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What Does Your Workspace Say About Your Work Ethic?

messy desk workspace officeIs your desk a complete mess or pristinely organized?  Personally, I like to keep my workspace clean and neat.  In fact, I’ve been told I must have some form of O.C.D. because everything is perfectly in order.  But is a clean desk really a good thing?  Does it signal to your manager that you don’t have enough to do?  Does it leave the impression that you are more concerned with keeping your desk clean than actually being productive?

Last week, my boss walked by my row of cubicles, stopped at my fellow coworker’s cube who sits next to me and said, “Man, you’ve got the cleanest house on the street…”  Of course he had to walk by on a day where I was buried in work and had papers all over my desk, had stuff on the floor, and my workspace really looked like a mess.  It infuriated me that he got the verbal award of cleanliest workspace when I’m the one who actually takes pride in keeping my workspace clean.  So that day, I decided to take 15 minutes out of my day and completely cleaned up my workspace.

Later that day, my coworker (who won the cleanest cube award) came into my cube and said, “What the hell did you do?”  I told him, “I was upset that you had the cleanest house on the street, so I cleaned everything up.”  Then he told me, “Well you’ve got to at least make it look like you live here, because people want to see that you’re actually working on something.”  That’s when I started thinking, what’s better?  A messy workspace, or a clean one?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the correct answer to that question?  I don’t even know if there is one.  I just know that I will continue to keep my workspace as clean as possible.  I don’t think my work ethic should be judged by the way my desk looks, because I’m a very productive worker no matter what my desk looks like.

So, I’m hoping there are some managers out there that can help me answer this question, because I’d really like to know your opinion on this topic.

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Categories: Office Life Tags: , , ,
  1. June 7, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    In my opinion it doesn’t matter how neat your workspace is–what matters is how well you deliver value as an employee. As a supervisor for over twenty years I’ve seen neatniks that produce incredible results and some who are just holding down the chair. Some of the people who have done the best work for me have worked in what I would consider a mess, but it met their needs and personality.

    But that’s me. If your boss gets all itchy everytime she sees your desk, if it makes her uncomfortable either way, then you may want to play along. For some people, that can be a real issue, so it might be worth paying attention to their preference. I’m not particularly neat myself, so when I first started supervising, I was suspicious when an employee’s desk was always immaculate. I’ve learned to appreciate how it works for those employees, but not everyone will.

    • June 7, 2011 at 5:26 PM


      Thanks for sharing your opinion on this subject. It’s good to know that there are managers/supervisors out there who value productiveness over cleanliness. I’m also glad that you feel it doesn’t matter either way, as long as the work is getting done.


  2. Clean
    October 27, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Hi Kevin, I just had to comment on your post to Eric and his comments regarding a clean office vs a messy office. In your response you told Eric that his boss gets all itchy everytime SHE sees your desk but Eric said his boss was a man when he stated “Of course HE had to walk by on a day where I ….. “. I just thought it was rather funny that you would relate a boss wanting a clean workspace to be a woman.

  1. July 20, 2011 at 5:32 AM

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