are you sending the right signals at work?

When it comes to how you’re perceived at work, it might be tempting to think that the quality of your work is all that matters. But the reality is that your colleagues’ perceptions of you depend on much more than just the work you produce. Consciously or unconsciously, most people in a workplace pay attention to everything from who you hang out with to how you’ve decorated your office. And while that might sound superficial, it’s human nature to make assumptions from all the data you give people.

Wondering what signals you might be sending without even realizing it? Here are some of the most common.

What time you arrive and leave each day

In most workplaces, the number of hours you spend in the office still matters. If you’re out the door as soon as the clock strikes 5 p.m. every day or if you regularly show up after 10 a.m., you risk being seen as someone who’s putting in the bare minimum, not fully committed to work, or even “getting away with something.”

In fact, research shows that even if you have your boss’s explicit permission to work a flexible schedule, managers often assume that employees show up at work later in the day are less conscientious and less effective at their jobs. (The good news? You might be in luck if your manager is a night owl. Researchers have found that night owls are less likely to judge people by what hours they choose to work.)

Who your work friends are

No matter how good your work is, if your closest work relationships are with coworkers who slack off, chronically complain, or have strained relationships with your organization’s management, you’re at risk of being seen the same way. Colleagues will assume that you wouldn’t be spending so much time with these particular work mates if you didn’t share a similar orientation to work or at least sympathize with their viewpoints. Whether or not that’s reasonable is up for debate, but it’s a common perception.

Of course, the opposite of this is also true: If you mainly hang out with your company’s high achievers, you’re more likely to be seen as possessing a similar work ethic and approach to office life. (And it might even rub off for real – group norms about work ethic are often contagious!)

How you behave in meetings

Yes, if you’re like most people, you attend too many meetings and struggle to stay awake at times. But if you regularly remain silent in meetings and don’t participate, your colleagues are likely to think that you either don’t have much to contribute or that you’re disengaged. The latter is especially true if you’re obviously checking your phone, responding to emails, or otherwise preoccupied with your laptop screen.

Other meeting behaviors might be sending off signals you don’t intend too. Spending the meeting slouched down into your chair can make you come across as uninterested or lacking confidence. Looking impatient to get your turn while others are speaking can make you seems overly aggressive or simply rude. And of course, don’t forget to think about your facial expression: If you’re rolling your eyes or looking angry in a meeting, people are likely to notice it and think it anything from unprofessional to signs of a serious attitude problem.

How you decorate your office

Just like you might expect people to draw conclusions from how you dress and groom yourself, they’ll also draw conclusions from the way you decorate your office.

If your workspace is completely bare of any personalization – no photographs, no personal trinkets, nothing on the walls – you might be giving the impression that you’re just passing through. Rightly or wrongly, adding an art print and a few photos or knick knacks can show the space is inhabited and help change how people see you.

Of course, the opposite end of the spectrum comes with problems too. If your desk and shelves are spilling over with personal photos and figurines and visitors have nowhere to sit because your collection of clay rabbit figurines are taking up every spare surface, you risk looking like your focus is on something other than work. If you’d need to rent a small van to carry all your personal belongings home, it might be time to pare things down.

How you interact with higher-ups

How you interact with senior leaders will often shape how people view your readiness for more senior roles – and if you’ve ever seen anyone do it wrong, you know how much it matters to get it right.

Some people are overly stiff and formal when talking with their company’s leaders, which in most modern workplaces will come across as tone-deaf. Nor do you want to appear intimidated, obsequious, or overly concerned with being deferential. Of course, on the other extreme, you also don’t want to bulldoze over higher-ups (or anyone!) in conversation or be overly adversarial. It’s fine to express dissent – and savvy leaders don’t want yes-men – but if you cross over into pushiness, you’ll come across as inappropriately aggressive.

How you treat the janitor

You’re probably at least reasonably warm and polite to your boss; after all, your paycheck is riding on it. But how do you treat the office janitor, or the temps in the mail room, or the guy who sells pretzels in the lobby?

The old saying about judging a date by how he treats the wait staff applies at work too. If you snap at people or don’t acknowledge their presence – regardless of their role – you’ll come across as a jerk. But if you treat everyone with respect and warmth, you’ll usually earn respect at all levels. 

How you handle mistakes

I used to tell my staff that in nearly every case, the way they handled a mistake mattered far more to me than the mistake itself.

Downplaying a mistakes is one of the worst things you can do on the job. If your boss isn’t confident that you’ll give her bad news directly or be forthright about a problem, you’ll destroy her trust in you. If you don’t proactively own up to and take responsibility for mistakes, you’re signaling that she can’t count on you to keep her informed when it counts. A smart manager will respond to that by giving you less autonomy and high-profile, important work.

The best thing you can do when you make a mistake it to come clean. Explain what you did, why you were wrong, and what you propose doing about it now. This also works in retrospect. For instance: “Do you remember how last month I argued for moving forward with that project when Jane insisted it was a bad idea? I was wrong. Here’s what I’ve realized since then.”  This type of candor and responsibility-taking is powerful because it instills in your boss the confidence that you will give her bad news directly, and she won’t need to worry that she’ll only get negative information if she digs for it.

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Eliza Jane*

    I really like the 6th one on your list, about treating the janitor well. It reminds me of something a hiring manager told me once about lunch interviews: that it was always interesting to see how candidates treated the people at the restaurant — the host, the waitstaff, the person who comes to refill your water. You can tell a lot about a person from how they treat the random people who cross their paths. It’s the corollary to another piece of advice I heard once, which is that when you’re hiring, you should ask the receptionist who greeted the candidate for their opinion.

    1. Mimmy*

      Ditto to your post. I think janitors and other support staff often feel unappreciated, and greeting them no doubt brightens their day. After being yelled at or getting dirty looks from others in the building, it can really make a world of difference.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I like the story I read somewhere about the candidate who came in and was brusque and dismissive with the front desk receptionist. Then, a few minutes later when it was time for his meeting, the “receptionist” stood up and revealed that she was the company owner with whom he would be interviewing. *Burn!*

          1. Jamie*

            That was me – the owner of my company and the guy who did that to her was the same one who called me “chicklet.”

            Not just Chicklet, but Chicklet with a big wink and simultaneous finger guns and mouth clicking (to mimic finger shooting me?)

            He was fun.

      2. Liane*

        I think there have been several comments and posts on the blog about people who did this and lost out on jobs, clients, etc.

      3. Jessa*

        This, if the person in question is rotten to the receptionist, security person, whoever the point of first contact is, because “lower status,” or whatever they pretty much go into the reject pile.

  2. Adam*

    #5. My first true office job out of college I sat at my desk for about six months without putting up a single item that could be considered personalized. It just didn’t occur to me to do anything about that. My director, a sweet older lady who had spent the first half of her career working in public education, was very concerned that this was a sign I hated my job and was going to leave at any moment. She even openly asked me once if I liked my job based solely on that!

    Being a simple guy who put no thought into decorating my workspace (and not wanting to spend money on it) I found it hilarious (in private) how much she relaxed when I put up a few generic photos from an old calendar and brought one of those stress reliever squishy balls.

    1. BRR*

      I’m also a spare decorator, partially because it doesn’t bother me to have my space plain and partially because I work in higher ed and we get school spirit tchotchkes pretty frequently. One of my coworkers prefers a busy space and keeps trying to get me to decorate more because it was boring. Can I go back and add this to overly nosy coworkers?

    2. Stephanie*

      Ha. I had a similar situation. I hadn’t decorated my cube at all (I’m not much of a decorator in general). I don’t think people put that much stock into it (and turnover at our office was high). My friend saw my cube and thought it was bleak and I should decorate it. So I put up all these postcards on one cube wall. I probably overdid it. I didn’t have armies of rabbit figurines or anything, but I don’t think the postcards made me look very serious (which was important at that job).

      1. Jamie*

        I wouldn’t recommend it, but am I the only one who thinks an army of rabbit figurines would be awesome.

        They would be my army…I would command them and together we would rule the world…

        I would train them in auditing and together we could rule the well ordered and procedure compliant world…

        1. Bea W*

          This is a job requirement for people working in rabbit shelters and rescue offices. If your rabbit figurine army is not up to snuff you will be spoken to and possibly sent to go compost litterboxes as part of your PIP.

    3. Jennifer*

      My job requires very little paper. I almost never have to print things out since most of what i do is online in spreadsheets and databases. Plus I use online tools for lists, etc. I used to get snarky comments about how easy my job must be or that I must not be very busy–even though I work about 60 hours a week. To shut people up I put a spiral notebook on my desk and an inbox with some papers in it. It worked. The funny thing is, the spiral is from an old job. I just turn the pages from time to time so there is writing visible. No one has ever noticed.

      1. Adam*

        You are very clever and much more diplomatic. I’d just put a big potted plant on my desk and say “There’s your paper”, and I’m not even that eco-friendly.

    4. WorkingMom*

      I can totally relate! When I started in my current role I didn’t do a thing to “decorate” my cube. I didn’t have one personal item, I was actually thinking the other way, “I want people to know that when I’m at work at work and I’m focused.” A few years I later I got married and put up ONE wedding photo. Fast forward a few years and I now have kid pics, cards, keepsakes, a couple trinkets, etc.

  3. Seal*

    The flexible schedule issue always makes me crazy. For most of the jobs I’ve had, when you come in has always trumped when you leave. Those of us who came in later and left later where always ostracized by the people who came in early and left early. Funny how those people thought it was OK to snark about people who came in late, yet no one dared question THEIR schedules.

    At my current job, our public service hours extend into the evening. While those hours are generally covered by part-time staff, occasionally the FT staff needs to stay late and either come in later or take time off the next day. Despite the fact that this option is available to everyone and many people take advantage of this flexibility, people still snark and complain about what time people get to work. Maddening.

    1. C Average*

      That’s funny. I’ve always felt like it was a little bit the opposite.

      I come in EXTREMELY early (like between 5 – 6 a.m.) because I’m just a total morning person and can get a ton done (plus connect with Asia and Europe) if I follow my natural inclinations to be up and at work early. I’m usually the first one here.

      I’m nearly always the first one to leave in the afternoon (usually between 4 – 5) and I always feel a little bit judged as I’m walking out the door. I don’t let this bother me too much, because the people who actually matter (my boss, her boss, etc.) know what kind of schedule I keep and have no issues with it. Besides, the down side of being a morning person is that I fade early, too. After about 3 p.m., I’m darn near mentally useless until I get a second wind around 7 p.m.

      I’m always a little bit happy when something big and important happens in the early morning and I get to take care of it. I feel like I’m giving the business tangible evidence that it’s a benefit to have me here at the crack of dawn.

      1. Jamie*

        I have found it to be the opposite, too. I get in later – about the same time my boss does – and am almost always the one closing the office. People talk about my hours and how I’m always here and work so much and I’m the one who has to point out that Jane works longer hours than me almost always – she just gets in at 5:00 am so people see her leaving, they don’t see her come in.

        I guess it depends on the company and the hours of the people who are being judgy about others.

        What pisses me off is when people get judgy about others for leaving “early” just because they’re accustomed to them working 11 hour days. No, Bob isn’t “cutting out early” at 10 hours just because you need him for something and he’s usually here, but today he isn’t. Huge pet peeve.

        It’s really odd, but the people who are the most judgmental are always the ones who work as close to 40 as possible, or under if the boss is out of the office. Nothing wrong with not wanting to work more than you have to, but I’ve never seen the people who put in excessive hours giving a crap about other people’s schedules (unless it’s a direct report and they have to care.)

        My theory is the clock watchers assume everyone is trying to get over – when most people aren’t.

      2. mm*

        I agree . I’m an early bird and I have had people comment more than once when they see me leaving at 4pm. I come in earlier than required and I also frequently work from home so when I leave at 4pm I have usually put in at least nine hours. Because I carpool I don’t have flexibility in what time I leave so I usually leave promptly at 4pm. I am not a slacker and don’t like being viewed as one because I leave at 4pm every day. My boss isn’t concerned, nor are my direct reports. They see that I send out emails or complete reports at 4am or 9pm and know that all my work is not done in the office between 7:30am and 4:00 pm.

      3. Shortie*

        C Average, I’ve had the same experience as you. Most of my working life, I’ve worked in the 7-4 range because that is simply when I am most productive. People make comments about me leaving early all the time, even though I’ve already been there a full workday and they are not working any longer than I am with their 9-6 or 11-8 schedules (or whatever).

      4. WorkingMom*

        C Average – I’m exactly the same! I come in around 5:30am and am out the door by 4pm. I once said to someone who asked me to review something around 4 or 5pm, if I could review it in the morning. I think I actually said, “I make bad decisions after 3pm.”

    2. Jenn*

      I feel like this officially is becoming less and less of an issue as time goes by. I get into work around 8 a.m. and I’m usually here about an hour before anyone else on my team. I have kids I drop off at school so it’s stupid for me to go home and sit around watching The Today Show when I’m already ready and dressed. I get to work early. I handle a number of things. Often I’m here to put out early morning emergencies. I’m fine with it. Everyone else comes in around 9:15/9:30. I leave at around 4:45 (our office officially closes at 4:30) because I have to pick up two kids from two different daycares. Others leave around 5:30ish. They handle the late night things and I handle the early morning things. It evens out.

      My boss is a single man with no children who lives across town. I have two kids and live a block away from the office. I’m not going to adopt his schedule just as I wouldn’t expect him to adopt mine just because. Being responsive seems more important. He knows that if something happens at 7 p.m., he can call me on the phone and I’ll pick up. I know that if the world caves in at 8 a.m., I can call him for back-up.

  4. Mimmy*

    Time you arrive and leave: I actually wish I had the option of being able to stay late if I needed to. It really stinks that, when you need to leave so as not to miss the next bus/train, a last-minute issue arises. The trains maybe not so much because of frequent peak-hour runs, but the bus for specific routes around here only come once an hour, even during peak hours.

    Behavior in meetings: This is something I’ve always struggled with, especially when I start getting antsy as meetings run long or someone is going on and on and on and on about something. I also tend to not say much.

    1. Shortie*

      I struggle with meetings as well. In my organization, we have far too many meetings and everyone has learned that they have to “weigh in” on everything to appear engaged. So the meetings go on way too long with people rewording things that other people say just so they have something when their turn comes, etc.

      When I have something of substance to say, I’m not shy about speaking up. But in other cases–although I am HIGHLY engaged–I won’t say anything or will simply say “I agree” because I don’t want to be one of those annoying “reworders.” This sometimes causes problems because I’m not joining the charade.

  5. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I have a major beef with the office decor bit.

    I get some people like to personalize their work spaces.  Fine.  It’s extremely prejudiced and unfair to judge those who choose not to.  No personalization doesn’t mean I’m passing through; it means I want to dedicate my personal space to work-related items.  I want to be taken seriously.  Coworkers, colleagues, etc. ought to know that about me, and if they don’t know that, then they should get to know me instead of thinking they can make judgments about who I am as an employee based on what my office looks like.  (Seriously just look at my resume and see if I’ve ever done the passing through bit.)

    Quite frankly, I don’t think hoards of pictures with drunk college friends at parties or in exotic locales or a million pictures with the significant other are good ideas either, but I don’t judge those people by it.  One of the most dedicated coworkers I ever had?  Her cube looked like a freshman dorm room with all the photos, greeting cards, work-related stuffed animal, etc., but she was amazing to work with.  (I agree with Jerry Seinfeld’s bit on family photos at the office.)

    One other thing…the reason people cover up mistakes?  Research shows that people who *project* more confidence (regardless if they actually have it) are more likely to be perceived by their bosses and peers as intelligent, competent, and reliable.  The study was based on a college class, a made up historical figure, and students who BSed everyone on their knowledge of that historical figure.  (Surprise!  Those BSers were perceived as being more knowledgeable about the subject overall.)

    1. Jamie*

      But do you dedicate your personal space to work related items because you want to be taken seriously, or was that a separate point? Because you can’t use a non-personal work space to send one message (taken seriously) and not expect others could interpret it differently.

      It’s been years since I’ve done this, and I wouldn’t do it now because of the message – but it was always a tell for me when there was nothing personal. It meant I would bolt in a second if I could.

      I don’t have a lot of personal anything

    2. LQ*

      I agree about the office decorations. I have set a couple things up that have helped a lot. I have a couple boxes that contain work things (they are little mini studios for audio recordings) but are cloth boxes, and some fingerless gloves hanging on my wall (sometimes it is cold and they are helpful for doing typing when chilled without wearing a blanket which I’m not a fan of). This alone has made a huge difference, I think it’s the cloth that makes it look softer. But my favorite are the people who think because my desk isn’t covered in paper I’m not working…These things are not related at all…

    3. Kai*

      I don’t think I would judge someone for having no personalized items at their desk–it’s petty. But decorating can very easily be done without hurting your professionalism, say with a nice photo of your pet or your family, or having a little plant on your desk.

    4. Shortie*

      I used to have a beef with office decor as well. I am a real minimalist, as in, my house isn’t even decorated that much. So . . . I had NOTHING at the office. Once I realized this bothered other people, I hung up a sweater on my cube wall, exchanged my boring stapler for a neon-colored one, and started leaving my notepad out on the desk instead of putting it in my drawer. Granted, these aren’t decorations, and they were all useful (which appeals to my minimalism), but they made the cube look more like I was sticking around.

      1. Jamie*

        Stuff like this totally works. I don’t have a ton of personal things but my pencil cup is pink faux alligator, and enough of my office supplies are pink to let you know you’re in my office…but not so many that you assume I’m Barbie IT.

        And I don’t know who put the HK decal on the server cabinet…darn vandals.

        (and by vandals I mean my boss.)

        But the personal stuff? I wouldn’t even need a box to leave, it would all fit in my purse. I’d leave behind the History of Programming Languages poster in my office and my toothpaste and other assorted toiletries in my bathroom drawer for them to remember me by.

        Like I’m going anywhere – I can’t even get out of here to go home for dinner.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I have not seen a lot of decorating in offices and it jumps out at me when an office is heavily decorated. Of course, we view the world through our own lenses. When I see a lot of decorative stuff around I wonder how the person can work, so I am kind of surprised by this perception. I have knick-knacks and what-not at home, I really don’t want a bunch of it at work. I will bring in small things that I can use during my work day, for example, a fan, an extra sweater and things like cough drops.

      But it could be that I am actually a minimalist who is in denial about minimalist tendencies.

    6. Graciosa*

      I do understand that it seems unfair to be judged by a lack of personal items in the work space, but I think that this is one of those areas where people are going to continue to react to the message they receive when viewing an “empty and impersonal” workspace rather than the message you are intending to send. If you want to fix the communication gap (and you may not) you have to change the visual communication.

      It’s amazing how much you can tell from how someone arranges their space. Mine is totally different – I mean TOTALLY different – from that of a co-worker who has an almost identical job, and we both differed quite a bit from our previous boss.

      If the desired message is hard-working professional, I think the traditional cues involve awards / diplomas / certifications in fancy frames. I don’t use those, but I do have a print of a historic building on my campus which is a topic of conversation – and if you think about it, it doesn’t really tell anyone anything that isn’t available on LinkedIn or my resume. I actually could walk out of my office and leave it there without any heartburn (possibly not true of my diplomas!) but it gives people something to look at and talk about.

    7. ClaireS*

      I don’t see having (or faking) confidence and hiding mistakes as aligned in any way. I have (mostly) faked my confidence for years (with pretty good results) but I also own up to mistakes and I don’t consider myself a BSer. To me, it takes a lot more confidence to say “hey, I screwed up” than to hide it. It shows that your confident enough in your overall work output that you trust your not going to be fired to penalized too harshly.

  6. Betty*

    I agree with most of these except #1. I’m an hourly employee so I arrive on time and leave at 5pm on the dot. If overtime or comp time was an option, I’d gladly stay later to finish projects.

  7. Kai*

    The timing thing is one reason I’m glad to be an hourly employee. There are drawbacks, but the fact that I HAVE to clock out at a certain time means that I don’t have to stick around for 9 or 10 hours a day just to make a good impression. I mean, if I were salaried and had a job that required extra time regularly, fine…but to stay late at work just so people don’t think I’m slacking off sounds kind of miserable.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      We were just talking about this at work yesterday. I’m hourly too. I live clear across town from work in an industrial area, and though it’s not a long commute, it’s a very aggravating one. I arrive a bit late and leave a bit late, or cut it off my lunch hour. I seriously don’t need 10 hours to get my work done and most companies I’ve been with don’t like to pay overtime anyway. I’m happy being hourly and if it changed, I’d probably fight it.

      The other thing about salaried is that it tends to be people who are a bit higher up on the pay scale, but when you average out all the extra hours they’re working, they sometimes end up making less than I do!

  8. BadPlanning*

    The most common decorating technique at my office is the cardboard box(es) of stuff from your last office that you never unpacked in your new office.

  9. Waiting Patiently*

    I’m sure it’s safe to say that #1 doesn’t apply to hourly staff. Although it seems like some people still judge us as if we are salaried. I will come in early or stay late if needed…but our company is really strict about us working our set hours (and doesn’t really offer flexibility within our shift…so I’m not always on board to help out with earlier or later shifts)
    Anyway, If I stay until 3:30 to tie up loose ends because it was a crazy day, I have to submit that in writing or else I won’t get paid. I notice that some people still stay later and a few come in early to look like they are working harder than the rest of us–I guess.

  10. Ed*

    I’ve always felt that how you’re perceived at work is incredibly important. I actually consider this one of the biggest factors of my career success. We all know people who are clueless yet upper management loves them. Many people assume they’re suck-ups but they are often just masters at managing their image. Management above your direct manager typically has no idea about the quality of your work. All they see is you, your interaction with co-workers and the state of your work space from a distance. Fair or not, their opinion about your value as an employee is often built with no knowledge of your work product.

    1. Jamie*

      Absolutely perception often matters more than reality.

      I read recently that how your co-workers judge your work ethic in the first 3 months will stick for the length of the job – how first impressions of some things are super hard to change.

      I have significantly changed my opinions about people a couple of times, but more often than not if I find you lacking in work ethic initially it only gets worse as you get more comfortable.

    2. AB Normal*

      “Management above your direct manager typically has no idea about the quality of your work. All they see is you, your interaction with co-workers and the state of your work space from a distance. Fair or not, their opinion about your value as an employee is often built with no knowledge of your work product.”

      I’m lucky that in my company things are not like that. A few months into the job, a C-level executive saw me in the cafeteria and asked me what I thought of John, one of the professionals from a group that was supposed to serve my group. I paused, then said, “Mary is great! She did such a great job in our project, blahblahblah”. He laughed, and said, “yeah, Mary is great. Let’s just say that MARY works hard, and MARY gets things done, huh?”.

      I was actually surprised because I had seen how bad John was at the job: lazy, going to work late, leaving early, letting all work to poor Mary to deal with.

      Soon after, John was let go, and Mary got promoted. It’s actually very easy to get a sense about who’s working hard and who’s being helpful etc. if you follow the “manage by walking around” rule…

  11. Whippers*

    I actually do not agree with #7 to a large extent. I think that the bigger deal you make of your own mistakes the bigger a deal other people make of them. Sometimes, if the mistake isn’t a big deal, it pays to treat it like its not a big deal.

    1. Jamie*

      No one should wear a hairshirt over little errors for sure – but you can own your mistakes without making a big deal out of them. There is no better way to earn credibility.

      If I send something with an error and catch it and send a revised copy with a “sorry, disregard the last version my mistake.” or whatever it’s not making a big deal about it, but it makes people comfortable in being able to own their own mistakes and know it won’t be a big deal either.

      And yes, a serious mistake that costs someone time or money or caused complications for them deserves an apology without casting a wide blame net. If I screw up I own it and I fix it. Acknowledging it is just the responsible thing to do and it has a fabulous collateral benefit of people trusting you.

      If you admit when it’s you I’m FAR more likely to believe you when you say it isn’t you. If it’s never you? The default will be it’s always you. Because I’ve yet to meet a completely error free person so when every single thing ever was wholly the fault of someone else…I don’t have time to put Scooby Doo on the case, I’ll just assume it’s you and dig for evidence if I need to make it official.


  12. Andrew*

    Not treating a mistake like a big deal and covering it up are not the same thing. In fact, covering it up might make it look like a bigger deal than it actually was.

  13. Just Visiting*

    About personal decorations: One thing I noticed in my last permanent job is that nobody 35 and under had any pictures on their desk whatsoever. All of the over-35 people did. Some of us younger ones kept other types of things on our desks, although we all tended toward a much barer look. I kept almost nothing at my desk because I spent more time away from it than at it (due to the nature of the job). A couple of postcards from trips, that’s it. But the pictures… I think it has something to do with phones and the fact that if I want to call up a pic of my SO/pet/parents, I can just do that immediately. I don’t even have a photo or color printer and I haven’t used film since the mid-00s. Like, it would actually cost me a not-insignificant amount of money to have a tangible photograph of anything. Does anyone else notice an age divide here, or was it just where I worked?

    1. AB Normal*

      In my office it’s the opposite: the younger crowd has tons of knick knacks on their desks, and we over 35 don’t :-).

  14. Turquoise Moon*

    I like looking at nice things at work. I went through a period of having castles set as my desktop background–Tintagel, Krak des Chevaliers, etc.–then I switched to Valentino in his Sheik movies. Because I could seriously gaze at him all day. Now it’s art. I had some of the Course of Empire pictures up, and now it’s a Monet, two people on a cliff above the sea. I figure, I’m there for 8 1/2 hours a day, I might as well have something worthwhile to look at.

    1. ClaireS*

      I also appreciate a good screen background. I usually use one with a monthly calendar from Smashing Magazing. They’ve been a bit disappointing these past few months but there is usually one or two I get into.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Sounds nice. I’m planning to make a slideshow of some pics when I get back from vacation. Right now, my cube and screen are nerded out with Harry Potter, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Star Wars.

  15. Anne*

    My cube isn’t decorated with anything personal – the only items that are actually mine are a mug and water bottle from home – but it’s definitely lived-in. I have a work-issue calendar, phone numbers, notes and schedules up on the walls, along with a nice paper clip holder, pen cup and stapler (all ordered through work’s office supplier) on the desk. It seems to work just fine, and I don’t have to bring in knick-knacks per personal photos I don’t want at work.

  16. Ruthan*

    Random and marginally related observation, but I really appreciate the selection of photos that went with this article :)

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