These are the corporate “office nesters,” as I think of them, and you’ll find plants, pictures of family, paintings, mementos from vacations, and all manner of personal objects in their spaces. My own office spaces have been about as sterile as you can get. No pictures of family. No plants. No vacation souvenirs. As I once confided to a coworker, I like to travel light, just in case I need to make a quick getaway without anyone knowing. He laughed, and so did I, but I was serious.
The very first job I had out of college was as an editorial assistant in an engineering firm. The editorial department was responsible for putting together proposals for jobs the company was pursuing. The first month was great. At the start of month two, my mentor went on maternity leave, and all heck broke loose. My new manager was horrible. Did you know that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 26.2% of Americans aged 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental illness? I mention this because, some of these folks are bound to be in your office, and whenever I think back on those days, I truly wonder whether this woman was mentally ill. She was terribly moody. One minute she’d be yucking it up with you, the next she’d be cursing you out— and I mean literally cursing you out, throwing all kinds of profanity your way. She’d forget things she’d told you and then get mad at you because of it. There came a point when I cried all the way home each and every day, and my husband, who used to pick me up from work, finally said, “Crystal, I can’t take this anymore. You’re smart and talented and don’t have to work there. Find another job.” So the next day, I discreetly removed all my personal items from my desk, leaving only a mug I’d purchased at the theater after seeing Les Misérables (my personal statement) and started looking. When I received a job offer one month later, my mug and I fled that place.
By the way, months after the aforementioned confession about my preference for “light travel” this same coworker approached me with some juicy office gossip—this is before I got into HR, okay?—Joe Schmoo had just been canned! “How do you know?” I asked. “Because,” my coworker responded, “I saw him in the parking lot out back packing up all the paintings from his office.”