What does your desk say about you?  Are you organized? Are you dependable? Perhaps you are a bit neurotic? Your desk doesn’t hold back its secrets. Anyone that sees your workplace will make some immediate opinions as to your personality.

Is you desk buried in paperwork? Do you have family photos proud-fully displayed for public viewing? Is it virtually void of anything at all? These types of things reveal a surprising amount of information about who you are and your work ethics.

Sam Gosling,  a psychologist and professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You (Basic Books, 2009) says “People want to be known.” “You’re healthier, happier, and more productive when others see you as you are.”

So what things do you see and what do they mean?

1.  An Organized desk:  (Dependable-Timely)  People with organized desks are more conscientious, which translates to reliable and task oriented. They plan their work and are efficient at getting it done. Is there a well-used calendar around? If so, this can also indicate a well-organized person. But just because you may have a clean desk and organized, it may often be incorrectly translated as this person has nothing to do. The expression is “Nobody wants to eat at an empty restaurant.” This applies to the office space as well. When a person walks into your office for the first time, they immediately make decision whether or not they are interested in your services. If the office is empty and devoid of work, they may assume that nobody hires you for your services, for whatever reason that may be. But, if they see stacks of half-hazardly thrown together paperwork, files, and clutter, they may assume that you are unorganized and will not be able to address their particular needs or that you just don’t care. So a fine line is drawn. Don’t have too much clutter, but on the other hand, don’t be completely clean either.

2.  Uncommon objects: (Creative-Open)  If your workplace displays original artwork or unusual trinkets it could indicate the person is very open, meaning they embrace new ideas and concepts. They tend to think “out of the box” which for a potential client may be good thing. They may think “If this person is so open and willing to look at a more unusual approach to my issue, it may yield positive results.” Okay, I doubt that they would say it just like that, but you get the idea. This concept of openness and “thinking outside the box” has not been lost on some more innovative companies. Ad agencies and tech companies tend to attract more creative clientele and employees are encouraged to “display” their personalities. Some companies actually give their employees an allowance just to decorate their desks. This often results in a variety of bobble-heads, stuffed animals, vintage office supplies and artwork displayed in these more unusual work spaces.

3.  Inspirational posters and pictures: (Neurotic). If I walked into an office and saw a poster of a kitten holding onto a rope for dear life with the message “Hang in there” I would think that this person is borderline to a breakdown, and needs this cute inspiration to keep themselves together. Now, this may not be the case, but again, never underestimate the power of the first impression. It may not be a specific thought, it may be more of a subconscious thought, but the thought is there somewhere.

4.  Inviting workspace: (Extroverted) Is your office comfy? Perhaps a couch in the corner, throw pillows and lovely flowers are placed around the office? Perhaps a candy jar? This can be translated as a calm and social person. “I am happy to see you!” seems to gush from the office the minute you step into it. It can also calm a tense or excitable client. I once went into an office where the person had sound effects playing on a stereo. Back round noises of waterfalls and chirping birds. Not loud, mind you, but just in the back round. It was almost too comforting.  Throughout the appointment I had to resist the urge to lean my head back, close my eyes and take a nap. Perhaps the sound effects were a bit much, but again you get the idea.

While it may be possible to “design” your workplace to give out a particular vibe, I do not believe that it would be long term. Your personality is your personality, and regardless of how much you may fight it, it will eventually show itself for what it is. None of the attributes mentioned are a particularly bad personality type. You should show off your personality with pride. (unless you are a homicidal maniac).

Nosce te ipsum. Know thyself. Be what you are, don’t be something that you are not. It keeps you comfortable and makes your more happy and productive.

When I was discussing this issue with a friend of mine, he asked “My head is usually on my desk. What does that say about me?”  Well…perhaps it means that it is time to look for work that better suits you. Perhaps a job in the janitorial field?

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