Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hugging at Work is Weird

I had an incredibly awkward moment at work today.  It involved "the work hug".  I was so disturbed that I obsessed about it for hours after the fact.  In the hopes of educating others, and spare others the trauma, I have included some Q&A below to elaborate on the ground rules.

Q: What is your attitude toward hugging in general?
A: By nature I am not a hugger - I do not hug random people - I value my personal space.

Q: So, when do you think hugging at work is ok?
A:  Hugging at work is reserved for very specific situations that fall within the following guidelines: The hugger and I worked together at one point in time, I don't hate them and enough time has elapsed since we last saw each other that it's not creepy and weird and all....huggy. 

Q: Are there any other circumstances that would allow for hugging at work?
A: Yes - The hugger and I work/worked together, I don't hate them and something hug worthy happened in their life (baby on the way, engagement, significant lottery win, etc).

Q: So what constitutes an awkward work hug?
A: I offer the following example from today - One minute I was having a conversation with a guy that I know but don't really work with often.  We went to part ways after an agreeable conversation and the awkward moment happened. We somehow managed to get too close in physical proximity which would make a hand shake uncomfortable and inconvenient. He extended a hand, I accepted and then he faked me out with the half hug with the other arm. Thus an awkward embrace after which I half walked, half ran out of his office.  I felt slightly better when I found out another co-worker had an awkward hug with this person that ended even worse - they actually managed to hurt one another by knocking their heads together.  

Q: So if someone tries to hug you and you don't want to hug them, how do you handle it?
A: There isn't a good way to handle it so suck it up, hug them and then steer clear in the future.  However, I can provide an illustrative example of how not to handle it based on a co-worker's unfortunate experience.  She was in a huggy, huggy environment (she is not a huggy hugger) and so she was forced to hug people and when she leaned in to greet a particular co-worker with a hug he jumped away like she was some kind of leper.  He then told her that he doesn't hug at work because that behavior it's not advised by HR.  She was mortified. I was mortified hearing the story.  This is why you should never be the hug initiator unless the hug recipient is a sure thing and a hug is appropriate under the "work hug" guidelines.

If you're not sure if a hug is appropriate, it probably means you're a creepy weird hugger and you should cease and desist while in the office.  Yes, people do find you to be a violator of personal space and that is why they don't invite you to lunch or happy hour.  

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