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Hug or handshake: Which does your workplace embrace?

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in Workplace Communication

The hug is gaining ground on the handshake.

It’s becoming more acceptable even in the White House, where President Obama bestowed no fewer than nine hugs on senior male staffers in a single meeting, says a Time magazine report.

But what about your workplace?

While three in 10 executives say hugging business colleagues is at least somewhat common in the United States, the majority of execs still frown upon the practice. In fact, more than 70% of executives say embracing people in a business setting is inappropriate, according to a survey by The Creative Group staffing service (see chart below).

“When it comes to business greetings, it’s important to read your audience and the environment well,” says Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. “It’s always best to err on the formal side to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Of course, hugging also raises the specter of unlawful harassment.

“To be considered unlawful, it would have to be unwelcome,” says Dianna Johnston, legal counsel for the EEOC, in a recent AP article. “It would have to be so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person in the same situation would feel offended.”

To avoid socially awkward (or legally awkward) greetings, follow these tips:

  1. Make the first move. Extend your hand first.
  2. Start with those less familiar to you. If you’re meeting with a group, introduce yourself to new contacts with a handshake before greeting long-term colleagues who you know like to hug.
  3. When it doubt, play it safe. A firm, three-second handshake, accompanied by a warm smile and good eye contact, communicates confidence and friendliness in most situations.

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