A Hug a Day–But Not at Work

5 Feb

Almost everyone I know loves hugs. Non-verbal gestures like hugs are important components of communication and express our bonds with others, not to mention they make you feel great.

However, is there a time and place for hugs?  In the work environment, is “hugging it out” an appropriate behavior?

Several potential issues arise related to hugging in the workplace.

Adverse Consequences

A friendly hug could be misconstrued by a coworker for something more, leading to an uncomfortable work dynamic that may leave the hugger wishing he/she had kept his/her hands to himself/herself. On the other side of that scenario, the hugged party may feel that the hugger violated his or her personal space. This type of misunderstanding could additionally hinder the relationship between the coworkers.

Experts Weigh In

Professional opinions on the issue of hugs in the workplace fall into two camps: don’t do it, or feel out the environment first. Peter Post of the Emily Post Institute, a recognized source on etiquette, believes, “Any kind of intimate touching is a mistake. I would avoid even reaching out to touch somebody’s shoulder as you’re walking by them. We really recommend that people refrain from stepping in and giving a hug to a co-worker, a client.” Conversely, Patricia Matthews of Workplace Solutions Consultants says, “I think hugging in the workplace depends a lot on the culture of that specific workplace.”

Feeling the Love

Almost one-half of respondents to a Greenlight Community survey said that they hug their coworkers, illustrating that Post’s viewpoint does not translate into practice in all situations.

Considering that there is no universal code of conduct for all work environments, you can take steps to ensure that coworkers interpret your actions as intended. Experts agree that it is important to take into account the corporate culture of the company before you act and be careful not to overstep boundaries with others. If you’re unsure of how someone will respond to your gesture, be safe and go with a handshake.

When we make decisions to behave in certain manners, we assume varying levels of risk. I would generally consider hugging to be on the low risk end of that spectrum; however, when evaluating the potential negative impacts of injuring workplace relationships and dynamics, I think I will save my hugs for afterhours. Effective communication involves more than just speaking. Ensure your messages come across clearly by considering your actions in addition to your words.

by MA






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