Situation 41: work area versus personality

Mi An’s office is highly cozy: lots of photos of her family, flowers and a huge collection of porcelain dogs and cats in all kind of sizes. Mansy advises her to re-consider the office decoration.

(Click on the pictures to see them in full size)

A great leader:

  • Is comfortable with herself and has high self-esteem;
  • Is authentic in her dealings with others, demonstrating clear values, a clear purpose and strong work ethic. She is not afraid to show her true personality at work;
  • Conveys her professionalism in her actions and interactions with others.

How to best handle the situation:

We spend a lot of time at work and research has shown that people perform better when they work in a pleasant environment, clean offices, with natural light, plants, comfortable furniture etc. (see, for example, and are able to customize their work space to some degree. In fact, we see a lot of firms (Hubspot, Dropbox, Skype, Evernote, AirBnB etc. that design work spaces that reflect the company culture and often provide ‘play’ areas as well as quiet spaces to give their employees the freedom to move between different work environments that suit their needs and moods.

It is important that you remain true to yourself when you are at work rather than hide your true personality to fit a work ‘ideal’. If you are a warm, homely person it is fine to convey that to your work colleagues. However, be aware that your style may not come across well to everyone you meet and that some people may overlook you if they do not see you as leadership material or capable of working on special assignments. Tune in to how others behave towards you and continually sense how you are coming across.

Study how other people decorate their offices; do they personalize them with photos of loved ones, drawings by their children, art, etc. or do they stick to company-supplied pictures and posters, business awards or nothing at all? If most people tend towards a more neutral, business-like environment then you might consider toning down your own office décor without eliminating all traces of your personal life. If you are unsure, ask a trusted colleague for his/her honest opinion.

Learning suggestions:

  • How you decorate your office does say something about you and can be a conversation starter when unfamiliar people visit you, so it is worth considering what subtle messages you want to convey and the topics you are happy to discuss with strangers.
  • It is good to have individuals within an organization who are different from the norm since they can provide refreshing perspectives and challenge the status quo and ‘groupthink’. If you are individualistic and happy to be out on a limb, celebrate and remember the value that you bring by being different.
  • Reflect on your personal values; what is important to you? How well are you living your values at work? What areas, if any, do you need to change so that you are acting in congruence with your values?


  • Embrace your own personal style and ways of expressing yourself – the way you dress, your office décor, how you communicate etc. – whilst remaining within the bounds of professionalism.

Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

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