EverythingPeople This Week!

Published on Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hugging at Work?

Author: Mary Corrado

Over the weekend I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a Michigan CEO that is known for hugging his employees.  It gave me pause to think about this.  I would not say I am demonstrative at work.  Even though I have worked with several of my colleagues for 20+ years, I can count on one hand the number of times I have hugged someone in the office.  However, outside of the office I have hugged a bit more.  I guess I never have felt it was appropriate in the workplace.  Perhaps it’s my conservative nature.  Or maybe I am just old school, but it seems inappropriate to me to be in a position of authority and hugging employees.

According to a recent poll by The Creative Group, hugs are becoming more common in the workplace.  They state that this could partially be due to the workplace becoming more casual.  According to the survey, only 22% of respondents state that hugging in the workplace is uncommon and “rarely appropriate.”  In 2011 that number was 57%.  So what has changed?

Another theory is that the rise of social media has something to do with it.  You’d think it would be the opposite since I feel that social media has taken away from interpersonal interaction with others.  But in reality, perhaps it has made people feel closer.  Co-workers are connected on social networks and therefore more attentive and involved in colleagues’ personal lives.  I think this is a good thing which leads to better teamwork and camaraderie in the workplace.

While HR issues could arise if hugging at work becomes too common, colleague to colleague is more acceptable than manager to employee.  But according to the Wall Street Journal article, “Handshakes have given way to bear hugs, back pats and lingering embraces in some corners of the corporate world. At luxury clothing brand Ted Baker PLC, TurboTax maker Intuit Inc. and Wheels & Deals Ltd. (called “Canada’s Huggable Car Dealer”), top bosses greet employees, customers and other business associates with open arms.” 

Couldn’t this create an awkward situation? What if the employee or business associate isn’t comfortable with hugging?  How would you know that?  Could you be accused of favoring one employee over the other if one is more into hugging than the next?  If a male is hugging a female, or vice versa, could he be accused of sexual harassment?  In my opinion, there are just too many “ifs” to consider.  I think a handshake is always appropriate and is the gold standard in the business world and workplace.  ASE is a family-oriented workplace, yet we don’t hug in the office.  Perhaps it is our 114-year old conservative nature or the fact that we are more sensitive due to the nature of our business.  We have fun at work and have great relationships, yet hugging is not commonplace here.  However, when appropriate, we do hug outside of work at weddings, funerals, etc.

Hugs can become awkward rather easily, and why create an awkward situation?  Take for example, the famously awkward hug between Jim Harbaugh and 49ers CEO Jed York at what we now know was Jim Harbaugh’s last game coaching the 49ers.  Wouldn’t a handshake have been more appropriate?  Would the press have given it the coverage it received if they had just shaken hands? I doubt it.

How does your workplace handle hugging?  Is it common?  Do managers hug employees?  Please share your thoughts with me at mcorrado@aseonline.org.  I enjoy receiving your feedback and sharing it with our readers.  After my blog on college degrees I heard back from a member that stated that although they require a degree for many positions, they are careful to also state “or X number of years experience in X.”  I think this is a good approach to keeping your options open and not missing out on a great candidate.

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