Rectangular Conference Tables Make Employees Argue More


Are the conference room tables in your office round or rectangular? It could make a difference in how argumentative employees get at staff meetings!

Canadian researchers sat groups of people around either rectangular or oval tables to see how they reacted to advertisements, because, well, I don’t know why they would have them react to advertisements, but that’s what they did and this is what they found:


Subconsciously, the style of seating brings out one of two conflicting attitudes, said the researchers from Alberta and British Columbia universities.Authors Juliet Zhu and Jennifer Argo wrote: ‘The geometric shape of a seating arrangement can impact consumers by priming one of two fundamental needs – the need to belong or the need to be unique.’

They added: ‘Seating arrangements influence consumers in a wide range of settings such as restaurants, hotel lobbies, public transit, or waiting areas in airports and doctors’ offices.

‘Circular-shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong while angular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to be unique.’


Does it work? Find out for yourself. The next time you’re in a meeting (or in a job interview), note the shape of the table. Then notice how the people around it act, and react, to each other. Do they tend to be more combative and/or singular if the table is a right-angled quadrilateral? Does the meeting feel more like a tense inquisition than a mellow meeting of the minds as you scan the table’s perimeter?
Alternately, you might use the Pythagorean Theorem to measure the diagonal of the table. Hey, remembering how to use Geometry might just be more entertaining than the meeting itself!

Of course, this research raises a few other questions, such as, why is a rectangle always a parallelogram but a parallelogram is not always a rectangle*? By the way, did you do well in Geometry? If you say “yes,” then we want proof. Or should I say *a* proof, since we’re talking about Geometry.

Bottom line: If you want an office full of mavericks, then spring for the rectangular tables. If you want an office full of soul mates, then buy the oval tables. You could end up shaping a few new employee interactions — assuming you know how to multiply the width times the height to get the area, that is. Oh, nevermind.
*Answer: All angles in the rectangle must be 90 degrees, but parallelograms can have any set of angles as long as the opposite sides are always parallel.


Originally Posted by Chris Penttila at