Keep it Professional: 5 Office Decorations to Avoid at All Costs


No one wants to be “that guy” in the office. Everyone knows him—he’s the one with the cubicle that always smells like pastrami and honey mustard, or the one who can never find anything in the piles of clutter on his desk. Don’t be the office worker that commits decorating faux pas that have your coworkers talking about you behind your back. Here are five office decorations to avoid at all costs.

Keep it Professional, 5 Office Decorations to Avoid at All Costs

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1. Accolades and Awards

Whether you have a private office in Iowa or are confined to a cubicle, don’t hang up every award you’ve ever achieved (including High School diplomas and sports awards). You don’t want your personal space to become a personal shrine—that’s one way to alienate your coworkers and create a reputation as the one who always has to show off.

If you’re a manager or CEO, it’s appropriate to hang up your college diplomas or certificates of achievement. You want to show your employees that your credentials qualify you for your current position; they can trust you to do your job right. But there’s no need to plaster the walls with every single one of your achievements since Jr. High—just display the relevant ones and keep the others in a keepsake box at home.

2. House Plants

Not all house plants are bad, but anything that has a strong smell or has the potential to make people with allergies miserable should be left at home. They’re called “house plants,” not “cubicle plants,” for a reason.

A small perennial, cactus, or the bouquet of roses your significant other got you for Valentine’s day are all appropriate office and cubicle decorations. But avoid the leafy trees and ferns, especially the ones that creep over the walls of your cubicle and encroach on your neighbor’s personal space.

Before you bring in any kind of plant, ask the coworkers who work near you if they have any plant allergies that you should be aware of. The last thing you want is to make someone ill just so that you can have your favorite potted plant on the corner of your desk.

3. Political Paraphernalia

The office is not the place to discuss politics, so leave any political paraphernalia at home. Don’t bring in pins, buttons, or slogans; keep your political opinions to yourself, both verbally and visually. Steer clear of anything that might be controversial, whether it be a candidate for office or an issue in the news.

Feel free to decorate patriotically if you wish—there’s nothing wrong with hanging up an American flag or other neutral-party decorations. No one will fault you for supporting your country, and you can find plenty of classy photos or paintings at local craft stores or online (information credit: Just Wall Décor).

4. Inappropriate Materials

You might have a closet soft spot for Playboy or Sports Illustrated, but don’t share it with your coworkers. Your cubicle or office is your space, but it’s certainly not private. Your coworkers won’t appreciate being subject to inappropriate photos or materials every time they pass your cubicle on the way to the break room.

Avoid pictures of you and your buddies partying, internet memes with cuss words or inappropriate jokes, and anything else that might be offensive as well.

5. Nothing

Not decorating your cubicle at all is almost as much a faux pas as decorating inappropriately. Don’t be the “clean freak,” the one who never has anything on their desk and leaves the walls bare. You probably spend more waking hours at the office than you do at home, and you want it to feel as comfortable as possible. Putting up decorations that showcase your personality and interests will make you feel more at home.

Decorating will also put your coworkers at ease. No one wants to sit next to the guy that no one knows anything about. Putting up family photos, tokens of your favorite sports team or vehicle, books for light reading during breaks, or inspirational quotes will give people conversation starters. Decorating your office space will help you make friends and find coworkers with similar interests.

Don’t be the guy that makes sandwiches at his desk or has a Doctor Who-themed cubicle. Leave your oddest quirks or habits at home, and make your office space friendly and homey without going overboard. Avoid these decorating faux pas and give your coworkers something good to talk about instead.

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