Not the car, per se. I am not particularly interested in what make or model you drive. Although lots of people think that their choice of car reflects their sense of style, their status, or their virility, many of us simply want a safe and reliable means of transportation. Many more of us have to, and embrace the idea of, settling for what we can afford, so we own used cars or smaller, more economic models. That’s not my point.
I have this theory that your car reflects your approach to taking care of business: your job, your attention to detail, how well organized you are in general. I knew a recruiter once who used to send someone out to observe applicants’ cars. If they were well cared for and well organized, she would tend to believe them when they talked about being organized on the job. But if the cars were a mess: dirty, filled with trash, in general disrepair, it threw up a red flag for her.
A car, for most of us, is a big investment. My car costs as much as my parents’ starter house did in the early 1970s. It’s often one of the largest debts in many households, after the mortgage or college educations. Many of us finance our car over three to five years. So it matter how we treat this investment after we make it.
Depreciation is an accounting term, of course; it means “a reduction in the value of an asset with the passage of time, due in particular to wear and tear.” In my mind, it’s also the opposite of appreciation (in both the accounting and holistic sense of the word.) When we first get a new car, we treasure it. We clean it often, we make sure it gets washed and polished, we treat it as if it’s important. But after time, we stop investing in it and it depreciates because we appreciate it less.
What does your car look like? Is it neat and clean, or is there trash on or under the seats? When was the last time it was washed and detailed? How current is the routine maintenance on your car?
We spend a lot of hours in our car, and your tolerance for dirt, disorganization and disrepair will come into play during your daily commute. Your tolerance for disrepair also comes into play in your job. There are plenty of people who say that they know where everything is and never lose a minute of productivity, no matter what a disaster their desk or files look like. I can’t buy it.
Even if you are convinced that you can function in a mess, your colleagues aren’t. According to a 2012 survey by Adecco, the staffing company, 57 percent of workers surveyed said that they judged fellow employees by how messy or clean their desks were – and that they attributed messiness to laziness.
So when you finish this post and go out to evaluate your car, check in on your boss’s car. If it’s pristine, he or she may be judging you by more than the quality of your last report.
Full disclosure: as I researched messy desk / clean desk articles for this post, I found just about an equal number of articles that claimed only a messy desk or a clean desk was the key to productivity, creativity or good behavior. I suspect it would be easy to identify who wrote which article if we checked out their cars.
Do you drive a messy car or a clean one? And does it matter? Leave me a comment.