A neat office is an indicator of the personality characteristic of Organisation. People high in this characteristic tend to go about their work in a well-planned fashion and tend to like structure. Organisation can be an indicator of success at work – particularly work which has a lot of detail or strategy in it.
When I go to someone’s office to debrief them on their psych testing results I can usually predict what their office will look like from their Organisation score on the HEXACO personality inventory. The prediction is almost never wrong. High scoring people almost always have everything set up neatly with pens lined up, and those with low scores tend to have messy, disorganised looking desks.
Organisation is part of the personality factor of Conscientiousness which has for decades been shown to be an indicator of success and failure at work (eg Robertson and Smith 2001). Conscientiousness overall is a great predictor of success and failure at work.
You can be successful at work if you are low in organisation, but it will tend to be in jobs which don’t require structured, sequential planning and which can be done well with more of a “free spirit” mindset.
Leaders who are low in organisation can be perceived to be confusing by their staff because the link between one decision and the next can be hard to work out, although there may be one in the leader’s mind. If a strategic communication plan needs to be put together, for instance, it is better if the person who does it is high on organisation so that the components hang together logically.
Some leaders who are low on organisation can learn more structured approaches to get by in a well-planned work environment, but they will probably never have a natural enthusiasm for it.
To find out how to identify this and other personality characteristics in potential hires, click here.
Robertson, I.T., & Smith, M. (2001). Personnel selection. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 74, 441-472.
Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2007). Empirical, theoretical, and practical advantages of the HEXACO model of personality structure. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 150-166.