Have you ever walked into someone’s office and had to wait for them to take stacks of clutter off a chair so you could sit down. Or have you been repulsed by old take-out food containers sitting on your colleague’s desk or by putting your papers down on top of something sticky? Or maybe your coworker likes to work out after work and keeps gym clothes and shoes in the corner. These may seem like extremes, but they are more common than you might imagine.
You also may be thinking that you don’t have a “real” office. You may sit in a cubicle or have one or more office mates. Perhaps you do most of your work in a common area with work stations. Regardless of the office structure, many employees treat their work spaces as extensions of their homes, and the same habits may be exhibited. If you are a collector or a hoarder, you probably will collect and hoard things at work. If your apartment is neat as a pin, your office will probably be equally neat. If you tend toward being organized, your files, desk, and book shelves will be organized. On the other hand, people who don’t spend much time organizing their lives will be just as disorganized in the workplace.
Take a few minutes to think about what your office space says about you. Does it say “professional?” Does it say “adult” or “stuck in college mode?” Is your book shelf lined with stuffed animals or does it contain professional books or attractive items? What’s on your walls. Have you tacked up a poster a la your dorm room, or have you hung a framed diploma, a good print, or an award?
Also look for the clues that you are giving others about your personal life. Is there a picture of your family or your significant other? Do you want visitors to know that you are married, or a parent, or whether you are gay or straight? If you exhibit a group picture of you and your friends, what does it say about you? Do you have a wine glass in your hand or are you wearing a bikini? Also, if you have a computer, take a look at your screen saver. Does it give any clues to your personal life? Generally, professionals want to keep their private life private, and they choose carefully what personal items they want to disclose and to whom. Also, unless you work for a religious or political organization, religious pictures and political items might be best kept at home.
Many people don’t think much about their offices, especially after they have been in them a while. Take a few minutes and look critically at your work space. Is it time for a clean-up or a make-over? What, if anything, must you change to make certain your office is a professional asset, not an impediment to advancement and acquiring that office you really want?