Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 7, Issue 32;   August 8, 2007: Unwelcome Workplace Hugs

Unwelcome Workplace Hugs

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

Some of us are uncomfortable about workplace hugs, and some want to be selective. Sometimes hugs are simply inappropriate. Here are some tips for dealing with unwelcome workplace hugs.
A hug about to happen

A hug about to happen. Note the cues indicating an impending hug: the steps forward, the arms open, and the smiles. In person, you would also notice motion. Although this is not a professional hug, the hug cues are the same, though in this case — the reunion of a soldier and his wife — perhaps a bit more noticeable. Photo by Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield, courtesy U.S. Air Force.

I like hugs — with certain people, that is. Some I hug, some I don't. Hugs are very different from handshakes, about which most of us are much less choosy. The most seriously unwelcome hug — the inappropriate groping hug — is a topic of its own, now covered by legal prohibitions in the U.S. and elsewhere. For those hugs, the best solution is the formal grievance: first with your company, but if necessary, with the courts.

For those situations not covered by law, what can we do? Here are some insights for dealing with the more "routine" unwelcome hugs.

Put out your hand a little early
Rejecting a hug after the other person has stepped forward, arms out, can be embarrassing for both of you. Witnesses almost inevitably wonder, "What's up with that?"
If you extend your hand for a handshake, before that forward step, you avoid the rejection gesture. If someone insists on hugging after you've extended your hand, most witnesses will understand that you are the aggrieved party.
Insisting on a hug can be risky
When you want to hug, but the other person extends a hand for a handshake, insisting on the hug can create an incident of note, and you might seem to have overstepped.
Instead, shake hands. If you have a talent for humor, and you've mastered the impish smile, you can try, "Gosh, I was hoping for a hug — but maybe someday…" Often, this will bring a smile to your partner's face, and the hug will follow. Try this only once, though — it isn't funny a second time. After that first time, the hug-or-handshake decision is up to your partner.
Selectivity can be awkward
Rejecting a hug after
the other person has
stepped forward, arms
out, can be embarrassing
for both of you
In a small group, when the hugs begin, it's OK to be selective, in two cases. It's generally acceptable not to hug someone you see very often, and it's acceptable not to hug someone you don't know well. If you select on some other basis, the people you don't hug could take minor offense.
One workable tactic: refrain from hugging anyone in the group.
The sideways hug might not be a way out
Some people feel that a way to avoid the standard professional hug is the "sideways hug," in which the two partners face almost the same direction with their partner-side arms around each other's backs.
This might look OK to observers, but unless your partner is also avoiding the standard professional hug, he or she could experience a feeling of "not getting the real thing." Except for photographs or video, avoid the sideways hug; it doesn't accomplish what you were hoping for.

You might have someone in your work life who expects to hug you and be hugged, despite your preference for a less demonstrative greeting. Before you file a grievance, ask yourself if you've clearly expressed your preference. If not, that's step one. First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: What Measurements Work Well?  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 "About Workplace Hugs," Point Lookout for August 1, 2007.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.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:

A portion of the memorial to the Massachusetts 54th RegimentHow to Get Promoted in Place
Do you think you're overdue for a promotion? Many of us do, judging by the number of Web pages that talk about promotions, getting promoted, or asking for promotions. What you do to get a promotion depends on what you're aiming for.
Then-Capt. Elwood R. Quesada who became commanding general of the 9th Fighter Command in operation OverlordGroup Problem-Solving Tangles
When teams solve problems together, discussions of proposed solutions usually focus on combinations of what the solution will do, how much it will cost, how long it will take, and much more. Disentangling these threads can make discussions much more effective.
Soldiers of IX Engineering Command, U.S. Army Air Force, putting down a Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) Runway at an Advanced Landing Ground under construction somewhere in France following the Normandy Landings of World War IIManagement Debt: I
Management debt, like technical debt, arises when we choose paths — usually the lowest-cost paths — that lead to recurring costs that are typically higher than alternatives. Why do we take on management debt? How can we pay it down?
Folsom Dam, on the American River near Sacramento, CaliforniaHow Did I Come to Be So Overworked?
You're good at your job, but there's just too much of it, and it keeps on coming. Your boss doesn't seem to realize how much work you do. How does this happen?
Head of the philosopher Carneades (215-129 BCE)The Perils of Novel Argument
When people use novel or sophisticated arguments to influence others, the people they're trying to influence are sometimes subject to cognitive biases triggered by the nature of the argument. This puts them at a disadvantage relative to the influencer. How does this happen?

See also Workplace Politics and Effective Communication at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill BridgeComing September 25: Planning Disappointments
When we plan projects, we make estimates of total costs and expected delivery dates. Often these estimates are so wrong — in the wrong direction — that we might as well be planning disappointments. Why is this? Available here and by RSS on September 25.
Samples of bubble wrapAnd on October 2: Start Anywhere
Group problem-solving sessions sometimes focus on where to begin, even when what we know about the problem is insufficient for making such decisions. In some cases, preliminary exploration of almost any aspect of the problem can be more helpful than debating what to explore. Available here and by RSS on October 2.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.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 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership

On 14The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.

Here's a date for this program:

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.

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.