To hug or not to hug? When is it appropriate in the business setting between co-workers and how does one know if the other person will be receptive to it? I’ve had this blog ready to post for quite some time now (and yes, I did jack this idea from a conversation held between co-workers) but decided to edit my thoughts after taking a business etiquette class conducted by Arden Clise. Why? Because as mentioned in my first blog post, I was born and raised in Indonesia where culturally the society holds a different mindset to the western world; the western world placing an emphasis on individualism while the eastern world places an emphasis on homogeny. This generally results in different levels of awareness in regards to personal boundaries for those raised in the differing cultures. I was not aware up until Ms. Clise’s class that I was conducting myself incorrectly. Nothing major of course, but surprising nonetheless.

In regards to the culture we’ve developed in the United States, people abide by general rules which differ between the workplace and their personal lives. We are freer to have good-natured physical contact with our friends and family outside of the workplace. When conducting ourselves in the work setting we enter a world of firm (but not too firm) handshakes, who to introduce to whom and which person comes first based on the level of their rank in the company, and body language – just to name a few. While I agree with much of the business etiquette taught in the course, I also disagree with one point that wasn’t covered and based on the direction the course took I didn’t bother to bring it up. Drum roll please: the simple hug.

Hugs are important because they show and symbolize care and sense of belonging. Not only is this integral to human beings as a social species, this is something that I believe is important to corporate cultures. As each of our members is special to us, so are we as employees to each other. I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that everyone become ‘hug-happy’ and run around hugging each everyone they see. That would be flat out weird. I classify myself as a hugger and a scenario like that would just plain freak me out. My simple point is that much like a warm smile, a hug conveys appreciation for you fellow co-worker. I don’t dispute the fact that hugs aren’t for everyone. One should generally already know their co-worker well enough or have the ability to sense if a hug is appropriate to both the person and situation. Just writing this I’m wondering if perhaps I should have named the title of this blog “Hugging Etiquette.” Whatever the case, hug on. What matters is that a happy employee makes for a happy member.

Sterling Roszel

No biography available for this author.

4 Responses

  1. Melina Young says:

    Sterling, you are right on the pulse of what is trendy right now – an article in the Wall Street Journal cam out on Nov 9 titled “Workplace deals sealed with a kiss?” and covers the same topic. Here is a link to the article.

  2. Tonja says:

    I think hugs are fine in the workplace when appropriate, such as consoling someone, congratulations or when someone is leaving. I am a touchy person, so I don’t necessarily hug, but I sometimes put my hand on someone shoulder when maybe we are working on something at their desk, looking at the computer screens, but they also know and I know it doesn’t go beyond friendship. I have also learned to read someone so I can usually tell if they are open to some kind of physical touch. I am the type that would hug a stranger if I felt it would make them feel better, even though I really am not that outgoing.

  3. Sasha says:

    Sterling, I love that you greet people with hugs! Etiquette provides guidelines to help with situations personal and professional in nature… but as people get to know each other, they can redefine those guidelines to what works well between them. I know I appreciate the hugs from Beacon Hill! 🙂

  4. Sterling says:

    I’d like to thank all those who responded. I completely agree with all your responses. I believe first and foremost that being able to ‘read’ a person and or respond to their particular situation where one shows they care through a hug or pat on the back is particularly important. We keep the spirit of love alive through our actions, whether big or small.

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