When our fledgling company swapped space in our office building with another tenant, the landlord cut our rent in half. As a small business owner, I was so pleased that I overlooked the fact that our new office suite contained a door to which the landlord lacked a key. My staff and I decided to prop open the door until the landlord could locate the lost key.
The next day, I brought my 2-year-old daughter to work. Jenny happily colored pictures alongside me for hours, hanging them on the wall we’d declared hers. Then, needing to retrieve something from the car, I asked an employee to watch Jenny for two minutes.
This employee didn’t have kids. Somehow, Jenny knew that. Within a minute, she’d speed crawled into the room with no key and shut the door. I came back from the parking lot to be greeted by a hysterical employee and the chance to see my daughter standing on a chair in the room, holding a pair of scissors aloft.
Jenny had already learned to unlock doors at home, so I didn’t panic. I asked Jenny to come to the door. She tried to get off the chair but couldn’t. It teetered and she began to wail. I sang “Hickory Dickory Dock” through the door to calm her down. When I thought Jenny could hear through her gulping sobs, I said, “Honey, open your hands and let the scissors fall down.” Jenny’s wails reignited. “Fall down,” were not the right words.
As Jenny continued to wail on top of a teetering chair inside the room full of scissors, sharpened pencils and other hazards, I called the landlord and the nearest locksmith. Then, telling Jenny, “stay easy,” I pounded my shoulder against the door, hard, four times. The door didn’t give.
“Easy, Jenny,” I sang, then sang words from her favorite baby book, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as you’re living, your mommy I’ll be.”
Whoops, wrong choice, and I almost started sobbing myself.
That’s when I asked my employee, “Quick, go to the janitor’s closet, find the sledge hammer.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Find it, now, please.”
“You can’t do that,” she shouted in alarm when I took the hammer to the door.
But I did.
Have you considered bringing your children to work on a day when they or their day-care parent is sick?
If so, remember the following:
- To the greatest degree possible, childproof your work space, bring plugs for electrical outlets, remove pencils, scissors and other implements of destruction, and tape the off switches on fragile office equipment.
- Plan for moments when work might capture your total attention. No matter how finely tuned your peripheral vision, make sure you have methods for safeguarding your children from any potential danger, and protecting the office and your coworkers from your children.
- Establish ground rules. Let your child know that there are rules in the workplace and that even the friendliest coworkers have jobs to do. Explain that sometimes you’ll need to give total concentration to a telephone call, coworker or project and that you’ll depend on your child to play quietly.
- Bring a complete arsenal of toys. It’s funny how long seven and a half hours stretches when your child comes to work. The same child who plays so easily at home turns to mischief when in a new environment. Like a cat that jumps onto the lap of the only person who doesn’t like cats, children unerringly head toward any coworker who doesn’t like kids and into any area of potential danger.
- Plan special surprises. Jenny and Ben each have a wall of the office on which they hang artwork. They’re allowed to use any indestructible office equipment. These two treats are special enough to equal two hours of non-stop play.
- Finally, give thanks freely and fully to your coworkers. When you bring your children to your workplace, every coworker shares in the experience. While you may think your kids are well-behaved, coworkers unused to children may find themselves distracted all day long. Even if you don’t think you need to, thank your coworkers the next day with flowers, brownies or, if your kids were truly rough, the promise to never do it again.
© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ” Beating the Workplace Bully” and ” Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com