My Vice Principal has a very clean and lovely desk. He keeps one framed photograph on it. I’ve talked to him enough times to know that he has a wife and a daughter. However, neither of them have found their way onto his desk. Instead, the one framed photograph is of him and the Principal, standing in front of the school, smiling and looking highly professional.
There’s nothing wrong with that, although it might seem a little odd to a Westerner who’s used to pictures of babies or spouses being on someone’s work station. In essence, the workplace picture serves two purposes: to show off and to motivate. The first is obvious. A person wants their co-workers to notice, to say “what a cute baby!” or “awww! you and your husband look so sweet together!” The second is for the worker, so that in those head-rubbing moments when the thought “why the hell am I doing this to myself?” goes through the mind, there’s a readily available answer. You can’t quit because you have a baby. Look, there’s proof on your desk. It exists. Stop typing up that resignation letter.
In thinking about the workplace picture, I stumbled onto what I think is a bright idea. Personally, I’m mostly motivated by bitterness and resentment, as opposed to silly notions like family or pride. It might be a good idea, then, to fill my desk with pictures of those people that drive me to do better – the ex-girlfriends and the folks I just don’t like. I could go through Facebook, print off pictures, buy frames, and stock my desk full of the hated.
“Say,” a coworker might ask, “who are they?”
“Oh,” I would say, “that’s my ex and her new boyfriend. They look happy, huh? Those bastards!”
And then, theoretically, I’d become highly productive in order to show them the excellence I’m capable of. Having to see, say, a picture of Glen Beck everyday would send me into a working frenzy.
“Hey, Bill,” someone might ask me, “I heard you wrote two novels last year? Where’d the inspiration come from?”
“My desk full of hate,” I’d answer. “Yeah, I was having trouble finishing the second one, so I framed a picture of Frank Wycheck from the Music City Miracle. Then the novel just kind of wrote itself.”
People keep pictures that make them happy. There’s a tragedy in looking at a picture and wishing it was you in it and not someone else, or that your team (go Bills!) was the one celebrating in the end zone. I’d never actually do my “desk full of hate” because of that “show off” factor. It would be hard to admit, as I would often have to, that the picture doesn’t often turn out the way I’d hoped it would.