Can Parking Direction Tell Us Anything About Company Morale?

A reader named Tim Wadlow writes in with an interesting theory:

I spent about 10 years as a operations management consultant, working with dirty, dull, and dangerous manufacturing companies.

After spending time at roughly 100 manufacturing locations around the world, I noticed an odd trend:  the direction that employees parked in their parking spots highly correlated with employee morale and satisfaction with their jobs.  Most of the cars parked forward? A good company to work for, with employees who want to get to work. Most cars backwards? It seems as though the moment that the employee got to work, he or she was planning a quick exit.

Next time you drive by a manufacturing company check it out.

Maybe CEO’s should study Google Earth maps of their parking lots to determine if they are changing a companies culture?

I love Tim’s thinking and would love to see someone test the idea empirically even though I have my doubts. The forward/reverse parking metric strikes me as too crude and too binary to tell us much of anything. But maybe I’m wrong.

One other thought: drug use is a big problem in some manufacturing plants; maybe employees who get to work stoned are more likely to park forward; and maybe that’s why companies with a lot of forward-parked cars tend to seem happier?


I'm guessing this would only be measured during good weather. I travel to the midwest during the winter and I notice employees park backwards because it's easier to drive out of the snow and ice.

Howard Brazee

I can see people parking forward who find backing into spots difficult - while people who back in, are showing off their driving skills.


An interesting theory to be sure. There are lots of other variables to check I'm sure. For instance I worked at a software company that had on site security. If you parked your car the wrong way they would leave a note on your car to let you know that it was unsafe and to refrain from doing it. How's that for morale?

Still I do wonder what a parking lot can tell you about a company. Sounds like a fun experiment.


Which was the "wrong" way - facing in or facing out?

Sebastian Good

Manufacturing companies tend to have an emphasis on safety, and backing into a space allows a much safter exit when it's time to leave. I'm guessing the direction of the cars has more to do with the embrace by or enforcement upon the workers of the safety culture at a particular company. What correlation this has to morale is another question entirely.


I hate parking lots and garages. I back into spaces, because I believe it's safer to exit a space going forward, rather than backing out.

The exception (notably at my place of employment) is, when I'm parking outside, I park facing south, so the sun hits the sunshield; this happens to be parked facing in.

Andreas Moser

Aren't women mainly parking forward?

tOM Trottier

The choice might also be affected by other things like the width of the aisle, the teaching of local driving schools, or the size of the car, though looking at changes could be independent of these.

Dave Brooks

Some companies strongly encourage employees to park by backing in, using the theory that it leads to fewer accidents in the parking lot because the driver can see better when pulling out of spaces.

Check out the website for a light-hearted look at the issue.

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Next up: Management requires all employees to back into parking spaces, because "workers at good companies do that" and making them back into parking spaces will magically turn them into a good company.

Follow-on: The number of fender-benders in the parking lot, caused by drivers who aren't so good at this fairly precision-oriented driving skill, increases noticeably. The policy gets cancelled when a manager's car gets scratched. Reverse-parking is prohibited entirely when CEO's new car gets dented.


I think I recall it back from "Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher" made the same observation. If not that book then one from nearby the "Who moved my cheese?" or "Great Game of Business" era.

I used the observation many times - either to predict who is quitting next or whose conflicts to avoid. Also worrysome are the "me first" backwards parkers who strive for promotions.

Now I work where "No Backing In" signs abound in the lot - so I am denied this key barometer, staff turnover is still high.


In Japan, the common method is to back into parking spaces. Doubtful there's any merit in the theory.

Michael Haltman

This is a very interesting theory and, because I make it a point to try and back into spots for an easy exit wherever I go, one that I will have to give a lot of thought to.

Perhaps I need an entire outlook on life adjustment or I just hate having to back out blindly with other cars in the aisles.

Happy New Year!

The Political Commentator


Getting out quickly has little or nothing to do with it - backing into a spot is just plain safer, not only for the driver but for others around them.

In particular, I've seen many instances when pedestrians were put in danger of being run over by drivers blithely backing out of their spots. A few extra seconds to back into the spot when they were already in the lane and had a clear view would have made a big difference.

For extra credit, here's some funny stuff on Fancy Parking

Rob Kerr

Logical but the safety issue is true. My company encourages staff to park facing out of the space as a safety issue. Backing up a car into the vehicle lane in a parking lot contributes statistically to injury and vehicle damages.


I know a manufacturing plant where most of the managers not happy but park their cars forward.

Marsha Lucas, PhD

The psychology study spoof "Diagnosis by Parking" was originally published in the Journal of Polymorphous Perversity 1995 (Dec.) Vol.13 (1) 325-226:

Brian Gatens

Employees at the school in which I work are encouraged to back into spots. Pulling out of a spot facing forwards is far more safer at the end of a school day. Just a thought.