Well+Good

Got a messy workspace? Here’s what that tells people about your personality

Photo: Stocksy/Leandro Crespi

As much as I love a clean workspace, by the end of a busy, deadline-driven day, I’m going to be real: All of my sh*t is everywhere. My lunch is sitting next to me getting cold, I have a pile of papers I still need to get through, and everything that was once put away is somehow now spread out all across my desk. I don’t even know how it happens. While I look like a put-together human until about 2 p.m., after that all hell breaks loose—and according to a new study, if someone caught me during my weakest hours, that first impression could seriously affect the way they perceive my personality.

In research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, 160 participants were randomly assigned to sit in different types of offices: one that was neat, clean, organized, and uncluttered, one that was either “somewhat” messy, or one that “very” messy. Afterward, they said which personality traits those in each office had. By their initial assumptions, they thought the person with the super-clean office was more conscientious than the person with the messy office—AKA someone who’s hardworking, goal-oriented, and thoughtful. And they thought the messy office owner was less agreeable and more neurotic, as well as careless and cranky.

Now, based on personal experience, I’m not sure how defining this whole thing is personality-wise. Despite being a little messy, I’d say I’m pretty darn positive, super hardworking, and agreeable. Maybe too agreeable—just ask any of the friends I annoy trying to plan dinner dates with. Unfortunately, by looks alone, I could be seen as quite the opposite to someone who doesn’t already know me—and that perception sticks.

“Once trait information about a target becomes activated in perceivers’ minds, either consciously or unconsciously, that information can subsequently affect how they process information about, the types of questions they ask of, and how they behave toward the target, possibly bringing out the very trait information that they expected to see from the target in the first place,” said study co-author Sarah Dyszlewski in a press release.

So whether the state of your workspace actually matches your personality of not, one thing’s for sure: Even super-busy #bossbabes should take the time to keep things in order. Because if things get a little out of control and someone new catches you in the madness, you could be seen as an unhappy, unmotivated, sloppy individual—and no one wants that.

Find out why the biggest indicator of your personality type is whether you make your bed each day. Or, take a look at the tell-tale signs you’re stressed out, according to your personality type.