September 14, 2009
Has your office gone to the dogs?
I was in the frozen food aisle of my neighborhood co-op the other day when a woman with a small dog on a leash walked by. The dog wasn't wearing a service vest, but the little guy was very well behaved. When the women chided him for breaking his heel to excitedly sniff my leg, the pup -- who was probably all of 12 pounds -- fell right back in line.
Like me, several customers looked genuinely surprised as the woman and her four-legged companion approached the checkout line. "Do you get a lot of dogs in here who aren't service animals?" I asked the cashier. I wasn't irate or disgusted -- just curious -- especially because I'd recently read about a growing pack of Portland residents who bring their non-service dogs into supermarkets.
"Not many," the Seattle cashier told me. As long the animal isn't wreaking havoc, they usually let in-store dog sightings slide, she said, explaining, "It's kind of awkward to ask someone whether their dog is a legitimate service animal."
This got me thinking about dogs in the workplace. Sure, we'd all love to bring our pets to work, but it's usually not practical.
In my former 9-to-5 life, I worked at a megacorporation with a "no dogs allowed" policy. Coworkers with small dogs that could easily be hidden under a desk would occasionally sneak them into their office. A die-hard dog lover myself, I always delighted in sniffing out and fawning over these stowaway office mutts.
Eventually I got a firsthand reminder of why most sizable organizations ban pets from the workplace. Deluding myself that my spastic black Lab could keep quiet and sit still for an hour on a Friday while I "just stopped by" my office to pick up some files, I brought him with me and tied his leash to my chair. Not only did he bark every time someone walked past my door, he tried to nip my officemate when she made a move to pet him. Horrified, I decided to stash my ill-mannered mutt in my car and quickly ushered him out of my office. Before we even made it to the building's exit door, he lunged at a manager.
(Seriously, what was I thinking bringing a skittish dog to work? Forget getting fired. Had anyone been hurt, I could have been sued.)
Between that experience and the research I've since done about pooch-friendly workplaces, I'm of the mind that "dogs allowed" policies work best in small companies.
Take Parsons Public Relations, a boutique PR firm in Seattle I wrote about a couple years back. Not only does the firm profile its three office pooches on its website's About Us section, it goes out of its way to state the following:
"Want a job here? You have to pass muster with the dogs -- they are an integral part of the final review process."
In other words, the allergic and indifferent need not apply.
Readers, what's your take your pooches in the workplace? Are they are source of calm for you? A source of stress? Just one big hairy, distracting mess?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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