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 Top Next Issue
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 "About Workplace Hugs," Point Lookout for August 1, 2007.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Ten Tactics for Tough Times: II
- When you find yourself in a tough spot politically, what can you do? Most of us obsess about the situation
for a while, and then if we still have time to act, we do what seems best. Here's Part II of a set of
approaches that can organize your thinking and shorten the obsessing.
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- How to Tell If You Work for a Nanomanager
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of us have even micromanaged others. But there's a breed of micromanagers whose behavior is so outlandish
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- Stalking the Elephant in the Room: I
- The expression "the elephant in the room" describes the thought that most of us are thinking,
and none of us dare discuss. Usually, we believe that in avoidance lies personal safety. But free-ranging
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- Bottlenecks: II
- When some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks," they expose the organization
to risks. Managing those risks is a first step to ending the bottlenecking pattern.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 8: Kerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
- Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist? Available here and by RSS on February 8.
- And on February 15: Four Razors for Organizational Behavior
- Deviant organizational behavior can harm the people and the organization. In choosing responses, we consider what drives the perpetrators. Considering Malice, Incompetence, Ignorance, and Greed, we can devise four guidelines for making these choices. Available here and by RSS on February 15.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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