurt. Working out, standing, and walking did not.

                I would not be surprised if Sam has something similar. The chair in his office is probably a lot more comfortable and if he’s in his own office alone, he can shift around if something starts to hurt. If the “visitor” chairs in your office are anything like the ones in mine, they are a lot less comfortable. Plus, if he needs to shift because of stiffness, it can look like he is bored or antsy.

                Standing next to someone’s desk can be awkward, he can’t sit on the floor. So it seems like he has picked kneeling as the best option.

        2. kicking_k*

          Yes. For what it’s worth, I am a youngish, fairly physically fit-looking person, and I have periodic problems with sciatica from an injury which make sitting for any length of time painful. I have assumed the Sam position on occasion (once I did it for months) but I always tell people why I’m doing it.

          1. Haunt*

            They make office chairs, called kneeling chairs specifically for that, and it would be considered a reasonable accommodation. They are surprisingly extremely comfortable!

        3. Have done this a couple of times*

          This! I was going to say, if he has a bad back office chairs might just be too painful (this happens to me), and leaning forward to look at someone else’ desk/ computer just exacerbates the pain. Kneeling is actually more comfortable. He may not even realize it looks odd.

      2. never mind who I am*

        I don’t suppose your name’s Niel, is it? (I saw that someone else posted the same thing below, but I can’t resist.)

        I once knelt in front of my organization’s president. He knew I was joking, and he’s a really great guy and one of the reasons I’ll probably be there until I retire.

      3. Nobby Nobbs*

        Think really hard, OP. Could you have said or done anything to make this guy think you’re an evil overlord or a comic book supervillain? Maybe he’s just confused about what genre he’s in.

        1. Original LW*

          Come to think of it I do routinely mention my plans for world domination while wearing a gold glove with 5 stones.

      4. lost academic*

        Hey OP, I would bet that he’s not comfortable standing and talking to you while you are sitting. It’s uncomfortable to be standing over someone. Kneeling maybe puts his head closer to your level. But you can manage it by making it harder to not use a chair that’s right there, changing where you’re having the conversation and just outright naming your discomfort.

      5. Maurynna*

        The reason Jonathan Frakes always got into chairs by putting his leg over the back of them on Star Trek TNG is because of a old back injury that made bending over to sit down painful. Standing for a long time also aggravated it which is why he was always putting his leg up on things and leaning on it. I guess my point is that just because someone sits in a chair just fine doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have back issues. ‍♀️

        1. allathian*

          OT: Ooh, interesting. I should’ve known that, I’ve had an on-off crush on Riker/Frakes since Trek first aired in 1987, it always comes back whenever I rewatch TNG… (Wesley Crusher seemed too young for me to have a crush on, even though I’m actually a few months older than Wil Wheaton.)

      6. tamarack and fireweed*

        Some people just like to kneel if there’s a reason to lower one’s eye-level from standing. (Just like some like to sit with crossed leg on the floor to think.)

        To a degree I appreciate a workspace where such small quirks can be accommodated, but I understand your POV. I also agree with the advice you’ve already received – be explicit & kind, don’t make it weird or make him feel weird about it, just take the line of “please change this for me because I’m concerned about that other people might perceive this as something I’m encouraging”.

      7. get up*

        I would be wary he might be foisting some submissive dynamic on you without consent. Some sub fetishists can be quite pushy and inappropriate with their predilections. I point that more to entitled creeps being creepy than anything inherent in power dynamics. So, the “not all subs” who might feel compelled to pipe up— got you, I’m quite aware of that.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          This comment sounds a little extreme to me. The guy is kneeling – a completely normal human pose, if loaded with some religious imagery – not miming fellatio. Maybe he’s a gardener. I sure remember that in school we were kneeling at each other’s desks for group work all the time – it can be quite comfortable if you have good knees (which, alas, I don’t have any longer).

          1. get up*

            I’m speaking from experience with pushy subs when I wasn’t in a sexual environment. It seems extreme because some people are boundary breaking extreme types- even if you haven’t personally encountered nor witnessed it.

            1. Zennish*

              It’s not impossible, but Occam’s razor… It’s a common meditation sitting position too, and a hundred other things.

        2. iiii*

          I had similar thoughts. I’ve run into too many who give lip service to consent, while expecting unwarned bystanders to be cool (or pretend to be cool) with whatever the scenesters spring on them. It’s weaponizing the social contract. It is the essence of creepiness.

          If it turns out that’s what’s going on, OP, your key phrases are, “I do not consent to this scene,” and “This is a workplace, not a play space.”

        3. Anonyone*

          This was genuinely my first thought. I know OP said Sam has no issue pushing back when being offered a chair, but I wonder what his manner is with him otherwise.

      8. EngineerM*

        I am a 30s female engineer. My older engineering coworker did this all the time. So all I can think reading this was is this an issue? It’s normal to me at least haha. I do this occasionally. Chairs crowd a small cubical. Kneeling is so much easier when writing on plans.

    4. Nanani*

      This. In Japan, where kneeling is normal (think, low tables where you kneel instead of sitting on a chair that is waist height), people popping in for a chat would kneel at each other’s desks.
      Also the floors are pretty clean because of the whole indoor-shoes thing.

      But unless LW happens to be working abroad, they would know its weird for their office so Sam being from abroad is still weird and should probably be adressed.

      1. Mameshiba*

        I also pictured that, even though I doubt it’s at play here. Just feels weird to loom over someone when you go to their desk so many people do kneel down.

        Floors are less clean than they used to be as most offices move away from indoor shoes (and changing into gendered uniforms for regular office work). At least in the big cities.

        If this were relevant though, it would be so common that it wouldn’t just be one person weirdly doing it.
        Maybe Sam decided to do it for the same reasons (feels weird to loom over someone sitting).

    5. wittyrepartee*

      I’m marrying into a Japanese family. This was my first reaction as well. I’ve also had Japanese coworkers who would preferentially kneel or squat near my computer when talking to me (they were way above me, it was just comfortable for them).

  2. Ginger*

    This is another reason why remote work is so popular.

    I have so many questions- what does he do with his hands? Is he just straight backed with no movement? Do the knees on his pants get dirty?

    1. Original LW*

      He was remote for a little while before the office, so that might play into it. His hands are usually holding a pad of paper or on the desk going over some documents/drawings/laptop screens.

      1. Lynn*

        This makes it seem different to me. If he’s facing the desk (not you), and actively using the desk for writing/looking at what’s on the desk most of the time, it looks different from an outsider than kneeling in the middle of a room and/or kneeling facing you.

        Still, with it being daily and making you uncomfortable, it should be an easy change for him to make.

        1. Claire*

          Yes, this seems like the answer!! If he can’t scoot under your desk, he’s forced to lean over to see the content, maybe straining his neck or back. By kneeling, he’s closer to the content without craning.
          I’d suggest asking why he prefers kneeling. If this is genuinely more comfortable for him but not a health issue, you may have to consider how to weight his physical discomfort vs your mental discomfort

          1. Original LW*

            It’s not a desk. It’s a counter around the circumference of the cubicle. There’s like 25 linear feet of counter space with no leg obstructions.

            1. allathian*

              It may just be a personal quirk. I’ve had bad knees all my life, so kneeling has never been comfortable for me. But when I was younger and more limber than I’m now, in a similar situation I used to sit on my haunches, especially if I could hold on to a table or counter for balance. Now my hamstrings don’t like me if I try to do that.

      2. Annie*

        I always kneel at my coworkers desks. Usually I have to pop by to initial and date something or make a quick note, and kneeling puts their desk at a more comfortable level so I can be quicker about it. Otherwise, I’m either a hunchback (ow) or my arm is oddly suspended making my handwriting shaky. I’m a 5’3 female, with bad eyesight, and I have scoliosis. Lol

        1. Scout*

          Dating something or making a quick note is quite different from staying there in a kneeling position, though.

  3. Heather*

    :-/ I (also a recent grad) do this! Not frequently, but we all work in a large room together and when I need to speak to my supervisors about something it’s easier than dragging a chair over or standing over them while they’re sat down. I have a quiet voice and masks don’t help matters, so being at a similar level makes it easier for them to hear me under everyone else talking.

    1. merry*

      So I have, in the past, done the kneel straight backed to talk to someone at their level thing…and honestly it’s still uncomfortable to think of someone doing it to me, even briefly. I remember how much it hurt my knees even when I was young and made of rubber, and I’d be distracted by thinking about how their knees would hurt the whole time they were talking to me.

    2. sacados*

      In your case that kind of makes sense, tho for LW there is apparently also a chair right there so it would seem no dragging required…
      I do love these kinds of letters! Haha

      1. Hot-Cryptographer*

        But if there’s room for Sam to walk past the chair and kneel then it would seem there’s a fair amount of space between the chair and Sam’s preferred location! Honestly this sounds like one of the largest cubicles I’ve ever seen.

        1. Original LW*

          The cubicle is about 10’x8′. Engineering companies tend to have large cubicles because, hostorically, engineers would need several prints laid out at any given time. Sheet sizes are commonly 22×34, 30×42, 36×48, etc. My cubicle at my old company was 12’x12′. It was larger than my bedroom.
          Having that out of the way: the extra chair is very much there to be sat in. Its not out of the way or hard to access. Its on wheels. It is a concious decision to not use it.

          1. Rocket Woman*

            I’m surprised by this! I’m in engineering and my cubicle is tiny. It’s L shape and the area where my chair sits is 3′ by 2.5′. I have to move my desk to stand mode and put my chair under it whenever someone else is in here because there isn’t room for someone else with my chair.

            My prints are huge but I scale them down to 11″ by 17″ paper. Maybe I should go argue for a bigger workspace!

            1. Original LW*

              That surprises me. I’ve worked a few places and been in a lot of offices and I normally see fairly large cubicles. That behind said: I certainly don’t need a cubicle that big since I do 99 percent of my work on my computer.

    3. Beth*

      I’ve done similar things in situations where it made sense (e.g. there is no extra chair, or all the chairs are taken, and I need to be closer to eye level with their computer screen; they have their dog with them and my visit to their office is 90% an excuse to sit on the floor and say hi to their dog for a bit; etc). I don’t think this registers as odd in the same way when it’s infrequent and obviously in response to a situational need. It’s the doing it every single day, when there’s a reasonable and less culturally loaded alternative right there, and after OP has already hinted at this not being ideal, that makes it odd.

      1. Heather*

        While that’s a good point, there have definitely been a few comments that in hindsight were people trying to hint at me not to do this anymore..

        1. LB6*

          I would heed the hints and avoid kneeling wherever possible. Most people will get that you’re doing it because of convenience because there’s not a chair handy, but it can still be uncomfortable!

          This is especially true when it’s a more junior person kneeling by a senior, two knees is more awkward than if you take one knee, a female kneeling before a male has extra baggage, etc.

          My take is: if you’re going to be there long enough that standing is awkward, grab the chair. If you need to take a quick note before you forget, use a corner of their desk. Briefly taking one knee can be fine.

    4. EnidWhatever*

      I would suggest leaning over, crouching (standing with bent legs) or going down on one knee instead of putting both knees on the floor, as the LW describes. To me any of those alternatives seems less weird and more professional. There might not be any rational explanation for it, but that’s how it seems to me.

      1. merry*

        Same – something about double knees down bothers me a heck of a lot more than taking a knee next to someone for a moment or bending over or something. I think it’s because you DON’T kneel down in front of people in our culture, it’s seen as servile or weird. So if you do it, you’re lighting up some neon over your head that says “hey, look, this person is NOT FROM HERE either geographically or psychologically”

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Same. I feel like one knee conveys “I’m temporarily resting/lowering my body” whereas both knees says “I AM KNEELING. THIS IS A KNEEL” for some reason

      3. Bee*

        Yeah, taking one knee is a perfectly reasonable alternative! It’s an extremely common resting posture in sports, when your coach is going to be talking for a little while and obviously there are no chairs in the middle of the field. It’s also much easier to get into/out of. You can’t really do it in a skirt, but regular kneeling is also difficult in a skirt anyway. Going down on both knees with a straight back gives me full flashbacks to church.

  4. If you need me, don't*

    Could Sam have trouble hearing or seeing and the kneeling allows him to get a closer view/more easily hear what you are saying?

    1. Original LW*

      Unlikely. First off: I am NOT softspoken. Second: he’s margianlly closer when kneeling than if he was in a chair.

      1. Self Employed Employee*

        As someone with poor eyesight, even being 3-4″ closer can make a difference, and I have kneeled because of it.

      2. BeenThere*

        ..post continued…

        I’m deaf in one ear and lots of configurations of offices/cube can make it hard for me to hear you. I need you positioned on my good side or it just isn’t going to work. Dragging the chair around to the other side all the time gets annoying and then I have to mess with the settings to get the right height. Kneeling was easy, at least for the first ten years of my career. These days I’m too old to kneel and usually folks are coming to me for help. I deliberately set up my desk and office so that folks naturally feel more comfortable on my hearing side.

      3. Run mad; don't faint*

        Trying to see a laptop screen when I am little offset from it can be difficult for me; I can’t see the screen clearly. I need to be directly in front and have my head at the right height. Leaning over while standing hurts my back too much. My solution is to sit in a chair and ask if I can turn the laptop towards me periodically. But if I could kneel comfortably, I might choose to do that as well.

  5. Rainbow*

    I used to work with a more senior guy who would crouch down to talk to me when I was sitting, like he was talking to his toddler. He was really patronizing in other ways too. When I saw the headline I thought this would be about that!

    1. MaryLoo*

      I also had someone (not a peer, but not my boss either) who would crouch down by my desk to talk to me. It felt like when an adult crouches down to talk to a child so their faces are at the same level. It made me extremely uncomfortable. I found it both infantilizing and an invasion of my personal space. I asked her directly to stop:”Please don’t crouch down- pull up a chair, or just stand up, it’s fine.” I think she said something about wanting to be on the “same level” as I was, but I just repeated “then just pull up a chair.”

      I didn’t understand her rationale for doing this.

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Ick, my supervisor would do that. He’d also kneel, one-knee or sometimes two-knee. I had a tiny floor space between two desks and two work tables, and there wasn’t room for a chair unless you carried it over your head – and then little space available to park it. Sometimes he would even crawl under my desk to mess with the cables, and I was stuck there smashed against a wall because he wouldn’t let me out first. I swear he was raised by wolves because he was so clueless about shit like personal space.

      1. Cj*

        If you didn’t have a Chait, I don’t see a problem with the kneeling. But not letting you out of your office is bizarre.

    3. allathian*

      I used to do the same thing, but only when there’s no chair available, because looming over others made me uncomfortable. Granted, I only did this when I talked to my peers. Kneeling was never an option for me, because I’ve had bad knees for as long as I can remember, certainly my whole adult life. At the time, in my early 20s, it didn’t occur to me that that’s what parents do with toddlers.

      Of course, by the time I had a toddler, I was no longer able to sit on my haunches like that. However, my son doesn’t seem to have suffered any harm from me never getting down to his level when he was small.

  6. Raven*

    Wait, is Succession Alison’s new show of choice, since Game of Thrones is over? Are we gonna start seeing letters like “My coworkers ‘Kendall’ and ‘Roman’ have drama about the office coffee pot…”

    In any case, yeah, I’ve never heard of anyone kneeling in someone’s office, and I’m both amused and astounded that it even happened to Alison, too. Definitely say before he comes into your office next time, “Hey, I’m happy to talk to you, but only if you’re sitting.”

  7. fposte*

    Give him a loophole in case he has a physical reason, though. If in my pre-back surgery years my boss had told me I had to sit, I would have sit, and it would have been agony.

      1. Nea*

        Yes, because there is no direct pressure on your spine.

        I was coming here to say the same thing as fposte – before my back surgery (and even after, depending on the chair) kneeling is more comfortable.

        1. Lyonite*

          But the LW said he doesn’t seem to have any problem with sitting in other situations, so that seems less likely. But if it is the case, it’s easy enough for the guy to say something like “actually I need to do this” when he’s asked.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I need to figure out a way to do this that doesn’t kill my knees. All my parts need less pressure.

          1. Nea*

            Can’t help you with kneeling short of using a pillow but – There is ONE chair that is comfortable for me, ONE. It’s the Container Store bungee chair because you can sit in it without putting any pressure on your tailbone and there’s give under your thighs and behind your back.

            Also, you can thread a pillow or heating pad in between the bungee cords.

    1. Original LW*

      I think you may have missed the part where he sits at his own desk just fine. I’ve never seen him kneeling at his own computer/desk.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah, I don’t have a bad back but I have terrible eyesight (I wear glasses but have difficulty reading a computer screen if I’m not directly in front of it) , and I was actually thinking that if whatever they were discussing required him to look at OP’s screen, depending on the position of the chair Sam might find it easier to see the screen from the angle he gets while kneeling.

      1. maelen*

        This. I regularly used to kneel at close colleagues desk when we were debugging code or I was talking them through an issue/reproducible case. The way the offices are set up, dragging a second chair in meant I couldn’t get close enough to easily read the screen.

        I also was very uh, floor-oriented in my early years so when a conference room would run out of chairs, I’d just sit on the floor–usually not the only one. Now we just borrow the visitor chairs from nearby offices.

  8. Popinki*

    “Thou shalt email the Thingamajig Proposal unto the head of production, CC’ing Joe in facilities, by tomorrow at 5 pm lest ye be smited with a reminder from Susan from clock-in yea even unto lunchtime, whence she will rend her garments and gnash her teeth. Now go forth and sin no more, my child.”

    1. Lab Boss*

      That tears it, it’s time to put in a personnel request to hire a herald to blow a horn when I walk into the lab.

  9. Dark Macadamia*

    Somehow this is one of the most uncomfy letters I’ve seen here lol. Even if you don’t pick up on the social cues of “grab a chair” etc, what gives you this idea in the first place? If there IS some kind of issue with the chair/layout it seems like you would just stand. I feel like even fully sitting on the floor is less weird than kneeling.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Leaving out the weird submission/punishment/power dynamics of kneeling to speak to someone, it DOES put you at about the right height to interact with a desk (at least, my desk). I’m only 2-3″ lower if I kneel at my desk vs sitting in my chair, so if I was going to be interacting with the computer or taking notes that would physically position me better than sitting (head barely at desk level) or standing (either towering over the chair, bending down over it, or feeling the burn on an extended squat).

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I’m 5’2″ and kneeling would put me awkwardly too short for most desk tops. Certainly it wouldn’t be comfortable.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Fair point- I’m 6’2″. I guess it’s one of those things where for some of us it would make perfect positional sense and for others would be worse than useless.

        2. Elenna*

          Ohhhhh right I need to take into account the fact that other people are taller… I’m also 5’2″, and I was seeing comments above of people saying “I kneel when briefly using a colleague’s desk to get to the right height” and I was trying to picture it and being very confused. But yeah, it would work fine for people a few inches taller.

    2. Lasslisa*

      I used to do this, because kneeling (in an L-shape, back straight) or crouching puts me at the perfect height to write on a typical desk without having to hunch my back, and to read a computer screen without having to tilt my head to look down. If I’m using a keyboard and mouse then a chair with keyboard tray is the right height, but if I’m taking notes in a notebook it’s easier to get into a comfortable writing position if I can have my chest close to the table, elbows out and notebook right there.

      I stopped after someone asked me to because it made them uncomfortable, after having not processed several comments where people said it looked painful and I was like, no, this is great, I could do it all day.

      1. Cj*

        Whatever discomfort they felt by you kneeling should not have taken precedence over the physical discomfort you have by not kneeling. I honestly don’t understand what the big deal is.

        I don’t recall ever actually kneeling by someone’s desk, but I have certainly crouched down, both because it is easier on my back and neck, and it’s easier for me to see their computer screen.

        I guess I can see why some people might see it has being submissive, but I think it’s pretty strange for their mind to go too suggestive like the OP mentioned.

      2. Very Social*

        It makes perfect sense to me. I’m too short to kneel or squat in order to write on a desk (I would stand and bend over), but I’m sure I’ve had bosses do it, or seen others do it without it seeming servile. I’m sitting at a desk all day–any excuse to find a different position is a relief for me!

    3. Jean*

      Yea, I just knelt in the middle of my office to try and get a feel for why someone might… and it was real weird!awkward height, uncomfortable,
      And something I can’t imagine doing to a coworker! Agreed, would definitely just stand if I were talking to a coworker without a chair available lol.

  10. supertoasty*

    My first thought when I saw the title was the new hire doing a grandiose kneel every time OP gave them a new task, almost like someone kneeling in front of a king. This is… less weird? By still quite harmlessly bizarre.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes, I was picturing a nerdy dude being like “at once, my liege!” when asked to file some reports or something lol. Honestly I’d find that less weird because at least it seems intentionally funny instead of just… quietly off-putting

    2. Lab Boss*

      I was 100% ready for “he thinks it’s cute/funny, just politely tell him it’s unprofessional.”

    3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I was the opposite. I was all set to tell the LW that In the military and a lot of organized athletics, “taking a knee”, i.e. kneeling on one knee while the other is bent as a plant foot, is common. When you spend a lot of time outside with no convenient furniture, it’s a reasonably comfortable “rest” position, and you can use the thigh of your plant leg as an improvised table for taking notes. A former soldier or college athlete might be in the habit of doing that to take a quick note or get instructions. It’d be a bit weird to do it in an office, but understandable weird.

      But LW explicitly says this isn’t what’s happening. What’s happening is strange. If you’re not comfortable sitting, then just stand? Even a crouch would be less odd to me. I really don’t want my employees talking to me like a Catholic talks to God.

    4. Original LW*

      I would prefer the grandiose kneeling because that would clearly be a joke. It would be good for a few laughs, and then he would probably quit the bit.

  11. FG*

    I wonder if he has a history of waiting tables. Some waitstaff do that when they’re at a table taking orders. I hate it in that circumstance, too, but might explain the habit.

    1. Fiddlesticks*

      What?! I have never seen a server kneel down on both knees at a table, and if one did that to me I would call the manager or just up and leave. That creates an appearance of gross servility and/or inappropriate closeness right in the face of the customer.

        1. Anon all day*

          Yeah. Like, at least where I am, it’s definitely no where near the norm, but I’ve seen people do it. To just walk about because of it is super odd.

      1. generic_username*

        I think they do it because it’s easier to hear when you’re at the same level, it allows them to comfortably use the table to write the order (instead of supporting a pad of paper in their hands), and because it allows them to more easily make eye contact. It’s a bit weird, but not worth throwing a fit over….

        I’m also not a huge fan of when servers sit down at the table with you. Like, you aren’t staying that long….. but I also get the urge to get off your feet, lol.

        1. Kal*

          I would be very busy being distracted by the fact that their legs/feet being out behind them make for a significant tripping hazard, and tripping another server holding hot food would be real bad. It would definitely be an uncomfortable experience all around, though I agree it wouldn’t be worth an instant walk out.

        2. Retired (but not really)*

          My very tall (nearly 6’5”) son would always crouch or kneel when taking people’s orders because he didn’t want to intimidate because of his height. I think he had been instructed to do so at his first waitstaff job. I don’t think he would kneel in an office setting though.

      1. allathian*

        I’ve seen waitstaff crouch or go down on one knee, but never with both knees on the floor. Granted, the guy who went down on one knee was very tall, and I had to look up at him even when he went down on one knee. When he stood up, my eye level was somewhere around his waist. Yes, the chairs and tables were unusually low at that restaurant.

    2. PeanutButter*

      This is what I thought of immediately.

      When I was waiting tables, I was told by a lot of co-workers that they got better tips when they knelt down at tables vs stood over their diners. I never saw any proof of this, but the people that did it were CONVINCED it was good customer service, and nothing would get them to stop.

        1. PeanutButter*

          It was a Denny’s, so very casual but if I was a diner I would have been really uncomfortable with my server kneeling too.

        2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          Yes! As a former server who never in a million years was the kind who’d sit down with the guests or kneel by the table but definitely had coworkers who swore doing so increased their tips, this was my FIRST thought.

      1. Louise B*

        When I waited tables, I’d often pop a squat. I wouldn’t kneel, because that involves more effort getting up for me plus I needed to keep my black pants black. But squatting did seem to make people feel more comfortable and increase my tips, since I wasn’t looking down on them, being pushed into them by other servers, and could hear them better. Plus it felt like a break from standing for me, so I was probably more engaged and cheerful with tables I wasn’t standing at. It’s a casual move, appropriate for lunch places and bistros. I wouldn’t do it at a high end place, but for a quick, engaged chat in an office? Yeah I’d still pop a squat until I noticed no one else did.

  12. Lanlan*

    It says a lot about me that I immediately wonder if Kneeling Dude is into BDSM, and very subtly displaying his proclivities at work. Only it’s not subtle if you’ve ever gotten the least whiff of kink.

    1. Three Flowers*

      I mean…look at the list of related articles. WordPress thinks Master Boyfriend belongs right at the top of the list! :D

    2. Raven*

      Yeah, same. It reminded me of the 2019 letter, “my volunteer is into BDSM and wants to be a servant at our living history events”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I am a little upset I looked this up on my work computer because the ad suggestions were….ahem.

    3. Prefer my pets*

      That’s EXACTLY where my mind went as well.

      If nothing else, the fact that so many people will read it that way and be skeeved out is a reason to put a stop to it (assuming no genuine physical reason for it…I’m assuming there isn’t one since he chooses to sit normally in his own chair).

    4. Wendy*

      Yep – and even if he isn’t, he has no idea whether the OP (or anyone else in the office) is. Kneeling before a superior – either in a bedroom setting or in an office setting, for various definitions of “superior” – can mean a LOT of different things to different people. Some of those things should stay private, but the human brain isn’t wired quite well enough to keep there from being some crossover if there is any and you just don’t (and shouldn’t) know who in your office is into that lifestyle. I feel like anything that might even *possibly* give off sexual connotations – BDSM or otherwise – is best saved for another venue!

    5. Omnivalent*

      It’s not just you. The “straight back” is a big tell. I wonder if somebody in Sam’s life ordered him to do this in the presence of a boss, and he doesn’t have enough life experience to know how bizarre and inappropriate such a request would be.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        I think “big tell” is a big reach here. My husband sits like this in front of his computer — with a straight back! — for physical comfort, and I’m pretty aware of my husband’s kinks, sexual history, and work history. Plus the dude in the letter mentioned the chairs looking uncomfortable to him.

        1. kicking_k*

          I really think this is unlikely too. I am a semi-frequent kneeler for back pain reasons, and that’s all it is.
          FWIW, I sit in a normal chair in the office, but cannot sit still in it for long. It’s as well I don’t share an office as my writhing and shifting would be offputting. I rarely have to collaborate at a desk so have never kneeled at someone else’s in my current job… but in the past I’ve knelt at my own.

    6. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I think this is the least likely scenario. I also feel uncomfortable with speculating about people’s sexual preferences and wish it was done less often here.

      1. Lanlan*

        Considering this isn’t the first time someone’s written to AAM asking about a kinky coworker, I’d say it’s fair game to consider whether this could just be another manifestation of that.

  13. Delta Delta*

    This is easy. Tell Sam to sit in the chair for your meetings.

    Or keep a sword on hand and pretend to knight him.

      1. rear mech*

        Just do the the Bugs Bunny bit “I dub thee, Sir Loin of Beef” with the sword every single time until he gets annoyed and stops kneeling so you will stop doing the bit. It’s one way to express that this kneeling thing feels ridiculous, by making it OTT ridiculous.

  14. Sandy*

    I’ve kneeled at times, a habit developed in work environments where extra/empty chairs are not available or were far away & not worth wheeling a long way, then returning. It’s probably a habit developed from necessity. I like the advice given, he’s likely unaware it seems weird to others & it’s totally okay to just tell him it makes you uncomfortable.

    1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      But like, both knees on the ground, straight back kneeled? It’s not uncommon to single knee kneel in a lot of environments where chairs are precious or unavailable, but LW specifically says this isn’t what’s happening.

    2. anonymous73*

      Nah, if I’m going to be in someone’s cube for more than a minute or two, I’d lean against the wall before I doubled kneed on the floor.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’ve sat cross-legged on the floor in this situation if there are absolutely no other sitting options and I’m tired. Leaning is also good. Kneeling is just so odd to me.

        1. Can Man*

          I’d kneel before I’d sit cross legged. I’ve always found that position one of the most uncomfortable positions I can sit in. It almost made story time in kindergarten not fun, haha.

          1. allathian*

            Yes. I’ve developed mobility issues as I’ve grown older and fatter. I can’t crouch, kneel, or sit on the floor cross legged or straight legged… In an emergency, I guess I could sit straight legged as long as I had something to lean on, but not in the middle of the floor with no support for my back.

          2. kicking_k*

            Yes. I couldn’t sit cross-legged as a child and got in trouble for it. I can kneel, no problem.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Same, because my knees are messed up and I’d have a hard time getting back up from that position. When my mom tripped and hit her head, I knelt behind her and held a towel on it for probably twenty minutes before the ambulance got there. I almost had to ask the EMTs to help me up. I can’t imagine doing that long enough to go over something with a colleague, and it would be super awkward to ask them to help me!

        (She was fine, btw; it was just messy. If you ever need help cleaning blood out of a wool rug, I got you.)

  15. I was told there would be llamas*

    I don’t think it’s that odd. Sometimes you just need a change of position. I’ve moved my chair out of the way and knelt at my desk…and my boss does it too so I know he doesn’t find it odd, lol.

  16. I'm just here for the cats.*

    Hmm, I like alison’s suggestion at the end about chair placement. If the chair is on the other side of the monitor where he can’t see it might be that he is kneeling so that he can see the computer more easily (if that’s something you are using in your conversations). Also, if he is kneeling closer to you than the chair, it might be that he kneels because its closer and he has a hard time hearing. I have a minor hearing issue where if there is noise at a certain level (like background noise or sound machines that are often in offices) it can make it harder for me to hear someone, especially if they talk at lower volumes.

  17. DataGirl*

    I have back problems and can’t stand in one place with both feet on the ground. If I’m at someone’s cube I either have to prop one foot up on something, lean against something, sit on something, or worst case scenario- squat. I have definitely squatted when working at someone’s desk if a chair was not available. The “If a chair was not available” part is key though. As for kneeling- my knees couldn’t take it but I can totally picture someone kneeling if both people are facing the desk/a computer. If the people are facing each other though… that is going to look really inappropriate. I hope OP is able to solve this.

  18. Indisch blau*

    I did this once to my boss. He was sitting at *my* desk (don’t remember why) when I needed to talk to him and I instinctively knelt on the floor in front of the desk. The subconscious gesture of submission was the result of not wanting to tower over him. He said, “You don’t have to kneel before me,” and I said, “I just want to be able to talk to you at eye level,” – implying parity. I usually don’t have a good response, but for once I was quick on my feet. Or on my knees.

  19. CanYallShutUp*

    Have you asked him if his back hurts? Please check carefully that he doesn’t have physical reasons for what he’s doing before you make assumptions based on what he does for exercise.

    I have some off/on back problems and have chosen to kneel instead of sitting when it’s bad, purely b/c keeping my back straight is far more comfortable than sitting.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Leaping right to “does your back hurt” seems a bit odd to me.
      Maybe just a direct “is there a reason you prefer kneeling?”

      1. CanYallShutUp*

        I leapt there b/c *my* back hurts and I have literally kneeled at my desk because of it, but it was just meant to be an example of “check carefully that he doesn’t have physical reasons”. I don’t really care what the exact reason is.

    2. Original LW*

      I haven’t asked him if his back hurts because his personal health is not my business. I am very aware of and sensitive to disabilities and injuries (both hidden and unhidden) which is why I haven’t really brought it up with him, and thus why I wrote to this column in the first place. But, the facts are: he’s about 22, 5′-10″, very slim, a runner, and he has no observable issues sitting at his own desk throughout the day. All those signs point to it not being a back problem. That alone is not conclusive proof that he doesn’t have some hidden physical ailment, but a physical ailment just seems unlikely.

      1. ecnaseener*

        You mentioned the running in the original letter too, but running and sitting strain different muscles. The fact that he runs doesn’t mean he can’t get sore sitting.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Not only sits at his own desk, but sits in other people’s offices too. Just not the OP’s.

        Y’all, it’s fine to say “make sure you’ve considered X / make sure you give him an opportunity to explain if it’s X” but the most likely scenario is that this is a new grad who doesn’t know work norms yet. That’s what it was with the guy in my case, and I’d bet money it’s what’s going on here too.

  20. Blastfromthepast*

    My old boss used to do this. But it was because he was a giant. Him sitting still toward over me, him kneeling on the floor was the same height as me sitting, so it was actually better for us to look at the same computer screen like that, no one was neck tilting.

    1. CCC*

      Yeah, I have done this. I’m 5’10” and all my coworkers are 4″ or more shorter. My last boss was very short, just barely above the cutoff for dwarfism. At nearly a foot taller than her, it was impossible for us to be looking at the same thing if she was sitting and I was standing, unless I was willing to arch my back in a way that wasn’t healthy. But I think I usually did that one knee down, not both.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I read this as “all my coworkers are 4′ or shorter” and thought maybe you were Willy Wonka.

      2. Original LW*

        Sam is about 5’10” too….. But I’m 6’4″. Trust me it’s not a height issue.

  21. Fig*

    It may also just be that Sam is a floor person and feels comfortable enough with you to sit as he prefers but doesn’t feel that way with people further up the chain. (If left to my own devices, I’ll choose the ground or a table/block/somewhere else that lets me sit cross-legged comfortably over a chair every time, but then I’m in a field where this isn’t such a quirky quirk and do opt for a chair in professional contexts where the floor would be weird.) Either way, you’re absolutely allowed to not want someone kneeling in your office!

    From your descriptors I suspect this isn’t the case, but if Sam is a much larger person and your chair has a fairly narrow seat with arms or is otherwise delicate, he may also just not feel comfortable in that specific chair and not feel like he can say something. If that *might* be at play, it would be worth seeing if you could get a more accommodating second chair to have space for coworkers with various bodies.

    1. Original LW*

      Its the same chair that he has at his cubicle. Also: he’s very slim, and only like 5′-10″.

  22. Curmudgeon in California*

    Ooof. Yes, for some people it’s easier to kneel near your desk than wrangle a chair. There’s a cultural and past work experience factor here, but I can’t pinpoint which it is.

    Maybe you might want to ask why they prefer to kneel when talking with you rather than sitting in the chair. One you know that, it can become “normal” for that person, or you can address any problems they might have with your chair. Just my $0.02

    1. anonymous73*

      I’m sorry but if you’re in MY space, MY comfort is priority. Barring any physical reason he needs to kneel, I’m going to need him to sit in a chair.

  23. Architect*

    I had a supervisor who always defaulted to kneeling when discussing drawings, etc when he visited anyone’s desk. Not sure if he planned on a short conversation that inevitably wound up being a 45 minute one, if the fact he was very tall made guest chairs harder, or if it was just an unconscious habit.
    He always complained about his knees once he stood up, but never made any effort to change even when offered a chair. He was definitely not the type of person to be doing this as a power play or similar, and I don’t believe he was hard of hearing at all. Maybe because he was tall it made him feel less like he was looming over you, especially with younger staff?
    I would just put it down to personal preference and a quirk of life.

    1. anonymous73*

      But if it makes the OP uncomfortable, shouldn’t that overrule personal preference of the new guy?

  24. Batgirl*

    This is something I see the teenagers I teach do a lot. They’re all boys, from working class backgrounds and during a school day they are sitting for longer periods than they’re really comfortable. Especially when they get to an age when they may have been out to work with their electrician or plumber relatives to help out where they might be working at floor level. They come back to class and like taking a break from sitting by squatting or kneeling or leaning or standing. None of this looks subservient to them because they’re used to seeing it done in skilled trades by people they look up to.

    1. Barbara Eyiuche*

      At my first job, when I was 17, I would sit on the floor during meetings while everyone else was sitting in a chair or on a sofa. It seemed OK to me then, but looking back, no wonder everyone thought I was strange. Maybe just ask Sam why he prefers to kneel.

  25. Ozzie*

    I honestly don’t think I would be able to keep my mouth shut if someone did this to me more than exactly one time. I certainly wouldn’t mock them for it, but I would have to offer them a chair. I have terrible knees and lower back, this just seems totally unfathomable. If I have found myself in a similar position, I’ve definitely taken to sitting on the floor, but it was commented to me that this was strange, and to pull up a chair instead. (citing bad knees/back, not because it was my preferred way to hold a conversation… I just don’t want to be stuck standing for a prolonged period of time around a cubicle/in a small office out of the blue)

    It does have weird imagery. Hopefully he can see your side of this and just sit in the chair.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      Yeah I have a permanent pinched nerve due to an older injury, and kneeling would kill my back. It would hurt like heck to stand up again.

  26. Joe*

    Is there any chance the new hire is overweight? I am overweight and some chairs with particularly narrow arms hurt to sit in – or worse – I just plain can’t fit my body into. In that case I’d prefer to kneel to avoid saying “I am too fat to sit in your chair.”
    At any rate, I like Allison’s suggestions of what you can say while being direct about it.

      1. Original LW*

        I actually mentioned his slender build in my original letter, but either myself or Allison cut it from the final version.

  27. cookie monster*

    I used to work at a very casual start up and I did literally sit on the floor near coworkers to talk to them, but I definitely would never kneel in the office. The sitting on the floor was just a way to chat with people

    1. Barbara Eyiuche*

      At my first job, when I was 17, I would sit on the floor during meetings while everyone else was sitting in a chair or on a sofa. It seemed OK to me then, but no wonder everyone thought I was strange. Maybe just ask Sam why he prefers to kneel.

  28. birb*

    I am not very tall, so if I need to do something at someone else’s computer, and they are sitting or standing as usual… I either need to make them get up and move, or I can kneel at their desk, or else I can’t type. I hate the wait for them to shuffle around and make room for me. The vast majority need help for 10-15 second things, and waiting for them to realize / offer me a chair is just too much time.

    Also, if neurodivergent / ADHD tik tok has taught me anything, its that there are tons of other floor-sitters out there. I really hate sitting in someone else’s warmed up chair, and I can’t be alone in thinking that feels weird and gross.

    1. anonymous73*

      Needing to actually work on someone else’s computer is a different scenario though. OP is having a conversation about work stuff and this dude is choosing to kneel when there are chairs available. I’ve had people kneel to lean on my desk and write something down in the past, but just kneeling on both knees in front of a colleague to have a conversation is just plain weird and would make me uncomfortable too.

  29. wbw*

    I did this in high school sometimes depending on the classroom I was in if it was feasible, but we had block scheduling and when you’re sitting for two hours on end, kneeling was a decent option to stretch legs. Kinda like a sit/stand swap these days.

    Now, would I do this in an office setting in the situations described? Probably not. But I don’t know that I have a good reason why! I’d chalk up the frequency of Sam doing this as a “new to office environment / learning social cues” kind of thing perhaps, but I don’t think the action itself is inherently all that weird, for what it’s worth!

    1. Turtlewings*

      Right?! I completely sympathize with LW’s uncertainty, but it’s time to use your words. “Why do you do that?” followed, unless there is a truly compelling explanation, by “I want you to stop doing that in my office. It weirds me out.”

  30. Pikachu*

    Does he sit at his desk? Because a lot of people do lots of things to try to minimize time spent in a sitting position. You know, “sitting is the new smoking” and all that.

    1. Scout*

      But wouldn’t it be considerably less weird to kneel at your own desk, instead of kneeling next to a coworker?

  31. Rage*

    Part of me wants to tell the OP to cosplay Loki and see what happens.

    But that’s not the part of me that handles my professional behavior in the workplace.

  32. Trek*

    Gibbs addressed a similar issue with Bishop when she joined the NCIS team. She kept sitting on the floor. He finally told her to get off the floor and use a desk.
    If the new employee thinks you are being weird explain that recent grads fight the perception of youth and looking/acting like a college student plays into this perception. It’s not limited to sitting on the floor but it’s not a good look. It’s better for him to present himself as an adult professional especially in the first few months with a new company.

    1. just me*

      Just want to note, though, this is culture-specific. The ways in which we habitually don’t move limit our mobility. Our hamstrings are tight because we spend so much time sitting. In other countries it’s common to squat – a movement we rarely do. We could benefit from expanding the number of body positions we’re willing to accept.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, squatting is a resting position for people who habitually do it. It’s very common in parts of Asia and Africa. Toddlers do it a lot, too.

  33. Scmill*

    I used to do this when I was looking at a screen with someone else. Trying to pull up a chair close enough to see a screen wasn’t always possible.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yes, this. I’ve had coworkers kneel rather than cram a chair next to mine while looking at my screen. Usually it’s one knee, but if that would end up smacking into my desk they’d be on both. I’ve also had coworkers crouch for the same reason. YMMV.

  34. Wintermute*

    Can I say I’m absolutely tickled that the “my coworker wants us to call her boyfriend “master”” is a “related topic” for this one! it uh, sure casts things in a different light that’s for sure!

    Also it reminds me of that old joke (repeated in Dilbert with an executive, among other places) where an American is visiting England and introduced to a local celebrity at a dinner, who happens to be a MBE. He knows there are tons of arcane rules around the precedence of nobility in England, still taken somewhat seriously so when the man holds out his hand and says “Neal, please” and the man, not knowing the local custom takes a knee in front of him, only for the man to crack up, saying “no, no my NAME is Neal!”

  35. Lab Boss*

    All the discussion of the power dynamics of relative positions just reminded me of a terrible former boss who was fairly physically unimposing, and tried to build a psychological edge by having a large and tall desk chair while the guest chair’s seat was nearly a foot lower. I used to just stand to talk to him instead- a power play loses its power when the boss has to tell you to sit in the tiny chair.

  36. Angstrom*

    I do this sometimes, but on one knee. I was a volunteer EMT for many years and it was always good practice to get down to a seated patient’s eye level instead of looming over them. Taking a knee to have a conversation with a seated person became normal.

    In the office, sometimes I’m tired of sitting. Sometimes there’s no convenient chair. Standing over someone in their cubicle often feels rude. Taking a knee is a comfortable way to deal with all those.

    1. Prefer my pets*

      *A* knee is a very different position than the straight backed kneeling in straight-on position described though. It is much less of a formal, subservient position.

  37. Phony Genius*

    My younger body always found kneeling more comfortable. I can’t pinpoint when that changed, but it’s definitely no longer true. Everybody who said something seemed to do so thinking I was uncomfortable. Nobody told me they were uncomfortable seeing it. If they had, I’d have stopped sooner.

    1. Lasslisa*

      Same. A senior colleague did eventually say it was hard to talk to me like that so I stopped. But there were a lot of the “my knees hurt just seeing you” comments when I’d be crouched down or kneeling on the floor, and it felt good for my knees (I’m getting my stretches in!) so that never registered as a possible cover-up for a real reason.

  38. No Squatting for Me*

    I worked with a younger woman who always dressed so stylish and fashionable (think 5th Avenue look)…while the rest of us older workers wore JC Penney. She was really a very intelligent, new to the profession, mastered-degreed employee who had the odd habit of squatting. She would gather her skirt and squat as low to the ground as she could, often in very high heels. I thought perhaps she did this to alleviate some back pressure or help her calves or something, but instead of just doing this when she was alone in her cubicle, she would do this move in a meeting. I never had the guts to ask her the ‘why’ of it, but it has stuck with me. She is now a director in charge of a large not-for-profit and whenever I see her name come across an email listserv (we are still connected in the profession), I think of her squatting — it certainly left an impression but perhaps not the one she was seeking.

    1. not a doctor*

      Was she from an East or South Asian country? That’s super common in some of those, not necessarily the sort of thing I’d expect to see in a professional meeting, but maybe not totally out of bounds for one.

        1. allathian*

          It’s very common in some parts of Africa as well. Chairs are a Western innovation, first commonly used by the ancient Greeks. In other parts of the world, the Aztecs also used chairs, but I’m not sure how common they were among other cultures on the American continents.

    2. generic_username*

      Lol, I’ve never done it in a meeting, but squatting down like that does give your back a really nice stretch, especially if you curl a bit over your knees. I would never do it in a meeting though, lol. I have closed my office door and done that and also done the stretch where you lie on your back with your feet against the wall (it helps you relax your lower back muscles), but would never do it if someone could see me (especially in a skirt!)

  39. Brandine*

    Can he turn around a chair and kneel on that? Seems like it would be more comfortable than the floor, and not,you know, on the floor.

  40. LawBee*

    My first thought was “dudes been watching a lot of kdrama and cdrama”, lol. I caught myself bowing to people one day after a weekend binge of The Untamed.

  41. Wintermute*

    “my learned Subject Matter Expert, we pray you to proceed and justly and religiously unfold why this policy on data usage which they have in Amazon or should, or should not bar us in our deployment? And God forbid, my dear and faithful developer that you should fashion, wrest or bow your reading or nicely charge your understanding.

    For God doth know how many now in good standing shall drop their accounts in approbation of what your reverence shall incite us to, for never did two Terms of Service so contend without much fall of red ink.”

  42. Vgw*

    Ok now we need follow up letter from the employee who used to call her Ms Green. Cmon! Dish the dirt on Alison! She made you kneel and call her the Divine Ms G, didn’t she??

  43. Should wear glasses but I don't*

    My first thought was that he might have a vision problem and kneeling gets him closer to any paperwork or screen than when standing up, or standing and bending over the other person to see.

    1. Oat Milk Market*

      +1 Totally thought this! When I need to look at my bosses screen in her cubicle it’s hard to see what she’s referring to because of my eyesight!

  44. cncx*

    My boss is pushing sixty and kneels and crouches all day long. I spend most of my time between being jealous his knees aren’t absolutely shot like mine and wondering exactly why he has made it six decades on those knees, like maybe he did sports but not enough sports to kill his knees? Good genes? I don’t even know, it’s annoying but only because my knees suck

    1. Gumby*

      Ugh. I’m with you. I was first diagnosed with bursitis in my knees when I was in my late 20s. Bursitis! (And it was just the start of my knee issues.) I honestly believed that if my childhood sports left me with any lingering issues it would be in my ankles since I twisted/sprained them multiple times but apparently it is my knees that decided to hate me.

    2. CCC*

      I think for most knees are a use it or lose it thing. I’d imagine that if he’s been kneeling, crouching, etc. for 6 decades his level of flexibility and strength is pretty good. I thought hereditary knee problems were destiny when I started getting paid in my 20s, and like my dad and his siblings before me I’d need 2 replacements by 50, but on a whim joined a gym with group lessons I love a few years ago and now my knees never hurt unless I do something dumb and usually related to inappropriate footwear. (Injuries are different, and I’d imagine if you don’t do something about it in time it’s also different.)

      1. Fresh Cut Grass*

        Oof, I wish this was the case for me! I gave myself arthritis at the tender age of 14 because of doing ballet– no injuries, just wearing through my cushioning.

  45. Chriama*

    This is wild and I love it. Shameful confession: one of the “the you may also like” posts is [my coworker wants us to call her boyfriend her “master”] and I have to say that’s immediately where my mind went. I’m somewhat mollified by Alison’s statement that she knew someone like this and he also called her Ms. Green. Is it a cultural thing? Where are all these super polite boys who go around kneeling in offices and why are all the guys I know so uncouth?

    I agree that there’s a very easy solution and I’m always sort of bemused at how people go from “hint” to “talk to manager/hr”. I wonder why the idea of just bluntly saying “please do/don’t do this thing” is so hard for people to conceive of. Maybe it’s because we’re so worried about being mean that we’d rather someone else do the uncomfortable face to face conversation, even if that means an unnecessary escalation? Anyway, would that we all had coworker problems that boiled down to someone being too polite!

  46. Nora*

    I’d recommend getting a little stool for your cubicle instead of an extra chair. They’re much easier to move around and get on/off of in a small space. My office got new cubicles a few years ago that each came with a small stool and it’s been a game-changer. It’s way more inviting for people to stop by than a big bulky office chair or having to loom over the person they’re talking to.

    1. Cam*

      Yeah, these are great. The ones we had had wheels like an office chair, and adjustable height, but nothing protruding to hinder kicking it under a table when it’s not in use. The advantage really is that it’s low profile to push out of the way when you don’t want it.

  47. Original LW*

    I’m glad to see others have had similar experiences. To address a few things that have come up consistently:
    1) Sam is not large, heavy, or overweight. He’s like 5′-10″ and very slender. This fact was cut from the original letter by either me or Allison, but there was a point where it seemed relefant because I personally know some chairs can be very uncomfortable for large people. For context I am 6′-4″ and beefy. I’m easily twice his weight.
    2) This is almost certainly not cultural. We are two white guys in the Midwest USA.
    3) I am VERY sensitive to the possibility that he has back issues that make sitting hard. But, that’s probably just not the case. He’s a runner, he’s average height, he’s thin, and he doesn’t seem to have trouble sitting at his own desk.

    1. time for lunch*

      I’m a runner and I’m gonna Well, Actually you here. Sitting in desk chairs can be painful for me, and that’s how I do most of my work. Sitting weakens the hips and glutes. This can exacerbate knee pain when running (which otherwise feels great) if you don’t do exercises to counteract it. (A hip and glute routine balances out the muscles that cause ITB pain, aka, “runner’s knee.” This most common source of runners’ knee pain is not due to supposed pounding somehow damaging the joint but to muscle imbalance stretching the illiotibial band out of alignment. Weak glutes and hips from sitting make it worse.)

      The exercises are boring. I love running and I like working and using my computer. Many weeks there are days (hello this week, last week, today) that I will run for over an hour but not sit in a chair for long if I can avoid it because I am too lazy to do the damn exercises every day. The same is true of back issues: running is fine but chairs can mess up my back unless I am careful and do exercises. Swimming helps my back a lot, though.

      Recommend squatting. Done correctly, it’s great. Very back healthy, not sexualized or submissive. For background on squatting, see the NPR story, Lost Art Of Bending Over: How Other Cultures Spare Their Spines. (Attempt to link failed.)

      And I should do my damn exercisea, I know.

      1. Jayess*

        This comment is just to give you solidarity on this issue. Yay running, boooo office chairs & pre-hab exercises.

    2. Jayess*

      I commented below – the kneeling might come from being a runner, tbh. We get really achey hips and lower back. He might be viewing this as a stretching opportunity; I’ve actually done something similar in the past. But it is outside “normal” and even when I’ve done weird stretchy things at work, I usually try to do it out of sight and mind of my coworkers. Usually.

    3. CCC*

      I’m thin and active (including decent length runs every couple weeks), and nothing hurts my body more than sitting all day. It makes my hips crazy tight, especially if I have a very sedentary day or two and then do a bunch of squats. When you’re used to moving around, the aches/pains that come from sitting are very apparent.

  48. Elsa*

    My first thought was that the kneeling was cultural, but then when LW mentioned not sitting, well– I can’t sit. Not for more than a few minutes, not without considerable pain. If you asked me to sit while talking to you for an extended period of time, you’d be torturing me. And yet you’d never know it to see me walking around.

    Why not just ask him outright why he doesn’t sit?

    1. kicking_k*

      Yeah. I’ll sit in my own office chair, but I am shifting position constantly, in a way I wouldn’t feel I could do in an in-person meeting or in someone else’s cubicle. And I much prefer not to sit.

  49. not a doctor*

    Someone help me out: I’m having a hard time picturing this and the other examples in the comments, because people keep saying this is another way to talk to someone sitting at eye-level. Is this just because I’m short? If I knelt next to someone sitting in a regular office chair, I’d be WAY lower than them. I used to kneel when I worked with kids, but I truly can’t imagine comfortably kneeling and talking to an adult who isn’t also sitting on the floor.

    1. Vgw*

      There have been times when I’ve been helping someone at their computer, and rather crouch behind then, I just knelt.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’m about 5’7 and if I was kneeling next to someone I would be able roughly eye level with their screen. Not like the perfect middle of the screen but it would certainly be more comfortable than standing and hunching over.

          1. All Het Up About It*

            Literally just tested this out, and at 5’7, my head is roughly two inches lower kneeling than sitting in my chair. So many people would be eye level with my screen and myself. BUT – I’m with the OP that this would likely feel really awkward when it happens all the time. (I can think of a couple of occasions in past offices where one of my IT members might have come in an knelt next to me to do something, or watch what I was doing, because I did not have an extra chair and it was more comfortable for the five or ten minutes than being hunched over. But that was more of a side, by side thing, not facing straight on, and very rare.

        2. Lasslisa*

          Kneel without bending at the waist. There are two positions we call “kneeling” and one has your butt on your heels, which is what I know I think of first, and one has your knees on the ground but the rest of your body straight. (We also use “kneel” to refer to going down on one knee, but the writer here specified it’s both.)

    2. Ozzie*

      I’m with you, and I’m taller than average. I can’t imagine kneeling to see something better that wasn’t already closer to the floor than a computer desk is. if I were to do this right now, I’d be able to hit my head against the front of my desk. (I won’t be doing this, fear not)

    3. generic_username*

      Yeah, I’m 5’10” and totally tested out kneeling to try to understand this. Besides my knees hurting after seconds, I was maybe eye-level with a shorter monitor. But I’m significantly below a normal eye-level for another person (and personally, I have all of my monitors raised to my eye-level at work to help with posture, so if I kneel I’m well below those as well)

    4. some of my divisors*

      I’m 5’2” with what I think is an average torso:leg ratio for a woman of my height – the issue is not so much what is at eye-level for me, but as my desk chair is set up to be the right height for me to keep a keyboard, when I kneel it is much too high for me to comfortably use as a writing surface. OP says this guy is 5’10” so maybe it is in fact different for taller people.

      1. allathian*

        It is. I’m 5’7″, and my eye level is about 2″ lower if I kneel on the floor than if I sit. Probably less because I tend to hunch when I sit, but my back is straight if I kneel. But kneeling is extremely uncomfortable for me, I’d have to get up after about 10 seconds, so I don’t do it.

    5. Elenna*

      Yeah, I’m also 5’2″ and I had the same question. But if I imagine a) kneeling with my thighs at a 90 degree angle to the floor (hips not bent), rather than with my butt touching my feet and b) stretching my torso and upper legs to be a bit longer, I can see how it could work.

  50. Addie*

    Can he see well? Your employee might be trying to get closer to your computer screen without leaning over you.

  51. we don't talk about wakeen*

    Not only is this more common than I would’ve guessed based on comments, but Alison actually has personal experience with it?? What a fascinating post.

  52. Jayess*

    If he runs a lot, it might be that sitting in a desk chair is tightening up his hip flexors and kneeling like that is genuinely more comfortable. Co-workers have definitely found me in a deep lunge position at my desk in the past, or doing a body bend in the stacks (I work in a library) to try to stretch out tight hamstrings.

    That being said, he (and I) should probably stop doing that.

    1. Girl in the Windy City*

      I came here to say this and add that while I do this occasionally, it seems odd to work in a coworker’s space for a long period.

      For me, I work in the events industry where there may be tables and no chairs while a space is being set up. Sometimes it’s just easier to take a kneeling position to send an email on my computer than to grab a chair from across a ballroom. I don’t think I’d ever do this in someone’s cubicle or office.

  53. Rich*

    It may be a physical comfort thing.

    I used to be the IT support person. My job was going around the office all day, helping people fix computer problems, which meant I was looking at someone else’s screen, watching what they were typing/clicking, and trying to diagnose problems from the ‘second chair’. Honestly, it can get really uncomfortable, leaning 20 degrees to the right all day long.

    It was much more comfortable to kneel next to them. I could scootch in closer since the chair wasn’t in the way, and I could keep my back a LOT straighter.

    It may make you uncomfortable, but he may be doing it for his comfort.

    1. Not your typical admin*

      This!!!!!! It’s so so uncomfortable working in a second chair at someone else’s computer. And very awkward to move a chair. I would suggest making sure the chair in your office is set as a working area rather than a conversation area if that makes sense.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This. I’ve seen it happen a lot in my old jobs. I was going to comment to ask if there are guest chairs in OP’s work area, because asking someone else if you can borrow one, dragging it across the office to OP’s desk, and then back, is not ideal. But your point is even better, sitting in a chair next to someone while watching their computer screen and keyboard is physically uncomfortable (and in my case, super awkward when I’m a woman and the coworker I’m visiting is a man. You can’t very well lean into a man with your chest, but you can’t see his screen/keyboard well from a distance either.)

      Thank dog for remote work and screen sharing, I suppose!

  54. Nethwen*

    Ha! I kneel like this when talking to my direct reports at their work station because usually what started as a quick exchange has turned into a longer conversation where I need to take notes or my feet are hurting and the other chair is in another room. I’m comfortable in this position and it puts me at a good level to take notes on the work counter. I suppose it might look odd, but for me, it’s really about convenience and comfort. If anyone said anything, my response would be a truthful, breezy, “I like to mix things up – stay flexible!” It’s not every day or every time we talk and I would feel weird if my direct reports daily kneeled when talking to me, though.

    Now, I have been in a social situation, in another culture, where I was expected to kneel to the elders as a sign of respect and I strongly disliked kneeling in that context. Totally different from kneeling from convenience and choice, in my opinion.

    1. Nethwen*

      And please don’t derail on cultural kneeling. I should have taken that part out before I posted. I meant it as an example of context changing my views. Thanks!

    2. we don't talk about wakeen*

      You know, if I saw someone writing notes I think I’d immediately stop finding it weird that they were kneeling because it’s obvious they just need a writing surface and it’s convenient. I’m not sure why that puts a whole different spin on it for me!

  55. generic_username*

    This is weird – just be straight-forward:

    “Hey, is there a reason you always kneel instead of using a chair?”
    He may tell you a reason that makes you accept him doing it, but if he doesn’t – “Ah, okay. Would you mind using the chair in the future? The kneeling makes me uncomfortable/weirds me out”

  56. Translator from MTL (and buyer of cheap ass rolls)*

    Yeah, this is weird. I’ll kneel/crouch at my colleagues’ desks if we need to review documents together for more than a minute or two since we don’t have extra chairs laying around, but it’s kneeling while leaning my elbows up on the desk to get a look at their monitor, not kneeling 2 feet away from them! We’re also a very casual and horizontally structured org.

  57. TootsNYC*

    re: the kneeling guy

    Maybe the chair makes it crowded? If that’s possible, maybe get a stool? I have one that folds up, even.

  58. Monkey Fracas Jr.*

    I think it’s so weird that everyone here is trying to invent situations in their minds where Sam has some kind of debilitating wasting disease where he simply cannot sit in a chair, despite the LW’s detail that he sits at his own desk all day just fine.

    Y’all. Some people are just weird! Who knows why they’re weird, but they just are! I’m positive each and every one of you does something that someone in your office finds bizarre. Hopefully they’ll let you know if it makes them uncomfortable. The fact is that this one weird quirk of this one weird guy is making his coworker feel uncomfortable. He should stop doing the thing that makes his coworker feel uncomfortable! It really might not be any more complicated than that.

    1. Software Dev (she/her)*

      Yeah the most likely explanation is he doesn’t think the position is weird and is new enough in the workplace no one has ever told him it is. I get the desire to fanfic on this because it is odd, but I don’t think there’s any evidence its more than a quirk. I’ve had coworkers crouch or one knee in my cubicle, which was weird so I agree two knees and a straight back is even stranger, but sometimes people are just weird.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      Thank you!

      It’s funny to me how we tie ourselves in knots trying to come up for an ironclad reason why someone violates a social norm. Maybe it’s a health condition! Maybe it’s cultural! Maybe they’re kinky! Maybe their ancestors died for the right to kneel in an office!

      It’s fun to speculate, but it’s not helpful to the OP. Sometimes when someone doesn’t grasp a social norm, it’s because they just need to know about the social norm. This goes like septuple for people who are new to the workforce.

    3. Original LW*

      Yeah, it’s pretty bizarre being the letter writer and seeing all these wild assumptions and questions. Like, if he had a different cultural background, or if my desk was small, or if the chair was made of spikes, or if he’s 8 feet tall….. I probably would have mentioned it!

  59. Imaginary Number*

    I once attended a recruiting event at my alma mater and there was a young college student there who would ask me questions about my company and then take notes by crossing one leg over his other knee in a figure-four pose (while still standing) and balance his notebook on his knee. It was so very odd and this reminded me of that.

  60. Tina*

    I wonder if your employee used to be a server. We were taught to kneel down next to a sitting customer when they were ordering because it was seen as more friendly and it made the customer feel in charge. Perhaps old habits die hard.

  61. Hereforit*

    I have to be honest, when I first came to an office setting (from a physically demanding job) I had a back injury that often made it uncomfortable to sit in a chair. I mostly stood, but I do wonder in his scenario, if there’s the possibility that sitting in a chair was difficult? Outside of that, it does seem odd.

  62. DSMdan*

    For what it’s worth, I have a similar thing happened at my workplace but this context is different… In case it helps? In my case, my young and healthy coworker takes every opportunity to stretch, strengthen different muscles, and he switches between standing and sitting and sometimes even stretching but we are all aware that he is preparing for a military physical fitness test. Therefore he takes advantage of all the times he is moving around or relocating to work on these things. Just a thought in case this helps. :-)

  63. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    I understand a brief crouch, but kneeling would creep me out. It would feel so subservient too me.

  64. Not your typical admin*

    I’m wondering if part of the issue is needed a work surface or the ability to look at a computer screen. I could see where it would seem easier to kneel down rather than bend over or move a chair to an awkward place. Especially with someone young coming from college, I could easily see him doing that.

  65. tamarack and fireweed*

    People who are into gardening, and larger woodworking projects, will of course do this all the time if the task requires it and it happens to be comfortable to the people involved. Theater people may.

    And if you are saying these aren’t cultures – true, these *aren’t even cultures*.

    I’m strongly on team “don’t make this any weirder than you already made it”.

  66. tamarack and fireweed*

    I guess part is that it’s only a very loosely held social norm if this is a casual office where people get to work in a variety of poses that are natural and comfortable to them. Kneeling is such an unremarkable thing – it’s just a pretty basic human pose.

    It can be simultaneously true that it’s fine for the OP to shut this down, for the reasons stated, and that there’s absolutely nothing weird about their team member doing this. (TBH when I saw the title I thought the other person was dramatically kneeling to thank or request something and the OP would have problems with the drama, not someone who for reasons of his own just finds kneeling more comfortable than sitting for a quick chat at someone else’s desk.)

  67. Nightengale*

    It doesn’t sound like the case here but I definitely find kneeling (either upright like this or with my legs folded under me) much more comfortable than sitting in a chair. Yet if you saw me sitting in a chair you would not know I have a problem with chairs. My hips start hurting after about 20 minutes of sitting upright. At my own desk I keep my feet propped up on an open drawer, that buys me about an hour. I also cannot sit in chairs with wheels due to balance, so if the choice is a rolling chair, I will stand or kneel. Or drag a non-wheely chair from my desk to wherever I am going.

    It fascinates me how uncomfortable sitting/kneeling on the floor make other people. I will sit on the floor at a conference, near a bunch of chairs. Soooooo many people will go out of their way to tell me there are chairs, I am permitted to sit in a chair, they will bring me a chair, etc. So I disclose my disability when really what I want to do is sit on the floor and wait or participate or whatever.

  68. PurpleStar*

    There was this – long time ago – I am old. One of the ways to tame your manager was to always have your head lower than the managers – like a lion tamer always has their head lower than the lions. This gives the lions the superior (to them) position but the tamer is the one with the chair and whip.
    Lion Taming: Working Successfully with Leaders, Bosses and Other Tough Customers Paperback – Illustrated, November 1, 2005

    Here is an illuminating article from 2011 – ;)
    https://hverma.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/lion-taming-%E2%80%93-how-to-lead-your-boss/

    Yes this was a thing – people were kneeling all over the place

  69. LittleMarshmallow*

    I’m always paranoid that I’m “coworker is doing something minor but quite odd”. I have a lot of little mannerisms that I think are weird (eye contact is hard for me and I’m fidgety so I don’t sit still well when someone is talking to me). So when I see these and am like, oh I bet that’s just more comfortable for them and not weird at all, it just solidifies that im probably doing weird stuff too.

    1. kicking_k*

      Sympathy. You sound neuro-atypical, but frankly, by this point workplaces have lots of neurodiverse employees (putting my hand up) and probably the others are doing odd stuff too, that you don’t notice. So long as one pays decent attention to workplace norms in the broader sense, and doesn’t do things that make life less pleasant for coworkers, I think it’s up to them to mention it if your odd behaviours are actually problematic. They’re probably not!

  70. Tea*

    Trying to guess why someone’s doing this is way too complicated. You can say, “Kneeling in my cubicle is making me uncomfortable, so if it’s not an accommodation of some kind, I’d really prefer you not.” You can’t tell by looking who has a disability, so just… don’t try to.

  71. Helmswoman*

    I used to do this. In a retail finance environment, with customers. It was my first ‘proper’ job and it just seemed easier sometimes, rather than pulling over a chair. I had no idea it was weird.
    The response from my colleagues was never any more helpful than giving me dirty looks and occasional tutting. I didn’t last long there.

  72. Squidlet*

    I haven’t worked in an office for a while, but I remember people doing this quite a lot. I may have even done it myself when my knees were less temperamental.

    It definitely isn’t a submissive posture where I’m from. In fact it’s not something you’d do at your manager’s desk – only with peers or team mates. It’s an alternative to perching on someone’s desk or squatting next to it. That said, these were open plan offices with no visitor chairs – doing this when there’s a chair available seems unusual.

    I’m not from the US and things are clearly different in my country.

  73. Steelmaker*

    I do this sometimes myself.
    We are an engineering departement so often looking at drawings on a desk or each others PC.
    So kneeling is just easy, whether it is with colleagues or with people that work for me, is not relevant.
    I don’t think I’ve done it with my boss.
    I’m 39 and not quite sportive, and no back issues.
    There is no medical/physical need or urge, it is just easy.

    I’ve never seen this as something subservient (or looming or crowding), I have had people once or twice remark I’m allowed to take a chair, but if it’s just quickly sketching something or looking at colleagues screen, kneeling is just easier/quicker.

    I never wondered if it makes them somehow uncomfortable. Maybe I should…

  74. Koala dreams*

    I agree that your indirect hints are too indirect. I would start with “Would you prefer to sit in my chair or the chair over there?” (I usually offer my chair if someone needs to look at my computer screen.) Then you can ask him directly to sit down in the chair.

    That being said, I don’t quite like the health speculations. A lot of people like to vary their positions if they sit a lot at work, unconnected to health issues. And a lot of people have invisible health issues. Just leave off the speculations.

    1. London*

      Meanwhile, my joking suggestion is to get Sam a floor cushion so he can sit in seiza like he so clearly wants

    2. George*

      I could have been this guy! Summer job during first year of college, I was a “receptionist” in theory, but in practice also did copying, filing, light typing, general office dogsbody. I never ran marathons but did jog fairly regularly, and alternating kneeling with sitting just felt better. It was a mostly female office and they were kind to me, but I just now realized what some of their amused expressions were about! Now, thirty years later, I look back with a mix of embarrassment for being so oblivious, and wistfulness – sadly enough my body doesn’t work like it did back then.

      1. George*

        And there was nothing sexual about it, never even crossed my 18-20 year old mind – after all, most of them were thirty or something, that was practically dead, right?

  75. Camellia*

    The kneeling/squatting/crouching thing remined me of something from 40 years ago. I had a very-not-nice childhood and was still trying to recover from it. I worked in a office where we all had small cubes, with no room for another chair. A male co-worker was a close collaborator and often had to come into my cube to look at my monitor and talk about stuff.

    I’m short anyway, so when I sit in a chair, I am…child height. And he was very tall. And when he would come in and talk to me and look at my monitor, it made me VERY uncomfortable, because ‘child size’ and ‘large man too near’. One day I guess I visibly flinched when he appeared in my cube. We had a good relationship, so when he asked what was wrong, I told him my problem – no details, just as I told it above. From that point on, when he stepped into my cube he would crouch down next to my chair to talk. That was such a relief! He never said a word about it, just continued to do it for as long as we worked together, and I still appreciate his tact and accommodation to this day.

  76. Umiel12*

    OP, if I were in your situation, I would just say, “Please sit in a chair. It makes me uncomfortable to have you kneeling in front of me.” It doesn’t matter if he has some special reason for kneeling, but if he does, then he will tell you about it when you ask him to sit in a chair.

  77. Forgot My Name Again*

    I don’t know if anyone else has suggested it, but if you want him to take a seat, have you tried getting up yourself, proffering the second chair and waiting behind it expectantly until he sits?

  78. CommanderBanana*

    Huh, I do this sometimes when I’m talking to someone for a few moments and need to use their desk to write something down or see their monitor. It’s faster and easier than dragging over or searching for a chair and I have a screwed up back, so it’s less painful to get up from a kneeling position than sitting down. If I’m going to be there for more than a quick exchange I will sit down though.

  79. Ash*

    Hi there! There is one angle I would like to propose that I don’t see often addressed in these letters.
    Might simply be neurodivergent.
    Nb4- I am also neurodivergent. I propose this because weird sitting positions and missing indirect communication (the worst kind)? Extremely common with us, and because of being forced to mask all the time and internal biases, it can be difficult for a neurotypical (I.e. not autistic, not adhd, etc) to tell if we’re neurodivergent or not.
    Now, I wouldn’t bring this up with him because people tend to be ableist without even realizing it, but it is a possible angle, just a different perspective that I would like to leave on the table.

  80. Evvie*

    This seems like an ask why situation. I can walk 11 miles per day (only mentioning because of the running mention assuming there aren’t physical issues) but sitting in desk chairs too much can make my back go out to the point of near paralysis. (Literally, I have to be carried.)

    It could also be the setup of the room, though. If it’s not conducive to facing each other or seeing a screen while you talk, this could be seen as the best option so he’s not just standing where your face is at crotch level. Maybe restructuring the room so you can see each other or adding even an extra chair to pull up to chat in would help. Lead by example with the extra chair thing.

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