What’s on your wall?

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

Look around your workspace. You’re sending messages to visitors whether you realize it or not.

From the wall decor to the photos on your desk, your office reflects your personality and the image you want to project. In a broader sense, it shapes the organizational culture.

The former chief financial officer of Enron Corp., Andrew Fastow, placed a cube on his desk that defined “communication” as “when Enron says it will rip your face off, it means it will rip your face off,” according to The New York Times. Fastow is now serving a six-year prison sentence.

Some executives opt for gentler messaging. Brad Smith, CEO of software maker Intuit, has framed stills from the movies Forrest Gump and Gladiator on his office wall. He tells SmartMoney magazine that the photos provide inspiration.

A president at a big insurance company has a bulletin board along one wall of his office. It’s divided into three columns entitled PEOPLE, PROCESS and PROFITS. He posts items related to each of these subject headings in the appropriate column.

When I visit this executive, I can see at a glance how much he cares about these three priorities. He’ll gesture at the bulletin board to cite a streamlined process or employee success story. He’ll grab a spreadsheet from the board that tracks sales volume or profit margins for a product line.

Your choice of office decor can reinforce what matters most to you—for better or worse. At most organizations, it’s fine to display a few family photos and an artifact or two that symbolize your favorite hobby. But if you overdo it, visitors might question where your passion truly lies.

If you want to convey humor, proceed with caution. Managers with a fondness for “Hang in there baby, Friday’s coming” posters probably won’t endear themselves to the top brass.

Bottom-Line Idea

When digging for information, ask “why” questions. That’s better than making inquiries that call for a yes-no answer. If you’re worried that an employee continues to use outdated software, ask, “Why do you like that software?” rather than, “Are you sure that software still works?” If a worker seeks a pay raise, ask, “Why do you think you deserve it?” rather than, “Do you think this is the best time to ask?”

 

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