Is Being Organized at Work the Answer, or is Spontaneity the Best Way to Go?

So, which is better: being organized at work, or being more spontaneous? Let the battle begin!

People Insights

Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


If you were to ask yourself that question, chances are you picked the one that resembles you the most. But hey, I wasn’t expecting anything less! But if you really wanted to take the bias out of the equation, what are you left with? Before we get down to it though, I want to make sure we all agree on this premise:

  • Being organized at work and being spontaneous are polar opposite traits,
  • While you may be able to do both, you are always more naturally inclined to be one over the other.


Now that we got that out of the way, let’s address the question at hand. Organized, or spontaneous? Let the battle begin!

Being organized at work: what does that mean, exactly?

Just like with any trait, there are certain behaviors that are characteristic of those who tend to be more organized in their work (and in their everyday life). After all, you are who you are, right? I’m going to start off with those who are really, really organized (you know who you are!).

Those who are more organized are ones who like to plan; plan for today, tomorrow, the month ahead, and make sure they have a couple of Plan B’s in their pocket, as well! Some might call them “disciplined” because they are more technical, are good with deadlines, and even have a tendency to be perfectionists. They like everything about themselves, their space, and their work to be organized, and they are also quite comfortable with alternatives if they, too, have been planned ahead.

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? If you ever aren’t sure if your coworkers are more on the organized side of the scale, take a look at their work calendar. Is it pretty and neat with fully planned days? What about their personal organizer? Is it filled with tidy notes?

What about those who are more spontaneous?

“Agenda? Personal organizer? What are those things?” is probably a very common statement amongst those who are more spontaneous by nature!

At the extreme, very spontaneous people are just that: spontaneous! They rarely ever plan, and if they do, rarely ever stick to that plan or timeline. Not to say they aren’t good or won’t get the job done, but they’ll do it in an unorganized fashion.

They don’t mind being interrupted, like to be faced with new situations, and don’t have a problem improvising. They will be quicker to make decisions, are comfortable doing things last-minute, and are not at all bothered by surprises or unexpected situations.

Does this sound like anyone you know? Are you, or is anyone on your team more spontaneous?

What about those in between the two extremes?

If you didn’t associate with any of the previous two definitions, then you probably don’t lie on either extremes of the scale. But even if you don’t, I’m certain you still related to some of those behaviors, and it’s simply because regardless of the strength of the trait in you, you still have a tendency toward one or the other.

In fact, those who lie in the middle of the scale probably have their behavior determined by other traits in their personality. For example, you might be a little organized, but not to the extreme. You are, however, very competitive, love a good challenge, and love it better when you win.

In that case, even though your natural tendency is to be a little organized, you will find it easy to adapt that behavior in order to satisfy your need to compete and your desire to win. If the situation requires you to be crazy organized in order to win, then you’ll pull out the post-its and markers, and if the situation called for more spontaneity, then you’d be as flexible as necessary.

Before we drift too far off the topic, the point I’m trying to make is this: we all have a natural reflex to be more or less organized at work and in our personal lives, but the behavior we demonstrate regarding that trait depends on the strengths of that characteristic, and on the strength of other aspects of our personality, as well.

So, which is better?

I can’t really answer this question without upsetting half of you reading this article. But if you’re looking for the plain, honest truth, then I’m going to give it to you. Here it goes…
It depends!

I know that’s not the answer you wanted to read, but yes, it depends on oh-so-many factors. Who you are, your other personality characteristics, the type of job you do, the people you work closely with, the manager you have, the employees you’re managing, the company you work in, and it goes on and on and on…

Do your research and analyze your team. If the work requires the person to be capable of handling emergency situations, then you’re better off with a spontaneous individual. If your team is full of spontaneous people, then consider strengthening it by adding an organized member to keep everything in check. You get the picture.

What are the downfalls of being spontaneous or being organized at work?

Just like each trait has its strengths, they both each have their weaknesses. You might have a general idea of what these weaknesses are, but it’s always good to have them concretely listed.

So here it goes:

Downfalls of those who are too organized:

  • Are slower when making decisions,
  • Feel uncomfortable when there isn’t a detailed action-plan,
  • Are reluctant to last minute changes,
  • Would benefit from prioritization,
  • Would benefit from being more open to unexpected situations,
  • Are uncomfortable in unstructured situations or environments.

Downfalls of those who are too spontaneous:

  • Show little interest in planning ahead,
  • Have a tendency to jump from one subject to another,
  • May miss deadlines and/or neglect certain details,
  • Are more easily distracted,
  • Could benefit from showing more commitment to plans,
  • Are uncomfortable in highly organized or structured situations.

The conclusion here is pretty simple, everyone has their own traits and characteristics that make them who they are. Every trait has its strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to determine which is best for your business. Being organized at work can be a great asset in the right position, but can also be disastrous in others. So make sure you understand what it means to be spontaneous or organized at work, are able to identify who has these traits, and determine the best combination for the success of your operations. Do you have the tools to acquire all this information?

What’s your opinion on the matter? Do you think being organized at work is the best, or is spontaneity the answer? Share your thoughts!

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