Why good people sometimes do bad things: 52 reflections on ethics at work
personal spaces, at home and at work. The participants in their research were able to draw
conclusions about a stranger’s character based on their ofice or bedroom.
Research by Andrew Lohman and colleagues shows that the interior decoration of couples’
living rooms speaks volumes about the quality of their relationship. In their research the
participants were required to sit in the room where they would normally welcome guests
at home. They were then required to point out their favorite objects in the room, and asked
which objects they most wanted guests to notice. Finally the couples noted which objects
were acquired individually and which together. The research showed that the better the
bond between the couples, the more they wanted guests to notice objects which they had
acquired together. Furthermore the better the relationship the more the favorite objects had
been acquired together. So if you are interested in the strength of your relationship, you could
sit down on your couch at home and examine the extent to which you both want the same
objects to be seen by guests and whether you acquired these objects together.
What applies in private also applies at work. The manager who plasters an image of the sales
igures of the past ive years over the entire wall of his ofice shows that he values sales. The
employee who displays all kinds of prizes clearly sees success and scores as important. Anyone
with multiple family photos probably has good family relationships. A cluttered workplace or
ofice suggests that the person who works there is cluttered too. A tidy workspace, on the
other hand, says that the person is a perfectionist and has his work under control.
Inspecting the ofices of an organization can yield a great deal of information about its culture.
The CEO’s ofice alone says a great deal about values and norms. What are the dimensions,
colors, layout, objects? Is the room on the top loor or on the ground loor? Is it decorated with
personal items? In carrying out such an inspection you must, of course, be prepared to dig
below the surface; a tidy room says nothing if there is chaos behind closed cabinet doors. If
this is the case across much of the rest of the organization, then that is a red lag, because it
increases the likelihood that people think this way about the products they sell and the igures
they publish. The next time you walk into your ofice, it might be interesting to look around
with a visitor’s eye and ask yourself what the room says about you and your relationship with
16.The ofice as a relection of the inner self: interior decoration and architecture