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Addressing a Messy Work Station to an Employee

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A messy workstation can lead to disorganization, missed deadlines and delayed projects. An unkempt work area can also make an office look cluttered and sloppy, which isn't the impression most companies want to convey. If an employee has a consistently messy work area, it's time for a conversation about keeping the space tidy. For the best results, approach the discussion from an organization and productivity standpoint.

Take a Helpful Approach

A messy employee may not have the best organizational or time-management skills, which can affect productivity. Approach her from a practical and helpful standpoint during a private conversation. Without assigning blame or passing judgment, tell her that you're interested in helping her get organized. You may say something like, “I notice you have a lot of paperwork piling up on your desk. I'm sure it's hard to stay focused -- can I help you put together a filing system or clear out some storage space in the supply room?”

Provide Organizational Tools

Some employees appear messy because they don't have organizational tools to put their work space in order. Provide both the messy employee and other staffers with document trays, file cabinets, bulletin boards, storage racks and other organizational necessities. If staffers have a regular overflow of materials to handle, centralize office supplies and shared storage areas to free up and clear out cubicles and offices.

Issue a Corporate Directive

If you're uncomfortable singling out an employee for her inadequate workplace housekeeping, create a company policy to outline maintenance issues. Tell employees that they’re all required to maintain tidy, clean work surfaces; regularly dispose of garbage, remove food and beverages at the end of the work day; and use filing cabinets for storing paperwork. Consider implementing a recycling program at the same time to dispose of waste responsibly.

Be Diligent Yet Flexible

Recognize that even the tidiest employee will occasionally have a messy desk when under a tight deadline or working on a big project. If persistent untidiness continues or reaches unhealthy levels -- where garbage or food items involved -- issue a formal reprimand to the offending employee. Share your concerns about organization, productivity and the potential for lost work. If your staffer is simply overwhelmed, engage her in a conversation about her workload and her ability to perform her job responsibilities in general.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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