Many of us are accustomed to hugging and being hugged by people we love. By contrast, workplace hugging usually takes place between people who respect each other, but who aren't in love. For some, hugging at work therefore presents social and political challenges. We ask ourselves: Should I hug? What kinds of hugs are acceptable? Which people should I hug or not hug?
Here are some insights and guidelines for hugging at work.
- Know how to tell when a hug is coming your way
- When two people meet, they greet each other, and they sometimes hug or shake hands. It all happens so quickly that we don't realize how we can distinguish the type of greeting that's about to happen. Watch for the forward step. If your partner steps toward you, more than would be necessary for a handshake, prepare for a hug.
- Know how to give a "standard" workplace hug
- If there is a standard, a standard workplace hug in the U.S. today is a one-armed reach (usually the right arm) around the shoulders of your partner, including one or two shoulder pats and a smile. Two-armed hugs are generally less common. Even more unusual: two-armed hugs in which the first partner has both arms around the waist of the second, while the second has both arms over the shoulders of the first. The less common a hug style is in your workplace, the greater the risk that some will see it as inappropriate.
- If you know you might be hugging, keep clothing and accessories in mind
- If you or your partner is wearing anything that might catch on the other's clothing, beware. Few situations are more embarrassing than two huggers who can't disengage, or a hug disengagement that results in a wardrobe malfunction. It's best not to wear anything that can snag the clothing of people you hug.
- If there is a standard,
a standard workplace
hug in the U.S. today
is a one-armed reach
- Pay attention to height differences
- When the heights of a hugging pair differ substantially, the shorter of the two can pay a political price for the hug. People of small stature, especially males, are already at a political disadvantage in many workplaces. Hugging people much taller can exaggerate that disadvantage.
- Take care with male-male hugs
- Some males prefer not to hug other males under any circumstances. Their numbers are declining, but they certainly have a right to their preference. If you're one of these men, try not to push yourself beyond your level of comfort; if you aren't, try not to push others. Compelling yourself or others to engage in hugging when they'd rather not is at least disrespectful, and it can lead to awkward and embarrassing incidents.
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
For more about workplace hugging, see "Unwelcome Workplace Hugs," Point Lookout for August 8, 2007.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
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- Confronting the Workplace Bully: I
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or fight back. Confrontation is a better choice than many believe — if you know what you're doing.
- Why Don't They Believe Me?
- When we want people to believe us, and they don't, it just might be a result of our own actions or demeanor.
How does this happen?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
- And on May 9: Unethical Coordination
- When an internal department or an external source is charged with managing information about a large project, a conflict of interest can develop. That conflict presents opportunities for unethical behavior. What is the nature of that conflict, and what ethical breaches can occur? Available here and by RSS on May 9.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.