10

I'm currently an analyst going on four months now in a United States research institute and I have a custom desktop wallpaper. It's a couple of custom sketches of anime characters. Headshots, tasteful posing with no weapons, absolutely nothing to object to in the office and I've had it or variations of the theme for a few months without any comment.

My issue is that my responsibilities have changed slightly and I'm now expected to share my desktop screen with members of other research organizations in the United States that my section partners with. These meetings are fairly lighthearted and joking but still put me in a position in which I'm representing my team to business partners.

I can guarantee with absolute certainty that the other members won't recognize the characters or even anime in general. My concern is that ANY cartoon/anime/unofficial-looking desktop would be seen as unprofessional, although I have no hard proof to back that up either. I'm open to the idea that I'm being too overly sensitive on the matter and I'd rather not drag my boss into this. Besides all of that, having to flip desktops before every meeting would be kind of irritating in its own right.

Can anybody please confirm/deny my fears and offer some input? For example, would you personally think more or less of a presenter with a non-standard desktop?

  • If you're presenting something, your desktop background will presumably only be visible for seconds before you open whatever thing it was you were going to present. – Brandin Jun 25 '16 at 9:18
  • 1
    Depending on the sharing application you are using, sometimes you can select applications to share, and thus your background or other misc items you do not want others to see will not be visible. – Anketam Jun 25 '16 at 11:08
  • 5
    I can guarantee with absolute certainty that the other members won't recognize the characters or even anime in general. -- Probably not a safe assumption to make unless you have complete control over these peoples' lives. – Blrfl Jun 25 '16 at 11:09
  • As long as it's nothing offensive or pornographic, I wouldn't worry too much about it. – Radu Murzea Jun 25 '16 at 17:08
  • 2
    Can you tell if I am an anime fan? Yes, you probably can with absolute certainty if you look at my SE profile. Do you know who I am in real life? Likely not (although my identity is not exactly a secret). What is the point I am making here? You cannot be "absolutely certain" what interests other people have in their private life. Don't base your decisions on that assumption, it will create problems. :) – Masked Man Jun 25 '16 at 20:51
33

Personally it wouldn't worry me if I saw it. But you are representing, so you should do the professional thing and either have your company logo as a desktop or a clean one. You then come across as a no nonsense person who is there to work.

I actually have a totally separate profile on my computer for remote sessions, unlike my usual one, it's got a clean professional minimalistic desktop with just a couple of folders on it pertinent to whatever it is we're working on. My normal one is a cluttered mess of files and folders on a picture of two Dinosaurs having a disagreement.

Whoever is working on it doesn't need to search for anything in the mess, because only the stuff that they need is available to them. I appreciate it when people do this for me as well, it saves time and effort.

If looked at properly it's not at all irritating, it takes just a few seconds to switch users. I prepare for any meeting, whether it's online or face to face, this is just a very minor part of the preparations.

  • 3
    Another consideration is a plain colour background needs less bandwidth for updates (which is why some rdp /vc does it automatically) and has made the difference between a usable and unworkable session for me several times – The Wandering Dev Manager Jun 27 '16 at 14:25
  • 2
    Very nice. Plus, your interlocutor X doesn't get to see what other interesting stuff you have on your desktop or anywhere else you need to navigate to during the meeting. Like that folder called "X_dont_show_client", or that other folder "Y_top_secret", where Y happens to be X's main competitor. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Jun 27 '16 at 16:18
  • 1
    +1 I just wanted to suggest the same thing. Having a separate session also allows you to disable all Email/Skype/messenger/... communication. Depending on who you have in your contacts a sudden incoming Skype popup during a presentation/remote session can be quite embarassing. – fgysin reinstate Monica Jun 28 '16 at 7:56
  • @fgysin Good point, I've been doing it as a matter of course for so long, that I don't even remember all the reasons why. But basically you control all security, notifications and access if you do it that way, and there is no downside. – Kilisi Jun 28 '16 at 8:06
9

One problem with desktop wallpapers is that a picture transports a message. And even when framed, on a wall, people disagree what the message might be. A desktop wallpaper is not in full view. People only see glimpses and parts of it and it can really give the wrong impression if you only saw certain parts of a picture.

Lets take an example: you chose a picture of a girl being happy dancing on a meadow. The girl is dressed in accordance to company standards, short sleeved dress, down to covering her knees. Like Heidi. Perfectly fine. Until you have religious people that don't like uncovered ankles. Or you move a window so the only thing sticking out is a naked arm and a naked foot. People will ask themselves what is behind the window. More nakedness? You may have done nothing wrong, but you don't really want to have people wondering or chatting about it at the water cooler.

So long story short: remove it. Use a neutral color or your company background. Even the most gossipy coworker cannot drum up a story about how your background was inappropriately grey today.

  • 5
    His background color was #666666. Is he secretly a satanist? :) – Philipp Jun 25 '16 at 12:51
  • @Philipp: That's your fault for choosing the single boringest shade of gray imaginable. – Kevin Jun 26 '16 at 0:25
5

I'd say it also depends on whether your meetings are remote or in place:

  • If you share your desktop remotely: usually desktop is not even seen, as you jump from screen to screen. You may just as well keep your wallpaper, just be a bit careful not to linger on it and that's all.
  • If you share your desktop while on a face-to-face meeting: meetings can imply several hours sharing desktop, or working with a colleague on your pc at some point. In those cases, I would either a) specifically change the wallpaper prior to the meeting, or b) use a different account for those meetings, with whom you share documents and programs.

In any case, I don't think this is a matter to involve your boss. It won't matter that much; plus it's something you probably can handle on your own.

And now, some real examples:

  1. Found two managers skilled in presenting -- both having pictures of their couple or kids. It is a bit awkward, to me, when I see parts of their private life. It feels I am having a peek at their life outside work, even when they are the ones sharing the picture. It had also raised uncomfortable questions by different people regarding the real relationship with the person in the wallpaper. While this can also make the person feel more 'human' to some, it's an easy target to talk or think about, too.
  2. At some point, when I was presenting in a similar environment to yours, I forgot to change my wallpaper too. It portrayed a classical Ghibli studio movie and then some nyan board; all very discreet and somewhat cute (to me), but it provides some details on preferences I don't want to trascend. While it can be a way to bond ties, it can be too a way to be considered a bit weird.

Short answer: I'd recommend you to change the set of wallpapers in your work computer to something more dull. I used to share the same set of wallpapers between my own and work laptops, though recently I removed everything 'non-standard' from the one at work.

1

As the other answers state, I would definitely remove it.

Most remote presentation software has an option to remove the desktop background. It might be worth looking that up.

1

My concern is that ANY cartoon/anime/unofficial-looking desktop would be seen as unprofessional

I'd be concerned, too.

If you are representing the company

  • Ask the company how your desktop should look when shared
  • Ask if there is a corporate background you should use during those session
  • Otherwise use a plain-colored background

Revert to any cartoons you prefer when you aren't sharing your desktop or otherwise representing the company to external parties.

1

Our Maxim: If you have to ask, you know the answer.

Providing that there is no corporate policy on the subject, I don't believe that you should limit your desktop to only the corporate logo. Your desktop not only represents the employer, but also yourself, as an unique and free-thinking individual. You have your own tastes, interests, and aesthetics. A well thought out desktop is an excellent means to express yourself.

I have 150 or so background images that rotate every few minutes. When I get a glimpse of them, these imagines inspire me and improve my work day. They consist of anything from nature shots, comic book characters, concept art, technical illustrations, paintings, to basic designs.

You have to realize that every image conveys meaning, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Your goal is to find what is reasonable to have corporate/customer/3rd party facing.

In the context of a working environment;

  • would it be reasonable for anyone to have an issue with seeing this?
  • is there anything about this that could be considered offensive?
  • does this portray/imply any message to a particular demographic?
  • is there anything gratuitous about any aspect of the picture?
  • is this something I would want to keep private? or that anyone would expect me to?
  • does it contain anything sexualized, disgusting, violent, or disturbing?
  • is this image in any way frame/promote/represent ideals that are not in line with corporate culture?

Only if I'm certain that the answer is "no" to these questions, does that image make the cut (and I've deleted a couple on my computer due to this post). Keep in mind that a workplace has people in every age, stage, race, gender, creed, class, with varying sense of humour, taste, opinion, and likes/dislikes. Your goal is to reasonably respect everyone in the imagery you choose.

Anime, comics, and graphic novels have a history of violence and oversexulizing their female characters. Be aware that if you are posting an image that is associated with a certain culture, you are at risk of invoking preconceived opinions of that culture as a whole (if they are true or not!). Best to avoid anything remotely controversial.

Because you say that this artwork is custom, I assume that this is a commissioned piece and has a place in your heart, or came into your possession at some cost. If it fails the test, save it for your personal PC.

There is no limit to available images, so there is no excuse.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.