hugging at work: okay or not okay?

You’re greeting a colleague you haven’t seen in a while, or ending a meeting with a client. Do you enthusiastically open your arms for a hug? Do you wait awkwardly to see if they initiate a hug first? Shrink back in the hopes that you won’t get hugged? Just default to a handshake?

Hugging in professional contexts can cause a lot of confusion, especially since some people are determined huggers and others definitely don’t want to physically embrace colleagues. And yet there are entire industries where hugging is normal, especially as offices become more casual, and there are also fields where hugging would seem wildly out of place. But most of us work in contexts where the rules for hugging just aren’t clear-cut – and so as a result, we end up wondering if we’re supposed to hug, how to avoid a hug or whether we just made things awkward by going in for a hug.

Thus, to navigate through this awkward terrain, here are rules for huggers and non-huggers when you’re in professional situations.

Tips for Huggers

While you might be an enthusiastic hugger in your personal life, it’s important to remember that the rules for professional relationships are different. You certainly might develop hug-friendly relationships with people or you might meet business contacts who are huggers right off the bat, but in general your preference for hugging is trumped by a colleague’s preference not to have that kind of physical intimacy with a co-worker. That means that you should default to not hugging unless you have good reason to believe the person truly would welcome a hug.

Definitely do not hug people who you manage or otherwise have power over. By all means, greet them warmly, look happy to see them and take genuine interest when you ask how they’re doing – but don’t hug them. That’s because the power dynamic in the boss-employee relationship means that many people won’t be comfortable telling you that they’d rather not hug. And you really, really don’t want to be forcing unwelcome physical contact on the people who you manage or ignoring their personal boundaries.

Pay attention to other people’s cues. Don’t assume that everyone else is a hugger. Instead, take note of their body language. If a person isn’t making themselves easily available for a hug (for example, if they are turned away slightly or conspicuously carrying something that they’re not making any moves to put down), assume that this is a no-hug zone. Also, pay attention to the norms of your office. If no one else is engaging in regular hugs, you should probably calibrate your behavior accordingly.

When you’re in a group, don’t hug some people and not others. Even if the people you don’t hug didn’t particularly want to hug you, selectively hugging some people in a group and not others is likely to cause some awkwardness. Hug preferences aside, it’s too clearly a sign of being closer to some people than to others and can make people feel left out or like outsiders. Instead, stick with a neutral non-hugging greeting or goodbye for everyone.

Tips for Non-Huggers

If you would rather not hug, sometimes you can ward it off by preemptively sticking out your hand for a handshake. Or, if you’re comfortable doing this, you can say, “I’m not much of a hugger so I’ll spare you that, but it’s great to see you.” Or, if it’s a person you won’t see often, you can mention that you’re just getting over a cold and don’t want to risk exposing them to your germs. (Of course, this one doesn’t work for people you see and need to ward off hugs from regularly.)

Unless you work somewhere with no concept of personal boundaries, it should be completely OK not to hug. It’s an office where professional relationships should govern, and most huggers understand that some people have different boundaries than they do. As long as you’re matter-of-fact about it and don’t make colleagues feel like your reason for not hugging is that you’re personally repulsed by them, you should be fine.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 306 comments… read them below }

  1. Daisy Steiner*

    I’m so anti-hug-in-the-workplace that I don’t even like to see other people hug! It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I think it’s the result of my first job out of uni being a straight-laced public sector role, where pretty much any physical contact in the workplace was verboten. I just can’t shake the feeling that hugs (and shoulder touches, arm squeezes, etc.) are wrong.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Same. I prefer for people to not touch me ever, lol. (Massive germophobe here, and I’m convinced I’ll get body lice or hepatitis or something.)

  2. Hermione*

    A giant “NO!” for hugging clients! I’m not very fond of hugging co-workers, either, but I can see where some people may feel close enough to do so. Generally though, stay at least an arm’s length away from me except maybe in a very crowded elevator.

  3. BookCocoon*

    One issue I see that I don’t think is mentioned in the article is discriminating by gender when hugging. If all the men in the group get a handshake and I get a hug, it’s as if I’m being treated less professionally than they are.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      True. My boss (older white male) never gets hugs, I (younger female) frequently do. It’s not a huge personal boundary problem for me as it doesn’t make me especially uncomfortable, but I worry it creates a perception that I’m less worthy of professional respect in people who witness it.

  4. Tiny_Tiger*

    I’m definitely a big non-hugger in a professional setting. I don’t really like much of any physical contact outside of handshaking while at work, and I’m definitely the one who will stick their hand out for a handshake very quickly when I feel a situation maybe devolve into hugging. The one and only time I accepted a hug at work was when I came back from leave after my grandmother died. My coworkers knew and one gave me a hug and her condolences. During that situation it was very much appreciated. But in another situation where my coworker laughed, came over to my cubicle, and slapped the back of my chair without prompt or reason, I snapped and told him to get out of my cube.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I had a client forcibly hug me once when I’d never met her before. She was all, “I’m a hugger so here you go,” and snatched me up in a bear hug before I could scream and run.

      She went on my list of people to help last.

      1. The Expendable Redshirt*

        Coworkers hugged me when I told them about a Terrible Event that happened in my personal life. I was okay with that. But in normal situations, it would be very weird for coworkers to hug me.

  5. Rusty Shackelford*

    The topic of hugging came up at a sexual harassment workshop and I was literally shocked at how militant people can be about their right to hug you, whether you want it or not. I thought the whole point of a hug was to make the other person feel appreciated/liked, etc. Why would you want to do that when you know the other person doesn’t like you hugging them? (Well, okay, I can think of some reasons why.) But people got so angry about it, saying that it was their right to hug everyone unless that person explicitly said “please don’t hug me,” (and even then, those people probably need a hug but don’t know it!!!) and how dare you take away their ability to express their feelings, etc. It was disturbing.

    1. Critter*

      I’m dumbfounded. What was the gender split there? Mostly women or men, or more or less equal crazypants?

      1. Rincat*

        That would be interesting to know – however in my experience, the militant huggers were mostly older men, and I think they saw me as one of their children. Still – NO TOUCHY. One of them was my boss, and he hugged everyone – men and women, old and young – with ferocity.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I’ve found the people who get vehemently angry about not being able to hug/touch/etc. are the type, as you mention, who are usually all, “they need a hug but don’t know it!”

      I had a former colleague who was a very touchy-feely, I-want-to-mother-you type of person and she insisted that when anyone was upset, all they needed was a hug. She didn’t believe me when I said if I was upset, the last thing I wanted was someone touching me. I’d likely lash out and it’s make me feel worse.

      1. bearing*

        This is fundamentally the same kind of lack of respect that underlies unwanted sexual touching and unwanted sexual comments.

        You’re still using the other person as an object upon which you will express your own personal desires. The difference is that in one case, the personal desire is sexual, and in the other, it’s more generalized “affection.” Unwanted sexual touching is usually more traumatic and a more outrageous boundary violation, but we’re talking about a difference in degree, not kind. “I want to hug you so I will hug you unless you explicitly say no” is not that far removed in concept from “I want to touch your ass, etc.”

        And both can be used as a means of asserting power over the relationship, too.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          And that’s the point the militant huggers didn’t get. That their need to express themselves via hugging was not as important as the other person’s right to decide whether they were hugged. That when you don’t want to be hugged, a hug is not pleasant. That a hug is not equivalent to a smile and a “good morning.” It was pretty astonishing.

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          Definitely. I think what makes it even worse is that a lot of these people would be very, very offended to have their “I want to hug you so I will” linked to unwanted sexual touching and wouldn’t see how they’re different degrees of unwanted and uncomfortable. They’d claim that they’re doing a good thing because a lot of them tend to see physical affection in a non-sexual manner as a good thing, especially when giving comfort.

          Physical affection and touch is such a personal thing. Not everyone wants a hug when they’re sobbing or when they’ve heard about a death. Everyone handles emotions differently and being unable to process that and force your own version of comfort of physical affection on them is a huge issue and as you said, asserting power, even if it’s not intended. I don’t want a hug when I’m upset, but my best friend does and neither of us is wrong in how we’re reacting to things, but it’d be awful if she forced me to deal with my emotions her way and vice versa.

    3. I used to be Murphy*

      Oh lord, that would have me screaming “I need an adult” loudly enough to hopefully embarrass the hell out of them for some time to come.

    4. DragoCucina*

      This almost sounds like a JP Sears routine. Forced hugging because they don’t know they need one to. A sure sign of being ultra spiritual.

    5. Rana*

      People like that also get grossly offended and hurt when you defend your child’s right to refuse hugs. Uh, no. My child has just as much right to decide who gets to touch her body as any adult unless there is a specific health or medical reason for it. Your desire to cuddle her just because she’s small and cute does not qualify.

  6. Faith*

    I still remember the first time I was being introduced to our new (male) Latin America director who was visiting our office from Brazil. He greeted me enthusiastically, went in for a hug and then kissed me on both cheeks. That was so awkward.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      I made some friends while traveling in Brazil and I loved the cheek-kissing! I’m usually pretty uptight but it was just so warm and genuine, I really felt appreciated.

      1. salad fingers*

        My boyfriend is Dutch and I still sometimes forget, when I hug his mom, that we’re going to do the kiss on both cheeks. I’m not offended by it at all but I think I’ve almost accidentally kissed her on the lips a couple of times out of confusion. Derp derp.

        1. Susan C.*

          You what now? Do you know which province she’s from?

          I will admit to not having any Dutch family ties, and mostly speak from Uni and work contexts, but I’ve never witnessed any pattern of cheek kissing in Noord-Brabant or even Limburg, which has an otherwise quite noticeable influx of Franco-Belgians and French… huh.

          (thinking back to the time spent with a gaggle of French exchange students, I feel your pain about narrowly avoided awkwardness though!)

        2. Rana*

          It gets particularly awkward when they go left and you go right – sort of a kissing version of the which-side-do-I-pass-on hallway dance.

    2. Alex the Alchemist*

      I’m a senior in college and my Gender Studies advisor does that whenever she sees me. She’s a small German woman in her 60s and she kinda scares me, but in a fun way. I’m not even if I’m uncomfortable with it, so much as I am entertained, because it’s kind of the icing on the cake of all the wonderfully awkward stories I have of her.

  7. BobcatBrah*

    I’ve got one for you: kissing in the work place. The Latin double cheek kiss is wildly common in certain parts of the country, and can be a little jarring when you’re working there and coming from the heartland, where handshakes are the way to go. Handshakes are only doing between men here. It’s not a true kiss, but you put your cheeks together and make the noise with your mouth.

    It was way weird on my first day of work after moving to Miami and my female manager leans in and did it. But you adapt, I suppose.

    It’s definitely something to expect if any of you plan to do business in Latin America

    1. MsMaryMary*

      Something similar happened to me! A client (who is not Latino) gave me a single kiss on the cheek as we were saying goodbye. It was friendly/familial, not sexy, but it still threw me for a loop. He did it to the other woman on our team too. He’s known her since she was a baby, so I feel like he just automatically kissed me goodbye too? I felt awkward, I don’t think he noticed

      1. BadPlanning*

        Now I’m thinking of the Friends episode when Chandler and Monica were secretly dating. He kissed Monica and then tried to “casually” kiss Rachel and Phoebe to even things out.

    2. Finding a name*

      I also never know how many times you are meant to kiss someone on the cheek. I tend to default to one, with a hug (with friends, never colleagues!), but I’ve lived in places where two or three is common, and it can get confusing, especially if I’m going to a few countries in a short period of time.
      Let’s just all agree on a correct number and institute a worldwide cheek kissing law!

      1. BobcatBrah*

        I think it has to do with how well you know somebody. I’ve seen one kiss on one cheek, then both people switch and do the other and then it’s over. But I’ve also seen the same people do right, left, right with people they’re closer with.

    3. Bwmn*

      For me, I’ve always experienced it as a European thing. Now the number of kisses, I’ve never teased out – whether 1 to 3 – but I do find it far less intimate than a hug. I’ve worked a lot abroad, and I find there to be a greater chance to mitigate how physically close.

    4. Nan*

      ack! No! No! No! No slobbers at work. Reminds me of my grandma. She’d kiss my cheek with her big gummy lips and slobber on me. Yuck. I have a dog if I want to be slobbered on. And you have to get in my personal space bubble to kiss my cheek. Just no.

      1. Bwmn*

        In my experience it’s more often than not “air cheek kisses” rather than direct “lip to cheek contact”. While it is a lot more personal space than just a handshake, I find the Euro-cheek-kiss to be far less invasive than any hug. It can be awkward if you’re not expecting it, but once you somewhat commit I really don’t see it as such a personal space concern.

        1. OhNo*

          Same. There’s a lot less bodily contact involved (IME, anyway). The cheek kiss involves maybe hand-to-arm contact, whereas hugs mean someone is going to get all up on me.

          It also makes it a lot easier to pull away from an unwanted cheek kiss – all I have to do is step back. Unwanted hugs are impossible. Usually by the time I’ve figured out that’s the aim I’m already ensnared and have to wait for them to let me go.

          1. Bwmn*

            Right, I also think for the cheek kiss it’s earlier to be a bit stiff armed about it so that it doesn’t get too close without it necessarily looking awkward. Wriggling out of a hug once it’s started is far more likely to openly signal “I don’t like this” which may visually feel more noticeable.

    5. Ineloquent*

      That’d be awkward for me – if someone leans in for a cheek kiss, I automatically go for a mouth kiss. It’s made for a couple of very awkward interactions with siblings…

      1. CMart*

        That’s how I accidentally got a boyfriend my senior year of high school. After attending a dance together (as maybe-more-than-friends-but-who-knows) we hugged goodbye and he went for a cheek kiss, but I automatically went for the mouth kiss when I saw he was coming in hot. After that it was just sort of like “oh… I guess we’re dating now?”

    6. Anja*

      A colleague wanted to take me for coffee for my birthday last year. We met up (work at different buildings). She does hug arms – fine, it’s a birthday. But she also went for a cheek kiss. Which I did not expect. And somehow awkwardly turned away from not out of conscious avoidance but just from not expecting to have my cheek be a part of the interaction (so keeping my head out of the way so it was a less intimate hug?). She kissed me on the neck accidentally. Neither of us ever mentioned it.

    7. Jennifer the weirdo freak?*

      > The Latin double cheek kiss is wildly common in certain parts of the country

      So, the south part of Florida, with its large expat Cuban population. But anywhere else? I grew up in Southern California and didn’t see it there, but it’s been a few decades.

      1. BobcatBrah*

        Tony Soprano always did it, I’m not sure if it’s common in the Italian community around New York or not, though.

        And I’m originally from Texas and while it didn’t happen in the Mexican community there, it does happen in Mexico, strangely enough.

  8. Haley*

    ….Except in Hawaii.

    Seriously, just an FYI for people thinking to move, hugging is an expected norm in the islands. I’ve embraced all four mayors, senators, the governor, and the attorney general. Nobody is too high up for a hug and if you refuse you will look bad. Everywhere else though, yes, probably don’t hug. :)

    1. Jadelyn*

      There’s definitely a regional aspect to it! I’m from California (Bay Area) and it is absolutely a cultural norm that people hug – usually you shake hands on first meeting, but subsequent greetings are hug-based.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I don’t know. I’ve lived in the Bay Area a while, and it’s true that people are big into hugs around here, I haven’t found that to be the case in the workplace.

      2. Jennifer the weirdo freak?*

        I’m in the Bay Area too, and I have to disagree on this, so I suspect that it’s workplace- or industry-dependent. Yes, I see hugs in my workplaces, but it’s hardly common.

        And I’m a weirdo freak. I’m very huggy in my family of origin and at home, but much less so with friends, and no-way-Jose in the workplace. And I’ve spent social time in settings where hugs are common, even upon first meetings, and certainly upon saying goodbye. I just don’t. I smile warmly, I do not move into opened arms, I just say something like, Sorry, no, but it was great spending time with you. If someone hugs me anyway, I stand stiffly with my arms at my sides while saying something about, No, really, I prefer not to hug.

        People who are insistent to adults probably also tell their children they MUST hug Auntie Edna. Which, no. Everything about child safety tells us why that’s bad. And if someone tells their child to hug or kiss me, I look right at the child and ask them if they want a hug or a kiss, and then I respect their answer.

        (And I’ve been reading the archives some, and I see that someone else with my name has used it for commenting, so I think maybe I need a new handle for around this place…)

        1. Rana*

          And if someone tells their child to hug or kiss me, I look right at the child and ask them if they want a hug or a kiss, and then I respect their answer.

          Thank you so much for this! It’s hard teaching your child about consent and bodily autonomy when adults insist on overriding a child’s wishes regarding things like hugs.

    2. HNL123*

      Haha, I was JUST going to make a comment about Hawaii also. Hugging clients, coworkers, vendors, etc is a norm in my workplace as well. Along with the kiss on the cheek. I usually just make a kissing sound (cause lipstick).
      I’ve definitely had ‘handshake only’ meetings, but hugging seems to be a pretty integral part of the greeting process here. It would seem unnecessarily…. distant, cold and odd to refuse.

  9. MsMaryMary*

    Oh, the Professonal Hug is one of my pet peeves, and I am a hugger in my personal life. I don’t shake hands with my friends and family, and I don’t want to hug my coworkers and clients. The Genuine Professional Hug also makes it difficult defend against the Problematic Professional Hug (lingering, wandering hands, etc).

    I actually disagree with Alison’s advice not to only hug some people in a group. Some of my coworkers have known their clients for decades, so they hug each other. I would much rather shake hands with someone I’m meeting for the first time, even if they’ve hugged the account exec they’ve been working with for 20 years.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, my point wasn’t “if you’re going to hug some people, hug everyone” – it was “if you want to hug some people but not others, default to no hugging for everyone.”

      1. MsMaryMary*

        Sorry, you did say that in the last sentence of your paragraph. I run into the “hugs for all” situation too often, I think I was projecting!

      2. bearing*

        It seems that it might be instructive to compare this situation to the no-handshaking-the-opposite-gender question from a little while back.

  10. K.*

    NO. Where I used to work, our account person from our AOR would hug us and my boss and I both hated it (one of the few things Boss & I had in common). I don’t know you like that!

  11. HRish Dude*

    I can’t think of much more horrifying at work than when someone: a) throws out their arms for a hug, or b) says the words, “I’m a hugger!”

    1. Rincat*

      At work or anywhere. My response is, “That’s great!” hold out hand for handshake or walk away briskly.

  12. Critter*

    For coworkers you’ve become close with, in certain settings. For example, both my boss and coworker left on the same day earlier this year, and in a 3 person office we were all friendly. Hugs for both when we said goodbye. That’s usually been the case for me; hugs when someone’s leaving, but only the ones I’ve been friendly with.


    1. MsMaryMary*

      The Special Occasion Hug is fine. If someone got very good or very bad news, someone’s leaving or getting promoted, someone’s last day in the office before maternity leave…all acceptable.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I hugged my manager on her last day. Her position had been cut, and it was all very emotional. On the other hand, I had known her (both as a coworker and as a manager) for 8 years at that point. I would not have hugged any of my other bosses here if they had left under similar circumstances.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          For the record, that’s the only time I’ve been involved in a work hug where my only thought wasn’t, “How the heck did this happen, and how can I make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

          1. Vroom Vroom*

            I think that’s very warranted. It’s the awkward greetings like, do I or don’t I, that get me.

            I’ve also hugged a colleague when she was crying because her mother had passed. I’m not a monster.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Even then, it’d have to be someone I was awfully close to before I’d be OK with Special Occasion Hugging them. (and I wouldn’t initiate it)

        (However, I’m pretty militantly anti-touching. Do not lay hands on me except if it’s a brief, firm handshake, if I’m falling down a staircase, or if I’m literally dying.)

      3. Red*

        The ONLY time I’ve ever hugged a co-worker was at her Last Day of Work party. She had been working with us for about 8 years, was about to move across the country, and it was very emotional for everyone (myself included) so when she went for a hug, I didn’t have the heart to stop her. Other then that, I despise hugs. I really just dislike being touched in general.

  13. Anonymous Educator*

    I once worked in a hugging workplace, and it was terrible. People gaslighted me and made me feel like a freak for not wanting to hug everyone at work every day multiple times a day. I even had a colleague who acknowledged I wasn’t a hugger but insisted that she was so she would need to hug me. Love how my bodily autonomy and consent just go out the window…

    Needless to say, I didn’t last long there.

    Most of my other workplaces have been reasonably non-hugging workplaces. Lots of handshakes or waves or just warm “Hellos.” If I’m extremely close with a co-worker (or, more likely a former co-worker), and it’s someone I haven’t seen in a while, I’ll hug if that person wants to hug.

  14. Ask a Manager* Post author

    It seems statistically impossible that all the commenters here are non-huggers! Where are the huggers? I know you are out there too, and I want to hear from you! What is your take on this?

    1. Critter*

      This is completely just me, but in line with my propensity to communicate with people online is my lack of interpersonal skills with the 3D world.

      1. Critter*

        For some reason I’m reminded of people who, in their personal lives with friends and family (mostly family, I think?), kiss on the mouth, and will super duper defend it. Wonder if there’s a correlation there and they also tend to be huggers.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Wow. I’ve never people like that. Is that a regional thing (i.e., not the regions where I’ve lived)?

          1. Critter*

            No idea. I used to spend time in the Dear Prudie comments section at Slate, and it would come up from time to time. We were from all over, so I never quite figured out if it was generational or regional or what.

          2. Ife*

            Fiance’s family does this with the children, and the children usually initiate it. I learned this the first time I met his toddler-aged daughter and she said goodbye by giving me a kiss on the lips! She and I cheek-kiss now, it is way less awkward. I have never had the courage to ask fiance where the lip-kissing thing came from, but it is apparently A Thing Some Families Do. (Not mine. Jeez, we barely hug.)

            1. Al Lo*

              It was never a thing my family did growing up, but my sister does it a bit with my nephews. It made me laugh one day when my 3-year-old (maybe even 2 1/2 at the time) was giving me a hug goodbye, and I wasn’t paying enough attention to me, so he grabbed both cheeks, turned my face to him, planted a kiss on my lips, and yelled “Bye, Auntie!”

              My mom is a forehead kisser. She’ll grab us (even now as adults) by the head and plant a kiss on the forehead. On tiptoes, for those of us who are taller and/or wearing heels.

            2. Rana*

              My SIL is like this too, and it weirds me out. We kiss our child on the top of her head or at most her cheek. (Which makes for entertaining moments when someone asks our daughter for a kiss, and she inclines her head in a little bow, expecting them to bestow a kiss on her instead.)

              Plus, honestly, small children are sticky.

        2. Kora*

          I come from a kiss-on-mouth family and I’m not remotely a hugger except with people I’m very close to, FWIW.

        3. Collie*

          My aunt is like this and it always grossed me out. Her sisters (my mom, my other aunt, and my late aunt) are not/were not like this. I have no idea what happened there. o.O

        4. Orca*

          A couple members of my family are mouth kisser greeters and even as a child I barely tolerated it. Now I usually turn my cheek or just step back entirely.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      I’d suspect that regular commenters on a professional blog would skew anti-workplace-hugging. It would certainly match with the impression I have of most of the community.

    3. BobcatBrah*

      I’m perfectly happy to be a hugger, but being a guy, I’ll always offer a hand first and let the woman go in for a hug (or kiss!) if she wants to. Basically not opposed, but I’m not going to initiate it.

      1. Vroom Vroom*

        Glad to hear this! I’ve been in a group of all men before, and a man came up and introduced himself with handshakes to all and hugged me only! Granted, I was the only person he’d met before but… I’m a fairly small woman and he’s a fairly big man so it ended up being the kinda hug-that-lifts-you-off-the-ground-a-tiny-bit. It vas the vurst.

    4. CaliCali*

      I am a hugger (though I think we may fear outing ourselves)! However, I don’t default to hugging. In a business context, I’ll always go for a handshake first. Additionally, I read the room and the situation — if it’s a more “hey! Good to see you! What are you doing in town!” collegial sort of situation, I’m a lot more prone to offer a hug — say, at a business conference, tradeshow, etc. I think, basically, it’s where I feel it’s more than a strict business relationship, but perhaps a bit of a professional friendship as well.

      I think the “read the room” is actually a big aspect of it all — I believe myself to be relatively astute in terms of perceiving the comfort levels and mood around me. I have to sense a relatively warm atmosphere before I go in for a hug (and sense that it’s what the other person is wanting too). Note that I’m still defaulting to handshake otherwise, because I know (see other comments) that many are not huggers.

      Also, I am coming right off of being at our company’s user conference, where we’re 1) seeing coworkers we don’t see much of 2) meeting and hanging out with clients. I gave a couple coworkers a hug hello and goodbye, but we have relatively close relationships. I also gave a few clients hugs goodbye, but this was after an evening of taking them out on the town, so our relationship was in a more friendly context (rather than strictly business) at this point!

      1. Angelina*

        Same. Love hugging, don’t love it at work. I hug former coworkers if I’m seeing them for the first time in a while, and current coworkers if they leave. I have two work friends who I hug before/after a long vacation or at the end of a looong day, but that’s only if we’re out saying goodnight at a bar or if everyone else has left the office. No one needs to see you hugging it out at work.

        1. CaliCali*

          Although now I’m thinking about it, and that definitely happened a few weeks ago with me! I was absolutely exhausted and frazzled from getting a bunch of work done to meet a deadline. I was standing in a room, surrounded by all the binders I was assembling, bit by bit. One of my coworkers, who I’m friendly with and who I worked with on the project, comes up to my obviously wrung-out self and says “You need anything?” And I turn to her, half-jokingly, and say “I need a beer and a hug.” She couldn’t give me a beer, but she gave the hug :)

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Same here. This describes exactly how I feel about it. I’m not a default hugger either, but I do it in certain contexts. I used to work with a lot of sales people, and there was sooooo much hugging.

        What I hate is when my colleagues hug clients they’ve known a while and the clients feel bad they’re not on hugging terms with me, so they hug me. I never want anyone to feel obligated to hug anyone else.

        1. Squeegee Beckenheim*

          I’m glad that this happens to other people (though I’m not glad it happens). I’ll be at a trade show and a client will hug my female coworker who they’ve known forever, shake the hand of my male coworker, and then try to decide what to do with me. I prefer when they opt for the handshake–the hug always catches me off guard.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      I’m a hugger! But lots of people aren’t, so I assume people don’t want to be hugged at work unless I know them well enough. Plus, I work with teenagers who are prone to tears/anger/needing comfort so I have become a master of the “side hug”. Sometimes, a kid will ask me for a hug or so obviously need one and I give one wordlessly. Overall, I try not to touch my students at all, but I made my piece with the fact that I would be willing to lose my job (or worse) over comforting a child in distress.

      I only want to give hugs to be people that want or need them. There is a fabulous book on passive-aggressive behavior called “The Angry Smile”. I don’t really want to be “The Angry Hugger.”

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Please change that to “want and need” them. Otherwise, you might think someone like me needs a hug, and I absolutely never need one from someone with whom I do not share living space or genetic material.

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          No worries. You would have to say, ” I want a hug” or “I need a hug” for me to think that you wanted or needed one.

          1. Muriel Heslop*

            Or, your dad just went to prison. Or, someone killed your uncle. Or, your mom overdosed and is in the hospital. Or, you are leaving to go to a new foster home. Then, I ask kids if they would like a hug.

            My students are obviously professional outliers.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Even then, though, the key is you’re still *asking*. I was super touched when a coworker at a former job noticed that I was upset (having some home and family problems) and asked if I wanted a hug. It was the being asked that got me, because it was a genuine offer and yet equally genuinely left up to me whether I would appreciate that form of comfort or not.

              1. MsMaryMary*

                I had a manager who haaaated hugging. She told everyone she managed right off the bat that she always had our backs and would support us personally and professionally, but that she would never give us a hug. However, one of her direct supports was a big hugger, so she would delegate if one of us needed a hug.

                “Mary, are you okay? Do you need a hug? Sara, go give Mary a hug!”

      2. Critter*

        Ooh good point here – I guess the field in which you work is a factor as well. I would expect if you work with kids you hug more often. I know my daughter hugs her teacher constantly.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I’ve been working with teenagers most of my adult life, and I would pretty much never initiate a hug. Sure, if they graduate and want to hug at graduation, or if they just won some sports championship and run up and hug me, I’ll hug back, but I would never initiate a hug with a student, and I would, in fact, deflect a hug most of the time.

          Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I was taught to always leave the door open when meeting alone with a student, and I really try to be careful to not do anything a student (or an outside observer) would view as in any way inappropriate.

          1. Muriel Heslop*

            Yes, to all of this. Except now I work with kids with a lot of issues that typical educators don’t deal with (I do a lot of home visits, for example) and my kids are with me from year-to-year. They need a lot more support in ways that aren’t academic but otherwise: don’t touch the kids!

            That said, I have two preschoolers and a kindergartner that hug their teachers all the time. I’m trying to train them out of it.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              Teach them how great handshakes are! I know someone who did that with their special-needs kid (developmentally disabled kids don’t always have the same boundary issues the rest of us do). It worked great, because it was also a very “adult” thing to do, which can be important for someone who is often never treated like an adult or fully actualized human being.

              1. Anonymous Educator*

                In all fairness, I’ve mainly worked with teenagers (grades 9-12), not small children. High schoolers usually have each other to hug.

              2. Charlotte Collins*

                I’m pretty sure that I would have been horrified at the thought of hugging my teacher when I was a little kid, even the teacher I liked so much that my mom made sure I got her two years in a row. (She moved up in grades when I did.)

    6. baseballfan*

      I don’t know that I’d call myself a hugger, but I’ve experienced it in the workplace from time to time without concern.

      Occasionally when I would run into a colleague I worked closely with on a remote basis and hadn’t seen in person in quite some time.

      And usually it’s the side hug with one arm, which feels less intimate than a full on front facing hug.

    7. Project Manager*

      I’m not a hugger, but I don’t have strong feelings about it. I get the one-arm side hug a lot, especially from older men, though the frequency is finally decreasing as I start to get wrinkles and grey hair. While it is definitely treating me different from the men, I’m generally fine with it because the hugger is typically expressing the same sort of friendliness he expresses to men with a hearty handshake and back-clap. It’s the same emotion, just a different expression. If I don’t get creep vibes, then I just let it go because it doesn’t bother me enough to take the career damage of complaining. (Yes, it is almost always managers who do it. The latest was a guy ~3 levels over me. He’s not in my direct reporting chain, but he has technical oversight over my division, which has two levels of management above me.)

    8. SarahTheEntwife*

      I love hugs, but a) I’m not terribly good at reading other people’s signals and so default to “they probably don’t want a hug” especially at work, and b) I apparently give off a don’t-touch-me field the size of New Jersey, so not many people make the first move and try to hug me unless they hug absolutely everyone.

    9. Elemeno P.*

      I hug, but I also work in theme parks, which is a relatively huggy industry. It’s not an everyday thing, but given shifting schedules and changing work locations, there are some coworkers/former coworkers you’ll only see once a week or less, and then a hug feels appropriate. Since most people in office positions worked their way up, this continues all the way up the chain.

      Non-huggers don’t have to hug and aren’t forced to, and the exact level of hug (from gentle side-hug to bear hug) depends on the relationship- you wouldn’t give a 30-second full-frontal hug to a new acquaintance, and if you did, that person would probably avoid hugs after that.

      The cheek kissers are the ones I’m uncomfortable with. It’s invariably older men, and I wish they would just keep it to a hug.

      1. Bwmn*

        I’m fairly hug ambivalent, but I have noticed that whenever there are colleagues that you don’t see frequently (work in different offices/cities) – that’s when the “hey, good to see you” hugs are far more common. Also, I’ve seen them far more among people where there’s no strong power imbalance (such as someone in the management line). I also work with a lot of internationals, so even with someone that you wouldn’t hug necessarily – you would likely “cheek air kiss”. So even if it’s technically somewhat different, it still looks a bit similar. Which I get that may be weird for a lot of Americans, but in an international context I do find pretty benign and standard.

        I will also add that most of the work hugs I’ve had typically feel more different than platonic/familiar hugs. Bodies are often arched further away and arms can be almost in a “waltz” like positions as well as a the one arm back pat kind of hug.

        I’ve experienced a number of creepy men at work in different ways, but in the cheek kissing/hugging realm – things really haven’t registered in a problematic way to me.

      2. Al Lo*

        I also hug, and I’m in the performing arts, which can be pretty huggy at times. Not always, but I’m totally happy to hug at work. It’s an industry where a lot of people are also very good friends (real friends, not just work friends), and colleagues may or may not see each other all the time, depending on the project they work on.

        Hug away!

    10. Lemon Zinger*

      I hug coworkers occasionally, but they’re always the ones who work regionally, so we only see them a few times a year. We wouldn’t hug if we didn’t genuinely like each other!

    11. AthenaC*

      I’m naturally very affectionate and I love hugs, but also I’m one of those people that it’s impossible to make me uncomfortable by touching me. Going through life as a female (and some other experiences) – I just stopped caring about my own personal space.

      That being said, I recognize that I am not the norm, and that a handshake is always a safe choice in our professional culture. So while I won’t turn down a hug, I will always initiate a handshake.

    12. Cat*

      I hug clients. We mostly work with clients long-distance, so when we’re visiting them or they’re visiting us, it’s a special occasion. That said, I have an inordinate amount of anxiety about which clients to hug when. It’s awkward.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        So, this is interesting to me — given your worries about it, what makes you want to continue it as opposed to going to a handshake or just a warm verbal greeting?

        1. Cat*

          Well, because sometimes the person then goes in for a hug with the next person, or I’m 90% sure they’re coming in for a hug with me (OR ARE THEY?), and I worry they would feel slighted. I mean, my nature is to overthink these things, but I find it a minefield either way.

          1. Cat*

            (I should note I don’t hug all long-distance clients — I mostly take my lead from them. I think I’m more likely to hug women then men. I do find that men will sometimes automatically hug me then shake hands with my male colleagues.

      2. Rat Racer*

        That sounds like my company too. We are all over the country and rarely see each other in person, so on the rare occasions that we’re same place same time, there are usually hugs going around. I don’t mind being hugged, but don’t feel compelled to give them to people I know professionally.

        I wish the US were more like other countries where there are firmly established rules on how to greet colleagues to that you don’t have guess what will/won’t be awkward. I’ve offered handshakes to huggers, and inadvertently given hugs to people who weren’t expecting them, and both situations are embarrassing.

        1. Cat*

          I agree! I feel like other cultures are so much clearer about this!

          As a side note, it occurred to me that I’ve hugged people who are actually employed by the same employer as me under three circumstances:

          1) Last day of work

          2) Funerals

          3) After a colleague had just argued in the Supreme Court.

          So pretty rare.

    13. J.B.*

      A lot of your commenters are also pro-introversion posts, so I don’t know that they are representative of the population as a whole :) I have hugged a couple of specific people on specific occasions at work, but it is rare! Plus there are probably lots of regional differences.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve long suspected that because I’ve been pretty vocal about things like being introverted, disliking team-building, etc., either (a) I’ve attracted more readers/commenters who feel the same or (b) I don’t have a disproportionate number of them compared to other sites but they feel more welcome to share similar sentiments here, whereas on other sites they might hold back.

        Sometimes it does feel to me like that viewpoint is disproportionately represented here, and I’m always curious about whether it’s one of the reasons above.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          In my experience in general, internet commenters are an introverted crowd — there is a reason we are typing here instead of being the loud coworker talking all day in an open-plan office!

        2. Collie*

          I figure it has more to do with the content of the blog, but not so much the fact of being introverted or dislike of particular aspects of work such as team building, to use your example — rather, many of your posts come down to standing up for yourself in one way or another. I’ve found that introversion and an unwillingness/inability to stand up for one’s self tend to go together, at least anecdotally. So perhaps we (yes, your friendly neighborhood introvert here!) find the advice in the blog more pertinent than the average extrovert. At least that’s my theory.

        3. Critter*

          I think it’s a bit of both. The (a) because I think it’s become more common over time to be open about all the ways in which our individual personalities factor into our work lives, and this is a great resource to learn how to do that, which leads me to (b) the commenting communities at other blogs may not be, erm, as welcoming, or not as well moderated. Here you can feel safe to bring something up for discussion without fear of being attacked because you make it priority for us to be respectful to one another. Lots of places don’t bother.

      2. Macedon*

        I’m a textbook extrovert, but I take my energy / momentum from verbally, not physically engaging with people. I severely loathe sharing my personal space.

        I’m actually intrigued by your extrovert/hugger association, since I’d assume introverts to be more hug-prone. Hugs are condensed, isolated episodes of intimacy/affection that can work as a shortcut for parts of day-to-day interaction. I would have thought introverts would love hug greetings, since they can reduce exposure to other folks through them.

    14. stk*

      I’m a big hugger in my personal life – especially if someone is a good friend or close family member, I am all about the physical affection. At work, though, that would be so weird to me I’m genuinely astonished that it’s a thing at all! The one exception to that might be colleagues who had become friends, but even then I’d be very leery about hugging in ‘work space’. Work is about work, not my personal friendly feelings!

    15. tink*

      I am close to a Danny Tanner level hugger in my personal life, but I find hugging in the workplace/more professional settings to generally be uncomfortable. If I feel I must hug someone, then I offer a quick side-arm hug.

    16. DeskBird*

      I am a hugger in my personal life – but feel super uncomfortable when someone tries to hug me at work. As an example: If there is a new person in my friend circle at home I will be happy to hug them goodbye the first time we meet if they start the hug. I also have a very good friend at work that I’ve known for two years and have lunch with every day – and I would feel really weird hugging her. So I don’t know if I just have some really strict boundaries in my head or what.

      1. AMT*

        Same. My friends are mostly gay men and the default is that if you’ve met someone more than once, you hug them. However, I can count the number of times I’ve work-hugged on one hand. I just don’t do it. I find it gross outside of very rare circumstances.

    17. Mimmy*

      I’m a lifelong hugger, which has gotten me into trouble in the past, particularly when I was younger. Over the years I have gotten better at not hugging so much, though I think I sometimes get a little too comfortable with friends and colleagues. I definitely wouldn’t hug a person I’ve just met or don’t know well though if they do go in for a hug, I’ll accept it if I’m comfortable with that person.

      I would default to not hugging in the workplace until you get a read of the environment. Even then, I’d only do it in certain circumstances and definitely try to avoid daily hugging.

    18. Manders*

      Whether or not I hug is entirely about the context–I have some friend groups where everyone wants a hug when you leave a party, and some where a hug would be extremely out of character. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged one of the women who’s going to be a bridesmaid at my wedding, she’s just not from a hugging group.

      The really awkward thing, for me, is that when I don’t want to touch someone I *really* don’t want to touch them, but I’m a very short woman, and apparently some people can’t or don’t want to read my body language/accept me walking away from them without a hug. Sometimes I accept a hug because I know the alternative is going to be making a public scene about how I am fine with hugging Sansa but not Littlefinger (or because someone’s grabbed me from behind, and an elbow in the gut would escalate the situation).

      I can’t see myself hugging someone at work in my current field, although I could see it happening if, say, I saw a friend at a convention.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        As a fellow(?) short woman, I know what you mean. Apparently, I look very cuddly to people.

        I wish they’d just get a stuffed animal if they want to hug something small that badly.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          This surprises me. As a very tall woman, I find hugging my short friends awkward. I have to bend way down, their head is smooshed into my chest. I thought hugging short people is more awkward than tall people. I’m surprised shorter people are hug magnets.

          1. Manders*

            My partner is 6’3″, so I stopped noticing the awkwardness of hugging someone much larger than me a long time ago. But for some people, I think smooshing a smaller person’s face or chest into their body is the whole point of going in for the hug. It’s hard to put my finger on why some hugs are fine and some aren’t, but there are definitely some people who just hug as a friendly greeting and others who really want my whole body pressed against theirs until they decide to release me.

            And people from the second group are much more likely to ignore all my nonverbal cues and keep moving forward if I step back, so there’s often that uncomfortable moment of having to decide how much of a scene I’m willing to make to avoid the hug.

          2. Charlotte Collins*

            A former coworker who was 6′ tall was surprised when she found out how much people don’t respect short people’s personal space. If you’re short enough, people seem to *want* to touch you. Maybe they think I’m a lucky leprechaun or something. (Irish name, reddish hair… I think I’ve figured something out!)

    19. Rocky*

      My litmus test for hugging is “Do I/Would I go out for one too many drinks with this colleague?” If the answer is no (and it usually is), then I don’t initiate a hug. If someone else initiates the hug, it’s cool. Once or twice there’s been a hugger I’m not comfortable with, and I do the pre-emptive handshake thing.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      I’m a hugger–I hug my friends and my family (unless I sense or they tell me they don’t want a hug, and with children, I ask their permission). But I do not hug my coworkers. The only time I’ve ever done that, a supervisor was sitting at the desk in the HR office and she was crying because her cousin had been killed. I put one arm around her and gave her a squeeze and a pat and pulled the door shut behind me as I left, so she could have some privacy. Everyone else gets a handshake.

      The only other time I ever hugged at work, the president of the US division of the company that owned Exjob came for a visit. I liked him and was glad to see him, and I came out from behind my desk to greet him, like “Hi Sam!” He said, “Hi Liz!” and gave me a great big giant hug. Surprised the crap out of me. No one else got a hug, and he had never done that before. I didn’t get a chance to see if he would do it again; the company laid me off before his next visit. (Maybe he knew what was coming and wanted a hug goodbye? Who knows!)

    21. Person of Interest*

      I’m probably in the “selective hugger” category. I don’t particularly love hugging as business practice, but there are quite a few people in my field with whom I’ve worked in various ways and gotten to know very well over the years so that we think of each other as friends, and we do usually hug when we see each other at meetings or conferences (maybe a couple of times a year). And I think it’s been fine to hug these people and then to shake hands with the people I don’t know as well or am just meeting for the first time – I think they get that the rest of us know each other better and are happy to see each other.

    22. Golden Lioness*

      Hugger here. But I am not militant about it. I understand some people do not like hugs and I would hate to make them feel uncomfortable.

      Having said that, very rarely hug at work. I come from a latin american country where we hug and kiss on the cheek, but hugs at work are not regularly done.

    23. KarenT*

      I’m a big hugger but I leave it at home. I never go for a hug at work first–if someone hugs me, I don’t really care but otherwise, nope.

    24. Emlen*

      It’s because, much like how most vegetarians/vegans aren’t going to say a word about your food choices, most work huggers aren’t inappropriate about it, so you only experience the obnoxious faction of either group. I’m an avid hugger (despite serious introversion) and am delighted when when I get close enough to a work relation that we cross the hugging threshold, but there IS a threshold that has to be reached, and there need to be signals from both sides – it’s not something that’s okay to do just because there’s an established, continuing work relationship. There are people I have a decade or more work experience who I’d never attempt to hug, because I can tell the impulse isn’t there on their part.

    25. JB*

      I am a hugger, and pretty affectionate in general– but have a parent, a sibling, and a close friend who are definitely not. I also have seen other friends and family force hugs and kisses on them and how uncomfortable it makes them.

      This means for me, I don’t initiate a hug with someone, especially in the workplace.

    26. NewDoc*

      I am a hugger in my personal life, and selectively in my work life — but at work, typically only after upsetting/traumatic situations (i.e. patient just coded/died) — and I typically will ask “do you need a hug?” first.

    27. DragoCucina*

      I have no problem with work place hugs in general. It often occurs after an event/meeting where were all just happy. Just had an author event with big name author on her new book tour. I was thanking her and her people for including us and it was hugs all around. Kids programs? Watch for the hugs (the side hug needs to be perfected for this). Gatherings of politicians? Be ready. Teens. Almost never.

      I don’t get huggy with staff unless it’s for a special occasion. When I handed a staff member her business cards signaling her going from temp to regular status she hugged me.

    28. Lena*

      I’m a hugger but not at work usually! I do in instances like when a co-worker came back from a year’s maternity leave, or other Special Occasions as mentioned above.

    29. Iain Clarke*

      I’ve given some thought on this, largely about your commentariat, and I think it’s more indicative of commenting than average feelings.

      Most people are “hugging, sure, sometimes, whatever”, some are “I like hugs!”, some are “hugs, yuck!”, and a small amount are in the militant pro/againt camps. But the militant-againsts are more likely to comment on the subject.

      You can replace hugging with introversion, team building, “how dare you say female!”, and make essentially the same argument.

      I’ve been tempted to make AAM comment bingo cards…

      That said, I do enjoy 9o% of the comments here, and make some myself, so it’s not too bad – there’s just a few predictable button pushing topics.

    30. Eb*

      I am a hugger and do so at work and in my personal life. I should note that I’ve worked in municipal government for the last 15 years and hold a senior leadership position. Though the city I’m in is large, the work that I do involves a small circle of city agencies and nonprofit community organizations. With that said, I typically don’t hug my coworkers daily, but it’s very normal for me to hug, and be hugged by others, at internal and external stakeholder meetings when l haven’t seen colleagues in a while. Many of us collaborate in working groups and sit on committees together and have built strong relationships. I’ve hugged, and been hugged by, commissioners, EDs, VPs, contractors and others. The list could go on. Of course, some people prefer a handshake and that also works for me. But, in my work world, hugging is the norm and largely welcomed.

  15. Nan*

    Absolutely not! If I am not sleeping with you, if I didn’t spawn you, or you don’t have four legs and fur, NO TOUCHING! Do.Not.Want.

  16. Rincat*

    There’s a few huggers at my office, but thankfully they always ask before giving you a hug, even if you’ve accepted a hug before. Because some days I might want a hug, and some days I don’t.

    I wouldn’t totally ban hugs at the workplace, but like Alison said – the desire to not be touched always trumps the desire to hug. I think huggers should ask every time they want to give a hug – even if the person has accepted them before – and also not argue the reason for declining.

    1. Bob Barker*

      Eh, asking is fine, unless you’re in a situation where the asker has power over the askee. There are bosses who recognize that with great power comes great responsibility (to ask in such a way that either yes or no is an acceptable answer), but there are also bosses who sail past such boundaries with the elan of a dancing elephant.

      I like to think the icy plank-stiffness of my posture when so hugged is an effective indicator of my unwillingness, but the dancing elephant in my work life ignores that too.

      1. Rincat*

        Oh yes, totally agree that if you are in a position of authority over the intended recipient, in any way, you shouldn’t even ask. I should have specified I meant peer only relationships!

  17. Tau*

    Hugging in the workplace seems so flagrantly inappropriate to me that I’m tempted to chalk this one up to cultural differences…

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      Then why have I been inappropriately hugged by people who come from the exact same culture/region that I do?

      1. Tau*

        To clarify: it’s not that I’m not a huggy person, it’s that I have a hard time even imagining someone hugging a coworker in the workplace and was pretty astonished that Alison’s advice wasn’t “Holy inappropriate unprofessional Batman DO NOT DO THIS.” And my workplace is really casual!

        Since AFAIK the US tends to hug more than either the UK (where I live) or Germany (where I’m from) in general, the fact that workplace hugging seems to be eliciting more “ehh, can go very wrong” or “ugh, I hate coworkers who hug” than “?!?!?!?!” reactions makes me wonder if there’s not a cultural difference going on here. Other Europeans may feel free to weigh in – maybe this is just me…

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Ahh… that makes sense. In the US, there is no way to tell who will and won’t be a hugger based on any type of cultural/regional background (except in a few places where it seems *everyone* hugs, like when Hawaii was mentioned).

  18. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    When I went back to my office to get my stuff, after getting the completely surprising news that I was being let go, my former boss was there to supervise (it was outside of working hours).

    It was clear he wanted to feel like we’d ended on a high note — he was all chatty chatty with me as I was packing up, asking me things like what my favorite project had been while I’d been there — he even wanted to know if I wanted to have a beer with him (in my head I was like, um, no, you don’t get to make this all about YOU feeling okay).

    He walked me out to the car. I said goodbye, and thought I’d take the high road by offering him my hand to shake. Oh, no… he went in for the hug. The most awkward, one sided, longest not-letting-go hug I’ve ever suffered through. I just stood there and thought about what an asshole he was.

  19. fposte*

    Must be something in the zeitgeist–this is the third thing I’ve encountered in two days about the challenge of negotiating greetings these days. (The other two were an episode of “Very British Problems” and an episode of The West Wing Weekly podcast.)

      1. fposte*

        What was kind of interesting is that each of them seemed to think it was a gender or national challenge, and I think it’s a big thing across the board. We’re really struggling with greeting rules right now. There was even a really amusing map of France coded according to the customary number of cheek kisses in each region, from one to four. Apparently there’s a group in Brittany championing the single kiss and insisting more than that is an abomination.

        1. Bwmn*

          I’ve never encountered 4 kisses, but in the 1-3 kiss realm I’ve always erred on 2. But inevitably, if I have a week with European colleagues at some point I’ll make it to 3 and then I get the “wow, an American who does 3” – at some point there is only so much winning you can achieve.

          1. fposte*

            I’m hugely impatient, so four is just excessive to me; at that point we’re basically dancing. Two is nice and symmetrical and over quickly.

          2. Critter*

            For some reason I’m picturing high society ladies with mink stoles and stiff hair. “Dahling!” *peck* 3X. Then – “where-ah do you summah?”

          1. KWalmostB*

            Hilarious! I lived in Poitiers (La Vienne) for a bit and it was rare to get a single kiss. Mostly I’d get two or three, and once I even got four! It IS a bit odd when you’re counting how many you should be doing, and the other person is coming in for the fourth. I got over it fairly quickly and even could begin to tell how people felt about each other based on the number of kisses exchanged – or the lack thereof!

          2. Soupspoon McGee*

            So my 4-year-old puppy will stop doing whatever she’s doing if I yell “Kiss on the nose!” and plant one one her. If I say, “We are French!” she turns her snout so I can kiss the other side. Unless she gets me first.

  20. A.*

    I don’t mind occasional hugs at the office. My old boss and her boss each hugged me before we left for the holidays last year. I never initiate but I wouldn’t reject a hug from a coworker.

  21. Fabulous*

    I hugged once at work – A friend showed up unexpectedly as a temp at my office. I knew her from a place where hugs were common (the theatre) so I immediately hugged her in greeting out of habit. It was super awkward, even though we had hugged many times before in different settings. Would not recommend in the office.

  22. Vroom Vroom*

    Just shared this on LinkedIn.

    I love it! I wish more men would read this in relation to hugging ONLY women at work.

  23. Anon today*

    I’m not a hugger by nature, personally or professionally. I can deal with it if I know what’s expected and there is a work colleague hug at the shoulder I can do which is substantially less creepy than my cousin in laws full body hug (ick). However, I hate the awkwardness of not knowing – going in with the handshake and having the other person abort a hug, or the other way around. It just became easier to be known as a non-hugger and then everybody knows the rules with me.

  24. Jubilance*

    I hug a couple of people that work for my company – we are friends outside of work and thus have that type of relationship. I’ve also hugged close coworkers when I or they have resigned.

    Other than those 2 instances, I can’t imagine when I’d need to hug someone in my office, or feel comfortable enough to do it.

  25. B*

    For the most part in professional settings I say no hugs at all, don’t touch me, pat my back, etc. With one or two clients we have known each other for a long time and have that type of relationship where a handshake would be awkward.

    I have been in one professional setting where we do all hug each other upon greeting but we also know we are an abnormal workplace. Because of the work we do a hug is truly our way to cope and adapt to the circumstances. That I think is the key point, know the norms of the workplace and where you are with the realization 99.9% of the time no hugging/touching should take place.

  26. DMC*

    My workplace is one where the hugs run free! I also happen to be the one delivering our company’s sexual harassment prevention training, so I always talk about hugging and other types of physical contact. It’s kind of funny, because at least right after a training, on my way out, at least one person will look uncertain about hug vs. handshake, and one person asked me outright one time with a chuckle, and I replied, “A hug would be welcomed.” Although, I’m actually NOT a hugger, I don’t mind the quick hug too much and since it’s more the culture here (as we’re in behavioral health), I can roll with it occasionally. But, yes, it’s always a bit of a challenge here with the culture vs. the training and reminding people to make absolutely sure hugs are welcomed and not just assume and become one of those serial huggers.

  27. allie cat*

    I’m a hugger with my friends and family (if the like it –some have larger personal space bubbles and I respect that).
    But I don’t hug my coworkers, clients or bosses. Business and hugging just seems like an odd unnatural pairing.
    I can imagine hugging some coworkers if I were leaving for a new job or something but only for a grand farewell and even that would be iffy.

  28. I used to be Murphy*

    I am a hugger in my personal life. Friends, family, random dogs, I’ll hug them all.

    But at work… Don’t. Touch. The Staff!

    At my new job one of my colleagues came up and hugged me. I stood there with my arms at my side saying (in my 100% not quiet voice), “there’s hugging happening. Why is there hugging happening? What is going on?!”

      1. I used to be Murphy*

        No worries. I’ve only been posting here as Murphy for the past few months, so it’s not a long-time tag (and I don’t even know which of us came first). I’m totally fine being IUTBM (it’s the only name I could think of that wouldn’t give me away at work…). :)

  29. Jadelyn*

    I’m of two minds on the hug thing…on the one hand, I’m super super SUPER awkward about physical contact. I have social anxiety and am constantly self-monitoring, wondering if I’m about to cross some unspoken line and then Everyone Will Hate Me Forever, plus my family was never particularly touchy-feely when I was growing up so I never developed much of a sense of when it’s okay. So I tend to jump a little bit when someone lays a friendly hand on my arm or shoulder or something.

    But I actually really *like* physical contact when it’s with someone I legit trust and like. So I think I *would* be a Hugger, if I had the social confidence and competence to do so gracefully. But I don’t, so I end up in the Non-Hugger camp by default.

    1. Critter*

      Me too. When I was younger and much more awkward I would hide from people I knew if I ran into them in the supermarket or whatever. Now I only do that about 30% of the time!

      1. salad fingers*

        Ugh, I do this too and it’s something I really don’t like about myself. I don’t think I identify as socially anxious but when I actually step back and take a look at the way I respond to totally normal, benign social situations and running into people, I have to wonder.

  30. Claire (Scotland)*

    I have one manager where I work who prides herself on being “emotionally intelligent” and insists on hugging anyone and everyone when she thinks they need it. She is not good at taking no for an answer. I try really hard to avoid her.

    No one else in my professional experience has ever been a hugger, thankfully. I would never, ever want a hug from anyone in the workplace. *shudders*

      1. Claire (Scotland)*

        Yeah, exactly. She thinks that by talking about emotions she’s being emotionally intelligent. It’s so weird.

  31. NotAnotherManager!*

    I am happy to work somewhere that hugging is Not Done. We would even joke that hugging the staff is “not an HR-friendly activity”.

    If it was a cultural thing (e.g., the kissing in Latin/European cultures or the Hawaiian Hug, I’d probably be okay, but it’s so out of the norm where I work that I’d be wildly uncomfortable if it happened here. I’m fine if other people want to hug voluntarily, but it’s not for me.

  32. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I reckon it depends entirely on the culture, individual and exact circumstances. For example, a colleague who naturally initiates hugs, at an informal drinks event after work, as part of an organisation with an informal yet professional culture is perfectly fine. If one of those three aspects adds even a hint of unsuitable, don’t hug (say at a disciplinary meeting). Its also good to make it a rare treat, instead of gaining a reputation like the lady in Alison’s article who hugged all visitors and loudly exclaimed about how good it was.

  33. SayWhat?*

    Is it just me or has anyone else felt awkward when you’re with two coworkers and they hug goodbye, but you end up giving a little waive or something?

  34. hugs for days*

    I work in an industry where we see each other almost totally naked pretty often, and I think we are disproportionately huggers. I am not a hugger, and while I am not offended by hugs, somehow everyone assumes I am, so no one hugs me. Someone I used to manage actually said, “I’m pretty sure you’re not a hugger, but can I please give you a hug?” on her last day, which I thought was kind of sweet.

    Sales people in my industry are aaaaallll about the hugs, one hundred percent, which I find a little annoying and often insincere.

      1. hugs for days*

        I manage a hotel spa and 75% of our team are massage therapists :-) Any candidate I hire for these positions will have necessarily seen me mostly naked before being hired. Therapists trade massages, train, and practice techniques on each other regularly. Sales reps often are in the room when their product trainers demo treatments on you as sales pitch, so they see you pretty undressed too.

        This dynamic has cracked me up a lot during a lot of the conversations here about running into coworkers in gym locker rooms and the like. You really can’t get away with caring about that sort of thing in this industry – not possible.

      1. hugs for days*

        Pretty frequently! It’s a necessary part of training and part of the hiring process for me. I manage a spa, as mentioned above :-)

        1. Critter*

          I like to watch massage videos on YouTube (I just…I don’t know why), and in the of them therapist talks about how you can see and physically feel a person’s tension, and how great it would be if we could just give each other little shoulder massages. And I’m like no. effing. way.

  35. Birdie*

    I was once dragged into a hug with a coworker after I explicitly stated I was NOT a hugger…so uncomfortable and awkward for both of us. I want to share this with my whole office right now!

  36. Kristina*

    Someone else may have asked this already but what if the person just heard some bad news? So a sympathy hug especiallyif they are obviously emotional.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think this is really tough because it still depends heavily on the person. I don’t want to be hugged by coworkers no matter how upset I am about terrible personal news, and in fact I’d find a hug less welcome in that context than in more typical ones!

      I’m curious to hear from other non-huggers about this. My theory is that huggers assume that the normal rules are lifted when someone is super upset, but that non-huggers for the most part don’t see it that same way. Agree/disagree?

      1. Rachael*

        I had this happen numerous times due to working for a complany with low turnover (worked with most people for approx 10 years). I directly asked each person if they were the type that didn’t want to talk about it at work in order to maintain composure or wanted to be comforted with/without a hug. I’ve gotten different answers and respected each.

      2. salad fingers*

        Totally would not like a hug if I’m upset. Similarly, I would like you to avoid asking me if I am okay or being overly sympathetic. I know this is probably highly specific to me, but if I’ve managed not to cry up to that point, either of those things will break the floodgates, which I’m really trying hard to keep intact.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This. If something awful happened, I’d prefer that you just pretend it didn’t, because that’s likely how I’m holding myself together.

      3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I am not a hugger. At all. Basically I am a do-not-touch zone at all times. I just can’t imagine why someone would think that something that makes me uncomfortable on a good day is suddenly wanted/needed when I’m already upset?

      4. Alton*

        I’m really sensitive to being touched in general, and when I’m upset, I really can’t tolerate it sometimes. Sometimes I have a reflex to pull away, which makes things worse since people don’t understand that it’s a reflex and not a personal slight. The last thing I want when I’m already upset is to have to moderate my reaction that much.

      5. Bwmn*

        When someone is upset at work following bad news, I actually find the scenario far easier in the sense that it’s easier to ask “would a hug help?” than in a more social/hello huge scenario. Getting bad news at work is out of the norm and unpleasant, and so I think that asking someone what would feel better (do you want a tissue, glass of water, some time alone, a hug, etc.) in the scenario makes more sense.

        If directly asking feels awkward, there’s also always the option of holding out your arms in a hug and letting someone else decide to walk into the hug or avoid it.

      6. Photoshop Til I Drop*

        Agree. I can’t understand why someone with think that the reasons a person dislikes hugging would magically go away when they heard bad news.

        My reaction to a coworker receiving bad news is “What can I do?”

      7. Susan the BA*

        As a non-hugger, part of my issue about over-huggers is that you never know when they’re going to come at you and it could be any time and you start to avoid getting within a few feet of them just in case. The exceptional circumstance hug is different because it doesn’t come with the same baggage – not like ‘well great, now I have to hide from that person every single time I find out about a death in my immediate family while I’m at the office’.

        That being said, it sounds like there are huggers out there who are have a low threshold for ‘exceptional’ and think you ‘need’ a hug any time your train is 5 minute late or something, so this is maybe not a great rule for those people.

      8. Critter*

        Same. No hugs. There’s been instances where I’m tense and visibly upset and the person I was with tried to pull me in for a hug and I was like NO TOUCHY. But once recently I was having a mild panic attack at work and my coworker gave me a quick rub on the back (while I was taking deep breaths with my head between my knees), which did help to calm me down. I do no think I would have welcomed a hug.

      9. Sophie Winston*

        I’m a militant non hugger, but when my dear dog died, I was grateful for the hug I got from the vet. But that was at my house, not at work. Pretty extreme exception.

      10. Polka dot bird*

        I’m not a hugger. I think in exceptionally bad news circumstances, if you’re already close, you can offer a hug, but with an easy out, e.g. “would a hug help?” vs opening your arms.

      11. Claire (Scotland)*

        Absolutely! If I’ve just got bad news/am clearly emotional, a hug is the last thing I want. It is just going to make me feel even worse. Please don’t.

    2. Lucy*

      I think in that case it can be ok to offer a hug, but don’t just hug them (unless you already have that kind of relationship and you know they are ok with hugging). Personally, I hate hugs and someone hugging me in that situation would just make feel so much worse.

    3. TempAnon*

      A few weeks ago, I got a call at work that my brother had been killed in a car crash. My parents insisted I be with someone before they’d tell me what was going on, so I sat with coworkers as they told me. Once I hung up and explained to my coworkers, one of them said she was going to give me a hug (but kind of gave me room to refuse). I’m not a work hugger whatsoever, but I didn’t say no — partially because I was in shock and partially because, outside of work, I am very much a hugger (at least with those I’m close to), so it just kind of seemed like the thing to do was accept it. I did not hug back. Looking back, it was still awkward, but I appreciated the gesture all the same.

      I thought it was especially interesting as the coworker who did the hug does not strike me as a hugger at all. She’s almost twice my age (I’m mid-twenties) and does not have children/spouse/pets, but in that moment she became very motherly. Kind of an aside, but something I’ve been turning over for a while.

    4. Jax*

      I have a friend that I know hates to be hugged or even touched. When she is sad or has had bad news, I tell her that I am telepathically hugging her, and then make to pat her shoulder, but stop short of touching. This way, I don’t violate her personal space, she knows I care about her, and I get whatever satisfaction I need from trying to comfort a friend.

      I am a hugger of friends and family, but when I feel compelled to hug people I haven’t hugged before (either for sympathy or because I am really happy for them) I always ask “is it okay if I give you a hug.” I would be mortified if someone pushed me off them when hugging.

    5. Rana*

      I still think you should ask. I’m generally fine with hugs from people I know, but sometimes it’s just too much – it would make me go from holding it together to losing it. And there are some people I would absolutely find comforting… and some I decidedly would not. (But I’m not going to offend people by spelling that out.)

      It’s just easier to ask “Would you like a hug? Or some tea? Or would you prefer just to be left alone right now?” and not try to guess.

  37. badger_doc*

    Oh no… I was just recently guilty of this. I had two fabulous summer interns and I hugged both of them goodbye after their performance review at the end of their last day… I hope I didn’t make them feel uncomfortable! Thanks for the advice Alison – I will try to refrain from this in the future, especially with direct reports. I am not normally a hugger so not sure what came over me, but they were both so great I guess I wanted them to know how much they were appreciated.

  38. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    I can’t believe nobody has posted with the username Ari Gold yet, to insist we all hug it out.

  39. CanadianKat*

    Hugging coworkers may be in a personal-type setting or for out-of-the-ordinary reasons: e.g. at someone’s home for a party, baby shower, etc., at funeral services for a colleague’s family member, when a colleague retires / goes on mat leave or comes for a visit from retirement / mat leave.
    Not ok as a general “hello”.

  40. Rachael*

    I hug at work, but I had worked with the same women for 10 years. I don’t hug men because I do find that inappropriate (I do the “pound dog” – call me gender bias if you want). However, I do not hug when the handshake is supposed to be used. Hugs are reserved for other huggers and only with people who I have known for a long time. I knew the non huggers and the huggers; I only hugged during social situations (chatting, going to lunch, etc), and shook hands when business was being conducted (meetings, formal situations).

  41. Cactus*

    My partner is a serial hugger so I had to screenshot this topic and send it to him, haha. His workplace (retail chain) just sent out a “remember not to touch without permission!” reminder via email and we both laughed and said it was probably him (it wasn’t, thankfully!)

  42. Audiophile*

    I’m a hugger but only under certain circumstances. I hug my two youngest siblings (everyone in the family does,) but definitely not the sibling that comes right after me or the middle one.
    I had a male coworker hug me once and he remarked later that he made a mental note that I didn’t like to be hugged based on my body language. I explained that I wasn’t expecting him to hug me, that it had nothing to do with him and that I generally had no problem being hugged.

  43. A Nonny Nonny*

    I am a hugger. I used to work in an industry (theatre) that was very huggy. My first job outside of theatre was also an environment where hugs just seemed like the natural course of things. I never gave it a second thought.

    And then I moved to the more conventional office environment, and found my feelings on hugs changed drastically. And I found out because I have a colleague is a Hugger. A Hugger who does not have a lot of situational awareness or sensitivity to the feeling in the room/person in front of them. I had never been uncomfortable with a hug until I got one from Hugger. It just… didn’t feel appropriate. And then I noticed Hugger does a lot of touch when speaking to people, and then he/she relayed a story about hugging his/her boss…. and I visibly shuddered. What’s interesting is that Hugger and I have become close outside of work, and sometimes I’m *still* put off by the hugging. I think it’s that Hugger doesn’t speak the same Emotional Intelligence/Sensitivity language I do, so the cues get missed. Hugger and I have discussed this, and after getting to know her/him better, I think it’s a matter of Hugger sort of defaulting to binary sorting of people as “Total Strangers I have NEVER spoken to” and “People I Hug.” There is no middle ground, and no consideration for how circumstance might change whether a person should be hugged in that moment or not. It’s an interpersonal boundary that Hugger has a hard time delineating unless someone specifically says “You are violating my boundaries. Please stop.”

    Anyway, I think for me, it depends very much on my read of a room or the person. I will always be inclined to hugs (outside of work), but now I make sure I’m looking for the silent cues that the other person is not open to hugs or that the situation would frame the hug as not appropriate.

  44. Rusty Shackelford*

    Even when I do want to hug someone (which never happens at work, never, never) it’s awkward. As a short person, I invariably end up with my face in their chest. I’ve left way too much makeup on mens’ suits.

  45. Non-Prophet*

    I hug close coworkers who are leaving our organization, but only if they initiate it. I think the only other time I’ve hugged a coworker was when her mother died, and she received the news at work (our offices are next to each other).

    My team once had a business meeting at a governmental office, with five people I’d never before met in person. The meeting open and closed with hugs all around from the gov employees. I felt so uncomfortable…especially because the reason for the meeting was that this agency thought we were out of compliance on some of their regulations. We weren’t…but even so, it was so, so weird to transition from awkward hugging >>> being chastised for code compliance.

  46. ginger ale for all*

    I am not a hugger. Years ago, when I was leaving my parents home after a visit, my mother hugged me twice and for next several months, I was expecting a call from her to announce that she was terminally ill. Two hugs from my family still freaks me out. It happened a second time later but I only waited for the I’m dying phone call for a month.

  47. AB*

    Most of my colleagues are women and they hug visitors and other people at networking events all the time. They know i’m not a ‘hugger’, so no ‘celebratory’ hugs, or ‘have a nice Christmas’ hugs but it’s more awkward with external people. I hate it when someone comes to visit and everyone goes in for the hug because then I feel like I’M the odd one if i go for a handshake. When i worked with mostly men I didn’t have this issue as it’s easy to ward off a hug when everyone else is shaking hands and you’re just doing the same thing.

    The worst is one guy who visits us every quarter and does the hug & kisses both cheeks. As if a hug wasn’t bad enough!

  48. James*

    I think there are two factors: Culture and your relationship with the person.

    If the cultural norm is hugging (or the double-cheek kiss, or bowing, or hand shaking), that’s the default, and you can–and should–expect to be greeted that way. Every culture has to have some way to greet people, after all, and if 350,000,000 people generally agree that this is how you do it, that’s how you do it. You can opt out, but will be viewed as odd, and likely standoffish.

    That said, greetings depend on familiarity. If my sibling worked for the company, or for a subcontractor or client, it would be appropriate for them to greet my via a hug, even if no one else knew we were siblings. Similarly, if we’re good friends, it may be appropriate. The guiding principle is, both parties need to be comfortable with it; in certain relationships both parties know what the other is comfortable with, and can act accordingly. But at that point we’re not really talking about a business relationship. The real issue there is WATCHING people hug–it can be uncomfortable seeing people hug, not knowing if they’re comfortable with it or not. That’s going to be an individual call, though.

  49. Callie*

    I am normally not a hugger and I don’t really work with many huggers as far as I can tell. However, I was hired at my alma mater, where I have a long and positive relationship with many of the faculty, and a few people did hug me on my very first day in a “welcome back!!” kind of way. That, I didn’t mind at all. But there’s no hugging on a day to day basis!

  50. Jilly*

    Normally I only ever hug people in the workplace if it is a work friend who is leaving. However, I recently spent 3 years as a single female living in a conservative Arab country. When colleagues would come out from the Home Office, I would be a bit more huggy than any other time in my professional life because otherwise I was so lacking in physical contact. That being said, I’m primarily talking about a woman I was also “outside” friends with and a colleague who is a very touchy-feely Latino.

    I had one very awkward thing once with someone I had just met. He was a friend of a friend who was in town. We all went out to brunch and then walked in the same direction. We got to the point where he was going off on his way. He hugged my friend and turned away from her to me. He kind of opened his arms like he was going to hug me too and while I wasn’t into it I started to do the same. But it turned out it was more of an opened armed shrug as he then stuck out his hand to shake as I was in mid-move of opening my arms. And since we all work in the same small industry, it is totally likely we will run into each other sometime. In fact, I am now in a new job and almost got sent for a 3 month assignment to a client site where he also spends a lot of time. . .

  51. Photoshop Til I Drop*

    Not only am I not a hugger, but I’m insanely short. Hugging in the workplace would end up with my face being stuffed into an endless line of armpits. No thanks.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      My Dad is over a foot taller than me, and as much as I love him, his hugs are just not comfortable! My back is being bent backwards and there’s nowhere for my face to go.

      However, at least he doesn’t do that insanely annoying thing that some people do when they hug shorter people, which is to actually rest their weight on the shorter person. I had an ex who did that and it drove me insane – so painful!

  52. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’m not a hugger at work … or generally … and it does make me pretty uncomfortable. But I work for a service agency and people here are huggers – it doesn’t seem to bother anyone so I grin and bear it for the most part. At my last job, though, the CEO would hug everyone – even on first meeting – and I heard a lot of comments about it being unprofessional. So, in addition to regional aspects I guess it depends a lot on your organization’s culture!

  53. Kate*

    I’m a big hugger in my personal life but try to keep it separate at work. I’ve had an awkward instance where I accidentally hugged someone, sort of out of instinct, and then IMMEDIATELY regretted it. It was a former colleague I hadn’t seen in a few years; she’s older and more senior than I am. We crossed paths in a formal meeting and I was so excited to see her I went right for a hug. She reciprocated the hug, but then I spent the rest of the meeting thinking “ugh! why did I just do that?!” and beating myself up about gender norms etc (she and I were the only 2 females in the room). I’m now so much more mindful about keeping my hugs in check!

  54. Anon16*

    I have to contribute because I’m a hugger in my personal life. I’ve been in the professional world for less than a year, and it’s never occurred to me to think about whether or not hugging was appropriate to do in an office setting. That being said, I don’t I’ve ever hugged anyone aside from a colleague when they were leaving the organization. I think it’s fine when the situation is appropriate, such as if you’re close to someone in the office, or if a colleague you’re friendly with is leaving. Hugging a client seems weird unless you have an unusual relationship with them – that’s probably one I wouldn’t do unless it was initiated by them.

    Otherwise, it seems overthinking it to give it so much thought. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally a hugger, or maybe it’s because I’m newer to the professional world, but I think you can read a situation and tell if someone is open to a hug or not. And if they weren’t and you did hug them, well…it’s one awkward hug, and then you know not to do it again. That’s my personal take on it. I’ve probably hugged people in my personal life who didn’t like it occasionally, but I tend not to hug people who aren’t receptive to it, (or give limp hugs). I hope that helps! I was a little surprised to see such a strong anti-hug reaction earlier in the comments.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the problem is that non-huggers get hugged quite frequently, so there clearly are lots of huggers who aren’t as good at determining receptivity as they think they are :)

    2. Oryx*

      The thing is, refusing a hug can create drama. Especially if you are a non-hugger who comes from a family of huggers. It starts young, with kids being conditioned to “Just go give grandma a hug!” even though the kid really doesn’t want to, for whatever reason, because it will hurt grandma’s feelings. There’s a big movement now within parental circles to let their kid say no to hugs but if you’re an adult who has spent your entire life being hugged or being told to give a hug, it’s hard to break that cycle because Hey, it’s just a hug. What’s the big deal? So in many cases you just learn to accept the hug even when you don’t want to because it’s easier than saying No.

      Like Alison said, we non-huggers get hugged all the time so not all huggers are able to pick up on the social cues and/or give off their own cues that suggest declining a hug would end in hurt feelings or whatever.

      (I’ll get off my soapbox now)

      1. JB*

        Grandma is the adult, so she should get over it.

        I’m so against making children be touched by another person, and/or touch someone else if they don’t want to, and I don’t even have children. I do have a family member who works with very young sexual abuse victims. After hearing how that can begin in quite a few situations, I don’t believe children should be taught that they’re obligated to be affectionate to anyone.

    3. Amberly*

      An awful lot of huggers cannot seem to tell when someone is OK with hugging, though. Either that or they just don’t care. I’ve been hugged multiple times by quite a few people, despite my best efforts to avoid it and despite my never reciprocating (I just stand there).

      So while you personally may be able to tell and don’t inflict hugs on those of us who hate them (and I certainly hope that’s true), I’m sure there are plenty of others who believe the same to be true of them but are mistaken.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Maybe it’s because I’m naturally a hugger, or maybe it’s because I’m newer to the professional world, but I think you can read a situation and tell if someone is open to a hug or not.

      If huggers were able to read this as well as they think they can, there would be very few people here complaining about unwanted hugs.

  55. A.J.*

    One time I showed up for an interview and as soon as I walked through the door and introduced myself, their recruiter came running up to me and gave me a giant 5-second long bear hug. I was in complete shock afterwards, and it definitely threw me off my interview game. I had never met this woman before– we had only spoken briefly on the phone. When I eventually got an offer I was pretty on the fence about accepting for many reasons, but the entire hug incident was burned into my memory and definitely tipped me towards eventually declining the offer.

  56. Kore*

    I am very much a hugger (I love to hug my friends and family) and I am so not about hugs in the workplace. I can’t think of many times where it’s felt appropriate. It also feels like sit would cross the boundary of what I consider a work relationship.

  57. Nervous Accountant*

    I’ve hugged at work and I’ve seen it….when everyone was drunk/tipsy from happy hour/work event. otherwise, only time I’ve hugged and seen hugging is when someone leaves the company and it’s their last day.

    I’m not extreme either way, but I’m surprised at how so amny people are anti touching of any sorts…..I can understand but a little surprised.

    Is it weird that I’m ok with touching from certain people but not others? Is that wrong?

    1. Random Citizen*

      This is so me! I think the tipping point for me is how okay the other person is with not touching me, and how comfortable I feel backing away from the touch/hug. If I feel like the other person is doing it because THEY WANT TO TOUCH ME, regardless of my feelings on the matter, it makes me super uncomfortable – ugh, ick, no!! Do not touch!!! And if I feel I can’t tell them to back off (nice older men who stand way to close and hug me when I don’t want it – I’m looking at you! I hate to feel rude), then it makes me super uncomfortable. People I’m comfortable and friendly with, don’t get creepy vibes from, and who respect my space, are, ironically, allowed in my space. :) Especially if I would feel totally comfortable saying, “Ack, back UP! Quit touching!” – if I know I can make them stop without awkwardness (deadly-sarcasm friend -looking at you), then we’re A-OK.

      1. Random Citizen*

        That’s literally my standard for touching – if I feel totally comfortable saying, “Dude, get away from me!” and know that we’re still all hunky-dory (give or take a few eye rolls), than I probably don’t care if they touch me.

  58. kc89*

    My old job was a very huggy place, but we were all around the same age and it was almost all of our first jobs so we were more like friends than co-workers. I think it is one of those things where some places it’s fine to hug a lot (assuming both parties are interested and approve of the hugs) and then some places the idea of hugging a co-worker is just odd.

  59. No hugs*

    Our current manager is a hugger. The day she got the job I ran into her in the hallway and she hugged me. I barely knew her. Super unwelcome and awkward. Hugging is bad enough but a manager should not be hugging the staff like Alison said. It only got worse from there: back rubs, blowing kisses, rubbing your arm, more hugs, poking, patting my ass, putting her head on coworkers shoulder, etc… I find it rude and a violation of boundaries. She was spoken to I believe by management when she patted a minor’s ass (in good fun you know – wtf that is so wrong!) but now she figured out I’m not interested. However she still touches my coworker and she wants it to stop but again, she is her manager, so she feels like she can’t speak up. Lesson – hugs can lead to more extreme behavior if the hugger doesn’t respect people’s boundaries. Don’t do it!
    Also she borrows my extra sweater or lap blanket (just puts it on without asking) and takes food off of people’s desks without asking. Again, boundaries.

  60. Agile Phalanges*

    Our big, burly maintenance guy lost his best favorite dog a few weeks ago. He teared up here in the office telling us about it, and I nearly jumped up to hug him (I lost my best favorite cat a few months ago myself), but refrained. Probably for the best. Not that it would’ve been taken the wrong way by either of us or any co-workers who witnessed, but he probably would’ve cried harder. I know I would’ve if it was me.

  61. Retail HR Guy*

    Can I stake out a strong position in the middle? Kind of like a militant fence-sitter?

    The super pro-hug people of course need to respect boundaries, recognize social cues, and understand what a professional setting is. It’s not your right to hug people against their will.

    But the rest of you need to chill, too. It’s just a hug. Unless you are my wife or a puppy I won’t find a hug pleasant, but I don’t really enjoy handshakes or a hand clasped on the shoulder, either, and I allow those. Heck, even high fives are kind of dumb. I put up with all of that just like I once put up with Aunt Rosie pinching my cheek as a kid. Sure, I had the RIGHT to tell Aunt Rosie to take her cheek-pinching fingers elsewhere, but sometimes you gotta put up with other peoples weird crap. It’s life.

    1. Jadelyn*

      You can stake out any position you like, but any position that involves telling people to “just get over it” when it comes to unwanted physical contact or physical contact that makes them uncomfortable is going to be flat out wrong to take, so that’s something to consider.

      You don’t know what’s in people’s personal history that might make them averse to casual physical contact. You don’t know what the emotional fallout from being hugged by someone you’re not comfortable with can be for a given person. Just because *you* are okay with swallowing your discomfort doesn’t mean everyone else has to be, too. People have a right to define their physical boundaries, and that will always, ALWAYS supercede other people’s “weird crap”. Period.

      1. Retail HR Guy*

        This comment is a perfect example of the needing to chill a bit that I’m talking about. Very black and white, and oddly combative given the tone and content of what is being replied to.

        It’s just a hug. You can say no if you want to. I don’t think most people generally should say no, but of course you have the right. Whatever. Just… calm down a bit, okay? It’ll be alright.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hey now, you’re being a little condescending here with the “calm down.” No one here seems to be in hysterics.

          The post specifically asked the question of whether people want to hug or not at work, so of course you’re hearing people having opinions on the question.

          As far as I can tell, 99% of the non-huggers aren’t saying they refuse a hug (I think I saw only one person saying that). Presumably they do indeed deal with the hugs perfectly calmly and professionally, but the question posed was about how they feel about it.

          1. Retail HR Guy*

            I wasn’t trying to condescend, just deescalate. Jadelyn’s post seemed unnecessarily confrontational to me. But since you selected my post as the one being out of line maybe I was reading too much into what he/she wrote.

            And I’m perfectly okay with people having opinions on the question. I was just adding my own. Which is that a whole heck of a lot of commenters seem to have an overly strong reaction to what is at heart a pretty mundane activity.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          Why not turn it the other way around, though?

          “It’s just a hug. You can say no if you want to.”

          “It’s just not a hug. Someone can say no to you.”

          See how easy that was?

          Tell this…

          sometimes you gotta put up with other peoples weird crap. It’s life.

          … to the people insisting on hugging people who don’t want to be hugged.

          1. Retail HR Guy*

            Sorry, but I am not understanding the first part of your response. To the second half, I believe that I did say pretty much the same thing with “It’s not your right to hug people against their will.” I’m not sure we’re in disagreement.

    2. Alton*

      I have anxiety problems that can be triggered by being touched. It’s not that I’m philosophically opposed to hugging–it’s that tolerating a hug is like having to stay still while a cockroach crawls on me.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Hmm. Some people like hugs. Some people don’t like hugs. You’re telling the people who don’t like hugs to let the huggers have their way and just put up with it. Huggers get everything they want. Nonhuggers get hugged.

      What part of this is in the middle?

  62. Tiger Snake*

    And for the no-huggers, the appropriate response is probably not to bristle and shout “No hugs!” in the middle of a meeting. Even if the hug occurred in a meeting, unexpected, and is from a work acquaintance you’ve only known for about a months and spoken to maybe once a week during that time.

    (Speaking from experience, after being scolded for making people feel uncomfortable by how visible uncomfortable I was. And, you know, the shouting)

  63. Teapot project manager*

    I work remote as do many of my coworkers. I worked with a couple of coworkers for 3 years before we ever met in person and we had developed close friendships over that time, we hugged when we first met and we do hug now whe we see each other and other team members but that really is a “see each other once a year or less”. And if someone isn’t a a hugger we are a team that is very open with each other and no problem if someone doesn’t hug, everyone respects that. Those team members who are in the corporate office and see each other every day do not hug each other in greeting :)

    One of our very top senior managers just retired. He is a good person, has been a wonderful leader and manager over the decades he has been with the company. He stated off in his 20s and worked his way up to the top. A number of us worked with and for him over the years and experienced what a good manager and what person he was.

    The last time I saw him was 4 years ago when I ran into him in the hallway. His wife had just died unexceptably and we greeted each other with a hug. He is now retiring for health reasons and I understand doesn’t have much time left. I’m glad I hugged him last time I saw him.

  64. Cassie*

    Our workplace is not very huggy (thank goodness!), although I have been hugged by coworkers or others several times throughout my career. It’s mostly been women older than me (e.g. when I was a student worker and they were 50+), although I did have one male coworker ask out of the blue if he could give me a hug. I was fairly young, was so shocked by it and felt awkward saying no, so I said okay (if my memory serves me correctly). Nowadays, I would just give a look that says “WTF?!” and say “no”.

    I’ll give a little leeway if it’s someone who has left the organization and is coming back for a visit – e.g. my first supervisor (who was a hugger) or a former student (that I knew from 15+ years ago). If it’s someone I see on a daily basis, unless the person is retiring/resigning, I don’t see a need to hug. My family is not big on hugs (culturally, we just don’t do it) so when someone reaches toward me, I tend to pull away.

  65. Golden Teapot*

    I’m a blue collar to white collar transitioner. Entering the white collar world in my 30’s, it was a culture shock. I really wanted the freedom to hug people, curse, and make inappropriate jokes. But in the places where I worked, that wasn’t part of the culture. And for good reason. Because (duh) some people don’t like hugs. Or cursing. Or off color jokes. So when you do those things at work, it excludes people and makes it more difficult for everyone to work together. And if taken too far, or done in certain contexts, it’s harassment.

    So, yeah, don’t hug your co-workers unless you know they’re ok with it. And even then, ask first. And make it easy for them to say no. “Fergus! It’s so good to see you! Can I give you a hug? Or get you a coffee? I’m glad you’re back in our office again.”

  66. Extremely anon for this*

    A very respected employee was let go from my company for initiating a consensual hug with another co-worker. It was reported by another co-worker who saw it. Afterwards, HR had company wide meetings about sexual harassment policies.

  67. Anoushka*

    I wish there was a ‘one-hug-grace’ rule. I can hug you once, and during that hug you have the opportunity to tell me if you’re not a hugger.

    If I hug you after that, I’m a jerk. If you hate me for giving you one hug when I didn’t know your preference, you’re the jerk.

    That said, I secretly wish non-huggers would realise the impact touch can have on some people, instead of being so militant about no touching. A few weeks ago I unfortunately had an emotional conversation with my non-hugger boss…wasn’t crying, but anyone could have seen I was upset. He just sort of stared at me blankly as I spoke with him, which my brain tells me means ‘he doesn’t care and is a complete b******’, even though I know he hates touch, and even though he said ‘don’t worry that you got upset in that meeting’ and is a perfectly nice person.

    I later told a close touchy-feely colleague about what happened, and there was an immediate arm squeeze. Meant more than anything that came out of my boss’s mouth, and I spent a few minutes wishing my boss could have pushed through his discomfort and managed a shoulder squeeze. When a non-hugger is upset I always push through my awkwardness of trying to give comfort with only words.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      That said, I secretly wish non-huggers would realise the impact touch can have on some people, instead of being so militant about no touching.

      Oddly enough, I openly wish militant huggers would realize the impact touch can have on some people, instead of being so militant about uninvited touching.

    2. Ask-first*

      As someone with a medical condition that means touch causes pain, so I only accept the odd hug from those I’m really close to and then only very gentle ones, please ASK before hugging people. You as a hugger do not need a ‘one hug grace rule’ if you only ask, not just assume, that a hug is okay / wanted.

      Although it hurts me (yay being allergic to the pain meds), I do offer gentle side hugs when others need a hug. That said, your boss was not a jerk, he was simply employing his ‘first emotional outburst no touching-grace’ rule.

      1. Anoushka*

        My boss isn’t a jerk and I never said I thought he was. He’s a lovely person who has been exceptionally kind to me on a number of occasions. But in that moment, I wish there had been something, even if it had been a quick arm tap. You can logically know something (my non-hugger boss is a caring person despite the lack of physical comfort) while feeling something else (this person won’t hug me, so they don’t care). That’s what I was trying to say.

        To me, not providing physical comfort to someone in distress is as awkward as having a fifteen-minute conversation while not looking someone in the eye, but if I know that person doesn’t like hugs or touching, I go with that because in the end their comfort is based on their feelings and preferences, not mine.

        And I suppose I wish that non-huggers would power through their discomfort (if possible) when I’m the one who’s upset. My boss actually spontaneously hugged ME once (he was tipsy at a work party), so I know it’s within him.

        My feeling is that hugs are difficult to ‘police’ in the way you’re describing…they are common enough and so engrained into different cultures (I went to school with Quebecois teachers where physical touch was near constant) that it will always be a fumbly, awkward, non-perfect thing.

        If someone hates touching to the point one hug will be catastrophically distressing or will physically hurt, say something. Stick out your hand and breezily say, ‘I’m going to shake your hand, I’m not much of a hugger.’ Job done.

        I have respect for non-huggers who head off a hug with a handshake. Or tell me after a hug that they’re not the touchy feely type.

        I have no respect for non-huggers who treat me like I’m evil if I dared to touch them, hiss hiss.

        Hugs are awkward things. State your preference, forgive those who get it wrong initially, and save the battle for the people who blatantly disregard your choice after they’ve been told.

  68. purple people eater*

    Several of my co-workers and I have known each other for about 10 years–worked together for most of them at different companies, socialized occasionally outside of work–but a couple of us (me included) are definitely NOT huggers, so we’ve somehow developed the “elbow bump”. It’s different from a formal handshake but not a hug that makes us non-huggers uncomfortable, and it serves the same purpose as a typical hug in the workplace…”hey I’m glad to see you”, “congrats on the contract win”, “delivering the project”, etc. I’m not sure how it came about but I’m grateful for it.

  69. asteramella*

    I am a workplace hugger only in extraordinary situations.

    I hugged my boss once, when saying goodbye when leaving from an after-hours work event at which we had both had too much to drink, which capped a long and exhausting day of strategic meetings. It was awkward.

    The only other time I’ve hugged at work is when the Obergefell v. Hodges came down. I was following the SCOTUSBlog live blog and hastily excused myself from a meeting to race down the hall to where my fiancé was temping and impart the news that our upcoming marriage would be legally recognized by our state after all. Many coworkers hugged me and I was too happy to feel awkward. I was also crying, which I would normally feel very uncomfortable about but felt okay in the moment. The event was so extraordinary that it broke all normal social office rules for me.

  70. Please Stop*

    I have a newish office job where I have be hugged by 4 – 7 people every single day. I despise each and every one of these hugs. It is horrible. The pay is good, so I am *accepting* it as part of my job duties, but I loathe being hugged and touched by these strangers. Am hoping I can learn to tolerate it better.
    Huggers – stop and think about how horrible you are treating your unwilling co-workers. Unwanted hugs will make them dislike you intensely.

  71. Justin Kim*

    Is it okay to hug my Manager for appreciation of giving me an Evaluation of my work performance and letting me know the qualities I have and what I still need to work on? Thanks

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