Friday, December 1, 2017

Hugs in the workplace

I've been out of the workplace for 17 years now so I can't tell you whether innocuous hugging is more or less prevalent than in the previous century.  But I have been annoyed by all the guys who have piteously protested that yes, all those predators were disgusting, but how about all us nice guys who just like to hug?  For instance, a letter to the editor in this morning's New York Times:

"We as a society are exhibiting mass hysteria... The political correctness demanded by current public opinion throws out the baby with the bathwater.  We don't want to go so far as to discourage any hug or embrace to show caring and warmth."

I've been talking about this with my husband and son, and my position is that hugs are so rarely appropriate in the workplace that you can practically count the occasions on your fingers.  For the edification of all you nice guys who just like to hug, here's my easy guide.  You might want to print it up on a little card and keep it in your wallet, just in case you wonder if a hug is OK.

It's OK at your co-worker's retirement party.  OK when your team has just won the election or the million-dollar contract. Probably OK after somebody has shot up or burned down your office and you're all huddled on the sidewalk in dismay.  OK when your co-worker returns from the hospital, or prison, or three years in Ethiopia.  Maybe when your co-worker has just gotten a call that her mother died.  OK on occasion if the two of you are engaged or married (to one another).

But not to say good morning or good night.  Not when the hug initiator is the boss or superior of the hug recipient.  Not when the recipient's work clothes are skimpy or suggestive, or when the recipient is standing on a ladder.  Not when you're the only two people in the room, and especially not if the door is locked.

Just remember this, guys: if you want to show caring and warmth, give her a raise.


  1. Right? It just doesn't seem like a hard concept. I work for a city government. We have a LOT of HR rules. basically they result NO TOUCHING EACH OTHER EVER (exception = handshakes). And you know, it's kinda nice. A smidgen draconian, but I think it works. It prevents a lot of misunderstanding if people aren't hanging all over each other. There's only one profession where that's appropriate. It's a very old profession...

  2. We had a hugger at work. I just held up my hand and said "no". And gave him the "look" which my daughter says is pretty scary.

    What these women have had to live with--especially the 14 to 17 year olds in Alabama---all their lives. Brings tears to my eyes.

  3. I'm generally not a hugger, so I agree with you. Let the woman initiate the hug and you will be safe. Only hug a woman if you would hug a man in the same occasion.

    But I am somewhat conflicted with this. There have been studies that show that the human touch is very healing, reduces stress, etc. When I was in high school, a lot of people hugged each other, and it felt good. Now I wonder if I missed something LOL.

  4. Amen. Hugging is okay when it is okay. I think women know when the hug is okay and when it is not. Men who hug us inappropriately know it too, but they have been used to getting a free pass. I outed one guy, a "customer", asked him to knock it off and had to appeal to my male boss for backup. My boss was on the hugger's side! Enough, already.

  5. Exception--handshake? REALLY??? I would so much hug a total stranger than shake hands with people I know and like, yet society insists this is acceptable touch. I'm especially touchy about this at the moment because a co-worker introduced her boyfriend and his son and there I was, forced to shake hands or be flat-out rude. I did, because the teenager was a nice kid and being on his most polite behavior but I hated it.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. hmmm -- what do you hate about handshakes?

  6. I can't really describe it. It feels more like a little electric shock than anything else, only different. Very unpleasant. Only when touching someone's palm. In yoga class, when I have done partner yoga from time to time (so it has nothing to do with social constraint, because there I could easily opt out), only touching the hand has this unpleasant effect. Clasping wrists is fine.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky