What an executive’s desk should look like is all a matter of where you work and who you work with.
If you’re a Fortune 500 accounting firm and you’ve got a C-level job, then there’s a good chance you’re going to go with something big, powerful and measured. A modern, dark wood behemoth with brushed nickel accents is a legitimate possibility.
However, if you’re a C-leveler at an emerging tech company, you’ll probably shy away from the bruising desk and cherry-wood swivel chair and push for a minimalist desk and a Herman Miller Aeron. The goal is function over form, pragmatism over elitism.
The overriding principle here is that your executive desk says something about your style of leadership and your personality as well as the personality of the company.
“As the boss, your office isn’t just an extension of you; it’s an extension of your company. A message is sent and received the moment someone walks in,” Shari Alexander wrote in a 2014 article for Entrepreneur.
Therefore, choosing what goes in your office is an important decision with several crucial implications.
Executive Furniture Can Be a Weapon…
For the longest time, the executive desk had one purpose: to express, in wooden form, the extent of your power. The bigger the desk, the higher the pay and the greater the influence.
Within that context of power expression, there’s also the nuanced use of the executive desk to gain the upper hand during interactions with an employee or a client.
In other words, the executive desk can be your way of making somebody feel small simply by how far away they sit from you and how high their chair is.
Not lost on this discussion is the old caricature of a subordinate sitting in an almost comically-low chair, peering over the edge of a massive wooden desk in hopes that their boss will spare them excessive punishment.
Alexander said it well when she described some executive offices as an interrogation room.
“This simple set-up creates a subtle psychological dynamic between interrogator and suspect. The suspect is stuck in one place while the interrogator can freely move around the room. Similar to a throne, the interrogator sits higher than the suspect,” Alexander wrote.
…Or It Can Be a Welcoming Environment
On the other hand, an executive desk and the peripheral furniture can help build connections between the executive and employees, clients and colleagues.
If you feel like you’ve accidentally turned your office into an interrogation room, you’re not a lost cause. There are simple things you can do to improve the feel of your office.
Alexander points out that adding a round table and a few chairs can, as a place where you can carry on a more intimate conversation, enhance the communal feel of your office without sacrificing your positional authority.
“Use those sections of your space for more personable or difficult conversations,” Alexander wrote.
Be Mindful of How Much You Emphasize Your Accolades
In the vein of old-school thinking about executive offices, many C-level bosses adorn a cabinet or a wall with their accomplishments, achievements and recognitions. This type of environment can make a visitor feel intimidated or insignificant and really isn’t necessary.
Choosing Your Furniture Wisely
Put some time into thinking about your furniture in more comprehensive terms than just, “What looks most powerful and reflects my position most accurately?”
The best office furniture providers in San Diego should provide you with a multitude of executive furniture choices that provide a middle ground between a welcoming environment and one that still gives a nod to your status as executive management.
Also, don’t be afraid to use color when selecting your desk.
According to a post from Founder’s Guide, orange is a creativity-associated hue while blue exudes a sense of tranquility and peace.
Just remember, though, the end goal is bigger than design and color.
“Don’t choose furniture just because you like its color or design. You have to choose one that goes with your brand or your office personality,” Founder’s Guide wrote. “Your office furniture must transcend the aesthetic and comfort value it provides; it must also reflect your company’s identity and culture.”