You let your work speak for itself and pay attention to your appearance, but are you missing something? Is your desk conveying personality traits, both good and bad, that you didn’t think about?
“While we can’t tell someone’s exact character from how they stack their pens, it gives us a window into who they are,” life and business coach Julie Parker says.
Everything on your desk, from your pens to your pictures, has an impact on the way your boss, peers and clients perceive you. Here’s how to make it work in your favour.
Make it a talking point
The “stories” that come from your desk can help your boss make a character assessment and act as a great icebreaker. “If I see that someone has a desk full of family snapshots, I know they intertwine their work and home life, which helps me communicate with them better,” Tony Gleeson of the Australian Institute of Management says. “Awedding or a baby picture is a good conversation point.”
Keep it current
If you have a picture of your child when they were two and they’re now 20, it could send the wrong message – that you’re living in the past – so change the frames frequently. Also make sure your desk fits into the cultural environment of your office by observing the desks of your supervisors.
Work to your strengths
Gleeson suggests using your workstation to display your strengths: “If you want to be a leader, show the management that you’re managing things well, starting at your desk.” However, a bare-minimum work environment isn’t the answer – an empty desk with a lone water bottle could mean that you haven’t set down roots. In fact, a recent study by the University of Minnesota found that working with mess can help tostimulate creativity.
Give it personality
Adding character shows that you have a life and have made the space yours, but human and digital interaction expert Danielle Di-Masi warns of cluttering and being too open. “Your desk isn’t your Facebook timeline. It doesn’t need boozy photos. Your professional space shouldn’t look like a teenage scrapbook.”
If in doubt, Gleeson recommends using this test: If your family and friends saw your desk, would they think it reflects who you are, or what you want to be? If not, make some changes. You spend so much time on your desk, so make it work for you.
Table talk: how to read the desk signs
Neat and sparse
This usually means the person is highly efficient and great at time management. “These people are likely to appreciate things that are modern and love keeping up with technological advances,” Parker says. Expect to see matching stationery and the latest gadgets. “[If your desk is clean it] may also mean you care about your work, and your environment shows that respect,” Di-Masi adds. Clean is good but sterile may suggest you’re unapproachable so it’s best to keep the hand sanitiser hidden.
Knick-knacks and photographs
This desk often belongs to someone who’s driven by their heart and values. “We encourage people to bring their personalities to the workplace,” Gleeson says. Family and friends are important to these people, and they’re likely a great team player. “This desk will have framed photos, birthday cards and children’s artwork,” Parker adds. Just be careful not to go too personal with items such as shoes and medication bottles.
Flowers and uplifting quotes
These are indicative of someone who’s creative and a lover of beauty. They like to be inspired and believe that just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you can’t dream. According to Parker, a mini vision board of quotes and a crystal paperweight are likely to be found at this workstation.
Messy and disorganised
This type of desk often belongs to someone who loves to live and work by their own rules. “You might not know what those rules are, but they do [which means] they have their own way of doing things and can find the file you want,” Parker says. However, a pile of unread books and dirty coffee mugs or spreading over two desks is probably pushing it.
Full of colour
“In a sea of potential grey cubicles, someone who decorates their desk with bright colours and funny photos is filled with personality and loves fun,” Parker says. Such people want their work to be enjoyable and a place where they feel creatively alive.