Take a break from those unending business meetings, run-on telephone calls, and dinging computer program processes. Maybe it’s time to toss out a few trinkets and swap out some swag before such picayune parcels lead to a pink slip.
What are the top trinkets that do not belong in a smart careerist’s workspace?
Consider these 20 different items, arranged alphabetically, and how their appearance in an employee or manager’s cubicle or office might impact that person’s credibility on the job.
1. Bank statements
Besides the confidential nature of one’s personal financial documents, these papers may reveal more than one might like, particularly right before asking for a pay raise.
2. Booze souvenirs
Mugs, glasses, banners and other alcohol logo-etched or imprinted items might be acceptable in taverns or in the offices of a beer distributor, a brewery, or a distillery. Such items could fly in a promotional agency, if they came from client projects. Still, for most work environments, these might not be strategic displays.
3. Boredom busters
Toys, puzzles, and games can be amusing, but distracting. Unless one works for a toymaker or toy marketer, these playthings might send a less-than-ideal message at work.
4. Candid weekend photographs
We’ve all heard multitudinous warnings about posting party pictures on Facebook and other social networking sites. What about on one’s own workplace shelf?
5. Cartoon tchotchke
Figurines, post cards, and other animated figure depictions may not fit the workplace, unless they apply to projects at hand.
6. Celebrity posters
A talent agency or music promoter might display framed prints of their stable of stars. A staffer or supervisor could put up a photo of himself or herself with a celebrity, if the meeting pertained to business. Generally, however, star-struck displays might chip away at one’s on-the-job credibility. Does a rock star’s autograph or a paparazzi-like photo of a teen idol really fit on one’s bulletin board at work?
7. Drug paraphernalia
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it merits mention. That 1960s-era water pipe might fit in a museum, but it likely doesn’t belong on an employer’s property.
8. Floods of family photos
A simple framed photo collage or a few tastefully arranged family portraits are popular at work. An overflowing clutter of mismatched pictures may just look messy.
9. Jungles of plants
How many real or artificial plants does one person’s workplace need, before the spot grows from attractive to unwieldy?
10. Junk food
Many a working person will set out a candy jar, a crock of nuts, or another snack on the job. On the other hand, a stinky bag of onion or peppery nacho chips, a half-eaten hamburger, or a gooey mass of chocolates could send its scent wafting into others’ work spaces. That may not exactly be the missive a smart careerist intends to send.
11. Movie memorabilia
Classic film images may fit nicely in a cinema lobby, a video shop, a production company, or a film promoter’s office. Nicely framed movie posters might even work in a traditional office, if chosen carefully. Potentially offensive images may prove to be unfortunate displays.
12. Overflowing in-box
This one’s a biggie. Employee efficiency is often measured, if unofficially, by the appearance of one’s in-box or mailbox. This is particularly true at the end of the day.
13. Plush animals
Like toys, these adorable stuffed creatures may be better suited for the playroom than the workplace, unless they pertain to an actual project.
14. Political propaganda
What a potential quagmire this one can be. Elections may polarize people, so career-minded folks are wise to consider the potential cost of putting up plentiful political displays. It’s one thing to stand behind a candidate or for an important issue, but another step altogether to plaster stuff all over one’s workspace.
15. Pot pourri and scent-makers
Fragrant floral aromas appeal to many, but others can be dangerously allergic. Candles, pot pourri, scented atomizers, and other sweet-smelling products may be dicey in cramped quarters.
16. Racy items
This one may be self-explanatory. From photos to props or other sexually suggestive stuff, many work environments may not be suitable for such displays.
17. Religious icons
Like political materials, these may often be done tastefully without giving offense. A small plaque or figurine might work at work, showing one’s personal faith, but an ornate display may bring unexpected repercussions.
18. Sports swag
Autographed or not, athletic pictures and equipment may or may not fit in the workplace. Certainly, this may depend largely on the nature of one’s business. In any field, a treasured item or two may be fine, without transforming a serious workplace into a sporting hall of fame collection.
19. Superfluous sticky notes
Minute reminders are helpful at work, as long as they don’t become a blizzard-like flurry of papers, tacked all over one’s computer monitor or cupboard.
20. Webs of wires
Computer cables, printer cords, and phone coils can easily be bundled and tied off for workplace neatness and safety.
Essentially, uncluttered space tends to be most conducive to organization and productivity, while leaving onlookers with a positive impression.
A few additional trinket taboos may be warranted for the workplace.
Yesterday’s uniform, a week’s worth of newspapers, and an overflowing trash can might send a less-than-favorable message to clients, coworkers, and higher-ups. Once in a while, it pays to take a quick workspace inventory and pack up or toss items that might seem to stand in the way of one’s own career advancement.
The second Monday in January is always National Clean Off Your Desk Day in the United States.
This holiday of unknown origins reminds paper pushers of every stripe to clear the decks. Office clutter can be hazardous to one’s career, as well as one’s sense of focus.
What’s on your desk today?
It’s OK to mark one’s territory at work by setting out a few personality pieces, but subtlety speaks volumes, particularly for professionals. In addition, it’s smart to consider potential security issues as well, perhaps leaving prized items safely stored at home.