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If a postdoc requests a private office when negotiating an employment contract, is there a possibility the request would be granted?

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    Anything can happen during negotiations. – Michael Aug 16 '17 at 1:00
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    Stranger things have happened. – Dan Romik Aug 16 '17 at 1:44
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    @GEdgar: Yes, probably. Thus my guess is that this will not be negotiable. On the other hand, it still might be useful to ask whether you will have a private office; that could be something to consider when weighing competing offers. – Nate Eldredge Aug 16 '17 at 2:15
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    Please let us know the outcome of the office space negotiation. It will be a useful data point for future postdocs. – Dan Romik Aug 16 '17 at 4:35
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    @jwg This depends on your personality. I vastly prefer a one-person room. Also, if you have a two-person office, but you don't really like the other person, it's about the worst. – xLeitix Aug 16 '17 at 16:06
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The big issue in having a private office is available space.

Most departments have a limited amount of space available, and what is given to any particular research group is correspondingly restricted. There may not be a private office available to the group, in which case it wouldn't be possible to accommodate such a request. In addition, if there's a more senior person, then usually such an individual would have a "higher claim," so you might not get one.

Of course, if you never ask, you'll never know.

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    Out of curiosity, how does negotiation work in academic settings? Is it like "Hey, can I get a private office?" "Yes" (or) "No". I don't see how exactly one could negotiate... – gokul_uf Aug 16 '17 at 21:50
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    Yeah, it's not really a negotiation—you just ask. – aeismail Aug 16 '17 at 21:56
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    "Yes", "No", or in one case the departmental secretary's thousand-yard-office-politics-stare and "Don't even ask." – Fomite Aug 17 '17 at 2:21
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    @gokul_uf it works just like in any other setting. You apply for jobs, get X job offers, and if X>1, you are in a pretty good position to negotiate the terms with each of the places making you an offer, and then select the job that appeals to you most. – Dan Romik Aug 17 '17 at 4:11
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Sure there is a possibility. I have seen PhD students have private offices in some places. In others, even Assistant Professors had to share. And my current employer famously had a (short-lived) initiative where they wanted to implement a hot-seat scheme for everybody except top administrators (it did not go over well with faculty).

However, in practice you may not so much negotiate but ask for it. If they have the room they will be happy to oblige (since it costs them little), and if they don't have the room they will hardly be able to change this to accommodate your request. Further, note that room situations change, sometimes quite quickly - you may have a comfy single office when you start, and a few successful grant applications later you need to share the same space with two others. It is unlikely that your PI will guarantee you in writing that you will have and retain a single office at all times.

One of the comments also asks whether there will be "friction" if you have a single office and others on your level need to share. This is of course possible, and it depends a bit on your personality whether you would mind this (I personally wouldn't). However, there's usually advantages and disadvantages to all rooms. Your single office will likely be of the "small dark room in the corner" variety, while their three-person office is surely larger, and often nicer - so it's not a straight up "you got a much better deal than others". Further, if you always worry that others might be envious of whatever you manage to negotiate on top of the standard package, then why bother negotiating at all?

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    My title is Senior Lecturer, and I am sharing an office with 3 Senior and 1 Principal Lecturer. – Dmitry Savostyanov Aug 16 '17 at 15:13
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If a private office is important to you, there's no better time to ask than at recruitment / when you have an offer letter in hand and have not yet accepted. On the other hand, be prepared to accept a "no" answer. On the gripping hand, the answer is always "no" to a question you haven't asked.

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