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On the edge or not? Opportunities for interdisciplinary scholars in Business Communication to focus on the individual and organizational benefits of companion animals in the workplace.

In this article, the author discusses the many opportunities for scholars interested in conducting interdisciplinary research on the individual and organizational benefits of companion animals in the workplace. The selected literature in the management, medical, psychosocial, and communication realms provides areas for research connections within our field and between these disciplines. An exploratory model and future research suggestions are developed to provide direction for additional study.

Keywords: companion animals and business communication; business benefits of companion animals; positive use of companion animals in marketing; interdisciplinary research


"On the edge or not" is deliberately placed in the title of this article. That I have gone off the edge or to the dogs (no pun intended, as you will see) may be in some of your minds at this moment or still in your minds for those who listened to my plenary speech at our 2004 annual convention in Cambridge. Why this topic? Why this motivation to look at an area not seen in our Association for Business Communication (ABC) journals? The answer lies not only in my academic scholarship and business practice these many years but in the very nature of our field and in my nature, too.

In this article, I will present the current psychosocial, medical, and potential marketing benefits of the human-animal bond and then build a case for the need for business communication research and companion animals within the workplace. Let me start with support for interdisciplinary research in its basic forms.

For instance, look at what other ABCers have said: "We are a community of interdisciplinary scholars who embrace great diversity" (Thomas, 2001, p. 24). "This diversity gives us an opportunity to publish in a variety of disciplines, and an opportunity to stretch our scholarly muscles in several directions" (Wardrope, 2001, p. 244). "Conceiving of ourselves as a multidiscipline may be the most accurate picture of our situation, so long as we are housed in different departments that value different subjects, goals, and methods" (Graham & Thralls, 1998, p. I0). And as Lamar Reinsch (1993) noted in a discussion of why we conduct research, we need "to add value to a regional or national economy (and to improve the quality of people's lives)" (p. 201).

I could go on and on with justification and qualification from many of our scholars (and even mention the recent [January 2005] Journal of Business Communication Forum on interdisciplinary issues) but think these comments provide argument enough to look in another interdisciplinary direction. So why propose linking communication and human-companion animal research in the workplace ? Let me try to answer that question by first giving some background material and then looking at what has been established in various types of studies including anecdotal, epidemiological, and experimental.


What follows is a discussion of the multidisciplinary literature that has helped me begin to develop an exploratory model of study. A series of questions will serve to structure the following sections of this article.

Why, Look at the Human-Animal Bond?

In the United States alone, 60% of households include companion animals (American Pet Products Manufacturers Association [APPMA], 2000). Worldwide, research into the importance of the human-animal bond includes the role of service animals, the human health benefits of companion animal ownership, and the health benefits of interacting with visiting companion animals. Although there are cultural differences in the perception and use of animals, results from a global survey support the connection or bond people have with their animals (Nolen, 2003).

More economically developed countries appear to have a stronger bond with companion animals. People of prosperous countries such as the United States, England, and Germany tend to have stronger bonds with animals than those in less prosperous countries. In addition, societal values and beliefs play a role in the moral value of companion animals in general. For instance, in the Leo Bustad Memorial Lecture, Dr. B. Beaver (Nolen, 2003) noted that people exhibit basic attitudes toward animals including an interest in the beauty of animals, a desire to master them, a strong affection for them, a sense of kinship with them, a view of them as a means to an end, and consideration of them as sacred. In many western European countries it is not uncommon to see animals accompanying their owners in restaurants and shopping areas.

In spring 2004, the Affinity Foundacion (a nonprofit education organization) sponsored a conference in Barcelona, Spain, examining the close relationship humans have to their animals. At this conference, presentations dealt with such topics as the role animals play in the lives of special populations (such as the elderly, juvenile offenders, and those with mental illness), the advances in human-animal research, and the need for further research and application of what has been discovered thus far in these and other potential areas.

Groundbreaking research on the human-animal bond compared the emotional closeness of dog owners to their dogs with the owners' closeness to human family members (S. Barker & Barker, 1988). Results showed no significant differences in closeness between owners and their dogs and owners and their closest human family members, and almost a third of dog owners were closer to their dogs than to any human family member. Participants completed the Family Life Space Diagram (FLSD), a diagram in which symbols are used to represent living entities within one's life space.

Another purpose for this research was to determine the construct validity of the FLSD. Participants completing it showed the emotional relationships between the owners and humans and dogs indicated on the diagrams that were displayed by relationship descriptors. The descriptors were compared with the physical distance between entities on the diagram, revealing that physical closeness on the diagram reflects the emotional closeness between the owner and the family member and dogs (S. Barker & Barker, 1988, 1990).

Figure 1 displays an example of this diagram. As can be seen in the diagram, the individual placed the dog closer to himself or herself than the other members of the family. The physical closeness was found to equate with the emotional closeness of the individual and members of the family.


Further work with the FLSD focused on child abuse survivors, using a retrospective approach. The purpose was to study the supportive and abusive roles of pets and humans during childhood. Pets were placed closer to the survivors and rated as more supportive than humans (S. Barker, Barker, Knisely, & Dawson, 1997).

Clearly, the human-animal bond is an important part of one's biopsychosocial environment. These research findings prompt further attention to the potential benefits provided by the human-animal bond reported from interdisciplinary inquiry.

What Do We Know About the Benefits of the Human-Animal Bond?

Companion animals (pets) have been found to have many beneficial effects on the members of diverse groups such as children, families, health care patients, senior citizens, and prisoners. Pet owners have been found to have lower cardiovascular risk factors and less depression. Such people are more self-sufficient and positive than non--pet owners. Even brief interaction with unfamiliar pets in the form of animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy appears to foster social interaction, exercise, and reduced anxiety, fear, and depression for certain patient populations (S. Barker & Dawson, 1998; S. Barker, Pandurangi, & Best, 2003, Jessen, Cardiello, & Baun, 1996; Marr et al., 2000).

Through the years, we have seen a growing trend to include pets in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities to boost the spirits, and thus the physical health, of patients (Wilson & Turner, 1998), but few have looked at the impact on the work environment. Other intrapersonal and interpersonal positive effects have been found for those in prisons and other institutions, but again, studies have not been done of the employees of these facilities.

Both social support and stress research provide a strong case for companion animals serving as a type of social support that appears to improve self-esteem, internal locus of control, and psychological well-being. Introducing a pet into the social environment has been shown to positively alter blood pressure reactions to stress (Allen, 2003; Allen, Blascovich, Tomaka, & Kelsey, 1991; Fine, 2000).

Anderson, Reid, and Jennings (1992) directed a large-scale study of 5,741 pet and non--pet owning adults representative of the Australian population. This study, which was conducted at cardiovascular screening clinics, provides descriptive data supporting the above research. Comparing pet owners to non--pet owners, the researchers found pet owners had lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglyceride levels than non--pet owners. No significant differences were found for type of pet.

Odendaal (2000) explored the neurochemical response of humans interacting with companion animals. In a study of 18 dog owners interacting with their own and unfamiliar dogs, he found increases in neurochemical indicators of affiliation (beta endorphin, oxytocin, prolactin, phenylacetic acid, and dopamine) in both humans and dogs and decreased stress (serum cortisol) in owners after 5 to 24 min of interacting with either their own or an unfamiliar dog.

When this brief interaction with a dog is compared to other lengthy relaxation-technique programs, including stress management training, massage therapy, transcendental meditation, and Tai Chi, which have been reported in some studies to produce reduced stress hormone levels (Cruess, Antoni, Kumar, & Schneiderman, 2000; Field, Grizzle, Scafidi, & Schanberg, 1996; Gallois, Forzy, & Dhont, 1984; Jin, 1989), the human and cost benefits of interacting with a visiting dog are obvious. Other anecdotal reports and surveys published have found positive staff attitudes and reactions to the presence of animals in health care facilities, (Cassidy, Webb, McKeown, & Stiles, 1995; Chinner & Dalziel, 1991). Health care providers can be readily observed to smile, pet, talk to, and briefly play with therapy animals brought into health care facilities, creating a positive work environment. A pilot study of stress response by health care professionals to brief interactions with a visiting therapy dog found significant reductions in the stress hormone cortisol after as few as 5 min of interacting with the dog (S. Barker, Knisely, McCain, & Best, in press).

What you notice by now is my orientation to draw from many disciplines in building my interdisciplinary case for human-animal research in business communication. As Krapels and Arnold (1996) noted in their discussion of Boulding's model of legitimacy of a profession, "The final source of legitimacy identified in the model was alliances or the association of the profession with others that had well-established legitimacy" (p. 341). Linking our field with those established in psychosocial and medical areas helps to continue to ground our orientation and authenticity.

Looking at a discipline closer to home (business), we find that historically, animals have been used by organizations to help accomplish their goals. The marketing and public relations as well as advertising arm of organizational communication have recognized the important place of pets and other animals in most people's lives and the benefits of communicating that concept to stakeholders.

Why Do Organizations Incorporate Animals Into Their Marketing Efforts?

Animals have been used in organizational advertising and the entertainment industry providing images of strength, security, and fun (Cheney, 1990; Elliot & Wattanasuwan, 1998, Linnett 2000; Roth, 1995; Schultz, 1996; Upshaw, 1995). Many of us are familiar with Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Benji, Garfield, Felix the Cat, Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse, which are all used for both entertainment purposes and at times organizational identity (A & E Entertainment, 1998).

In terms of organizational advertising, it is no secret that organizations desire loyal customers (Argenti & Forman, 2002; Stutts & Barker, 1999). Means to establish and maintain this loyalty include stories and or images ("branding" or image advertising). Some examples of animals and characterizations of animals used as positive images by companies are Farfel (not shown) the floppy-eared dog for the Swiss Nestle Company, the gecko lizard for Geico (not shown), the U.S. insurance company, Tony the Tiger for Kelloggs, the yellow-tail kangaroo for Casella Wines of Australia, the greyhound for Greyhound Bus in the United States and Canada, the winged griffin for Perugina European Chocolate, and Elsie for Borden dairy company. Several of these images are displayed in Figure 2.


Why is this loyalty so important?
   We have found that loyalty may motivate and encourage productivity
   and compliance internally, sell products, build equity, maintain
   public relations, and affect policy externally. Because of the
   value of loyalty, business invests heavily in generating
   a good story through advertising and public relations. Depending
   on the age or point in the life cycle of the corporation, the
   stories may be created to rejuvenate or combat an existing image
   or to give a personality to a new company or product. Stutts &
   Barker, 1999, p. 209)

In their Academy of Marketing Science Review consumer behavior article, Holbrook, Stephens, Day, Holbrook, and Strazar (2001) found the human-animal relationship to be much beyond that of simply having a pet as a possession. They reveal that consumers view their relationships with animal companions much like human relationships, not merely as a means to an end. What is particularly fascinating is that based on their extensive market research, human purchasing of pet products and services has moved into what they call the realm of pets as sacred rather than pets as possessions.

Having established the psychosocial, medical, and potential marketing benefits of the human-animal bond, it is now time to turn to the need for research within the workplace.

What About Companion Animals and Pets in the Workplace?

In spring 2004, the American Psychological Association presented its first awards for psychologically healthy workplaces. Companies represented a variety of industries reporting innovative work-life benefit programs, such as those directly benefiting employees, supporting families, and encouraging healthy practices. A small Vermont electronics firm that allowed pets in the workplace was one of the 15 companies awarded this honor. "The company tries to build a close-knit team that is motivated to be productive ... Every time we hire an employee, it's like bringing in a new family member," says owner Don Mayer (Carlson, 2004).

As the benefits of companion animals continue to be cited, some companies are beginning to allow such animals in the workplace. However, little workplace empirical study has been conducted to determine the effects of this practice, thus presenting an opportunity for interdisciplinary research.

Obviously, human social support is vital in relationship building (House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988). An individual who is in relationships that provide satisfaction is poised for psychological well-being and poised for interpersonal communication (R. Barker & Camarata, 1998). Social support is traditionally thought of as the person's interpersonal interactions and transactions with other members of the organization relating to emotional or informational support. The idea of pets providing a form of social support in the workplace is intriguing and deserving of our research attention.

Closely related to social support is the idea of organizational support. A perception of support assists an employee in identifying and connecting with an organization's goals and expectations (Pettit, Vaughn, & Pulley, 1990). So how does an organization go about showing employees they are valued? It is displayed in the level of involvement encouraged of the employee, the quality of superior-subordinate relationships, and the consistent communication found in the company. Employees who have a positive cognitive and affective attachment to the organization appear to have performance and retention levels higher than employees perceiving less organizational support (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986).

Thus, both social and organizational support encourages greater interpersonal interactions and transactions and performance with other members of the organization. This kind of support has been found to buffer effects of stress (McShane & Von Gilnow, 2003).

Research has also shown that not only humans but also pets provide this kind of stress-relieving support. Studying hypertensive patients in a high-stress profession (stockbrokers), Allen, Shykoff, and Izzo (2001) assessed the effect of a nonevaluative social support intervention, pet ownership, on blood pressure response to mental stress. Findings from this randomized control study reveal that increased social support via pet ownership lowers the blood pressure response to mental stress for stockbrokers (men and women) under study.

Human resource strategists continue to look at the issues of attracting and retaining employees as well as creating a motivating environment for them. Recently, the Human Resource Institute conducted two surveys (Jamrog, 2002). The first survey focused on attracting and retaining workers. Of those human resource specialists responding, 77% indicated it is either difficult or very difficult to attract and retain key personnel. The second survey focused on the changing workforce. Results of this survey show that 58% mentioned the short supply of qualified entry-level professionals, and 72% agreed or strongly agreed that experienced professionals are also in short supply. Clearly, employers will have to understand the labor market environment in acquiring and maintaining new and experienced employees.

Indeed, in the last half of the 1990s and early 2000s, young talent appeared to challenge employers the most (Jamrog, 2002). This particular group of employees seems to value, among other things, the environment (including a positive relationship with animals), an open and honest communication climate, and more rewards than pay to motivate them (Jamrog, 2002).

Many information technology organizations are allowing companion animals in the workplace as a benefit. Some of these organizations provide veterinary health care coverage as an incentive as well. This organizational support for their employees produces such benefits as lower worker turnover rates and more productive and satisfied employees (Griffin, 2003), perhaps due to the social support provided by their pets.

Research has found that having a companion animal lowers health care costs by reducing doctor visits (Siegel, 1990), leading to the question, "Will allowing pets in the workplace reduce sick day use by employees?" For the employees, having companion animals at work has been found to reduce stress--obviously important for high-stress professionals (APPMA, 2000). Pets can also improve their owners' health by getting the owners out of the home or office to walk their dogs during the day (Siegel, 1990, 1993).

Veevers (1985) investigated three potential functions and social meanings of pets: (a) surrogate--for individuals without friends, family, or children; (b) self-expressive--enabling pet owners to convey their personalities by way of their pets; and (c) sociability--facilitating interaction with others. Just as a pet or service dog can increase social interaction, companion or visiting animals can stimulate and facilitate employee interaction (Hunt, Hart, & Gomulkiewicz, 1992).

In a 2000 nationwide survey conducted by APPMA (a not-for-profit trade organization serving the interests of pet product manufacturers), results support the use of pets in the workplace. Table 1 displays the highlights of the survey.

The results of this U.S. survey indicate that the workplace can benefit from the presence of pets in many ways. Clearly, our field can develop a research agenda to investigate many of the benefits suggested by this survey.

Wells and Perrine conducted studies investigating the effects of pets in the workplace. In the first study, they (Wells & Perrine, 2001a) examined the perceived functions and psychological and organizational effects of pets. Employees (N = 131) from 31 companies allowing pets in the workplace participated in the study. All employees of these companies were asked to complete confidential questionnaires regarding their feelings about the workplace pets. Key statistical and open-ended-question findings suggest that employees perceived pets in the workplace as assisting in reducing stress and positively affecting employee health and the organization. Employees believed that pets make the work environment more comfortable, provide a pleasant diversion from work, and provide companionship--especially for pet owners who bring them to work as opposed to those who do not. It was also indicated that customers were more relaxed and interactive, as the pets provide entertainment and diversion.

When asked about any issues with pets in the workplace, some employees (a minority) did perceive the pet as a nuisance or a distraction and had cleanliness concerns. Although pets did provide positive customer interaction, it was noted that some customers might have negative reactions to the pet.

In a second study, Wells and Perrine (2001b) investigated the effects of pet presence in faculty members offices on students' perceptions of both office comfort and the faculty member. For the study, 257 students were randomly assigned to view a slide of an office that contained a dog, a cat, or no animal. Findings revealed that students perceived the office to be more comfortable and the faculty member to be friendlier when there was a dog in the office than when there was a cat or no animal in the office. Also, students perceived the faculty member occupying an office with a cat to be less busy than one with a dog or with no animal. Results imply that faculty members may be able to positively influence students' impressions of them by having a dog or a cat in their offices. This second study is very similar and supportive of earlier research in immediacy behaviors of college professors in the classroom ... minus the animal (R. Barker, 1995).

The results of these studies and surveys suggest that employees as well as clients and customers benefit from having a pet in the workplace. Pets appear to reduce stress and make the workplace and the employees appear more friendly, creative, informative, and interactive. Although having a pet has been shown to promote communication between strangers in the community, the potential for pets in the workplace to promote communication among employees, between employees and management, and between employees and customers remains unexplored (Hunt et al., 1992; Messent, 1984).

I recently e-mailed four convenience-sample questionnaires to individuals identified as having dogs in their workplace: one to a medical researcher, one to a hospital executive, one to a banking industry executive, and one to Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy (personal communications, October 11, 2004). Open-ended questions included perceptions of the impact of their dogs in the workplace on employee communication, interaction, and commitment to the organization. All individuals noted increased work-and nonwork-related communication and interaction between themselves and other same-team employees, themselves and management, and themselves and other nonteam employees when the dog was present as opposed to when the dog was not present. One of the individuals commented that when the dog is not present in the workplace (the bank), employee communication and interaction decreases, as well as the positive morale and climate. It is interesting that fellow employees in the bank ask where the dog is and when it will be back every time it is not present.

Senator Kennedy (2004), talking about his Portuguese water dog, noted that
   Occasionally, when a discussion about a controversial issue gets a
   little overheated, Splash perks up, cocks his head to see what's
   happening, and suddenly starts barking. Things usually calm right
   down again. I joke that he's trained as a peace-keeper.

Obviously, there are limits to the generalizations of these findings, but they do provide pilot data for further study.

So it is now time to turn to what we as business communication researchers can do to add to the understanding of this emerging trend from an interdisciplinary perspective. I now turn to opportunities of future research.

What Are the Implications for Future Business Communication Research and Companion Animals in the Workplace?

The possibilities for interdisciplinary individual and organizational research in this area might fall into the following areas. Let me present each area and suggest the possible interdisciplinary connections for study, as displayed in Figure 3.


* Communication among and between employees and between employees and managers when companion animals are present in the workplace.

Does the quality and quantity of both verbal and nonverbal communication increase or decrease when a companion animal is present? Pets have been shown in some situations to serve as social lubricants. Will they, in fact, have the same effect in the workplace? The four pilot interviews in four different types of organizations do suggest that this is the case. The interdisciplinary connections might include organizational communication, organizational behavior, speech communication, and sociology.

* Communication with current customers and potential customers either when pets are present and/or when the company is perceived as pet friendly by permitting pets in the workplace.

Does the quality and quantity of both verbal and nonverbal communication increase or decrease with current customers when a companion animal is present? Again, pets have been shown in some situations to serve as social lubricants. Will they have the same effect on customers' perceptions of the workplace? The survey and anecdotal research do seem to support this idea, but the question follows what the effect will be when the companion animal is present in the workplace setting. Will potential customer perception be more or less favorable if the company is perceived as pet friendly? The interdisciplinary connections might include organizational communication, organizational behavior, speech communication, marketing, psychology, and sociology.

* Employee perception of organizational support communicated by the company allowing companion animals in the workplace.

If the company does allow pets in the workplace, is there a perception of support by the employee? Studies have shown the importance of organizational support in increasing productivity and involvement. It also has shown increases in organizational citizen behaviors encouraging a more positive workplace and more out-of-role productivity. The interdisciplinary connections might include organizational communication, organizational behavior, speech communication, English (policy document analysis), organizational psychology, and sociology.

* Companion animals as a form of social support that does or does not buffer stress in the workplace.

Pets have been shown to reduce the effect of stress on pet owners. These studies have not been carried out in the presence of pets in the workplace. Therefore, the obvious question follows, Will the presence of employees' pets increase the buffering effects of stress in the workplace? The buffering effect of companion animals in the workplace may also extend to other employees whose pets are not present. An empirical pilot study has found significant reductions in stress hormones in health care professionals after brief interactions with friendly but unfamiliar companion animals. The interdisciplinary connections include organizational communication and organizational behavior, social psychology, and behavioral medicine.

* Companion animals in the workplace increase or decrease their employee pet owners' health and quality of work life.

Empirical research has shown that interacting with companion animals is associated with reduced depression and anxiety. Survey research has shown that employees use less sick leave when the pet is present. Pet ownership is also associated with reduced cardiovascular risk factors as well as less frequent doctor visits. The interdisciplinary connections include organizational communication and organizational behavior and medicine.

* Communication between and among faculty and students when pets are present.

Do we see an increase or decrease in interaction between students and faculty when a pet is present in the faculty office or classroom situation? Whereas we have seen support in the positive perception of faculty when slides of animals are shown, what happens to this interaction when the companion animal is actually present? Is a student less stressed and more communicative when talking to a faculty member with a pet is present in the office? Are there any positional power or influence issues at play between faculty and students that must be understood as well? Each of our fields can be included in this type of research question.

* Perceptions by the applicants for company vacancies of the company's image when it allows pets in the workplace.

A key concept of a brand's identity is perception--the brand only exists in the mind of the receiver of the communication. The branding process goes beyond individual interpretation of image advertising, which can only create a foundation for a brand to be perceived in a certain way. Keller (2003) noted that in consumer research, market experts often associate brands with other objects. His research suggests examples such as people, places, things, and/or other brands as a method to enhance brand equity. I see no reason why animals cannot be one of those "things" in the association between company and brand image in consumers' and potential employees' minds.

How does a pet-friendly policy affect brand and company image perceived by potential employees? Each of our fields applies in the investigation of this question and both consumer behavior research and marketing in general.

* Perception of brand image inside and outside the company when animals are used in brand and or image advertising.

Image advertising has shown an increase in use in the past decade. It has been used instead of more long-established, rational-reason product advertising (Upshaw, 1995). Image communications (product design and advertisements) are dominated by a language of graphics and images. The impressions imbue emotions and aspirations in the audience, who link those feelings to the brand and, hence, its products (Stutts & Barker, 1999). It can also be said that the work of Keller (2003) mentioned above applies here as well.

Do we see differences in the power of the brand image (identity, personality) when animals are used and when animals are not used in the advertising? In addition, an investigation of the postmodern corporation as storyteller and its use of animals provides opportunity for further study. The interdisciplinary connections between organizational communication, speech communication, rhetoric, English, and marketing are evident.

* For all the above statements, does cultural orientation impact business communication when a companion animal is present or not in the workplace?

* For all the above statements, does species of the pet present make a difference on the dependent measures?

Some Limitations and Considerations

It is important to note that for both the organization allowing animals in the workplace and for the animal allowed in the workplace that specific policies and procedures must be developed to produce optimal positive effects. The companion animal's well-being must be considered as well as the location, use, and number of animals allowed at one time in the specific setting.

It is also important to note that some individuals may have phobias, religious injunctions, or cultural differences that must be understood when introducing the companion animal into a specific setting. These limitations and considerations also produce opportunity for interdisciplinary interaction for our scholars (Wilson & Turner, 1998).


Remember the part of the title of this article that said "On the edge or not'"? Well, I think not. Have I gone to the dogs? Well, that is still debatable. Being currently owned by three Lhasa Apsos (Champion Barker's Hallucination ROM [Register of Merit]), Champion Barker's High Anxiety, a canine good citizen (CGC) and a therapy dog; and Champion Barker's Psychic Phenomena "CGC" and others during my life has given me a unique perspective on the value of companion animals. It has also given me an awareness of my own potential bias from sharing life with these special family members as I conduct research and also think about the future research questions raised in this conceptual piece. As Caroline Knapp (1998) indicates in her book, Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs, "Dogs strike deep chords in us, ones that are bolstered by the individual experiences of childhood, by the culture at large, and by history" (p. 25).

Why this topic? Why this motivation to look at an area not seen in our ABC journals? As has been shown in this extensive interdisciplinary review, the opportunities are limitless for business communication researchers to investigate and determine the true effect of animals in areas important to our understanding of communication in the workplace. We can pave the way for future thinking and enlighten organizations and researchers in this emerging terrain.

Who knows? We may learn more about the nature of ourselves and others and improve the quality of our lives at work, in the classroom, and at home.
Table 1. American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (2000)
Survey Results


1. Does having pets create a more productive
     environment?                                            73
2. Does having pets reduce absenteeism?                      27
3. Does having pets relax your employees?                   100
4. Would you continue to allow pets in the workplace?       100
5. Does having pets increase creativity of employees?        73
6. Since pets have been allowed has your
     absenteeism increased?                                   0
7. When comparing training classes to having pets in
     the workplace, do pets increase the interpersonal

     relations of your employees more than the
     training?                                             73 pets
                                                         42 classes
8. Have pets created a more positive workplace than
     without them?                                           96
9. Do you find employees are more willing to stay late
     because of allowing their pets in the workplace?        58


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Randolph T. Barker (Ph.D., Florida State University) is a professor of management in the Department of Management, School of Business, at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently president of the Association for Business Communication. The author would like to thank Dr. Sandra Barker for her support in this area of research, the journal's reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive suggestions, and Dr. Mark Zachry for his encouragement. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Randolph T. Barker, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, Department of Management, 1015 Floyd Avenue, Box 844000, Richmond, VA 23284-4000; e-mail: rtbarker@
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Title Annotation:FORUM: Reflections and Epiphanies
Author:Barker, Randolph T.
Publication:The Journal of Business Communication
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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