What does your workspace say about you?


Take a look at your desk. What does it say to your clients? Your workspace might seem utilitarian and innocuous, but it might tell those who see it – clients, co-workers, and even cleaning staff – a great deal about the person who sits there.

Think about a desk that’s overflowing with paperwork, maybe with a takeout tray on top of a stack of files. What’s the impression there? If you’re generous, it’s: “this person is busy.” If not, it may be: “this person is a disorganized slob.” Another impression the paperwork-cluttered desk might give is: “This person has all of this paperwork out in the open; this person is careless with the information entrusted to them.”

Perhaps you like to show off knick-knacks or collectibles, like a signed baseball or some other memorabilia. While this can be a good way to connect with your clients, it can also be off-putting. To people who don’t share your interest, a display of toys, photos, or other non-essential items might seem frivolous. Strike a balance. Limit the number of these you’ll display, and keep them off of your desk – in an area that won’t be distracting. This sends the message that when you are behind the desk, you are there to work and focus.

Should you be strict about what you allow your employees to have on their desks within your office? To an extent, yes. If an item seems garish, odd, or even unpleasant, have a conversation about it and find out why it is being displayed. You’ll likely build a better relationship with the employee, while giving them the opportunity to understand your concerns.

If you set the example, many will follow your lead. Be clear, both in your behavior and in your interactions, that you want a comfortable, professional workplace, and that you expect the entire team to help present this to clients. That starts at your desk – just like the sign on Harry S. Truman’s famously said: “The Buck Stops Here.”


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