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I have a specific situation but I think maybe it can be generalized to many types of situations. The other day, I visited a friend from college (we work in the same field) at his office. It is an open plan, casual office with ping pong tables, lots of people on laptops, and casual dress. I was also surprised that there were pet dogs hanging around the office. I learned later from my friend that people are allowed to bring in their dogs every day if they want as one of the "perks" of the job.

I didn't say anything to my friend, but I don't really like dogs and am mildly afraid of them when they jump on me or lick me. If I interviewed with a company and found out they had this policy, I would not take the job. And if people at my current job started bringing in dogs, I would look for a new job. Note that it isn't a medical issue for me, so I think some people would consider this attitude silly or even crazy. I don't have a problem with service dogs and don't want people to think I'm a crazy dog hater.

My question has two parts: When interviewing for a job, how to indicate that something (which might be normal or positive for others) is a dealbreaker for me without seeming obsessed or petty? When already in a job, how to prevent such changes to the workplace?

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    just work in a large company - any company with many many staff - and you're in the clear. – bharal Jan 24 '15 at 2:56
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    I'm a dog person and I don't think it's crazy for folks to not want to be around dogs in the workplace. Even though I have been around dogs all my life and am pretty experienced in handling them, I don't trust strange dogs at all (and most owners even less!). I certainly wouldn't be comfortable if my coworkers started bringing in their pet tarantulas, and I imagine some folks have the same kind of unease around dogs. – ColleenV Jan 24 '15 at 16:46
  • @ColleenV, on the other hand it's not crazy to look at this as a perk - there is a lot of logistics and cost involved if you need to put your dog into daycare. I completely understand if companies do not allow dogs, but I probably wouldn't (couldn't, really) work there. Which puts me basically into the same position as the OP, I just have do ask during the interview and politely decline if I cannot bring the dog. – Eike Pierstorff Jan 25 '15 at 19:24
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    @EikePierstorff Well, you chose to be a dog owner and accept the responsibility. Folks don't chose to be allergic to or afraid of dogs. It's a perk sure, but it can also put someone who doesn't want to work around dogs in a really bad spot. You could make your same argument for allowing people to bring their kids into the office. It depends on the company and the type of business they're in, but I personally wouldn't want to work in an office with dogs or cats, even though I enjoy mine (I have both). I'm an Engineer though. I suppose there are some jobs that could tolerate the distraction. – ColleenV Jan 25 '15 at 20:19
  • @ColleenV, I wasn't fighting you, I was pointing out that it is quite normal to look at this as a perk since the OP seemed to find this odd (still, I did not choose to be allergic against peanuts and still allow colleagues to bring them to work, despite the face that they are much much more deadly than dogs. It seems rather hard to decide on a rational basis which hazards should be acceptable in a workplace and which should not). However I feel our little argument is of limited relevance to the question, so maybe we should stop this right here. – Eike Pierstorff Jan 25 '15 at 20:42
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For the interview part of your question, I'll expand on theplastictoy's answer: at the end of the interview, ask to look around the office. This has multiple advantages, even beyond looking for dogs, leashes or dog toys: you can check out whether it's an open office, or whether you have private offices or cubicles, you can check unobtrusively what kind of equipment your peers-to-be have, you can see whether there are suspiciously few Dilbert cartoons or pictures of kids around (which may indicate a humor-deficient management), what the dress code is, whether you will be comfortable with the noise level, and so forth.

(This list also gives you plenty of reasons to give for why you'd like to see the office if they ask, without having to state explicitly that you have a problem with dogs, which you may or may not want to mention - as you say, people could misunderstand you if you ask explicitly about the dog policy.)

Most potential employers should readily assent to a short tour of the office. If a potential employer does not allow this, I'd see this as a red flag (and ask for a reason), which is a valuable piece of information all by itself. In this case, you can still ask about any specific things you need to know, like the dog policy.


So, what to do if a previously dog-free environment suddenly allows dogs to come in? In the best of all possible worlds, management should be aware that not everybody likes dogs and should ask for people's opinions before allowing this. Failing this, you will need to communicate. There may well be others that do not appreciate dogs, so maybe you could get a separate non-dog section of the office. Or the other way around: maybe dogs could be brought to the office but must stay within a certain area (it may make sense to simply place all the dog people together - as long as the dogs get along).

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    I agree, a tour is something I will never skip again (and yes I have good reason). Frankly in today's world with open office plans becoming mroe common. that would immediately end the interview for me and I would make sure to tell they why. If my employer went to such an office plan, I would quit as soon as I coudl find another job. Since you feel that way about pets, yes you shoudl look at the office and decide if youa re willing towork there and if there is something that you find uncomfortbale, you should move on to the next job and let them know why. – HLGEM Jan 26 '15 at 19:56
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    This is what I did. Unfortunately, my now-boss walked me through a completely different part of the office, on another floor, which is quiet and well lit. I accepted the offer and for the last 4 months have been working in an area with no lighting, no windows, constant shouting/yelling. Since they don't allow WFH, I will be quitting and telling my boss exactly why. – Max A. Oct 17 at 4:22
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Let's start with the second one. If something changes in a workplace culture and it's causing you pain in some way, you should definitely let your co-workers know about it. In companies with more transparency between people, this should be pretty easy to do, in other ones talk to your manager. Ideally you'll be able to find a balance that's ok for everyone. However, be prepared to find somewhere else if your opinion is not respected.

The first one is trickier, as you can't possibly know everything about the company during interviews. If you have the chance, ask to have a look at the office (or at least some part of it) after an interview. This will give you some info on how your future colleagues work together.

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You want a piece of information. "What's the policy on pets?" So you ask for it. You don't have to say why you're asking, you're just curious. Say that they reply, 'we permit dogs. Why do you ask?' So, why wouldn't you reply, 'because I don't feel comfortable with free-range dogs.' You're not going to take the job in that case, so why not be honest?

For an existing job, unless your feelings on canines achieve an ADA level (and you are in the US), there is precisely nothing you can do if your employer does not solicit input.

  • I don't know what it's like in the US but I work in Israel and one of the new employees started to bring is dog, the dog is cute and I love dogs but has he was still a puppy every time the owner left him for over 10 minutes the dog cried, and since one of the persons sitting close liked bugging him he would also often bark at him, despite sympathies to the dog it became quite annoying. Apparently somebody complained because weeks later we got an email from HR that some people are allergic or afraid so please don't bring your pets to work, and the issue was resolved. – Sigal Shaharabani Jan 26 '15 at 15:10
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Just be up front about it and ask about their policies. If you're worried it will make you look petty, wait to bring it up until an offer is extended. I guarantee you companies with these sorts of perks have thought long and hard about their impact on people who do not enjoy dogs. Look at SparkFun's dog policy for a good example. Dog owners are highly motivated to follow the rules in order to keep the perk.

If you're still not convinced, ask to speak to someone who feels as you do. If that still doesn't convince you, just move on. No sense working somewhere you would feel uncomfortable.

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