I was recently sent an infographic by a coworker about office hoarding. To sum it up it said that employees with messy work spaces were less likely to be promoted than those coworkers with organized desks and offices. I was sent this as a joke; because this is what my desk looks like on a consistent basis.
Now if you ask me for a document I know exactly where it is on my desk, so my messy desk doesn’t keep me from doing my job. But I can see how the messy desk can be discouraging, however I learned all of my business etiquette from Seinfeld's George Costanza.
George had it all figured out, he said that it looks like you’re not working hard enough if you don’t have a messy desk. He emphasized that volume counts and stressed the importance of piles, in fact he even threw in this gem: “If you know somebody is coming to your cubicle, bury the document you’ll need halfway down in an existing stack and rummage for it when he/she arrives.”
Now this doesn’t really translate all that well for the modern workplace—now that everything is digital for the most part, but it’s still relatable and I can see how it would be a turnoff for management.
But really—should those with messy workspaces be looked down upon for having a different work style? Having a messy space shouldn’t crucify you as a hopeless case of disarray not worthy of promotion, in fact I would think it should be seen as just the opposite, a sign of creativity and potential for advancement.
In fact, I’m proud of my messy desk, when I get comments about it, I chuckle, because I think that the mess keeps me on my toes and sometimes the silly things I prominently displayed like a giant novelty pen, magic wand, koosh ball (an original one for the ‘80s), a bobble head, and a piggy bank in the shape of a monkey keeps the creative juices flowing. In fact when I sat down to write this post, I didn’t know what I was going to write about, but I looked around for inspiration and all the silly things on my desk sparked my interest and here we are.
So if you’re frustrated with your coworkers messy spaces don’t sweat it, as long as they do their job and do it well, you should be happy to have a little diversity on your team. After all, the coworkers I sit near with tidy spaces many times have a skill set that I lack, but I’m happy that they’re there to help when I need their expertise and vice versa.