Move the Desk!

by Stephen T. Messenger

March 22, 2021

Throughout my career, I’ve moved thirteen times, had twenty different job positions, and occupied as many desks or workspaces.  After multiple transitions, I’ve developed a theory: Move the Desk!  On the first day of owning my new area, the first thing I do is grab the corner of that bulky piece of wood and loudly drag it to a new position.  Moving the desk sets an immediate tone that you’re different from the last occupant.  Not necessarily better or worse—just different.

Day One in Your New Space.  Just like in those HGTV shows where they stand in the doorway of a new house, let your imagination run wild.  Change the flow.  Remove all the terrible furniture. Make it more inviting.  Add some new furniture. Now that you’re an amateur interior designer, the key is to set up your place for functionality. Don’t just keep stuff because it’s was there.

Ask yourself some hard questions about your new work area.  Should your office be open and collaborative to facilitate dialogue?  Create an area for discussion.  Does your job entail a slight ambience of power, and you want a barrier between you and your guests?  Centrally locate your desk.  Or are you a visual person and need a whiteboard as the focal point?  Clear out the wall and add some chairs.      

There are numerous layouts to choose from.  Whichever you thoughtfully select, next drag that desk across the floor.  If people near you can hear the terrible screeching, all the better.  You want them to know that things are changing.

One warning: this is going to scare the people around you.  Few people like change when it’s happening; only when it’s complete.  They’re going to hear the terrible sound and peek through the doorway wondering what’s going on.  They’re going to comment how it was fine the way it was.  They’re even going to offer advice that there are no other good ways to arrange your workspace other than the old way. 

This consternation is not about your office; it’s about you changing other things that may affect them in the future. As this concern manifests itself in furniture movement, and while you have their attention, this is the perfect opportunity to give your “Move the Desk” speech.

“Oh,” you greet your visitors with a smile like you weren’t expecting them to show up (you were—hence the excessive noise).  “I appreciate that, but I have a theory called ‘Move the Desk.’  Every time I take on a new role, I change the office so that everyone knows that I’m not like the previous occupant.  I’m not better or worse, but I am different.”  This combination of moving a desk and now your verbal acknowledgment broadcasts both visually and verbally that you’re a new face with fresh ideas.

One consideration: I’ve often moved into a cubicle or desk that was bolted to the room.  This makes it challenging to rearrange, to say the least.  However, there are many ways to change the nature of the area even if you can’t move the main components.  Develop ideas to make it different—relocate the computer, hang some wall paintings or photos, or change the angles the best you can.  And always have a photo of your family or friends on display.    

We rotate leaders for a reason.  If no change is needed when you arrive, then why are you there?  Your organization needs you to arrive with fresh thoughts and a new perspective on old ways of business.  Leaders arrive in new positions, evaluate current methods, and make changes for the better.

It’s the same model as moving the desk:  Arrive at your new office, study the old layout, and change it.  People will take notice that you have arrived and are ready to lead.  Your ideas are needed to change the organization for the better.  And even if you’re not new to your position, it’s never to late to rearrange the office and look for better ways of leading. Step one: Move the Desk!

One thought on “Move the Desk!

  1. Good; effective; and a simple tactic to remind others AND YOURSELF !
    After all, the only people who like changes are babies with dirty diapers … and even they’ll fight you sometimes !


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