These days office environments are increasingly casual, with employees coming to work in jeans and flip flops or even shorts. But although the culture may be changing, there are still some general behaviors that can still be seen as unacceptable, such as the hug.
“You usually don’t see in the code of conduct, ‘No hugging,’” Pamela Eyring, the president of The Protocol School of Washington, said to MSNBC. Her organization offers business etiquette training. “So it makes the lines very blurred.”
Although there may be some confusion, office etiquette experts everywhere agree that in general an arms-off policy is recommended. Even still, most people have given or received an unwanted hug in the office, and it usually results in some awkward moments.
“Most of us don’t want that intimacy with our co-workers,” Jim Webber said to MSNBC. Webber is the author of the advice blog Evil Skippy at Work and also provides workplace training on preventing harassment. “We have to be with them 40 hours a week. We don’t want to hug them, too,” he said.
So what should you do if you are the giver or receiver of an awkward office hug? Sometimes the best response is simply to act as if it didn’t happen. The uncomfortable feeling usually fades away with time or perhaps the person didn’t realize just how awkward the hug really was. If playing it off doesn’t work, then try to address it jokingly.
“A self-deprecating confession can make a world of difference,” Webber said. Carol Miaskoff, the assistant legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises that the best policy to avoid awkward hugs is to let your co-workers know upfront how you feel about hugs.
“A clear dividing line is if someone says, ‘Don’t hug me,’” she said.
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