What your desk can say about your personality

If your desk lies under a mountain of paperwork and polystyrene cups it could be sending out negative messages about you to your...

If your desk lies under a mountain of paperwork and polystyrene cups it could be sending out negative messages about you to your work colleagues. And if one of those people is your boss, it could affect your next request for a salary rise or a promotion. According to a study in a recent issue of the Journal of Personality and...

Social Psychology, the state of your desk speaks volumes about your personality. Sam Gosling, who led the study, said, "We will often look around a room and form an impression of the person working or living there. We sometimes make very important decisions about people... and we may be partially basing those opinions on a person's workspace." Gosling asked people to rate the conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional stability of others purely by looking at their workspaces. The results revealed that items such as family photographs in a workspace show someone to be easy-going, sentimental and confident; while a tidy desk with files organised into alphabetical order denotes a hard-working, work-focused person. However, Gosling warned that some items can be deceptive. Someone with posters of trendy films or famous singers, for example, may just be trying to look cool. Others may bring in mountains of expensive equipment but are just craving recognition.

Three tips for desk success   

  • Think about what sort of impression you want to give with the appearance of your desk. Do you want to be seen as the benevolent work colleague always there to lend a hand, or as the hard-working, focused employee who keeps the company's work-rate up?  
  • Make sure your desk gives a positive impression. Think about the sort of traits people might associate with you and the state of your desk.  
  • Arrange your desk in a way that is comfortable to you. There is no point setting out your desk neatly if you are not naturally a neat person.
This was last published in July 2003

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