Is it ever ok to hug at work, or is it just best to stick to a polite handshake? Some argue that you don’t want to seem forward if you hug too soon, but you also don’t want to appear overly stiff if you offer a handshake when a hug is expected.
On the other hand, what are your rights to refuse a hug if you are really not into the idea of hugging colleagues?
What happens if your boss wants to hug you, cuddle you, massage you, or even to kiss your neck?
A number of staff at fashion firm Ted Baker have signed a petition complaining about the company’s founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin, accusing the 62-year-old of forcing workers to hug him.
The company has begun an investigation into allegations of verbal, physical and sexual harassment.
One Ted Baker employee who wanted to remain anonymous told the BBC’s Today programme: “He had a policy of hugging everyone, rather than a handshake.
“Nothing wrong with that, but these hugs were extremely physically imposing, as well as awkwardly long, often conducted very publicly in front of the whole office.
“There was nothing inherently wrong with the actual hugs, but the uncomfortableness came from what tended to accompany them. Unwanted personal comments, kisses on the cheek, neck-stroking all used to happen after [the hugs] – particularly with women.
James Watkins, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, says that not all physical contact is inappropriate, and there’s nothing to stop consenting adults hugging in the workplace.
“But would-be huggers should be mindful that not everyone will welcome a hug and the context will often not be suited to one,” he says.
If you get hugged, and you just don’t like it, then tell the other person.
“It takes courage to tell someone you work with that you find their hugs uncomfortable, but it will often be the quickest and easiest way to get them to stop,” he says.
If this is a continuing problem, you can speak to a colleague in confidence, human resources, or your boss.
Some helpful tips to ensure you are not crossing the line with someone include:
- Ask permission
- Consider the occasion – if it’s a training experience, celebration or upon receipt of very bad news.
- Keep it short
- Stay safe on the side of not hugging