Judge staff by their desks

If you want to learn more about your employees or, even about yourself, take a look at their desks. Recent research shows how to spot the artist and the control freak in your office.

The research, from printer cartridge supplier Jet Tec International was conducted in conjunction with psychologist Donna Dawson, who curiously specialises in office psychology, and suggests that a person’s work area sends clear messages about their personality and abilities.

‘Your desk, much like your clothing, is an extension of yourself, and projects a certain image,’ explains Dawson. ‘People form strong impressions of you based on the appearance of your desk. This means you could be sending out all the right – or wrong – messages.’

The five different desk categories identified are:

The ‘Artistic Temperament’ Desk

This desk is cluttered, but in an interesting way: books, papers, folders, drawings, photos, artwork and artefacts are all casually strewn across the desk and piled on top of each other. There will be ‘post-it’ notes pinned everywhere, to remind the desk owner of project deadlines and people to contact. He/she has a lively, enquiring mind, a strong imagination, abundant creative ability, and a “gut” feeling about things. Many media people and creative ‘types’ fall into this desk category.

The ‘Self-Expression’ Desk

This desktop is an extension of the outgoing person sitting behind it, and it will contain lots of personal touches, such as posters, photos, postcards, cartoons, funny sayings, a zany mouse-mat, etc. One or two mugs will be in evidence, as this person could not survive without their coffee break. This desk-owner is an extrovert, sociable and talkative, with a good sense of humour. Their desks act as a meeting place for others, and this type is often relied on to dispense advice.

The ‘Control Freak’ Desk

This desktop may have little on it, or the contents may be neatly arranged to show order and control. Any files or paper stacks will be piled neatly, and any ‘overlapping’ will be neatly constructed. Items such as post-it notes and sellotape will be avoided like the plague because they are ‘too messy’. This desktop owner prides him/herself on being organised and in control. He/she may have trouble getting started, but once into their work they can concentrate completely.

The ‘Trophy’ Desk

This is a slightly messy desk with a collection of “things”. These things may be favourite items, but there is a ‘show-off’ feel to them. They could range from travel posters or souvenirs of places visited, to remnants of various work campaigns or sports paraphernalia. These desk owners are friendly, energetic, ambitious, often noisy people, who relate well to others. This is no shrinking violet – these people crave appreciation and attention. Many entrepreneurial types fall into this category.

The ‘Show-Off’ Desk

This is a desk that projects a ‘heightened’ image of the person who sits behind it. It is always a large desk, luxuriously made, usually solid dark wood with leather inlay. It may have very little on it, and everything will be strategically placed. However, there is another version of this desk, which does have personal effects on it. These effects will be expensive and classy, and may include gifts given to the desk-owner: for example, a leather-framed photo of a family member or expensive writing implements. This personality craves attention, has high ambitions and aspirations, and needs to feel a cut above the rest. They have a tendency to be arrogant and class-conscious, but balance this out with charm and interesting conversation. He/she works hard and plays hard.

See also: Abolish the clean desk policy in your office to increase creativity

Related Topics

Office workspace