The psychology of the boardroom
The psychology of the boardroom
Post written by Paragon Interiors   November 17, 2015

Business meeting at conference table, high angle view

Have you ever wondered what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in a boardroom? Is there any pattern to or meaning behind where and how people sit? How they interact with one another?

Specialists in system psychodynamics, a theory in psychology that proposes that human behaviour is a function of unconscious forces within an individual, would respond with a resounding ‘YES’! According to Professor Frans Cilliers (2000), a lecturer at UNISA who specializes in the psychodynamic view of organisational behavior, an individual will approach a work situation with unmet, subconscious childhood needs that manifest in different ways – affecting how individuals behave in a team situation. For example, an individual who lacked acknowledgment from his/her parents as a child, might actively seek out recognition from his/her manager in the workplace.

Where would you be likely to find this individual sitting in a meeting? You guessed it… to the left or right of his/her senior.

At a less subliminal level, according to executive coach Dr. Richard Winters, where we choose to sit in a meeting can say a lot about what we would like to achieve whilst we are there.

Wish to take control of a meeting? Sit at the head of the table (if the table allows for this). If the table is square or oval shaped table, pull your chair back slightly – away from the table – and sit back.

If you would prefer to simply observe the ‘goings-on’ of the meeting or it is your objective to keep the peace – sit towards the middle of the table. This position will enable you to better mediate between key role players if necessary.

If you simply do not see eye-to-eye with a teammate and wish to avoid confrontation with him or her, avoid sitting directly opposite the individual. It may seem unnatural at first, but sitting next to the individual means that you will not be in one another’s direct line of vision. It may also serve to diffuse the situation by demonstrating that you are prepared to put aside your differences and keep the professional relationship amicable.

The information above hints at the fact that the shape of a meeting room or boardroom table can achieve different results in a meeting. For a collaboration space or team meeting area, a circular or oval shaped table is preferable. To encourage analytical and critical thinking – a square table may be more effective.

Paragon Interiors can help you decide on the most effective meeting room tables and furniture to suit your needs. Contact us today!

Written by: Natalie Jones, Industrial Psychologist, PS 0128180

Cilliers, F.v.N. (2000). Team building from a psychodynamic perspective. Journal of Industrial psychology, 26(1), 18-23.
Winters, R. (n.d.). Where Do You Sit In A Meeting – The 4 Power Positions. Retrieved from