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Coaching Cue Cards are designed to help jumpstart conversations that you may need to have with your employees. Modify as needed based on your situation.
Hi ____________, I'd like to talk to you for a moment about your work area.
Now, the quality of your work isn't necessarily at issue yet - but the appearance of your desk is. While you might have a system that makes things manageable for you, you need to keep in mind that you still work with a team of people. If they need a report from you, and you can't find it, it makes their job harder. If you’re looking everywhere for a folder, and it's buried beneath a pile on your desk, it brings everything to a halt. Even if that never happens, people only have negative associations with someone who can’t keep a clean office environment.
Now, I'm not asking you to keep everything pristine, but I do want you to tidy up your workspace and organize it so things are easier to find. It will help out your team, and might even help you too. Sound good?
Note: The key here is to impress upon the employee that, while they might have a personal system that works for them, this system will tend to fail when other people need their assistance. The key is getting them to consider the undue burden they are placing on team members, and that their clutter isn't quite as harmless as they think.
If the employee has some difficulties with organization, offer to provide items that will keep everything neat – file folders, accordion folders, binder clips three-ring binders, and wall-mounted folders. Showering this employee with organizational materials may be a good-natured way to solve your problem without any tension.