This week’s poll is about an office space — if it’s your own, and you have a door that shuts and blocks it from view entirely, how clean do you keep it? (We’ll also assume, for the purpose of this poll, that you don’t have frequent clients or superiors coming to your office.) We have friends who keep their desks bare of all paper except the immediate project they’re working on — and we have friends who have files and boxes and loose papers and half-read magazines from the commute and pens and other things lying about on the desk and the floor, as well as spare shoes, spare clothes they keep at the office (suit jackets, more comfortable pants), and various food stuffs. Then there are the people who have the truly messy offices — the “wall of paper” offices, where you wonder how they were able to stack the files so high without the pile falling over. All this brings us to our question today: When does messy cross the line into unprofessional? Is it worse for women, who are more prone to keeping personal items (shoes, jackets, low-fat food items, etc) in their office?
What’s the messiest your office has been — and what did you do about it? Has anyone brought in professional organizers or bought office furniture to hide the mess? What’s the messiest office you’ve ever seen (and whose was it — a superior’s? junior? college professor?)
The messiest office I’ve ever seen, by far, belonged to the most brilliant and renowned lawyer in the office I worked in last summer. Apparently it doesn’t hinder him, but seriously, paper stacked three inches thick on literally every horizontal surface. Awe-inspiring.
I’d say it crosses the line when it looks like you couldn’t walk from the door to your chair without tripping over boxes of files, stacks of paper, etc. Also, if your boxes of files start to pour out into the hallway, you have a problem. (And probably the fire marshal does, too.)
I think that how your mess is viewed is likely to depend on how capable you are. If you can’t find stuff that you need, when you need it, superiors are likely to *tisk, tisk* that mess. If your office looks like the scene of a tornado, but you can still reliably put your hands on the necessary documents when needed, people are a lot less likely to care.
There are several partners (and associates) in my office who have true disaster area offices, and no one cares so long as they can still get their work done. In some circles, a messy office is practically a badge of honor: “I’m so busy working on so many cases, that I have piles of paper EVERYWHERE!”
My office is a total mess. There is a slightly more senior associate who has the most organized office I have ever seen, and I am completely envious (yet also completely befuddled as to how he does it)!