Have you ever walked into someone’s office or cube and formed an opinion about its owner? I know I have, and I believe most other people have also. Maybe even you.

Have you ever walked into someone’s office or cube and formed an opinion about its owner? I know I have, and I believe most other people have also. Maybe even you.


That said, person unseen, what opinion would you make about the occupant from the following office décor descriptions?




A neat office with modern art on the walls, a bookcase containing industry-specific textbooks and a picture taped to the wall, obviously painted by a 4-year-old child, with the caption “MOMMY” poorly written above a person stick figure with hair.

A cluttered office with computer printouts and trade magazines from floor to ceiling and an autographed picture of a famous rock singer on the wall.

An office so clean and empty it almost seems unoccupied. The desk is clear. There are no family pictures on the wall or desk, and the books in the bookcase are sorted by height.

An office that is slightly messy but not cluttered. There are three golf trophies on top of the bookcase and there is a family picture on the desk. There is also a picture of the office occupant shaking hands with Al Gore on the wall.

These examples could go on and on. My hope is that these textual office illustrations brought different images of people to mind. Not to say that any of these types are good or bad, just different.


Now turn your thoughts inward with the following questions:




What does your office or cube look like?

What impression will your boss, staff, peers, clients and others have of you when they walk into your office for the first time?

Is this the impression that you would like them to have?

Now let’s turn the conversation one more time from you to your staff.




If you are currently a manager, what do their offices/cubes tell you about them?

Does anyone on your staff have an office/cube that you find distasteful? If so, does it affect how you think of them as a person and/or an employee?

Have you ever not promoted someone or not given them an assignment or opportunity because of their personal work environment?

How would your boss answer those same questions about you and your peers?

A number of months ago I wrote a column on dress code. It basically gave suggestions and ideas related to how a manager should dress. Like that column, this column has no single right or wrong answer. There is no one-size-fits-all. My goal here is simply to give you one more data point when you decide how your office is designed and how it looks on a day-to-day basis.


As a manager, you are judged differently than you were as an individual contributor. As a manager, your personality, ability to work with other managers, and general work style materially affect your long term success at the company. It is often referred to as your personal “fit” with the company’s overall corporate culture. How your office is decorated and maintained could, in fact, be a contributing factor to people’s overall opinion.


There are companies where an overly messy office would be looked at as extreme and unacceptable. There are other companies where a clean orderly desk would be viewed as overly meticulous and controlling. In closing, I’m not suggesting that you should not be yourself or that your office should not reflect your wants and personality, I’m just suggesting that you be aware that how your office looks, may have an impact on what your co-workers and management think of you.


The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:




How your office looks may be a contributing factor as to how you are viewed by your peers and management.

As a manager, your long-term success with a specific organization is related to how well your personality and style matches that organization’s culture. How your office looks is potentially a data point for or against you in regard to organizational fit.

Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.


Eric P. Bloom, based in Ashland, Mass., is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC. He is also a nationally syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and author of the award-winning book “Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.