Offices and cubicles everywhere have a pretty general decorative theme: picture frames of the family, friends, and maybe a beloved pet with a few knickknacks thrown in for some lighthearted charm. It is a simple decorating scheme but enough to make you feel a little more at home—a little bit more like it’s your space. Additionally, some individuals decorate their workspaces more fully with a “home away from home” mindset.

Some include a motivational component along with these decorations. Maybe you have a picture of a place you are saving up to visit. Or maybe you have a motivational poster or quote on display that reminds you to stay focused and work hard. It’s a small thing, and everyone is different, but everyone seems to want to work in a space that inspires them, which is why we decorate.


However, research shows that despite how we might feel about our personalized working spaces, our coworkers or bosses may view us differently because of it. This research, performed by University of Michigan Ross School of Business professors Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks and Susan Ashford, suggests that the more personalized an individual’s workspace may be, the less professional we consider that individual.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the study is that this only seems to apply in the United States, suggesting something cultural is encouraging this impression. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact cause, but it left us wondering about our workspaces and the workspaces of those around us. 


Company culture can greatly impact the level and balance of office personalization. In fact, some offices have policies that limit or allow only a small amount of desk personalization. Do you think this is an appropriate measure?


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