Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Your Desk Says About You

The accepted aesthetic of the modern office have unfolded and changed through the generations as dramatically as the typewriter’s evolution into the desktop PC. Few employers continue to force draconian, sterile environments upon their people; they now encourage flexibility, comfort and personal expression at work -- a concession that’s best proved by the personalization of your desk.

Now, that’s all very well -- thank goodness our days are no longer spent staring at Bartleby’s “dead-wall” -- but while corporate policy may have changed, human nature has not. This means that what your desk says about you will serve as the basis for what others will think about you.

You see, your desk is where your boss hovers over your shoulder, where clients will wait for your return and where your peers will judge you as they leave the office for lunch. As the rookie in the office, you may want to carefully consider what your desk says about you, but that’s not to say that the oldest veteran is free to express his inner salsa dancer. The calculated management of your workspace and the careful consideration of what your desk says about you are imperative if you seek to impress.

We've compiled some suggestions to help you make sure that what your desk says about you is positive.

Family photographs
Photographs of family and friends are perhaps the most common desktop embellishments. These are also the items that your scruples will least let you compromise to further your career -- and rightly so. What your desk says about you when pictures are present can market you at work as aptly as a great resume or your best sales pitch. A wedding photo or a tasteful snapshot of you with your girlfriend or wife on vacation last summer proves to those around you that you are capable of managing complex relationships over long periods of time. Similarly, a portrait of your kid -- or even a niece, nephew or godchild -- projects you as well rooted. Displaying the fact that you have responsibilities outside of work that rely on your gainful employment reminds your boss that such people are the least likely to risk jumping ship down the line.

Problems occur, however, when you oversell your private life. Too many photos on your desk, for example, will make it seem like you would rather be at home than working. Stick to one or two to make sure that what your desk says about you remains positive. And if your girlfriend or wife is smokin’ hottie, definitely leave the beach photos at home; nothing is more detrimental to a career than incurring the jealousy of those around you.

Sports paraphernalia
From coffee mugs to calendars and from newspaper clippings to screensavers, sports merchandise is seemingly at home on your desk. Yet advertising such allegiances to your coworkers may be the most dangerous game of all. There is a relatively simple rule for sports fans to follow: it's good to support the hometown team and it's bad to support any other team. Sure, anecdotes about “back home” are sometimes great icebreakers, but never during playoffs. Do you think anyone sitting in a New England office right now is talking up the new guy who drinks his coffee from a commemorative Giants mug?

For those of you who work in the same city as your favorite team, advertising that fact can be a real career-booster. Your desk attire will lead to discussions of games with your boss and to commiserating or celebrating a result with your coworkers, all of which will foster friendly perceptions of you. Anybody’s desk can have the local team’s stationary on it -- only a pariah’s will have the rival’s.

Reading materials
Whether or not you can read at your desk (at lunch or otherwise) is really up to the climate and policy of your office. If it’s frowned upon, don’t do it and if your organization is flexible in this respect, you still need to exercise strategy. This means that you should choose newspapers over tabloids. It’s prudent to keep up with current affairs at work, but you should avoid any suggestion that you are dumbing down your day. Never leave the latest Dan Brown lying around for extended periods of time, as you don’t want to give the impression that you don’t have enough work to do or that you’re slacking on your responsibilities. Also, we recommend that you cough up five bucks a month for a subscription to a publication that’s specific to your industry -- it’s money well-spent. Even if you don’t read it, give it some desk time and you’ll create an impression of independence and initiative.

A working desk can and will get cluttered. While people do like to see you busy, at the end of the day -- and especially when you are on vacation -- leave it clean, leave it ordered and leave it stocked. An air of organization and resourcefulness will make you your boss’s go-to guy when he comes unstuck: It’s better that he knows that you have a stack of blank CD-Rs on your desk than him heading five minutes down the hall to the supply room. At the same time, don’t be too anal. Obsessive cleaning, overreacting to an invasion of your workspace or punctilious neatness will not foster an impression that you could manage an emergency. Your desk is a working environment and you should treat it as such

Your desk talks about you when you’re away, it boasts about you while you’re at it and it markets you everyday at work. As with any sale, you must cater to your audience. Don’t alienate or offend; add value and outstrip your competitors with the items on your desk.

SOURCE: AskMen.com

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