Is a messy desk costing you a promotion?

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Click for more infoIf reality TV has accomplished anything for humanity, aside from giving us some amazing wig-pulling fights, it has helped us all realize we’re not alone in this world. You like watching people live in a house with strangers, whom they will eventually fight, drink with, and then kiss? Me, too! You’re not smarter than a fifth grader? Neither am I!

Recently America has become fixated on people who have trouble throwing out old items. Furniture, paper, and garbage accumulate in people’s homes until they’re forced to eat their meals in their cars parked in the driveway.  More than one reality show focuses on the apparently common problem of hoarding, and viewers can’t get enough of it. Perhaps we see ourselves in these people. Or maybe we’re too lazy to change the channel. Either way, hoarding fascinates us.

A new CareerBuilder survey suggests that many of us are hoarders, at least at the office. You might not have piles of garbage amassing in your living room, but do you have stacks of folders and documents covering your desk at work? If so, you could be unwittingly damaging your own career. When asked, 28 percent of employers admitted they are less likely to promote someone who has a disorganized or messy workspace.

Although not every employer views cubicle clutter as cause for concern, many do judge workers for a lack of tidiness. Thirty-eight percent of employers say piles of paper covering a desk negatively impact their perceptions of that worker. Another 27 percent view these workers are disorganized. Still, 16 percent simply consider these workers messy.

Here’s what workers had to say about their own hoarding tendencies:

  • 33 percent of workers consider themselves hoarders.
  • 51 percent of workers still have paper files in their office or desk, which might surprise you considering how digital we’ve become.
  • 38 percent of workers admit that 50-100 percent of their desk surfaces are covered with work and other items
  • 16 percent of workers say at least 75 percent of their desks are covered with documents and tchotchke.
  • 36 percent of workers still have paper files that are at least a year old
  • 13 percent of workers have paper files that are five years or older
  • 6 percent of workers still can’t let go of files that are 10 years or older

Although survey respondents don’t seem to be as buried as some of the people you see on TV, the results are good reminders that bosses do pay attention to your workspace. By now I think most workers are aware that appearances matter when it comes to clothes. You don’t wear a wrinkled suit or dingy tennis shoes to most workplaces. But don’t forget to get rid of the paper on your desk because it could send an equally unprofessional impression to your boss.

View the full infographic here.

Do you think employers are overreacting? Do you judge a co-worker by their desks? What’s the oldest item you’ve been hoarding at your desk? Let us know.

  1. I’m certainly not as organized as I would like to be, but the clutter has less of an impact than its cause. I frequently have to stop one urgent project to handle another (more urgent) project. When I return to the first, I have to refocus and determine if any of the parameters have changed while I was away.

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