Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Are You OK With Workplace Hugs?

In my entire working life, I can remember only one time when a male boss hugged me, and that was when I told him I was pregnant with my first child. I remember how awkward I felt, and I think I might have even jabbed him (accidentally, of course) with the ink pen I was holding.

But if you watch what is going on these days, bosses are hugging people all the time. Look at John McCain and Sarah Palin. Hug city. Hug when they see one another, hug when they leave, hug when they say something inspiring.

This hugfest has puzzled some people, especially since Geraldine Ferraro was told to not even think of touching Walter Mondale when she was his vice presidential pick in 1984. If you watch the video of them accepting the nominations, they don't even hold hands and raise them together in a typical "we are the champions" pose. No touching. Definitely no hugging.

Fast forward to 2008. Barak Obama and Joe Biden are hugging. Granted, it's sort of a boy hug -- that weird thing where they lean in and bump chests -- but they're hugging.

So, I'm wondering: Is this boss hug thing here to stay?

Letitia Baldrige, an etiquette expert since John Adams was in the White House, sniffed that "he’s (McCain) hugging her (Palin) to show the world that he’s all for her, and protecting her, but she doesn’t need that."

Baldrige is more supportive of a firm handshake between employees and employer, as opposed to the hugs we frequently see on television now. Other etiquette experts seem to think it's perfectly fine, this hugging by a boss, while others think we shouldn't even be discussing it.

I'm not making any judgment on Palin and McCain's hugging, and neither am I endorsing or condemning Obama and Biden doing the chest bump thing.

But I have to wonder if other people in the working world are comfortable with hugging their bosses, or co-workers, or for that matter, the barista at the local coffee shop. Who to hug? And when?

My career began during a period when women were fighting to just get a seat at the good old boys' table and we all were required to go through sexual harassment training to try and establish correct behavior between men and women in the workplace. I guess that's why the hugging thing has me a bit confounded -- would it be considered harassment, or not? Would it now be considered a bit of snobbery not to hug -- or chest bump -- my boss or co-workers?

Maybe this will all go away after the election and I won't have to worry about whether to hug or not to hug. Or to fist bump or high five or pat someone on the back.

I just hope air kissing doesn't become more popular. I'm definitely going to need an instructional video for that one.

How do you feel about hugging in the workplace?



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