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I recently worked for a team that was more than a challenge. Not only was the work dull, but the workplace dynamics were shameful enough to give the company a bad name. During the time I was there I had observed some disturbing behavior between my direct manager and another employee, his personal pet, but I never spoke up about it. Not speaking up about it is an issue that deserves its own attention, so I won’t go into detail here.

I knew my time on the team was temporary and chose to keep my lips tight. I found any excuse to work remotely, rarely went for lunch or coffee with those folks, and grudgingly interacted with them in meetings. Although, I was far from fancying my direct manager, his manager happened to be a woman I have known since I started working at the company and had recently joined the team as the director. After I left the team I started to consider the impression I may have left on her by appearing to be a disengaged non-team-player and wanted to make sure I could mitigate any damages just in case I needed her backing in the future.

We met up at the café on our campus and our 30-minute meeting turned into a two-hour-long discussion. Both of the employees I had friction with had been impacted by our company’s restructuring and she wanted to give me details on how that would affect her team and let me know she might need my help covering work.

I eventually opened up about the issues I had on the team and she was very supportive and a bit disappointed that I didn’t come to her sooner. She gave me some good advice and ended the conversation by wishing me luck in my new role.

But just before we could turn to walk away, I reached my right arm underneath her left arm for a hug. I gave her a slight squeeze and she made an “Oh” sound in surprise as our awkward parting moment quickly came to an end. I turned, she turned and we walked away.

It was quick but definitely awkward. I later I thought about how she may have felt. She’s fairly well known at work, but as far as I can recall, I’ve never seen her hug anyone. I felt like a doofus later thinking how I may have been off base with the hug thing and I certainly didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable or as if she has to worry about me grabbing her up every time we meet.

At the end of the day I don’t regret giving her a hug. I was so relieved and felt so comforted by our discussion that my arms took the lead and I showed her how I felt. However it is highly suggested that when in doubt about hugging at work, just go for the handshake or no contact at all. I think in the future I’ll follow that advice.

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