The picture above is a "before" shot of my office at work. For the longest time, I prided myself in having -- what I considered -- one of the coolest offices on campus. Though my spot has always been junky, it was pretty comfortable nonetheless. From my personal artwork, to sports memorabilia, to souvenirs, the stuff in my office created an environment that reflected my personality. And I was content with that.
Until that dreaded article was published.
Researchers at the University of Michigan recently published an article that suggests that too many personal items in an office space may negatively impact professional image. They contend that an office that has anything above a 1:5 ratio of personal to work-related items is too excessive. Between pens, figurines, posters, and miscellaneous knick knacks, I counted 49 items in my office that fit the description of being
Now, when I first read this article I naturally thought "Who the hell defines professionalism?" When you've got CEOs who play golf in their office, or other professionals who have showcases of swords, spears, guns, cigars, and animal heads, this begs the question of how we can and should assign professionalism based on appearance alone. If we leave it up to them to set the bar, I'm afraid there isn't much to go by. Professionalism -- ideally -- should have more to do with how well a job is done than how well the person looks doing the job. Yet that's often not the case.
Being a black professional under 30 often puts me in a position where I feel like my merit alone doesn't sufficiently aid me in acheiving any real validation. So I often find that comprising some of my identity is a necessary thing to do at work or in any other social circles. It's a shitty reality, but it is reality nonetheless. Facing that reality, I try to make it my point to strategically choose which battles I need to fight and which ones from which I should abstain. If the aforementioned study holds any merit, I'd rather boost my professional image than have my Spongebob Squarepants artwork and Mardi Gras beads in my office. Frankly, I'd rather for people to know beforehand that I'm about business rather than being forced to put in the extra work to defy stereotypes and negative perceptions.
All that being said, my question to you is simple: would you do the same? Would you stick to your guns and continue to "do you"; even if it meant providing folks the very impetus they need to shape their perceptions about you? Or do you give in and separate yourself from your "identity"; thereby increasing your chances of avoiding incessant and difficult stereotypes? **I should note that, the Hippie Conservative just wrote a piece that discussed -- though not entirely -- stereotypes and their impact. Just thought I'd toss that out there for a little more context.**
Getting back to the matter at hand: I'm curious to know what you think.