Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hugging at Work?


My co-worker (also one of my best friends) just left to work in China.   I tried to find him so we can have a last good chat but being his last  day, he was busy closing things off.  He did come by my office to say good-bye to my team mates and when he came to me I did something I completely regret and will haunt me until we meet again.

And what did I do?  The standard workplace male to female hug, one arm over the shoulder. To one of my best friends.  Why?  Because we are at the workplace and because we are friends, I didn’t want to convey a message that we were more then that because he’s male.  That, I might have gotten emotional.

hug2That was silly.  All our co-workers knows we are good friends.  It wouldn’t have been weird for them to see that and they know I’m a softy.  It still felt weird for me.   He deserved the full heart to heart hug to say goodbye.  The great thing was he understood and hopefully we’ll socialize with some friends when he comes back for a visit.  This whole incident got thing got me thinking,

When is a hug appropriate in the workplace?

It’s a grey area.  Hugging at the workplace depends on the culture of that specific workplace.  Also not everyone think it’s appropriate and  when it becomes uncomfortable for one person, there’s a risk of harassment complaints.   My particular workplace, it’s a source of companionship and friendly interaction.  Coupled with the relaxed but yet hard working culture, we get comfortable with one another over time.  Lots of long lasting friendships grew from this environment.

What are the boundaries?  I worked in a few offices but never really thought of this until now.  Probably because I’m female and up until a few years ago, I avoided getting too close to my work peers for the very reason that I’m really a softy at heart.  Still, I try to be conscious of my actions. 

Best is not to Initiate

hug__by_DefiesThis way, you don’t cause that awkward moment if that recipient party is not the hugging type and you are not conveying the wrong message.  By the way, I had to learn this the hard way a few years back when green I was just getting my feet wet.  I was mortified.

Watch for height differences!

I’m just over 5 feet tall, one of my team mates is over 6 feet tall.  We haven’t seen each other for a month as we had overlapping vacations and he initiated the hug sequence and I had to tip toe to do it.  Couldn’t do the one arm hug on that one.  It was awkward!  Lucky for me, he’s not really the ‘huggy’ type. Personally, I think he only hugged because he wants to show he likes us, but really it’s not necessary.

If a Hug is Unavoidable, Sometimes You Just Have to Suck It Up

There is a vendor sales representative who likes to hug and only see him once every few weeks or maybe even months.  It was never creepy but we known each other for 10 years but I never figured out how to back off without offending the guy.  I always try the handshake but he leans on for the hug.  Now, I know this really is an innocent gesture and he only first hugged me when I first got pregnant 5 years ago. 

Don’t Hug Your Boss

Sat%20No%20to%20HugsA few of my co-worker friends are also managers.  Technically, they are my superiors.  I’d never hug any of them at work.  Perception and imagination can run wild. The same goes for subordinate staff.

These are just a few that came to mind today.  If you have any other tips, let me know.  Now I’m off to give my children hugs and kisses.

1 comment:

  1. oh hugs... i'm not really a huggy type of person especially because i'm short and most people are taller than me...and also because it's hard to read sometimes whether someone is a huggy type or not so i just try to avoid it overall. haha! There are certain people of course, like friends and family where it's no question. As for hugs at work... it really depends on the person... at my previous work place, one of my superiors was male but he was super fun and laid back and when he congratulated me on things and when i left that department, he gave me a hug and it was not awkward at all... i guess because we were kind of buddies in the workplace even though he was a superior... so i say it depends on the person and also the culture of the workplace like you mentioned. ;P