There are some bad habits that seem to get all the press when it comes to talking about office life. If only you didn’t do this, then you would be that more productive. And while there are some truly terrible things you could be doing (looking at you, man who has tuna for lunch every day), there are also some surprising upsides to other so-called negative traits.
In fact, the three below might actually be working in your favor:
1. Being Messy
Your colleagues are probably sick of the sight of your desk–papers and sticky notes, coffee cups, cans, and photos are littered everywhere. And honestly, you’re sure sick of hearing “How can you possibly work in that mess?” Because it’s not a mess to you, it’s organized chaos.
I get it—my own desk may be condemned any day now. But research shows that being surrounded by clutter can actually make you more creative and more likely to innovate. In an experiment in which people were split into two rooms—messy and clean—and asked to brainstorm on the same topic, “participants in the messy room generated the same number of ideas for new uses as their clean-room counterparts. But their ideas were rated as more interesting and creative when evaluated by impartial judges.”
So, don’t let the naysayers distract you from the fact that you’re being truly effective by working in an environment that lets your brain come up with brilliant ideas. Just make sure your stuff’s not spilling over into other people’s spaces. And that, well, nothing smells.
2. Coming Into the Office Later Than Everyone Else
You might be subject to just a little bit of office gossip if you keep, shall we say, irregular hours, but who is to say that what you’re doing is wrong? Not you, because you know that you’re getting just as much work done as your co-workers—if not more. And now, German research from 2015 backs up the fact that employees who create their own schedules work just as much as their colleagues. The data shows that, “People that have full and unrecorded control over their schedules work the equivalent of nearly a full weekday beyond what’s in their contracts and in comparison to those who have fixed schedules.”
So, if you know that you’re at your most productive late into the night, and you love to kick off your day with a spin class (or by pressing snooze 16 times over), then go for it! Well, talk to your manager first, make your case—and then go for it. Just don’t forget that there are people who do prefer a more typical schedule, and it’s not their job to accommodate your 11 PM brainstorm sessions or answer your urgent emails at odd hours.
3. Being the Naysayer
It’s so great when a team gets into full-on creative mode—dreaming, scheming, planning, and even (jargon alert) blue-sky thinking. Everyone’s on fire, throwing their best ideas into the mix and not letting the facts get in your way. And that’s where you come in. You’re the person who clears her throat and points out all the flaws. No wonder everyone thinks you’re a chronic naysayer.
In an article on Forbes, writer Jerry Jao says, “While studies show a strong link between successful entrepreneurs and optimism, having too sunny of a disposition can lead to delusions of success. It can spur people to overestimate the market and their abilities to execute, while being unaware of crucial facts or possible setbacks.”
So, remember this the next time you’re called out for being the group cynic. But, do keep in mind that just because you’re delivering bad news doesn’t mean you have to deliver it in the worst way. Try to finesse your feedback with kind words and practical suggestions for moving forward—rather than just saying, “No, that’ll never work!”
Good news: You don’t have to change who you are to be successful at work. Keep that desk cluttered, keeping coming in at noon, and keep being a Debbie Downer. Just remember that not everyone you work with operates the same way, so it’s vital that you acknowledge this and make compromises when needed.