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The back story: I'm a recently hired high-level member of my organization. I'm in a close working relationship with the owner of the company. As a startup, the owner essentially lives in the office, which means that their two (small) dogs are in the office all day every day. Several other employees have come to me with complaints around the fact that the dogs are in the office every day.

The question: How do I bring up to the owner of the company that the dogs shouldn't be in the office (at least not as long/often), as they are both distracting to the employees (many of the employees are part of a call center) as well as to the owner (they need to be taken out multiple times per day, which anecdotally seems to happen every time we're deep in discussion about something).

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    Ask yourself why employees who have been there a while are coming to the new hire with complaints. That said, why not look into how successful dog-friendly companies like Zazzle handle this. – Amy Blankenship Jun 1 '16 at 14:56
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    Sounds like simply closing a couple doors will straighten everything out. FWIW: I contracted for one person who referred to their dog as the "VP of Software Development." I asked, "Does that mean I answer to the dog?" After a moment, he said, "I guess so." Best boss I ever had. – Wesley Long Jun 1 '16 at 15:41
  • @WesleyLong - closing doors could solve the "dogs are distracting the call center employees" problem, but not the "boss interrupts our meetings to walk the dogs" problem. – Adam V Jun 1 '16 at 15:49
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    @AdamV - It would if the dogs were closed in the owner's office during meetings. Some housebreaking training is likely required. I say this from a "Been there, done that." perspective. – Wesley Long Jun 1 '16 at 15:51
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    Is it unprofessional though? There is a large movement to allow pet owners to bring their pets to work (it can be benefit helping recruiting). I think you are trying to address the wrong issues. The issue is that call center is being disturbed by dogs (that definitely needs to be solved). The owner is distracted by dogs (is this just when you are there (because of your close relationship the owner does not see it as a problem) or does it happen with clients). It should not happen with clients and you need a way for the owner of the company to stay focused even the dogs need to be taken out. – Martin York Jun 2 '16 at 17:29
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Bring it up calmly and professionally. As a leader, I would also no throw the employees under the bus, but rather take responsibility for bringing up the subject:

You: Bob, I'd like to talk to you about Puppy1 and Puppy2 (using their names makes it more personal, and genuine, in my opinion). I'm a dog person, and I absolutely love them, but it is my professional opinion that their presence in the office is disruptive to the staff. I honestly think that the office is not a good place for them to be when people are trying to conduct business over the phone, or have to focus on their tasks.

Bob: Oh? But Puppy1 and Puppy2 are very well behaved, and they hardly cause any fuss at all! Why, has someone come forward to complain?

You: Bob, as a dog lover, and their owner I think you may have some personal bias regarding the matter. As someone you trust, please believe me when I tell you that I've seen signs of disruption, otherwise I would not be bringing this up. We should work together to find some way in which to separate them from the staff, and to remove the element of distraction.

Now, obviously I'm not privy to the relationship you have with your boss, or how well he might take the conversation, but staying polite, and putting an emphasis on wanting to work with him, not simply blaming him, and walking away are the key points here.

Also realize that completely removing the dogs from the premises might not be possible - at least not right away. Maybe set up provisions to set them up in a side room, in the beginning. If barking, etc. is an issue then you may wish to insist that they be removed from the premises, although that might be a touchy subject.

When it comes to walking them, maybe establish some protocols that one of the junior staff members (an assistant) could take them out without disrupting your meetings, etc? You could throw a line into your conversation about it:

I'm especially concerned about how sometimes we postpone critical conversations in order to meet their needs. In my opinion taking them for a walk should really take a back seat to reaching a decision on X.

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I don't know how the owner of this company feels but some people treat their pets like their children and they get offended by suggestion to remove "their children" from their vicinity. Although I agree with you regarding pets being a distraction at the workplace, since the owner is who is paying all the bills and deciding what makes and breaks his/her business, in the ultimate end, it is up to them, how they are going to run their business.

If any of the employees have health concern's, such as severe allergies for pet dander or asthma etc, they should bring it to the attention of the owner, but even in that case all the owner is required to do is to keep the door to the office closed. Since you are not working for a government entity, where everyone needs to obey the same rules, you are pretty much out of luck.

But it doesn't hurt to make your case about dogs being a distraction and preventing staff from working or being less productive because of their presence. But be ready for retaliation (to the degree of employee dismissal) if the owner feels strongly about these dogs. As an animal lover myself, I would let the employee go, before I got rid of my animal, unless these employees are the ones who will make or break my business. Even in that case, no employee is irreplaceable.

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    What business are you in that you can prioritize an employee over Obi Barkinobi? – HireThisMarine Jun 1 '16 at 14:54
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    I am not in any kind of business but if I were and I have to let a call center employee go, because he/she doesn't want to be in the same environment with a dog, not for any health reason but just because, I'd be happy to let them go. This is how I FEEL. To each, his own... – MelBurslan Jun 1 '16 at 14:57
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    @HireThisMarine I'm sure the paper clips are prioritized over me. – TheMathemagician Jun 1 '16 at 14:57
  • @TheMathemagician, LOL... sometimes we all feel the same way – MelBurslan Jun 1 '16 at 14:58
  • This may not apply (yet) since this is a startup, but there are additional laws (the ADA, for example) that apply once the company reaches specific numbers of employees, which could require the owner to do more than "keep the door to the office closed". – Adam V Jun 1 '16 at 15:25
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When you approach your boss about it, make sure that you are making a business case, not a personal attack against his dogs. As MelBurslan points out, many people feel that their pets are their children and may get offended if you just say they are misbehaving.

Explain with very specific examples how the dogs are negatively affecting people's work. You have received complaints that the dogs are barking or begging for attention while your employees are on the phone with customers. You feel that the flow of your meetings is constantly being disrupted by needing to take them outside.

In particular, if there are employees with allergies, this needs to be brought up, as there may be legal requirements to protect the employees' health.

Keep in mind that the objective of this conversation is not to remove the dogs from the office, but rather to remove their impact on the workplace. Maybe the dogs will not be allowed to roam freely so they can't disrupt your employees. Or your boss could agree to always take them out immediately before a meeting, or give them a chew bone to distract them during the meeting. And maybe the solution will be to leave the dogs at home more often.

Whatever the solution is, make sure that this is a dialogue you are working together to fix, not telling your boss he needs to get rid of the dogs. This is his company, and they are his pets, so ultimately the decision is his.

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    One thing to take into account is the age of the dogs. If they are puppies, it's possible that the problems will go away on their own as they get older. – Amy Blankenship Jun 1 '16 at 15:06
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I doubt the owner will agree to the removal of their dogs if they don't have to. But the dogs themselves are not really the problem. It sounds like the dogs are causing problems because the owner has bad "dog manners". It is perfectly reasonable to demand that there be rules and restrictions regarding the dogs.

For example: dog-free zones, particularly where they distract employees. Taking the dogs out before any important meetings or discussions. Keeping the dogs on a leash or in the owner's office. Dogs should be kept under control at all times and not allowed to randomly approach employees.

Draft up a rule list and suggest that the owner follow it out of courtesy to the employees. The owner is more likely to agree to such reasonable requests than to not bring the dogs in at all.

Of course, you could start by asking them to not bring their dogs to work, by bringing up those reasons, but no matter how polite you are, I think your odds are pretty low.

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