Cat Fights (06/20/07)

Dear Zelda,

I work with two women who literally hate each other. They are both very difficult people and hard to deal with individually, but I do get along with both of them because I am not the confrontational type and try to get along with everyone. Granted, we have had disagreements, but we have gotten over them and we go on. These two ladies will never get along, and I have never seen such hate between two people. They are making my dream job a total nightmare. I have gone to my supervisor, but she will not do anything about the mean things they say and do to each other. Have any suggestions other than find a new job?

Caught in the Middle

Dear Caught in the Middle,

I hate getting stuck in the middle of a cat fight. Actually, I’m not that much of a fan of any kind of fight (unless it’s tug-of war, which I basically can’t resist).

There’s absolutely no reason to let this office infighting chase you away from your dream job, especially when it’s not even your fight! You just need to be better about protecting your own interests. Whenever your coworkers push your buttons, be ready to press the “delete” key. They can't make your dream job a nightmare unless you let them. Being nice and personable is important, and it’s wonderful that you manage to get along with both of them, but you also need to be strong enough to tell them when you’ve had enough. If directly addressing the issue doesn’t suit you, at the very least you should find ways to disengage from the conversation when one of them starts inflicting their conflicts on you. Simply find reasons to end the conversation the next time they start complaining about one another. Ask your coworkers to do the same, and I promise that your two obnoxious officemates will get the message. Their constant bickering not only ruins your day, it can also potentially take its toll on the productivity and well-being of the entire workplace.

If you join forces with other bothered employees and take this problem back to your supervisor, you may be able to convince her that it’s time to intervene. Before you do, however, document the facts of their disputes and how your performance, morale and motivation have been impacted. Perhaps if you begin by pointing out to your supervisor the benefits of a copasetic workplace (higher productivity, less sick time, etc.), she will be more likely to perk up her ears.

Ultimately, this is someone else’s catfight. The best way to keep your dream job dreamy is to stay above the fray and not let yourself get scratched!


Dear Zelda,

I am having a problem with my dog. I have a one-year-old daughter, and my normally calm dog is getting aggressive with her! Do you have any tips on how to handle my usually docile dog? My one-year-old loves her doggy, but is now terrified because my dog wants to chew on her. Any advice would be very helpful. Thank you.


Dear Watchful,

The first rule, as I'm sure you know, is to NEVER leave your dog unattended with your young child. Your daughter’s safety is priority number one. But while this behavior is scary and MUST be corrected, it’s also quite normal, even for very nice dogs, to be uncharacteristically aggressive with young family members. Pecking order is paramount for us pooches, and we can sometimes display seemingly aggressive behavior toward family members (especially small ones) in order to achieve higher social status. Young children present a confusing problem for us dogs because often we don’t know quite where they fit in that pecking order. Your dog may even be jealous of this new creature in your house, the one who's getting the most attention and food. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad dog, just that the behavior has to be fixed now or else he’s got to move out for a while to let your daughter grow up a bit.

Most importantly, your dog cannot assume the upper paw in your family's structure. You have a problem that could really blow up and it's time for you to call your veterinarian and ask for help. You might even need to look in the Yellow Pages for an animal behavior specialist, because it’s a serious enough situation to require professional attention. The bottom line is that you really need to minimize their direct contact when your daughter is still so young, and when they do interact you need to set stark disciplinary boundaries for your dog, and step in at the first sign of aggression.

If you still don't feel comfortable letting your dog and daughter co-exist, I hate to say it but somebody's got to go and I think that means the dog. Did I really say that? See if you can talk a friend or relative into adopting your dog, either permanently or until your child, by growing taller, looks less like a chew toy. There’s also a lot of great literature on the subject that may help. Both Childproofing Your Dog; A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Children in Your Life, by Brian Kilcommons and the section on “Kids and Dogs” in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Choosing, Training and Raising a Dog, by Sarah Hodgson, are wonderful and very helpful.

It pays to be cautious in these situations, but there’s also something to be said for being patient... as your daughter grows up even a little bit, and as your dog gets used to her presence, this problem is likely to resolve itself, as long as you never let the dog believe it is in a position of authority over your daughter. He sounds like a really good dog, but it’s your job to make sure he doesn’t get confused and accidentally hurt your daughter, or scare her and turn her off to dogs for life. What a tragedy it would be for her to go through life not liking such wonderful creatures as us!


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