Everyone, everywhere, feels the need to personalize their office. Most people exercise a modicum of restraint, and do it tastefully. Others just don’t get it – it’s possible for an office to be personalized to the extent that at best, it makes the people around you very uncomfortable, or at worst, it makes you look mentally unstable. This isn’t a fully inclusive list, but the following are some of the items that you really shouldn’t have on your desk, your office bookshelves, or for that matter, anywhere in your office that they might be visible.
If you think it’s funny to have a sign in your office that says “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you work with turkeys,” or something along similar lines, then you need to know that it’s mean-spirited, not in the spirit of team-building, and does not belong on your desk or your bookshelf. Get rid of it.
Maybe you prefer to eat at your desk. That’s fine. But you don’t get to cook there. So leave the toaster, the microwave and whatever at home, and accept the fact that unless you want to look totally weird, you’re just going to have to use whatever’s in the lunchroom. Unless, of course, you’re the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation, in which case you get to be just as eccentric as you please.
Since we’re on the subject, if you do eat at your desk, don’t leave your old food laying around. No one should have to look at (or smell) your week-old sandwich sitting in its container starting to go moldy. It’s fine to keep snacks in your drawer, but make sure they’re the kind that will keep for a long time, unrefrigerated.
It’s okay to have a small plaque with an inspirational quote, but refrain from dressing up your desk or other furniture with banners, statues, religious reading materials, etc. No one wants to see religion on display in the workplace. And if you present your religion in such a way that people feel you’re proselytizing, you could find yourself facing a complaint of harassment.
A toy or two on a desk or shelf isn’t a biggie. It’s fine to display your whimsical side. Bringing in your entire collection of Hot Wheels cars and setting up the track and garage that go with them, on the other hand, is extreme. It will cause people to question your professionalism, if not your sanity. Leave them at home. This also goes for collectibles – it’s great if you love a certain sports team, or you’re into bobble head dolls or snow globes, but if you’re cluttering up your space with stuff like that, again, you just don’t look professional.
Too Many Pictures
This is another area where people sometimes go overboard. Sure, you love your spouse or significant other, your kids, your pets, your parents… but just a few pictures are all that’s really appropriate. If your desktop, your bookshelves, your credenza, the top of your filing cabinets, etc. are cluttered with photos, people are going to wonder if you ever focus on work. And that’s not a good thing.
A Christmas Tree
Why not, you ask? Well, this actually comes with a caveat. It’s perfectly all right to have a Christmas tree on your desk, provided it’s size-appropriate, it’s artificial, and it’s actually Christmas time. If it’s not December, or at the very least late November, the tree has to go.
Do we really need to tell you that even one is too many?
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.