Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 7, Issue 31;   August 1, 2007:

About Workplace Hugs

by

In the past twenty years in the United States, we've changed from a relatively hug-free workplace culture to one that, in some quarters, seems to be experiencing a hugging tsunami. Knowing how to deal with hugging is now a valuable skill.
Bush and Putin hug

U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian Premier Vladimir Putin in a "sideways hug" at the 2006 St. Petersburg G8 meeting. When hug parters differ substantially in stature, the taller one has an image advantage that can sometimes transform into a political advantage. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State.

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.

Perhaps the most vexing problem relating to hugging is the unwelcome hug. We'll take up that question next time.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Unwelcome Workplace Hugs  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs 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.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenGBFYqdeDxZESDSsjner@ChacmtFQZGrwOdySPdSsoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

Lion, ready to spring, in Samburu National Reserve, KenyaUsing Indirectness at Work
Although many of us value directness, indirectness does have its place. At times, conveying information indirectly can be a safe way — sometimes the only safe way — to preserve or restore well-being and comity within the organization.
"Taking an observation at the pole."The Risky Role of Hands-On Project Manager
The hands-on project manager manages the project and performs some of the work, too. There are lots of excellent hands-on project managers, but the job is inherently risky, and it's loaded with potential conflicts of interest.
Gen. Patton and Gen. Weyland photographed at Nancy, FranceWhat Insubordinate Non-Subordinates Want: III
When you're responsible for an organizational function, and someone not reporting to you doesn't comply with policies you rightfully established, trouble looms. What role do supervisors play?
Abraham Lincoln as a young man about to become a candidate for U.S. SenateWorkplace Politics and Integrity
Some see workplace politics and integrity as inherently opposed. One can participate in politics, or one can have integrity — not both. This belief is a dangerous delusion.
Prototypes of President Trump's "border wall."Gratuitous Complexity as a Type III Error
Some of the technological assets we build — whether hardware, software, or procedures — are gratuitously complex. That's an error, but an error of a special kind: it can be the correct solution to the wrong problem.

See also Workplace Politics and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A demanding managerComing April 14: What Micromanaging Is and Isn't
Micromanaging is a particularly dysfunctional pattern of management behavior, involving interference in the work others are supposedly doing. Confusion about what it is and what it isn't makes effective response difficult. Available here and by RSS on April 14.
A possibly difficult choiceAnd on April 21: Choice-Supportive Bias
Choice-supportive bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to evaluate our past choices as more fitting than they actually were. The erroneous judgments it produces can be especially costly to organizations interested in improving decision processes. Available here and by RSS on April 21.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenGBFYqdeDxZESDSsjner@ChacmtFQZGrwOdySPdSsoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople 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.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!

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.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs 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!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.