Hugging in the workplace can be awkward; hugging your boss can be bad career move.

Expressing oneself with a hug has become a common practice in the workplace among coworkers. How common is hugging your boss? Could you see your boss hugging his boss?

When this topic comes up, a lot people tell me that they are actually uncomfortable with this practice; especially at work. And, even more so when they don’t have a choice.

Now, imagine if your boss encroaches your personal space and envelops you with his/her arms.

We’ve got more than a question of social skills here. How will your boss take it? Are you the only observing National Hug Your Boss Day?  Does the company’s policies discourage such affection?

Here are some general workplace hugging dilemmas: 

Q: What kind of hug is it? Is it a quick no-body contact hug or a nestle and embrace?

A: If you can feel his belt buckle or can figure out her bra size, that’s too close.

Q: Is your relationship chummy?

A: If you’ve developed a personal or friendly relationship with your boss, a hug from time to time for an out-of-the-ordinary reason or event would probably be fine.

Q: How long is the hug?

A: If you’re both holdin’ on like you can’t get enough, HR might have to step in. You’ll certainly make everyone around you uncomfortable. Also, don’t be surprised if whispers of a love affair start to spread.

Q: What is the hug for?

A: If the company culture is casual, seeing coworkers hug wouldn’t be cause for alarm, however, when it’s the boss who’s doing the hugging, everyone will take notice. A hug to congratulate a staff member for an accomplishment, birthday, retirement, or to express condolences, would probably be unopposed.

Q: Is he/she of the opposite sex?

A: If so, a boss might want to refer to the HR policies and procedures manual before spreading the love. Knowing your staff/coworkers quirks or preferences will save everyone a misunderstanding. If they’re not a the touchy-feely type, don’t force the issue.

Q: What if the boss is from an expressive culture?

A: Consider cultural norms before you blow things out of portion or taking it the wrong way. You don’t have to accept it, but you can tactfully express your preference.

Q: Does he/she hug everyone, equally?

A: If the boss is a “hugger,” that’s that. Although, if an employee is uncomfortable with this practice the boss should be aware and stop it. The ol’ “it’s just who I am” defense, does not apply.

Q: So, what do you do if your boss is a hugger and you’re not?

A: In private, without getting all dramatic, threatening to sue or post a passive-aggressive quote of the day, simply and calmly express your preference. Offer alternatives like a fist-bump, or pat on the arm or your own special handshake. Keep in mind that’s it’s not a come-on, it’s his/her form of expression. (Well, unless it is; you’ll feel it.)

In today’s workplace climate, reconsider who you hug. If your company’s culture or industry is more conservative, refrain from hugging your boss, any day of the year.

This topic is one that I address is my presentations.

Note to bosses: Unfortunately, but to be on the safe side, avoid hugging an employee when you’re alone. I would also recommend curtailing your affections at work. You don’t know when it can be misconstrued; before you know it, you’ll have a lovelorn employee on your hands.

Helping Businesses and Individuals Find Success Through Better Communication and Social Skills

having lunch with a CEO, business dining etiquetteRosalinda Oropeza Randall, Social Skills and Civility Presenter, Media Source, and author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom.”

Presentations are available to support HR policies, sales teams, up and coming managers, millennials & new-hire orientation process, service technicians, professional development events, conferences, college/university students, interns. For more information, please contact me, 650.871.6200.

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