I was surprised that our company didn't do anything for national Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, so I volunteered to organize our own version of it (just calling it Bring Your Child to Work Day). The executives in the firm thought it was a great idea and gave me the green light. They even authorized a good amount money for special activities for the children.
Yesterday I sent out the announcement of the event with details, and was pleasantly surprised how positive of a response I got. Lots of people are signing up, and there appears to be some genuine excitement.
The only hiccup in the plan is that somebody has signed up his dog to attend. I assumed it was a joke at first, but when I confronted him, he got extremely defensive. He said that his dog was his child, and that I was being discriminatory by trying to exclude him. He accused me of being prejudiced against people with different lifestyles who choose not to have children.
I tried to explain to him that the point of Bring Your Child to Work Day was to expose children to different careers in the workplace and to inspire them. He said that since I'm creating my own version of Bring Your Child to Work Day, I can turn it into whatever I want. He basically threatened to report me to the diversity manager of the company.
I really hate conflict and I'm tempted to give into his demands to avoid having to deal with this, but I find the whole thing quite silly and annoying. I'm just trying to create a fun program for children, but now I fear I'm going to get thrown in the middle of controversy over something stupid.
There's nobody I can really escalate this to, because I'm actually the one who is in charge. Am I wrong for thinking that bringing a dog to such event is silly and unprofessional? What can I do to defuse this conflict?
Update 5-13 - Thanks all for the advice. Things have gotten messy and I figured it was worth an update.
So I ended up talking to one of the executives that signed off on this event. He agreed that it was silly, but told me to let this guy bring his dog to avoid conflict. He gave me some background on this guy, and basically said it was better to give into these silly demands.
Apparently, word got out quickly that this guy was bringing his dog. I've now had 4 more people sign up their dog, most with a note like "that's awesome that you're allowing dogs!"
The icing on the cake is somebody stopped by my desk today and asked if they could bring their grandmother. I'm done playing stupid games, so I just said "no, don't be ridiculous." She then went on a tirade on how it's not fair that people get to bring their dogs, and she can't bring her elderly grandmother, who is a real human being and would benefit from seeing her work environment. I just said "no, you can't bring your grandmother to Take Your Child to Work Day. This is without a doubt the dumbest thing I've ever heard." I thought she was going to erupt with anger, so I quickly excused myself and walked around the building.
The event is now a week away, and I'm close to tears as I write this. Sorry for the rant, but I'm extremely frustrated and upset. Needless to say, I'm never ever volunteering to organize any event like this again.