Note: Inc.'s Ask a 20-Something series offers sage advice for navigating all manner of workplace issues, from the perspective of a young employee.
Q: My young employees have gotten swept up in the pets-in-the-office craze. I've said no--pets can be distracting, destructive, and problematic for anyone with allergies--but this group has become very vocal. How do I handle this without disappointing my very passionate workers?
A: Oof, this one is painful for me.
I love dogs--especially large ones--and dream daily of having them in the office. Give me that big, dumb golden retriever whose relentless tail-wagging will knock over everything on my desk. Or the giant, intimidating Great Dane who will definitely hide between my legs at the first sign of trouble.
What's that? This isn't Up or Scooby-Doo?
Seriously, though, psychology research backs me up here. Studies have repeatedly shown that petting animals reduces stress and boosts happiness-related hormones, which is largely why therapy dogs have become increasingly common in hospitals.
Plus, office pets can make you more productive, not less--and I have seen (totally unscientific) proof of this. Once, a colleague of mine sneaked her dog into the office for a day, and I definitely wasn't leaving that dog's side if given the chance. So, I turned it into a game: Work for an hour, pet the dog for 10 minutes. Work for 30 minutes, pet the dog for five.
I was ridiculously productive that day. And less stressed than usual, too.
But back to your dilemma. Look, I get your reasons for keeping the office a pet-free zone. Untrained pets can be destructive, and as an allergy sufferer (cats, in my case), I wouldn't wish watery eyes and a pounding headache on anyone.
Still, a sharp no without an explanation of your policy is one of the most annoying and frustrating responses of all time. Here's what the people on the other end hear: "Because I said so. Now get back to work, and let the adults figure out the important questions."
If they're still up in arms, consider a compromise. Designate an annual bring-your-pet-to-work day, with the option to work remotely for anyone who doesn't want to participate. Make sure you, uh, safeguard your workspace appropriately in advance. If your building doesn't allow pets, set aside a day each quarter for employees to volunteer at a local animal shelter. Your team will be happy, and your business will be doing something good.
When employees really want something, listen. There's usually a reason. And there's always something you can do about it.
To submit a question for Ask a 20-Something, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your query could be featured in a future installment.