How Much for That Doggie in the Cubicle?

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Dog Days

I am afraid of dogs. When I was 5, a German Shepard bit me and that was that for me and dogs. Over the years, I never cared for them, though I certainly never begrudged anyone who loved them. Last year, I got my wife a puppy, which is to say I got us a puppy, and now I love our dog. He is perfect. I love hanging out with him — he is sweet and smart and funny. But I would never bring him into a professional situation unless it was necessary and I had explicit endorsement from anyone who would be affected.

Dog lovers are, I’ve learned over the years, an intense and passionate breed. And some dog lovers want to believe it is appropriate to bring dogs everywhere. I am not here to debate that. In a workplace that isn’t explicitly dog-friendly, there are some boundary issues that need to be worked out.

It sounds like you have been really tolerant and fair up until now. These things can be such a slippery slope. What starts out as a generous accommodation for one person can quickly become an out of control situation. Even though your colleagues won’t like it, you should either compel your boss to establish a dog policy or you should do it yourself because it sounds like he has implicitly granted you the authority to do so.

Think about what a workable solution could look like — only allowing dogs in cases of emergency, for example, or two dog-friendly days a week. This is a sticky situation but I firmly believe you can find a way forward that will be better than what you’re presently dealing with.

Virus Bias

It is well past time to meet with human resources. Illness is not indicative of weakness or professional incompetence. I’m pretty sure ending up in a coma was far worse timing for you than your manager, who is shockingly callous. I feel naïve saying that. But my goodness, what happened to empathy?

The animosity seems intensely personal and wildly inappropriate. Unfortunately, the federal government enacted few workplace protections for people who contracted Covid. Common sense and decency dictate you shouldn’t be punished for getting so sick. And it’s disgraceful that you have little recourse.

In California, though, it is against the law for an employer to retaliate for someone using sick leave. If you haven’t already, document every instance of your manager using your illness against you. Talk to human resources to see how they plan to address this and if they don’t rise to the occasion, it may be time to seek the counsel of an employment lawyer.

I’m sorry you’ve had such a rough go of it and hope your situation improves, and quickly. We are in a pandemic. Nothing is normal, and employers have to recognize that their employees are human beings in human bodies.

Keeping Up Appearances

The polite response:

I invite you to stop commenting on my appearance immediately. It’s none of your concern and has nothing to do with our work together.”

The less polite response is to repeat what they said right back to them but turned up a notch. For example, if they remark that you look tired, tell them they look haggard. They’ll get the message, eventually.

Hazardous Road Conditions

I drive with a heavy foot but driving at more than 90 m.p.h.? That’s a bit much. Sometimes you have to tell a colleague a difficult truth. You can’t control how your co-worker receives your feedback. I would tactfully tell her that her driving makes you feel unsafe. Note that you would prefer her to drive closer to the speed limit and device-free. She can be sensitive about her driving but she doesn’t have the right to jeopardize your life or the lives of those with whom she shares roadways.

Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at [email protected].

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