Don’t Blame the Office Dog for the Human Problem

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I share my office with another co-worker and her large, stinky dog. I eat lunch at my desk and have to deal with the dog staring while I eat and sticking its head in my garbage can looking for leftovers. I listen to it obnoxiously drink water and eat. The dog is also scared of men. If strangers come to visit the office, it barks loudly and lunges! Mostly everyone I work with loves dogs, so I’d be in a losing battle if I even mentioned how I felt. I’m 99 percent sure my co-worker is aware I hate her dog, as I don’t pet it or interact with it. However, the dog keeps showing up. I have taken down the baby gate she was using to trap it in our office as I constantly tripped on it, and it made me feel like I was working in a cage. The dog has urinated and vomited on the office carpet numerous times, with minimal cleanup after. Any tips on how to get rid of Mutty McMuttface?

— Anonymous

While your co-workers are dog people, you are not, and that’s OK! This isn’t just an issue of your co-worker’s bringing her dog to work. She’s bringing an untrained dog to work, and his challenges are encroaching on your day-to-day work life. The easiest solution is to ask for a new office or officemate. But also, let’s be real. The dog is not at fault here. The owner is to blame for not properly caring for her dog by cleaning up after him, for not keeping him tethered without disrupting the rest of the office and for not making sure he is well trained or kept in an environment where he feels safe. If you cannot move offices, you absolutely can tell your co-worker she needs to be more mindful in her care of the dog at work. If, after that, nothing improves, you may have to escalate through appropriate professional channels.


I manage a small team of consultants. The work is technical and requires frequent client interactions and occasionally presenting to members of the public. One of my employees, who is mostly excellent at his job, nevertheless has one very peculiar habit: He continually repeats the same turn of phrase, sometimes in ways that make no sense in context. It is a verbal tic, very distracting albeit harmless. To protect his anonymity, let’s say it’s “quite frankly.” Now imagine watching someone give a 30-minute presentation in which he says “quite frankly” dozens of times, including in incongruous ways like: “Quite frankly, the next steps in the study are to document our findings in a final report.”

No one has ever brought it to his attention. I feel unsure whether I should intervene. I don’t want to embarrass him. Do you think I should discuss it with him, and if so, what is the best way to broach the subject?

— Anonymous

Many people have verbal tics. I’ve noticed some inserting the word “right” superfluously into conversation. It’s maddening. That said, it’s also relatively harmless, and for some people a verbal tic may be a symptom of a medical condition. In this context, yes, you can say something. Just be tactful. Be kind. When you have the opportunity to provide professional feedback, highlight everything he is doing well, and then broach the subject of his tic by simply pointing out that he uses this phrase quite a lot. He may not be aware. I would also share resources on how to overcome verbal tics. Some approaches include recording yourself so you can actually hear the tic and count how often you use it during a conversation, slowing down when you’re speaking to catch yourself before saying the phrase, getting more comfortable with silence and pauses, and so on.



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