My new boss has complained about my messy desk. Should I tidy it or ignore her?

Make sure it doesn't make colleague's lives more difficult and then have a chat with your boss, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 26 Aug 2015

Q: My desk is pretty untidy. It's covered in piles of paper that grow steadily until they start to teeter, then I sort them out. My old boss turned a blind eye because I am good at my job, but my new one has made it clear that she doesn't like the mess. Should I knuckle under or ignore her?

Jeremy says: Neither. First, satisfy yourself that your consistently untidy desk isn't making other people's lives more difficult: from cleaners to colleagues. And I do mean, more difficult; if it simply offends people's sensibilities, as far as I'm concerned, you're innocent.

Then have a low-intensity conversation with your new boss. Say you know she disapproves of your messy desk and you're sorry about that. But you're pretty sure it doesn't have an adverse effect on others and - stupidly, maybe - it's how you work at your best. So can she do her best to humour you, please?

With any luck, she'll soon get used to it. But do make sure you go on being good at what you do. If your standards slip, she might well be waiting to pounce - and then you won't have a leg to stand on.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into. 

Credit: Jeffrey Beall/Flickr

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