How Your Desk Space Can Harm Your Career Advancement

desk space career advancement

There are papers on the floor, across the desk and resting on the keyboard.

Piles of files are all around. Magazines, newspapers…you name it. Just about anything can be found in this office.

My guess is that you’ve seen this in your own organization. You know what I am talking about. It might even be you.

Several years ago an employee called me because her performance review included items relating to the disorganized state of her office. When I arrived her office was piled high with papers. I began asking questions. Are you late with assignments? Does it take you more than 15 seconds to find information? Do you tend to completely lose information?

With each question, the answer was clearly ‘No’.

Also read: How to Get a Discreet, 5 Minute Desk Workout

Probing a little further, I discovered her supervisor needed to walk past her office every time he wanted to get to the front of the building. So he passed by the employee’s cubicle several times a day. Each and every time he walked by, he made a mental note on the condition of the employee’s office. It appeared the employee’s true work performance wasn’t in question. It was the concern was about the condition of her desk. Why?

Whether we like it or not, appearance matters. And usually a messy desk equates in other people’s minds to a person with a messy mind. And the concern with a messy mind is that work may not be getting done, the quality of the work might not be thorough, and an ongoing fear deadlines won’t be met. It can cause an employee to not be considered for promotion because right or wrong, they are perceived as potentially out of control, ineffective, inefficient and just plain sloppy.

Also read: Is Your Brand Standing in the Way of a Promotion?

And if you manage others, remember you’re also a role model. Direct reports are watching. And forming impressions of their own. They’re considering whether they want to be just like you…or nothing like you.

Here are some ideas for maintaining a less cluttered work environment:

  • Create an end-of-the-day ritual. Get in the habit of taking a couple minutes at the end of every day to make your office more clutter-free. This approach helps prevent the judgment and negative impressions of others whether they’re your supervisor or a peer.
  • Storing papers on the floor is never a good idea, so try keeping them ‘above sea level’. Place loose papers in a container–a letter tray, a box, a basket –anything to containerize papers and create a clear space on the top of your desk.
  • Confidential or private file folders. Store them in the front part of a lockable filing cabinet with a note in your calendar to remember where you stored them!

And you never know…you might just like seeing a clutter-free desk every morning. It’s a much better way to face each new and busy day.

Also read: 6 Best Practices to Make Working From Home Productive

About the Author

Cynthia Kyriazis, Founder and President of Productivity Partners Inc., has provided productivity training and coaching for Fortune 500 to small business clients for over 20 years. Recently named one of “28 best online productivity experts”, her passion is teaching employees how to apply the principles of organization and time-management and to help them navigate the 24/7 demands on their time. Cynthia is set to release her second book in February 2016, Get Organized. Get Focused. Get Moving.: How to Avoid Productivity Potholes, a guide for helping business professionals avert common obstacles to productivity.