Are you a slob at work? Are you always shuffling papers into piles but you can’t find anything when you need it? When you tell people that you are organized, do they laugh? I bet they do. I imagine that the word prioritization is foreign to you. Listen to one sad case I encountered at work.
Janice P. was a manager in a major corporation. Who knows how she got that far! If you walked by her desk, you might cause a breeze that will stir up the myriad of documents lying about. When her boss asked for a certain piece of paper, she would panic. Here is a person who surely needed an assistant. I wonder if her supervisor gave her a demerit every time he asked for something and it didn’t appear. I felt sorry for her when he roared, “Janice, clean up that messy desk.” Her face would turn beet red.
Janice was a nice enough person which might account for the fact that she never got fired. People noticed, however, that she missed many assignments, causing the boss to give them eventually to others. She never advanced from a low-level manager to the upper crust. She had some good qualities such as coming in on time and volunteering to stay late. Too bad she didn’t tackle her pig pen when doing overtime. Let me tell you: having a messy desk makes a very bad impression. While Janice assumed that it looked like she was doing a lot of work, the fact is, it got the opposite result.
I used to have a boss who taught us as interns to organize one’s desk from day one. Never let the piles of paper get more than an inch high, she said. If you look at the bottom of a five-inch pile, most of the memos have already expired. This was a lesson well learned. You can easily miss important meetings, report deadlines, or other company information. When Janice’s supervisor was the focus of a birthday party, she missed it. She was more than ashamed. Don’t let this happen to you.
Great article. I've seen this in the workplace as well. Sometimes it's a sign that the person is overwhelmed and needs to scale back a little. For other people, it might be a sign that they have other gifts besides administration and organization, and might need a different kind of job (or as you mentioned, an assistant).
I've worked as an assistant for various bosses who aren't as organizationally inclined. It was a great match because I could help them stay on task and retrieve any item at a moment's notice, while their boldness, spontaneity, and off-the-cuff approach helped me step out of my own comfort zone. That's why it's so important to know our strengths and weaknesses and to know what kind of work is best for each of us.
The observations about the employee described in this article also remind me of other ways we can let things pile up, including digitally. While I have to keep a neat desk (or I would go crazy), I ran into a digital mess with my email inbox. I didn't even notice it until one day, my boss looked at my cell phone and saw that I had 31,000 unopened messages in my email. (Imagine if that were papers on a desk!) She told me, "Not only is that unacceptable, but if my inbox looked that way, I wouldn't even get out of bed, I'd be so overwhelmed."
She was right! I hadn't even thought of this as being a problem, but it was. Granted, Google always made it easy to search and find what I needed in that mess. But I was taking up server space and it generally left a bad impression that I was not on top of things. Plus, it made it really hard to find new messages from among the clutter, and I probably missed some important things.
I took an entire Saturday to clean it out. Now I have gotten into the habit of deleting or filing immediately. Whew!