Poll Results: The Messy Office

Last week, we asked about the messy office — when is messy TOO messy, and whether the female propensity to have more personal stuff in your office (spare shoes, cardigans, jackets) made the answer different for women. As always, the poll is still open, but the initial results were pretty clear:

  • 51% said it was too messy when it looked like you couldn’t get work done in there
  • 26% said it was too messy if it looked like someone could live in there
  • 11% said that so long as you were getting your work done and weren’t bringing clients to your office to meet, who cared?
  • 10% said that any mess was too much mess

Commenters weighed in, also.  Janet noted that in some circles, a messy office was a “badge of honor: ‘I’m so busy working on so many cases, that I have piles of paper EVERYWHERE!'” She also commented that if you’re capable and can reliably find what’s necessary — and perhaps reliability and capability are the keys here — then you can get away with an office that looks like the scene of a tornado. This falls in line with what the other commenters said, as well; Dash noted that the messiest office she’d ever seen belonged to “the most brilliant and renowned lawyer in the office”, and Res Ipsa noted that as long as you could walk from one side of the office to the other without tripping, and so long as you weren’t causing a fire hazard, then all was well.

Additionally, we’ve found that the messy office plays into a persona we call “the eccentric genius.” This is a person who has managed to culminate and aura of extreme intelligence by being weird and quirky. Sometimes this person is, actually, extremely intelligent; sometimes it’s just average intelligence with extreme quirkiness (in this case the aura is perhaps more crafted than earned).  Cage and Fish, the partners at Ally McBeal’s office come to mind as the best example in pop culture, but we all know at least one person like this.  If your office is so messy that no one can find anything in there — yet you doand you’re incredibly capable and reliable — then it adds to the persona, we think.

Photo credit:  World’s Messiest Office Cubicle Discovered in Colorado, originally uploaded to Flickr by Jeffrey Beall


  1. Do you all think that that quirky but brilliant persona is harder for women to cultivate then men? I can’t think of any women I personally know who have managed to do so, nor pop culture examples. It seems like women are much quicker to just be labelled “crazy.”

  2. As a junior associate, I’m expected to keep a fairly neat office so it looks like I’m organized. Partners can usually get away with the “I’m so busy,” or the “I’m just so brilliant” personas.

    And I agree with A Reader that women usually can’t pull off the eccentric genius thing, without being seen as just nuts or flaky.

work fashion blog press mentions