It was about the turn of the century. The labour market in Zürich was as dry as a river bed in Africa before the great rains. My small team had been desperately looking for a commercially trained assistant. We were unable to offer a dream salary or prestige or any other fantastic benefits. Our trump card was a good team climate, respect and flexibility. But despite this no one replied to our adverts. My frustration was growing almost daily. When Natalie phoned and showed interest in the job, I was out of this world. She said that she would come for an interview but there was one condition, namely she could bring her dog Luna to the office. She also assured me immediately that her Luna was the best behaved dog on earth, never barked, obeyed her absolutely and beyond that was extremely loveable.
At the time I did not give it another thought and said yes. I would probably have said yes, if Natalie had wanted to bring a crocodile or had demanded another even more unusual extravagance. The day Natalie came for the interview, it was raining heavily. Her dog, Luna, was a mongrel, medium sized, hairy and really very quiet. On the day Luna stank strongly because of the rain and the restricted exchange of air in the tiny interview room and I already wondered how we would cope with it. Natalie convinced me and I said yes to Natalie and therefore I also said yes to Luna.
We agreed that Luna would never leave Natalie’s workplace and that Natalie would have to make sure that there were absolutely no complaints. Natalie was full of enthusiasm and assured me that I would never regret it. That’s how the two came to join us. At the beginning Luna kept to the rules agreed. In the morning she came with Natalie, laid down quietly and calmly at her feet and waited, quiet as a mouse, for the break. If you didn’t know, you would never have guessed that a dog spent its day with us. Fortunately, it also turned out that no-one in the team was allergic or was afraid, which could have made the shared life with Luna difficult.
Soon the people in the team began to get used to Luna, they stroked her behind her ears, to bring her small treats. Luna was grateful and with the speed of light became a full member of the team. She belonged, her needs were taken into consideration and she was respected. Luna had succeeded in bringing the team closer together and to make it into a single unit, quite in the sense of the motto “All for Luna and Luna for all”.
Encouraged by the people, Luna began to move between the offices, to visit the individual members of the team and to have a little “dog talk” with them. No-one felt disturbed. Until the new girl, Hana, came. As it was so matter of fact that Luna was integrated into our daily life and so enriching for all of us, in the interview I had failed to discuss Luna with Hana. But on her first day Hana informed me that she had a panic fear of dogs and couldn’t work like this.
I didn’t want to lose Hana or Natalie with Luna and with a heavy heart had to lay down that with immediate effect Luna may no longer leave her place under the table, just as at the beginning. Hana was given the most remote office on the other side of the corridor, well away from the main office. What followed, was a perfect example of group dynamics and psychology. Suddenly the main office was the core of our team’s social life. If Luna couldn’t come for a visit, the staff began to visit Luna. The coffee breaks suddenly took place in the dog occupied main office and Hana became an absolute outsider.
Despite all my efforts, I didn’t really succeed in integrating Hana into the team. She remained a foreign body, although she stayed with us for several years. The team resented the fact that she had restricted the loveable Luna in her freedom of movement. Today I read in the newspaper that Nestlé allows dogs to be taken to the office. It has been scientifically proven that this improves the work climate and productivity. Yes, I’ve known that for a long time from my own experience. But unfortunately I also know that realisation is anything but easy.
Image source: Th. Reinhard / pixelio.de