I’ll need to admit this right up front; I’m a neat freak. My office is immaculate and rarely will you find parts of it out of place. When something is out of place I find relaxation in “making my world right” and tidying it up. When things are out of place for any long periods it because I’m way to busy to put it away, and when I do get around to it, I feel it’s a signal that a stressful time has passed.
I did not marry a tidy human being. My wife operates in a completely different universe than I feel I have ever lived. Our home office built around a desk that I have owned for years, I think, I have not physically seen it for a while. When I help my wife with her technical needs in that office (and you know all of us technical employees get to do this at home), I cringe at moving stacks of paper to get to a router or printer.
Here’s the thing. If you ask either my wife or I to produce a critical document in our respective offices it would be a tie. Her ratio of getting things paid on time and knowing what is where in that office is very similar if not possibly better to mine. Today’s blog is not about neat vs. tidy, or how people operate in both, it’s about the perceptions of what those environments say about us as managers.
My recommendation is to make your office your own, regardless of your tidiness style or outside influences. I know it sounds like I’m advocating a tidy environment, and god knows for me that’s all I can work in, but I think honesty is better than making other people happy. I would know a lot about my wife by walking in to meet her for the first time, and while some of it would be wrong (cluttered mind, unorganized) some of it would be on point (busy, energetic and knowledgeable).
I won’t guess what people think walking into my office but the point is I would feel dishonest if my office was neat because my work said it had be, or because I was trying to promote a false image of myself. When you walk into my office, you get what you get, and if you think I’m structured and freakishly neat at home, you’re right. If my wife allowed me to straighten out her work space, the next person to meet her in that environment would be robbed of the experience of realizing that she’s amazingly efficient and similarly amazing at finding things in her office in seconds, something that I find insane but fascinating.
Be who you are, let your employees know they are in your environment by making it your own, and respect the workspace habits of others because you learn a lot about people and yourself when you do.