When Pets at Work Affect Your Work

By Paula Santonocito

Q.  I’ve been with my company for two years and everything was going great until recently when it started allowing people to bring their dogs to work. We now have as many as 10 dogs wandering throughout the building on any given day. Everyone seems to think it’s wonderful, except for me because I’m allergic to dogs. I’ve been trying to avoid close contact with them, but it’s difficult. Should I talk to my boss about my problem?

A.  Pets at work have caused more than one person to growl.

Sharing your workplace with (wo)man’s supposed best friend can be difficult, even if you’re an animal lover. In addition to the manners and grooming of your coworkers, you’re subjected to those of their pets.

The entire situation can give the term dog breath a whole new meaning. And it’s not just dog breath that turns people off. Employees have complained about dirty dogs, dogs that drool, and even dogs that aren’t entirely housebroken.

So, why do employers allow people to bring their dogs to work?

Americans love their animals. Although it’s nearly impossible to pin down exactly how many people have canine companions, best estimates put the number of American dog owners at more than 43 million people.

Since companies are run by people and people adore their dogs, well, the tail wags the dog, so to speak. But personal preference isn’t the only motivation for pets at work.

Companies find pets at work can be good for morale. Pets make employees happier. And because happier employees are more productive, a correlation can be drawn between pets at work and the bottom line.

Nevertheless, pets also pose risks. Dogs might bite people; or, as in your situation, cause employees with allergies to suffer. Experts point out that dogs can also get hurt at work, and that an injured pet could be a liability for an employer.

As a result, they advise employers to carefully consider the benefits and the potential problems before allowing pets at work. Experts also recommend considering all members of the workforce.

This brings up an important point with regard to your situation. Were employees at your company notified that pets would be coming to work? If so, that was your opportunity to speak up.

Even if you were given notice, and you didn’t tell management about your allergies, it doesn’t mean you have to continue suffering. If you have a health issue, you should speak up.

As with most situations, approach matters. When talking with management about your allergies, you might say that you’d hoped the dogs wouldn’t affect you but that it’s far worse than you anticipated.

Your company will most likely change its policy, and advise pet owners that their pooches must now stay home.

However, if you don’t want to be labeled as a dog hater, you should ask management to share the specifics of your situation. Ask them to let others know that you like dogs and tried your best to accommodate them; unfortunately, your allergies make it impossible.

If your employer unleashes all the facts, it should prevent your coworkers from barking behind your back.

Have a question? Email Paula here.

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