All of us want to get ahead at work, but hard work alone doesn’t seem to make it happen for many of us. Some might even say you can’t get ahead without kissing up to the boss or someone at a higher level. While these “angels” will certainly help you move up, here is 1 easy step you can take TODAY that will help you move up the ladder that you probably were never aware of.
Make sure your desk is always clear of anything other than a phone, your office computer, a small, framed picture of your family (if you want). Be sure the desk is always spotless.
At first glance, this seems strange. How could someone not have paper or their current project on their desk? I need to be working on something and I need access to all of the related paperwork. Also, why would having things on my desk make a difference? I want to be remembered and having something that shows off my personality would certainly do that.
Before you dismiss this, think about the times you have been in an executive’s office or walked past their open door. Do you remember seeing paper on their desk? The answer almost always is NO! Do you ever see them with that signed picture of Metallica or their favorite football player right next to them in their office? NEVER
Why is that? Executives need to project that they are in charge and that they are ready for whatever comes their way. They can’t do this hiding behind a stack of papers, a bunch of file folders, a cup of coffee or fawning over someone else’s picture.
Which executive do you think is more ready to lead?
Or this one?
This same logic applies when thinking about who to promote. You want to project all of these leadership qualities so that those ahead of you on the organizational chart will notice. A stack of papers out in the open near you tells people you are stuck on things happening right now and don’t have the time, or the ability, to be looking forward. This definitely hurts your chances for promotion.
Your desk drawers are your best friends! They hide everything for you. Many people equate cleanliness with being organized and clutter with being unorganized. We know that a clean person can be just as unorganized as anyone else, but appearances can be deceiving. Being organized definitely helps but having a clear desk wins.
Be sure you are facing toward the door or aisle (as much as possible)
Quick – which way are leader’s desks facing when you walk by or enter their office? The executive may have the corner office but their desks are not facing the corner. They are looking straight ahead as you enter.
Why? They want to project that they are taking all challenges head on. They need to be out front. Facing away or worse, appearing to have been put in a corner, tells others they are controlled by fate or others. Nobody puts Baby in a corner and you shouldn’t put yourself in a corner either.
Most of us are in cubes with a computer that faces a wall. Move that computer to a spot so that you are facing those who are coming to you, as much as possible. People are reluctant to interrupt if you are not facing them. This leads to them asking you fewer questions and relying on you less. When that happens, leaders will not think of you for the bigger projects that carry more responsibility and more potential for promotion.
Set up your desk to funnel people to you. Don’t block them for coming to you.
Now that you have yourself positioned best to face people, how do you set up your desk, especially with the projects you are working on? This can be difficult because of how your cube or desk is positioned so again, think about how an executive has their desk positioned. Straight ahead. For those who can set up their desk facing toward the door or aisle, there are some very simple tips to funnel people to come to you.
- Place your computer in one corner of your desk, preferably the right corner
- It is easy to reference in a conversation while keeping the focus of you and others on the immediate issue
- It opens the space right in front of the other person so they are looking at, and to, you
- Placing the computer in the right corner is what people are used to – it will portray the ability to go with the team when necessary
- Phone in the other corner of the desk
- It blocks the other person from focusing away from the conversation
- It focuses you on the call if it is on the opposite side from your biggest potential distraction, your computer
- If you want, a small family picture, close to either the computer or the phone
- It is a nice thing to say about yourself
- It is not a third point of focus if it is close to the computer or phone
- It needs to be small so it does not become another focus point in the office
If, unfortunately, your cube is designed so that you cannot face the aisle, you need to be facing one of the cube side walls. Having your back to visitors is a bad idea. Clubber Lang (Mr. T) didn’t like it when Apollo Creed turned his back on him and most people won’t like you having your back turned to them.
Assuming you can set up your computer to face a side wall, there are a few changes to make you more available.
- Set your chair to be directly in front of your computer
- This makes you available to visitors, at least from one side
- You can also set up so as to block the phone and any other distractions from someone else’s view, projecting that cleared desk. Your cube walls will act as natural funnels to you. The taller, the better
- Set up your phone close to the wall opposite the opening to your cube
- This keeps everything open to visitors
- This will also limit the amount of space taken up by desk clutter