dog rampage in the office, temps accused me of bullying, and more


It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Misbehaving dog rampages around the office

About four months ago, we were asked to return to the office after two amazing years working from home, first two days a week, then Monday through Thursday.

We are a five-person design studio with three associates who own it, and one of them got a dog, Pepito, about a year ago. The dog is an absolute nightmare. The owner has tried a bit of training with the help of a trainer, but I don’t see much effort (or authority) on her end to actually correct her dog’s behavior. He chews on everything, bites people when we walk around the office, loves to counter surf (and any other surface for that matter), and plays with loud toys and with a dog that another person that works here brings sometimes (even that dog gets tired of playing with Pepito and has to be locked up). I am completely in awe that neither of the other two associates say anything to her about it and just normalize everything the dog does.

This has made the work environment completely dreadful to me. The constant yelling at the dog trying to make him stop the shenanigans he is always up to, being alert when I have lunch so he doesn’t try to eat it and that I don’t get attacked when I’m finally leaving, etc. is causing me stress. We always have a meeting at the end of the year, and I thought maybe I could bring it up at that time, but I’m unsure of the best way to discuss this because I am also planning on asking for a raise. Do you have any suggestions for this situation? I feel trapped, and I am seriously considering (if I don’t get a raise and this dog thing continues) looking for another job.

Because the dog belongs to one of the owners, your options may be limited. But do any of the other owners seem annoyed by the situation? If you’ve ever seen signs of that, talk to that person! Otherwise, is there one of the owners who you have an especially good rapport with and who you know values your work? You could talk to that person, explain how disruptive the dog is, cite the specific problems he’s causing (biting should be at the top of that list since that could create legal liability for the company), and ask if they can talk to Pepito’s owner about keeping him at home (or at least getting him training).

Alternately, you could try alerting Pepito’s owner every time the dog is misbehaving — “Jane, Pepito is biting people, can you keep him in your office?” … “Jane, Pepito is chewing on wires, can you keep him in your office?” … “Jane, Pepito is digging through the trash, can you keep him in your office?” … etc. But that sounds exhausting, and I’m not convinced it’ll change anything, given the pattern so far. You could also try a more straightforward “It’s really hard to work with Pepito rampaging around and getting yelled at so often” — but how well that’ll go over depends on what the owner is like and how they deal with messages they don’t want to hear. Their total lack of consideration isn’t encouraging, but there are some people who are this oblivious but are still willing to change things up once someone tells them they need to. This person may or may not be in that category.

You’re probably better off using one of those methods rather than bringing it up at the year-end meeting;  with the latter, there’s too much risk that others won’t chime in with support (especially if taken off-guard without time to prepare) and you’ll end up looking like the only one who has a problem with the situation. It might turn out you are the only one who objects, and if that’s the case, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to stay in these conditions or not. But raise it first and see if anything changes. (Also, this conversation should be totally separate from your raise conversation — one has nothing to do with the other.)

2. Two temps accused me of bullying

Last year we were very much a toxic workplace and I’m the only survivor. I didn’t find a new position before the current manager quit, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

My grandboss become my boss and HR assigned him some one-on-one time for outside coaching, as my boss flat out lied about him on her way out. She started out saying she was going to take his job and when that didn’t work moved on to a “burn the place down” mentality.

We got behind on our regular work and starting using temps. We’ve been through 13 temps in a year, not counting the three we currently have. Tw became full-time in our department, one full-time in another department, and a few didn’t last a whole day or only a couple of days because they didn’t like the work or they found full-time outside of our company. However, two have now left, personally attacking me and calling me a bully. I know I’m a little warped from surviving the toxic phase, which is why I have sought out opportunities to work closely with other departments and attend trainings to reset my mindset. Both temps have had similar issues of being late, preferring to play on their phones, and parking in our visitor parking and having to be asked repeatedly to put their phones away or move their cars. Expectations are set up front for phone usage, parking, and a set 8-5 schedule.

The most recent one was this week, and I got a horrific six-paragraph text attacking everything from my looks, my current/future children, my profession, and my childhood. I know that isn’t all true, but it was extremely hurtful in the moment. But I am concerned about having two now refer to me as a bully. As far as parking, I’ve always asked (after HR told me there was an issue), “Hey, are you parked in visitor parking by any chance?” and once they confirm I’ve asked them to move their car and gently reminded them that they need to park in general parking. For phones I’ve asked, “Oh hey, whatcha working on?” and if they responded that they didn’t currently have anything, I’ve found them work and asked that in the future they let me know when they’ve run out of work. If they currently did have something, I’ve asked them to put the phone away so they could concentrate on the task.

I’m not a new manager but I am a new manager at this company. My promotion was only a partial replacement of my boss and I’m working on a master’s degree to fully qualify. I’m worried I’m going to put time and effort into additional education that I didn’t really want and then I get told I’m no longer eligible because of complaints.

Am I off-base? I’ve only asked about parking when HR reported to me there was an issue. I’ve never singled anyone out in a group setting. I’ve only asked what they were working on when the phones stayed out over a 15–30-minute period or they were watching videos/TV on them. The only way out of my office is to walk by everyone and I am up and down all day either for meetings or the bathroom (hello pregnancy).

When someone attacks your looks, your children, and your childhood, the problem is with them.

None of the actions you described taking sound unreasonable. That doesn’t mean there’s not more to it — for all I know, you could be a terrible manager in all sorts of ways. It’s possible you are a bully; I can’t say that you’re not, but the stuff about parking and phone use certainly wouldn’t qualify. Could there be other stuff going on? Sure, there could be. But someone who attacks your looks, your children, and your childhood is someone of terrible character, with terrible judgment. Their assessment of you shouldn’t carry much weight, because they’re out of their gourd.

It’s still worth getting feedback from other people you manage, since you’ve now had complaints from two separate people and especially because you note that you know working in a toxic environment has warped your norms. There could be real work you need to do to change how you manage (stuff that might have nothing to do with the parking/phone issues). It’s important to find out. But it sounds like at least one of the two people who accused you has their own severe toxicity issues, and you’ve got to factor that in too.

3. What do people who work in offices do?

I have only ever worked at non-office jobs (Kroger, waitressing, currently a hospital employee, etc.) and it seems like an overwhelming number of people who write to you work in office jobs. So, what is everyone doing? I feel like I’m ignorant of a whole other world.

There’s no way to give a comprehensive answer to this, so I’m just going to list out everything I can think of in 60 seconds to give you a sense of the breadth of the types of office work: writing, editing, pitching clients, servicing clients, creating marketing campaigns and materials, analyzing the effectiveness of those campaigns, raising money, designing and building products, software engineering, writing product documentation, analyzing legislation and regulations, training, gathering data, analyzing data, building and maintaining websites, benchmarking costs, assessing legal risk, issuing invoices and ensuring they’re paid, paying bills, running payroll, tax compliance, procurement, managing transportation logistics, processing claims, making financial projections, accounting, medical coding, sales, lobbying, developing public policy, processing orders, managing grants, writing and managing contracts, writing legal briefs, planning events, managing supply chains, evaluating programs’ effectiveness, designing curriculums, managing investments, doing the administrative work that supports all of the above … and that’s barely scratching the surface!

You’d probably find it interesting to look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, where they list just about every job you can imagine, divided by category, and give info about each of them.

4. Does LinkedIn need to match my resume?

For the first time in many years, I am searching for a new job. As a 40+ woman who has generally worked administrative jobs, I am concerned about ageism. The resume I plan to use is one page long, contains the last 15 years, and leaves off my college graduation date. Since LinkedIn is my public/online resume, the information on my LinkedIn should match the resume I’m using — is that correct?

It doesn’t need to. Obviously you shouldn’t have conflicting information on LinkedIn, but it’s fine if LinkedIn contains more info than your resume does and vice versa. In your case, where you’re specifically trying to avoid age discrimination, you might choose to tailor LinkedIn the same way you have your resume, but there’s no rule that they must match in general. (In fact, it would be really difficult to have them match if you ever tailor your resume for the specific job you’re applying for, since you might have multiple different versions of your resume depending on what skills and experiences you’re emphasizing for any given job.)

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