66

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.

  • 5
    What is your role in your organisation? – Gregory Currie May 7 at 3:51
  • 26
    "There's nobody I can really escalate this to" - there always is (unless you're the CEO). What about the executives who approved the idea? – sleske May 7 at 5:51
  • 5
    Why don't you want to allow this? Signing up the dog in the field meant for a child of course is silly, but bringing a dog to an informal event seems reasonable. – allo May 7 at 8:16
  • 5
    @allo As expressed in other comments/answers, there are several reasons as to why it would be inappropriate. The decisive argument however is that the OP doesn't want it in his event, nor does he want to be bullied into accepting it. – lucasgcb May 7 at 8:53
  • 9
    When he first got the dog, did he ask for parental leave? – Acccumulation May 7 at 15:18
142

Do not give in to his demands. His demands are beyond stupid (and I say this as a no-child dog owner). This is not a bring-your-beloved-pet-day. Best case scenario is the dog will be bored to death sitting next to Joe listening to him explaining his day job in kid-friendly terms.

He basically threatened to report me to the diversity manager of the company

One way to react to threats from bullies is to make sure they don't linger around but are resolved as soon as possible. Write them a nice email to the effect that you'd love to meet their dogs, but not on Child-To-Work-Day. Offer to support them in talking to management on doing their own day, maybe bring-your-animal-day. Quote them on their threat and tell them why you think this is not a diversity issue ("this is an event for kids aged 10-14. All kids aged 10-14. But only kids."), but since they brought it up, include the contact data of the diversity manager. Copy the diversity manager in CC.

This threat should vanish over night. Either they can duke it out with the diversity manager, or they can give up. There is a slight chance that your diversity manager is incompetent, but I think that's unlikely.

The point here is: do not give in to stupid people. Do not let threats just hang over you unresolved when they can be resolved by one quick email. Delegate the fight over whether this is a diversity issue or just plain stupid to someone equipped for it.

  • 47
    "Offer to support them in talking to management on doing their own day" , yes, this. Excellent technique. I think that's known as "beating them at their own game", or even "killing them with kindness" :-). – sleske May 7 at 5:58
  • 13
    And "bring your pet to work day" is not exactly a novel concept. – Borgh May 7 at 7:15
  • 20
    CC to the person that they threatened to tell - yes. This is the key. – Stilez May 7 at 9:49
  • 12
    @StianYttervik what if they have a second dog that is in that age range? Using fake excuses here is a dangerous game. – Kaspar Scherrer May 7 at 10:32
  • 8
    This: "do not give in to stupid people". That should be more common practice, a lot of things could improve of that. – Martijn May 7 at 12:29
50

One of my past employers also did a modified version of this event. They called it Bring a Child to Work Day. By default people brought their own kids, but if you didn't have kids but had a favorite niece, nephew, friend's kid, or whatever, that was fine. (There was fine print somewhere to the effect that it was up to you to make sure this was ok with the parents of the kid you brought, if not yours.)

You can use a similar approach to defuse your conflict. Stress that this is for human children and he's free to bring a child who is special to him. Also, the activities you have planned (you do have activities planned, right?) depend on the participants being human. If he doesn't have any children in his life, then he can sit this one out, same as the people who don't drink sit out happy hour and the ones who aren't into sports sit out the volleyball league and so on. Or he can help run it, teach the kids about his job, etc.

Do make sure that there is no work benefit to the people who bring their kids but aren't helping to run it. They should do so on their own time (or use a few hours of leave), so that those who don't bring kids can't make the argument that the company discriminated against them by letting people with kids skip out on work to participate. Of course, anybody should be able to help run activities and that's a work function.

The best way to address his claims of canine children is to ignore them. He can show up with a child, or come by himself to help run it, or not participate, or be laughed at by a roomful of coworkers and their children if he shows up with Fido as his "child". If he takes his claim to HR, them laughing at him would be getting off light. Don't let him bait you. And whether he can bring his dog to work at all is a matter for your office manager, not you.

  • 29
    I don't feel really like the idea that employees should be expected to participate on their own time or take leave to participate in a company activity like this (it's called "Bring Your Child to Work Day," not "Bring Your Child to Unpaid Time At The Office Day"). Dealing with a potential discrimination argument could be addressed with HR, but if employees can bring any child, that doesn't discriminate as much based on family status. That could further be addressed by making any events that involve the adults open to all employees, even those who didn't bring any children. – Zach Lipton May 7 at 6:46
  • 26
    If I need to use leave to exposes a kid to careers there are way better places than y own job. – Borgh May 7 at 6:47
  • 6
    I don't understand why there is a discrimination issue. All employees, with or without children, are welcome to attend the events for adults + children, (obviously during work time — how are children supposed to be exposed to people working if people are not working?) unless we somehow believe that childless adults are a danger to children?! – gerrit May 7 at 8:04
  • 8
    +1 for the "you do have activities planned, right?" - a well-organised "bring your child to work" cay should not just be "bring the child to work". It should include some activities or presentations specifically for the children - perhaps an overview of what the company does, or a mock-work scenario where they can get a feel for some of what goes on. How is the dog expected to join in with those? (Also, "And what careers has your child expressed an interest in pursuing when they grow up?" would be a useful question for the sign-up form!) – Chronocidal May 7 at 10:00
  • 1
    @ZachLipton It's also not "Get paid for a day of doing nothing for the company because you chose to have kids -day!". This answer at least attempts to point this issue out and balance that. Maybe the reverse of what was suggested - instead of people using their off-time, everyone just gets a free day. – Ethan The Brave May 10 at 19:22
30

As a dog lover I can conclusively say that a dog is not a child, no matter how you twist language.

Not only is a dog a furry animal on four legs, it also has a non-human psychology, even though many try to anthromorphosize dogs.

The confusion here stems from that the person in question seems to consider it their right to interpret language in a way they see fit.

But, to repeat, children are not dogs, which is the rational way to go forward and explain the issue.

In addition, many children are afraid of dogs. Depending on the dog, bringing it to a kid’s event may be a bad idea. Not to mention potential problems because of allergies. What is your company’s responsibility if a kid gets an allergic attack?

In writing, explain that kids are not dogs. Add a line or two about potential hazards, and that the discussion about dogs in the workplace is a valid but separate issue. Cc the diversity responsible, who should know the legal requirements for diversity issues.

  • 4
    While what you write makes sense, IMHO this looks more like a comment, as it does not really address the question ("What can I do to defuse this?"). Could you edit to clarify how OP can handle the situation? – sleske May 7 at 5:55
  • @sleske edited. – frankhond May 7 at 6:03
  • "many children are afraid of dogs" Also, many children have poor manners around dogs. Fido might be happy to be petted by someone who knows how to approach a strange dog, and who knows to ask permission from the dog's owner/handler. Will Fido be equally happy with children potentially running toward him/her, throwing themselves over the dog, hugging and/or petting the dog atop the head (very threatening in dog language!), and so on and so forth, all day long (or at least several hours)? Maybe. But it is a situation that can go from okay to really, really bad in a heartbeat. – a CVn May 14 at 9:52
25

Not that I disagree with other answers here, but I'd say they're too soft, personally. This guy's behaviour is beyond ridiculous. My actions would be the following:

  • Email the guy a simpe, factual follow up on your conversation; something like "Hi Bob, as per our conversation earlier, I can confirm that the event is only for children. Pets, including dogs, are not allowed at the bring your child to work day. If you have any issues with this, please take it up with senior management."
  • Email the diversity manager, and another manager, giving them a heads up over the conversation in case Bob decides to bring his dog anyway or there's an issue later.

...and then consider it dealt with. You've dealt with it simply and factually, created a paper trail in case anything goes wrong, and kept management in the loop.

  • "If you have any issues with this, please take it up with senior management." The part is passive-aggressive and not needed. It applies to all issues, anyways. I'd keep it short and factual and omit that sentence. Just tell the facts: No pets allowed, period. – Polygnome May 7 at 9:16
  • 9
    @Polygnome without that bit ("If you have any issues with this, please take it up with senior management."), Bob will be back at your desk in seconds arguing over countless details to get his way.... – Solar Mike May 7 at 9:27
  • 2
    This is the best answer - short and to the point. As an aside, I would have a two eyes meeting with the employee and just state that "Sorry, this is my final decision - you are of course free to take this to the diversity manager but you should seriously consider if it is worth ruining our professional relationship over that." - simply because he needs to reconsider if this is the hill he wants to die on. This cannot end well for the employee, there is no winning this argument. He loses even if the diversity manager gets involved. – Stian Yttervik May 7 at 12:31
  • 1
    I would consider cc'ing him on the email to the diversity manager, to avoid any appearance of going behind his back. – Acccumulation May 7 at 15:22
  • 1
    @Acccumulation given his behaviour, what is wrong with going behind his back? He is clearly going on the mindless-offensive. Any info OP gives him, he will use (or at least attempt to use) against OP – 520 May 8 at 12:35
18

Don't cave. There are serious health and safety issues with bringing dogs that are not present with children

The first and foremost is allergies. Some people have fur allergies that certain breeds of dogs can trigger.

The second is the behaviour of the dog cannot be guaranteed. This can be said of children too but even badly behaved children do not usually bite. On the other hand I remember all to well times where, despite the owner's assurance, their little 'princess pup' put holes in my jacket from trying to bite my wrist. This is not even mentioning the time a German Shepherd tried to outright rip my leg off for so much as looking at it. Dog bites are usually a very serious medical issue due to risk of infection as well, but the potentially aggressive dogs leads into my next point:

Some people are genuinely scared of dogs. It doesn't matter if it's a shoe-sized Chihuahua or a hulking Great Dane. This will be especially true if there is someone in your office who has ever been on the wrong end of canine aggression (it is genuinely terrifying). Having a dog roam around the office will create a hostile work environment for these people.

In summary:

Give the diversity officer a heads-up along with your reasoning why dogs will not be allowed. Then let him go to the diversity officer. Bring popcorn.

EDIT: I should also mention that dog behaviour is especially not guaranteed when:

a) they are strapped to a work desk all day.

b) they are surrounded by kids, some of which may not know how to treat dogs or other living animals with respect.

  • 2
    I had a comment - magically gone now..., that pointed out safety of dogs and kids so plus 1 form me. – Solar Mike May 7 at 15:11
  • 1
    Relevant news on the subject of human health and canine companions... iowaagriculture.gov/news/… – bishop May 14 at 4:19
14

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

The reality is, you have been authorized to run this event for children, advice the person in question that you requested permission for children to be in the office, this has legal implications (insurance liabilities).

You have not been authorized to run this event for pets as well and the liability in this case would go beyond the scope of what the current activity is.

The idea of the event is for children to be exposed to a work environment and this wouldn't be beneficial to the pet.

You don't care about their decision of having or not having children, it is their life/decision, however they are welcomed to bring someone else's child if they wish, if they don't then they can participate on other activities that are more applicable.

Tell him you will be happy to discuss this with the diversity manager if necessary to see their opinion, however you feel that it wouldn't be appropriate for the pet to be brought to the workplace for this event.

These are things you can tell your colleague...you may want to just go and talk to the diversity manager yourself and explain the situation, as in reality you are being threatened, which is an unacceptable behavior.

4

I'll suggest the divergent path here.

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.

Ignore him and act as if he didn't say that.

There are 2 ways this can go, and they both don't affect you or your planned event.

  1. He makes a fool of himself and actually complains. Someone in the chain of responsibility the complaint goes through will realize what a ridiculous notion this is, and it will severely damage his credibility in the company. I suspect however that he knows this and is just antagonizing you for some reason, which brings me to ...

  2. You called his bluff, he just wanted to make a sting in a way likely to scare or concern you. In this case you can forget about the interaction quickly and nothing happens.

You shouldn't engage in arguing whether or not the event would be safe for dogs, allergy issues, definition problems with what constitutes a child, etc. It's not really your responsibility to do that as the organizer. These concerns are all valid, but they'll come up if he makes a complaint anyways, either via HR or whoever has to listen to the complaint.

One thing you could do however is extend the offer to children not directly of the employees like Monica's answer suggests.

  • There's actually a third way- he brings the dog anyways. – Jim Clay May 7 at 12:58
  • 2
    Also a forth way, he brings a child who brings a dog – Paytun Maening May 8 at 2:20
-2

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.

That's extremely insensitive. The spirit of Bring your Child to Work Day is not about bringing children or hallmark cards. It's about showing your signification other or family what your work life is and to be proud about what you do, even if it is stapling papers and ignoring emails all day long.

Before you get yourself into any more trouble, I would open up this day (or next one) to anyone who identifies as a child or would benefit from Bringing a child to work day.

  • 4
    Where I work there is a definite distinction between 'Take your child to work day' and 'Family Day' - one is not the same as the other. – Jon Custer May 14 at 13:41

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.