• Having a cluttered desk or inappropriate items in your workspace could be making a bad impression on yourcolleagues or employers.
  • Here are 12 things on your work desk that are making you look unprofessional.

Some people would argue that a messy desk is a sign of genius and actual geniuses like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs would seem to be among them.

Others, like the people who actually work with and beside you, might find your mess less than endearing.

And beyond clutter, items that are varying degrees of inappropriate and downright disgusting are among the biggest workplace offenders, according to the human resources professionals we interviewed.

Here are a dozen desk donts that make you look less than professional.

1. An avalanche of dishes and food containers

BusinessInsider USA Images

Flickr/uggboy

Bringing your lunch to work is commendable. But leaving a weeks worth of crusted-over food containers and half of a mug collection in your workspace is atrocious.

Keeping a lot of items you use for eating scattered all over your desk shows a lack of time management and a lack of respect for your coworkers and the shared office space, said Jodi Barbarino, a director of HR and recruitment in Miami.

2. A swarm of sticky notes

BusinessInsider USA Images

Shutterstock

In a 2017 survey conducted by the staffing firm OfficeTeam, more than half of the senior managers interviewed for it said that having a messy or disorganized workspace was the most distracting or annoying thing about employees work areas. And one of the easiest ways to create visual insanity is to accumulate so many sticky notes that you can barely see the surface of your desk anymore.

A better strategy: invest in a portable notebook and pen you love, so youll use them all the time to keep all your important reminders in one place.

3. Suggestive pictures or calendars

BusinessInsider USA Images

Shutterstock

You wouldnt need to decorate your cubicle with explicit images in order to be inappropriate in the eyes of your managers and colleagues. Barbarino said to second guess anything remotely sexy or suggestive.

Even if theyre cartoon images, they can be very offensive, and if sexual in nature it could be treated as sexual harassment, she said. Yes, that even includes pictures of yourself scantily clad, say, at the beach.

4. An open purse

BusinessInsider USA Images

minniemayme/Shutterstock

This one is tricky. If your office doesnt provide a closet or any other proper place for your purse, you might be inclined to leave it on your desk after all, its better than the floor.

But Barbarino advises against keeping it there, and especially keeping it open. It looks careless and invites fraudulent behavior, she said. See if your company will allow you to hang a purse hook under your desk.

5. Anything to elevate your monitor that wasnt built for the task

BusinessInsider USA Images

Flickr / Lauri Rantala

Resting your monitor on a pile of books not only looks unprofessional, but it makes for a pretty unstable surface. Even worse are reams of printer paper or stacked boxes of business cards used as risers. Theyre an eye sore, Barbarino said.

Youre better off just asking your office manager to place an order for a real monitor riser from Staples.

6. Political paraphernalia

BusinessInsider USA Images

Alex Wong/Getty

In politically fraught times, you may be more passionate than ever about the people you want to vote in or out of office, and about the issues that matter to you.

But even if you dont evangelize at work, simply keeping political pamphlets, posters, pins basically anything promoting your affiliation on your desk runs the risk of making you look inappropriate in the office.

7. Toys

BusinessInsider USA Images

Flickr/adrperez

We had one associate who had his overhead bin filled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys of various kinds, said Tracy Tibbels , an HR manager atWerner Enterprises and disciplines panelist for the SHRM. It was a little overwhelming for those who walked past his cube. Managements perception of this was that he was not ready to move to the next level in his career which led to him being passed over for a promotion into a leadership role. Tibbels said toys can make you seem immature and tarnish your professional image.

8. Scattered toiletries

BusinessInsider USA Images

Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

Unless youre in the business of product testing, items like deodorant, makeup, and toothbrushes have no place on your desk and can even be unsanitary, according to Barbarino.

While your appearance is important, it shouldnt be the main focus. Toiletries laying out give the impression you care more about your looks than your job, she said.If you need to have this stuff on hand for after-work outings, keep a bag of grooming supplies in your desk drawer.

9. A pack of cigarettes

BusinessInsider USA Images

Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Some of your colleagues might find the very act of taking a cigarette break to be unprofessional, so that pack of Camels on your desk isnt doing you any favors. But the smell of cigarettes even unlit ones could also create an issue for your office mates.

10. Solo cups

BusinessInsider USA Images

Flickr/m01229

Big, red plastic cups are for beer pong, not boardrooms. Solo cups look immature, especially for recent graduates, Barbarino said. Since theyre associated with alcohol, employees will wonder if youre drinking at your desk or if the cup was left over from an office party. Both make you look sloppy.

11. Seasonal decor that remains up all year round

BusinessInsider USA Images

Hollis Johnson

Okay, so you love Halloween. But gourds and ghouls are only appropriate in the fall, according to Nicole Belyna , a recruitment manager atThompson Creek Window Companyand talent acquisition panelist for the SHRM. Keeping decor up after its relevant will make you look overzealous at best and lazy or neglectful at worst. Be festive, not forgetful.

12. Outrageous oddities

BusinessInsider USA Images

Wikimedia Commons

The weirdest thing Ive ever seen on anyone's desk was a faux lion's rug with a severed ear ornament sitting in the mouth, said Mark Marsen , a director of HR atAllies for Health + Wellbeingand disciplines panelist for SHRM and he admits that bizarre rug is in his own office. Our definition of professional is unique, he said.

The lesson? Every work environment is different. Know yours.

See Also:

SEE ALSO: 6 things you should always keep at your desk