Some of you aren’t going to like this article. I can hear you now:
“Chrissy, who cares that my desk looks like a tornado hit it? I can find everything I need and that’s all that matters.”
I’ve got a sobering newsflash, my friend. Brace yourself.
My response to that argument? Nope. Wrong. Not true. That’s not all that matters. Organization is as much about others as it is about you.
Specifically, it’s about how others see you.
Your organizational habits (or lack thereof) provide visible clues about who you are and what you bring to the table. People mentally associate organization with a whole host of other traits, including:
- Work Ethic
Here’s the rub: It’s not necessarily true. Organized people aren’t necessarily any more mature, competent, or intelligent than the next guy.
It’s not always accurate to say that this organized person is a better worker than that disorganized person, but that’s what our subconscious brain is telling us. That’s the perception.
And perception is reality.
If people perceive you as something, they treat you that way. They look for confirmation that you ARE that way. So this can work for you or against you in the workplace. It benefits the organized people and creates enormous unspoken obstacles for the disorganized ones.
Here’s what I mean:
Walking past your desk, the CEO of your company sees a clean surface, clearly labeled files, a neat stack of paperwork, an orderly system for managing tasks.
“Wow,” he thinks. ‘This person is clearly on top of it.”
In those 5 seconds, a perception was born.
Now, imagine it this way…
Walking past your desk, the CEO sees overwhelming piles of paper, post-it notes stuck to every surface, beanie babies perched on shelves, coffee cups tucked behind folders hidden behind photos stacked on top of books holding down a big ball of tangled cords.
“Wow,” he thinks. “That’s disgusting.”
Maybe he wonders how you find anything. Maybe he gives you the benefit of the doubt that YOU know your system. But then he wonders what happens when you’re out of the office. How do your co-workers find anything? Maybe he wonders if you take your job seriously, or if you’d rather be working at the beanie baby factory down the street. Maybe he thinks about doing something else with your office space…
I know it sounds like a stretch, but this is the world we live in. Impressions are made in seconds. We judge people by how they present themselves and, like it or not, your workspace and organizational habits are a part of that.
I’m sure some people will come back to me with this popular retort:
“If a cluttered desk indicates a cluttered mind, what does an empty desk say?”
So let me clarify: No one is saying you have to go to extremes. Just aim for visible order. You may be surprised to find that you’re actually more efficient when all that crap is out of the way.
Personally, I do in fact believe that good organizational habits tend to boost performance in the workplace, whether you clutter-bugs out there like to hear it or not. I don’t think it’s ALL about image.
But, to those people who rely on the old “I can find anything” motto as they sink behind the pile of rubble that was once a desk, let me say this: Please fix the issue for others, if not yourself. Their perceptions are impacting you and your career, and it’s totally within your control.