Should you hug, high five, or fist bump your coworker?
Hugging is a personal preference. Some people are huggers, while others prefer not to hug anyone who is not a close friend or family member.
Not sure about what your coworker prefers? Ask for permission or pay close attention to clues. For example, your coworker extends a hand for a handshake, holds an object but doesn’t put it down, or turns their body slightly the other way. These people are saying they prefer not to hug.
It is vital not to hug those you manage. In a boss-employee relationship, the employee may feel uncomfortable saying they don’t want to hug for fear of repercussions.
You may not know a person’s history. They might have experienced physical or sexual abuse and feel uncomfortable with contact.
You may not be aware of their cultural beliefs. In some cultures, hugging outside of the family is not welcome. In other cases, men hugging women is not permitted.
If you prefer not to hug someone at work, greet them warmly with a smile, offer a handshake, or tell them you have a cold. Telling someone you want to protect their health may not work if you see them regularly. Another option is just to say that you aren’t a hugger.
The person who will receive the hug is the one to decide if a hug is appropriate. If you’re the one who wants to give a hug, pay attention to how the other person reacts. Pay attention to cues, and if you’re not sure, stick with a handshake.
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2 thoughts on “Skills Insight of the Day #11 Hugging at Work”
Great advice, Vanya. My view is, and it has held me in good stead for as long as I can remember, is to say hello only, enquire politely how the other person is, and make no other comment unless the conversation opens up. Being friendly is fine, but I have seen so many disasters unfold from well meaning physical contact or comments.
On another note, sometimes, handshakes are important and it does depend on the situation. Also, it depends on the history of how the handshake is used where you are (it has different origins and meanings) and with that, any cultural aspects. So, it’s a long way of saying, in my part of the world, handshakes are not an automatic action, but do symbolise sincerity. I have noticed in recent years other cultures embracing the handshake. I often wonder if they know the history behind it.
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Yes, when you consider culture, then we realize what we consider normal is not necessarily what other people in other cultures do. For example, at a work meeting we may offer a handshake, while others will consider a bow to be the correct gesture at a meeting.
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