A Question of Etiquette: Table squatting/sharing

color-etiquette-10-13-16My question is about squatters at cafes and coffee shops. These are people who maybe order one cup of coffee, sit at a table meant for four or more, and stay there for hours, always with a computer in front of them. When there are no other seats because all the tables have one person on a computer, what is one supposed to do?

When the establishment appears to have no rules, and doesn’t evict a squatter who hasn’t ordered anything after that initial cup of coffee several hours previously, there is nothing wrong, when there are no other seats available, with going to that table and joining the squatter. Table sharing is not uncommon and you shouldn’t hesitate in joining someone who is using the table as his personal workspace. Simply say, “Hi. There is nowhere else to sit so I’m sitting with you for a few minutes while I drink my coffee.” He can hardly refuse, or banish you from the table. It’s not his table. It’s just where he is sitting and monopolizing space.


My boss recently sent me an email that contained confidential information and asked me for a reply. Instead of replying, I sent her a separate email requesting an appointment to discuss the matter. She said she didn’t have time for that, just to reply. I didn’t, and said I’d wait until she had time. She was furious. What should I have done?

Even though this was your boss, who should have known better than to put anything confidential in an email, you were not wrong to refuse to continue the discussion of sensitive information via email. Should her or your email get into the wrong person’s hands, you both could face serious repercussions, often legal ones. Instead of reprimanding her, or seeming to, you could have replied “under consideration – let me know when you have time to discuss in person,” or words to that effect. That implies no criticism (she may not be aware of what a bad idea it was, as hard to believe as that is), but it does provide protection, primarily for her since you did not comment via email. And it’s always good to have your boss’s back.


There’s a woman in my exercise class who is always late, but powers her way to the front of the room and puts herself in front of people already there. Isn’t that rude?

Sure is! There’s not much you can do about it, and if the instructor doesn’t say something, it is what it is. It’s a good reminder, though, that if you’re late, you find a space that doesn’t intrude on anyone else’s space and if possible, apologize to the instructor for being late. It’s also good to remember that when classes are held in the middle of a space surrounded by equipment, as is often the case at a gym, it is also impolite to position yourself so that you are blocking others’ access to that equipment.


Questions for Catherine? Send them to michaels.catherine@yahoo.com