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Aug 27, 2015   [permalink]

Decorating Your Workspace

Sexist calendars say "fire me"

Whether you're a grad student, phone monkey, security guard or Grand Vizeer of Techno-Awesomeness, you're going to have some amount of workspace set aside just for you. And whether it's a truckload or a shopping bag, you're going to have a certain amount of personal stuff you don't want to haul to work and back with you every day. You know: calendars, coffee mugs, pictures of your family, a change of clothes in case you spill something, and of course that TARDIS-shaped mint dispenser you picked up at Comic-Con.

But listen up, Dilbert, because how you express yourself here is just as important as what you say and wear, and even more important than what you drive. The Eye of Sauron is ever upon you, and the enemies of nerdkind are vigilant for reasons to dismiss you as a hopeless cause. On the other hand, if you blend in too well, then even your fellow geeks may not recognize you for one of their own, and you could once again be missing out on the chance to connect with folks who could be close friends and powerful allies. So, you want to follow the same basic rule here as you do with your clothes: class it up a little more than you think you need to, but leave a small number signaling-theory cues lying around.

The TARDIS is actually a great example, because to the mythical "normal" person, it doesn't look like anything more than a doll-house version of an old phone booth. Quirky, yes, but tasteful. Unless they look really closely they won't recognize it as a mid-20th-century London police box, much less a time machine, and if they do happen to ask why you have it, you can just say "It's from a TV show, Dr. Who." And that will be that.

Swap in a life-sized cutout of Master Chief or an office chair modeled on the Iron Throne and things get a little harder to explain, right? And remember, too, unless you own the company it isn't really "your" space at all, any more than a seat on a park bench is yours, so any eyesores or political hot-potatoes you hang out there are affecting a lot more than just your own image. This is particularly true in spaces that customers and other visitors might see, which is most of them, so if the boss tells you to take something down, it's not so much a personal indictment as a concern for messaging at the organizational level.

So unless you want the organization to mount a massive immune response against you, please, dress your space accordingly.

More anon.

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