There are papers on the floor, across the desk and resting on the keyboard. Piles of files are all around. Magazines, newspapersyou name it. Just about anything can be found in this office. You’ve seen it in your own organization. You know what I am talking about.
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 ‘No’.
Probing a little further, I discovered that her supervisor needed to walk past her office every time she wanted to get to the front of the building. So he passed by her cubicle several times a day. Each and every time he walked by, he mentally noted the condition of her office. It seemed her true work performance was not in question the concern was about her organizing skills. Why? For many people, a messy desk is a messy mind. And the concern with a messy mind is that work isn’t getting done.
Whether we like it or not, appearances do matter. An employee with a messy desk and office is often perceived as out of control, non-caring, ineffective and inefficient. It can cause the person to be passed over for a promotion. As a manager, you are also a role model. Direct reports are watching. And forming their own impressions.
On a wider scale, I remember a client company that hired me to coach some of their employees on time management. The company had a ‘Clean Desk’ policy, which meant that before employees left for the day, desktops were to be free of loose papers. I was assured the policy was enforced. In fact, employees had been seen dumpster-diving to find loose papers they left on their desk the night before which had been thrown out by the cleaning crew.
Although I don’t necessarily advocate this particular type of policy or enforcement, it seems that a more organized and effective way to face each new day would be to end the previous day by taking a few moments to place loose papers in a container. Storing papers on the floor is never a good idea, so try keeping them ‘above sea level’. A letter tray, a box, a basket anything to containerize the papers and create a clear space on your desktop. Loose file folders can be put in their own container or in the front of a filing cabinet drawer.
Get in the habit of taking a few minutes every day to keep the desktop organized. It will help prevent the judgment and negative impression people walk away with when they see a messy desk. And you might just like it, too!
Copyright 2005 Cynthia Kyriazis. All rights reserved.
Cynthia Kyriazis is an organizing and time management consultant, trainer, speaker, coach and author with over 20 years management experience in multi-unit corporations. Organize it, a division of Productivity Partners, Inc. is an organizational training firm she founded in 1995 and has been serving Fortune 500 clients ever since. Cynthia works with business and their employees to help improve performance and realize productivity gains.
Cynthia has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star and the Legal Intelligencer. She currently serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), member of the Kansas City of the International Society for Performance Improvement – (ISPI-KC) and consultant to the American Coaching Association.