vendor hugs everyone, sharing interview questions ahead of time, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Our vendor has started hugging everyone

I’m generally very against hugging at work, and I’ve run into a weird situation — or maybe I just let this go on too long. I work in communications and we have a service provider who is a big internet company everyone would know. We’ve also got regular meetings with them a few times a year.

Last year around this time, I was in a mid-junior role and it was my first meeting with them. I’m female, and everyone else from my office (a manager, my boss, our boss’s boss, and a senior coworker) are, too. At the beginning and end of the meeting, everyone except me received a handshake. For some reason, everyone we met with at the provider’s office hugged me. It happened so fast I couldn’t say “Oh no, I’d prefer to shake hands!”

Fast forward a year and I’m now in a management role. I still get hugged by the people at the company, but they’ve also started hugging everyone else, too, including male coworkers. I have no idea how to stop this or if it’s too late. Did it escalate because I didn’t stop it when I was more junior? Is there anything I can do to politely extricate myself from future hugs?

You didn’t fail by not stopping it when you were more junior. Hugs at work are awkward and hard to get out of when you’re taken aback in the moment, and especially when you’re more junior than everyone else. And what a bizarre spot to be in, where you were the only one being hugged.

But you can stop it now! The next time you’re meeting with this service provider and one of them goes in for a hug, hold out your hand instead — and say very clearly, “I’m not a hugger, but I’d love to shake your hand.” If you think others in the room would appreciate you extending that cover to them, you could say, “We’re not really huggers here — we do handshakes!”

If you feel awkward about this — and you might because this is an inherently awkward situation, although you’re not the one causing it — keep in mind that as the client, you have the power in this situation and you get to set the tone. This is one of the nice things about being the client, and you should take advantage of it!

Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. Giving job candidates some of the interview questions ahead of time

In a previous post from 2015, you talked about giving candidates the interview questions ahead of time. Your post said you were experimenting with it. Well, it’s three years later and I’d love to hear the results of your experiment, because I’m starting to hire, and it sounds like a good idea to me. Do you still give them the questions ahead of time? Do you do it for all roles? What sort of questions would you never give ahead of time?

Yes! I found that it was the most helpful for junior positions, where the candidates were less likely to be experienced at interviewing (and generally more nervous in general). I wouldn’t do it for all or even most of the questions, since you don’t want people to be over-prepared and you want the interview to be a real conversation. But I like doing it for two to three questions where I really want the person to be prepared to describe a specific time in the past where they had to do X (some specific thing that I need to see a track record of them doing well). It cut out a lot of the time that otherwise would be spent with them scrambling to think of an example, and then you can better use the interview time to learn what you really want to know (which probably isn’t how quickly they can think of those examples off the top of their heads).

Like I wrote in the original post, it’s key to then ask probing follow-up questions to learn more about whatever examples they give, so that you’re not just hearing a canned answer and then moving on. And I don’t do it for more senior roles, where candidates should be more prepared to talk about their experience more off-the-cuff. But it’s really helpful for more junior ones.

3. Employee talks too much to a quieter employee, who doesn’t want me to say she complained

I’m a business owner and have two employees in one of my offices. Most of the time I work right beside them, but several days per month I am at our other office. I received a complaint from one employee that the other employee talks alllll day long when I’m out. I tend to believe this is true through my own experience with this talkative employee, but I thought the issued had worked itself out.

The problem I have now is, the quiet employee does not want me to say anything to chatty employee that insinuates that quiet employee said anything. Do you have any suggestions? This issue needs to be fixed without a doubt.

Well, you could coach the quieter employee to address it herself. You could help her come up with language like, “Bob, I’m sorry but I have trouble working when you’re talking to me so frequently. I need a quieter work space in order to meet my deadlines and get my work done.”

If she’s not willing to do that, a good way to deal with secondhand complaints is to find a way to observe the problem yourself — so you could pop in unexpectedly a few times on days when you’re not expected to be there, spot the coworker constantly chatting her up, and then address it on your own. For example: “Bob, whenever I’ve stopped by the office unexpectedly you’ve been socializing with Jane. I need you both more focused on work, and Jane’s job in particular requires a lot of quiet in order to focus. You have this under control on days I’m working next to you, but it needs to be consistently that way when I’m out too.”

If none of that works, you might need to tell your quieter employee that you know she doesn’t want to cause tension with the chatty one, but you can’t solve the problem without potentially making it clear she talked to you. But try the stuff above first.

4. Can I apply for the same job as my employee?

I have been job searching for over a year now without success. I also know that my direct report has been searching, which I have been supportive of.

Yesterday she told me about a job she applied for that would be a step up for her. She showed me the ad and I found myself very interested in this job. It would be more of a lateral movement for me but could be better money and it looks very interesting, plus my qualifications fit very well with the requirements.

I’m wondering about the ethics of applying for this job. The thing is, I would have come across this job on my own anyway as we are searching the same channels and usually see the same jobs. Would I be wrong to apply for this job?

No, you wouldn’t be wrong to apply for it, especially if you would have come across it on your own anyway. But it definitely has the potential for awkwardness, since she may feel that you only learned about it from her and that it’s a betrayal to then use that info to compete with her.

Of course, you could decide not to mention it to her unless you get the job, figuring that if you don’t get the job, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. But if you do get the job, she’s obviously going to know at that point, and it’s likely to feel a lot ickier that you didn’t tell her earlier on. So you might be better off just being straightforward with her and saying something like, “I want to be up-front with you that I’m considering throwing my hat in the ring for the X job as well. I don’t want you to think that I swiped this listing once you showed it to me; I’ve seen it on (site) and (site) too. I hope this doesn’t cause any awkwardness between us. I’m a big fan of yours and will continue to be regardless of what happens with this position.”

No matter how you frame it, she probably won’t be thrilled with this, but it’s not wrong for you to apply for a job, and sometimes people who know each other do end up competing for the same position.

That said, only do this if you’re extremely interested in the job. If it’s more of “this looks mildly interesting,” it’s not worth it.

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, quiet employee is going to have to use their words. I’d lean hard on Alison’s advice about coaching the employee, just because you don’t want to end up in a position where all interpersonal issues flow through you because quiet employee is uncomfortable raising concerns with talky employee. You know your folks best and whether this is something you’re willing to deal with for quiet employee, but I’d do a gut check on whether you think this is a one-off situation, or one of many similar situations that you don’t want/need on your plate.

    1. LouiseM*

      Totally agreed here. I totally understand how awkward this can be (in fact, I found myself talking to a chatty coworker for forty!five!minutes! when I was on my way to the printer recently) but this is a situation where your employee needs to solve their problem themselves. It’s really not appropriate for your employee to put the onus on you to deal with this when it’s a situation that she can and should deal with herself fairly easily. Coach her so that she doesn’t develop bad habits.

      1. JaneB*

        Or think of it as helping Quiet Employee gain a valuable skill by practicing assertiveness, having the confidence and the tools to advocate for themselves etc – wish someone had helped me learn these skills earlier in life, & might be a better framing for you to think of it as developing Quiet, rather than dealing with a problem

        1. Mookie*

          Yes. The quiet employee is complaining because there is something to complain about and she wants it sorted while also wanting to extricate herself from this situation, but, after quietly suffering this long through, it’s partially a situation that the quiet employee has herself created. If the talkative one moderates her word vomit around and at you, then obviously (a) she senses there’s something wrong with this behavior and only starts engaging in it when an authority figure is absent and (b) that’s because you (and likely others) have signaled to her in some way to stop jabbering needlessly. It’s time for the quiet employee to do the same. Management steps in when co-workers do not respect one another’s boundaries after repeatedly asserting them; she needs to do that and see where it gets her. It’s a bad habit to let a problem amplify like this because she doesn’t want a confrontation. She may not even get one! You don’t know until you politely tell someone to shut up. I’d give her some scripts, if she’s really overwhelmed at the prospect of doing this, and then ask her to use them and to stick to her guns when the talker starts talking.

          1. Penny Lane*

            This is just a variation of the “how do I ask for the mug from my coworker” from yesterday – people needing to learn to use their words and politely and pleasantly assert themselves in a situation (“great talking to you, but I need to finish the XYZ report right now, catch you later”). Yesterday those of us advocating that it’s important to practice and develop such skills were blasted for doing so because we weren’t being sensitive to those who were nervous in such situations. This really seems to me the same principle – a life skill that needs to be developed and may require practice for some.

            1. Robin Sparkles*

              Yesterday those of us advocating that it’s important to practice and develop such skills were blasted for doing so because we weren’t being sensitive to those who were nervous in such situations.
              Penny Lane – fwiw I agreed with you that and agree with you here too. I am one of those who has a hard time saying something and have had to really practice and force myself. It’s not only a valuable skill, it truly is NO big deal to say something when you finally do. People make up all kinds of stories in their heads when the reality is so much more bland.

              1. Winifred*

                I have found it helpful to reframe it (in my mind) as not a confrontation, or a conflict, or “asserting myself,” but as “taking care of myself” or “advocating for myself.”

            2. smoke tree*

              I do think being unwilling to have a straightforward conversation can become a bad habit for a lot of people, in that if you’re not used to doing it, it feels a lot more difficult and fraught than it really has to be. If you can get used to speaking up in a pleasant, professional, non-confrontational way, you start to see how it really doesn’t have to be that big a deal. This is probably compounded when people wait until they’re really pissed off before they say something, and the encounter turns out a lot worse than it normally would be.

          2. Specialk9*

            Yes, this. Managers step in after 1-2 attempts to handle it alone. Treat this as professional development, and acknowledge both that it’s incredibly hard for most people, and that it’s freeing when you realize how simple and effective using your words (professionally!) can be. Point her here or even get her the AAM book. Speaking up is a necessary skill at work and in life, and it’s one of the most empowering skills possible.

          3. Loud Anon*

            Exactly – this is something the quiet employee needs to bring up – as likely chatty employee has no idea that she is bothering the quiet employee and would absolutely self regulate if she knew (since OP does not mention this is an existing on-going issue). My voice tends to carry. Someone at my current open office plan mentioned it to my boss – and she spoke with me. But it became very frustrating and mostly useless as I have no idea who spoke to me boss. So when conversations happen around my desk – which is often due to open plan – I have no idea if the complaining employee is annoyed. Plus some of the requests were out of my control due to medical issues. If the co-worker just spoke to me, I would know how to self regulate and explain the few items I cannot regulate. Part of having co-workers is solving issues at this level amongst yourselves.

      2. puzzld*

        Exactly this. Give her a couple of scripts and perhaps a couple of other coping tools. So suggest she practice saying “welp, got a lot to get through, so back to work.” and maybe if it’s appropriate for your workplace slap on a head set and either listen to some music or enjoy the silence. A friend of mine keeps chewy candy at her desk and when she’s had enough talk she hands the office jabber monster a Carmel and just turns away and gets back to work while he’s eating. (not saying it’d work in every case, but it works for her)

        Tell her that if this doesn’t work, you’d be glad to deal with it, but that there’s no way to keep her name out of it.

    2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      The other benefit of quiet employee speaking up is that if manager says something, there’s a possibility that the chatty employee will subsequently rein it in around manager, but talk quiet employee’s ear off when manager is not around. Not much of a solution, potentially.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this.

        I mean, I get it–I’m the quiet employee who is driven nuts by talkers, but even we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. Either we take ownership of this or we continue to suffer. Plus, I think it’s unfair to ask a manager to handle what is essentially an interpersonal problem in a way that does all the work for you but completely absolves you of the appearance of responsibility. If you’re going to ask them to do that, you need to be willing to share the risks. I don’t like confrontation, either, but that’s just cowardly.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I was friends at work with someone whose direct report wanted her to fix all her interpersonal interactions without it ever appearing that she, the subordinate, was involved.

          The employee would complain to her boss that people were hanging out in her office too much; talking too much; etc. and could she stop it without making it seem like she had said anything. The boss would say something oblique to the offenders, and they would go to the subordinate and say, “[Your boss] said we had to quit hanging out in here so much. Have we been bothering you?” and the subordinate would be all, “Why heavens no! I don’t know where she got that from; I never mind if you hang out in here, you know that!” So the offenders would keep on as before, and then the subordinate would complain to her boss again and want her to fix it again, without making it look as if she had said anything.

          Also, the boss wasn’t a very direct person, either, so she never would even suggest to her employee that she might handle it herself. So the situation kept repeating itself, with neither one of them ever making a direct, definitive statement that would put an end to it. It was so aggravating to watch the situation play out again and again!

        1. Anna*

          Yeah, so…nothing would change. I mean, it’s not the ideal outcome but it wouldn’t be worse.

      2. Bostonian*

        Yup. If the boss has a conversation with Talker about being talkative, it becomes Thing Boss Doesn’t like, so the employee just won’t do it when the boss is around.. which is what is already happening anyway!

    3. jo*

      Yes, it’s on the quiet employee, However, OP3 could also coach them to try some subtler methods, if they haven’t already. Obviously, if subtlety has been attempted without success, then the direct method is now called for.

      When I’ve had overly chatty coworkers in the past, here’s what has worked for me, with people who can read social cues:
      1) Give bland, boring, brief, and/or vague responses to questions and comments, especially to the ones about my personal life. Many personal questions can be answered with, “Thanks for your concern, but I’m okay and I’d rather not talk about it at work.” Don’t laugh at jokes; treat them as a distraction (see below) or pretend not to understand them. Be polite, but take the fun out of their chattiness.
      2) Take a long time to respond to questions or comments and then answer with, “Oh, did you have a question? I’m sorry, I was very focused on [task I was in the middle of], so I didn’t hear you right away.” Become increasingly deaf.
      3) Keep my body turned away from them while working, and if they start talking at me, make them wait … then slowly turn around with no smile and eyebrows raised, as if to say, “You interrupted me, I hope you have a good reason.” Out loud, I say nothing, or something like “Sorry, what were you saying?” It’s important here not to let your face look angry or overly annoyed, just slightly hassled or weary.
      4) If I’m about to start a task that requires my complete focus, announce it. “I’m going to start on the TPS reports now, so I’ll be kind of quiet and checked out for the next hour at least.”
      5) Respond promptly to comments or questions that are actually necessary and related to work. Reward useful communications while discouraging irrelevant ones.
      6) Sometimes throw the chatter a bone and make brief small talk, preferably on a predictable timeline, with whatever frequency I can tolerate. (This is Captain Awkward’s standard advice to people who are getting too many anxious phone calls from their mothers!) Also be careful to keep it focused on them while giving little information about myself (because they’ll just use it as material to ask about later). For example, Friday afternoon before lunch I might ask the chatter if her daughter’s landlord ever fixed the ceiling leak and allow 10 minutes for whatever story follows. After this short small talk break, I’ll announce it’s time for my lunch break. (And if the chatter invites herself along, say that’s nice of her, but I need the time to make a phone call/catch up on reading/recharge quietly by myself as it’s been a long week.) Or you could opt to throw the chatter a bone by getting a pre-planned lunch together periodically. Make it structured and predictable.

      The idea is to give Chatty McBusybody the impression that you don’t dislike them (even if you do), but you’re not up for the same amount of socializing at work.

      The OP can help with #3 by reconfiguring work stations so that the employees are facing away from each other. You can even say explicitly it’s to make it easier for everyone to focus on work.

    4. bigcheese (letter writer)*

      This response is to all who commented. Quiet employee is rather new to my organization and she feels talky employee is a little aggressive. So in this instance I did feel the need to help. I fear that talkative one scared away my last hire! So what I did was I put up divider walls at each of their desks. I know that may sound extreme but it appears to be working. I also wanted more sound barriers to help with noise and I used this for an excuse for the walls. I also agree that quiet employee needs to learn to use her professional words for future issues if any pop up. For her, it will definitely be a challenge. I am also able to check the production when I’m out as everything they do is logged. I brought up the fact (in a group setting) that productions fizzles when I’m out. After the talk and putting up the walls talkative one seems to be responding. I think she could sense, at first, the walls were put up do to her talking and she was mad (I heard from quiet employee) but she seems to be getting over it. I just got back from a week away and the office seems to be going well. Thank you all for such wonderful useful comments. I am going to use the comments to coach quiet one and I’m not going to be the personal guard for all interpersonal issues.

  2. LouiseM*

    Ooh, #4, this is so tricky. Something that I feel needs to be addressed is how you will handle giving a reference. I agree that you should mention this sooner rather than later, but in your employee’s shoes I would definitely wonder if you would try to sabotage me (maybe even subconsciously). Think hard about whether you can give your current employee a fair reference given that you’re likely hoping that you will get the job instead of them.

    1. Kiwilib*

      I would say you can’t be a referee for this one, especially if you both get to interview stage.

    2. OP#4*

      I had already decided that if I applied, I would still be a reference for her and give her the same glowing reference I would have given her otherwise. I hadn’t considered that I shouldn’t be, but it doesn’t matter because I ultimately decided not to apply.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        It sounds like this is moot since you decided not to apply, but I have been in a situation where a reference that a candidate was using for a position had also applied, and we asked the candidate for a different reference because we wouldn’t use the other applicant as a reference in that situation.

        1. Canadian Teapots*

          That also would pretty much let the cat out of the bag at that point, and I can only imagine the words that candidate had for their reference after that!

      2. Specialk9*

        This is moot, but for others in this situation, you could proactively write the letter of reference and hand it to them. Then they can see you think highly of them and are giving a good reference, which goes a good way toward reassuring them. But ultimately “don’t do it” was likely wisest.

        1. Seriously?*

          I’m not sure that would really work. It isn’t like they can submit the letter themselves and regardless of what you wrote, they don’t know what you will say on the phone. If they already distrust their boss because they feel like the job was scooped, I don’t think giving them a letter saying how great they are will repair it.

      3. Samiratou*

        I’m glad you decided not to apply. In the employee’s shoes, I’d be pretty disappointed, as I’d feel like I wouldn’t stand a chance against your better qualifications & experience. I don’t think there’s a way to apply for this without damaging your relationship with your employee.

        1. lulu*

          The thing is they are both on the market, and her boss is more experienced, so that’s always going to be a consideration when you apply for a job that is a step up. I am not sure what the employee was trying to accomplish by letting her boss know about this opportunity, unless she truly has no idea that her boss is job-searching.

          1. Seriously?*

            She may have thought that the OP would also be looking for an upward move rather than a lateral one. I tell my references exactly what jobs I am applying for so that they are as prepared as possible.

            1. Antilles*

              Right – it gives your references some good information on what to focus on. If I’m mostly applying for Chocolate Teapot design jobs, they can sort of talk up my experience with *that* rather than spending most of the discussion talking about Vanilla Mugs.
              Of course, a good hiring manager should be willing and able to politely redirect the conversation towards the subject she’s actually interested in…but a surprisingly large portion of companies absolutely stink at reference checks (if they do them at all!), so probably better to give that heads-up to the extent that I can.

      4. Been There, Done That*

        If the position is publicly advertised, you could be competing with anyone. I might not like it, but I couldn’t take it amiss if my boss applied too. If I heard about the job through private channels, say a friend at prospective employer, and told my boss about it, I’d feel pretty irked but I’d have to accept that I gave out the information so I couldn’t really complain if they went for it too. References are another issue. One would hope all referees are ethical, but we know a lot of people aren’t. I like the way Anne of Green Gables handled such a situation.

  3. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

    #2 – I’m currently in an interview process where we did that in the second round of interviews. It went really well! Our first choice candidate (who, sadly, has turned down the offer) came with great answers for each one, and other candidates answered with varying levels of specificity. This has been a really difficult interview process, with more than one really strong candidate, and having those specifics was helpful. In our case, we sent them 3 questions in advance — we didn’t want to be overwhelming, but wanted them to have the opportunity to think through specific examples.

    One particular question (that I wish my boss had worded slightly differently in the email) was about which part of the job description as advertised did they think would come most easily to them, and which part would they be most uncomfortable with at the start. I think it was worded more like “what would be the biggest challenge for you,” because we got answers that were a little vaguer than I was hoping for (“They’re not challenges; they’re opportunities!”), but I think that overall, the exercise was helpful.

    1. Susan K*

      I think that is a really good idea for a question (which part of the job description would come most easily and what would be the biggest challenge). It’s sort of similar to the old “tell me your biggest strength and weakness” question, but it seems like asking about it with respect to the job description could actually help you gauge how good of a fit the candidate would be for the job.

      1. Nico m*

        Seems the candidates saw through the disguise and gave the usual “weaknesses ?” nonanswer.

    2. Postitive Reframer*

      That is a great question! But yes using the trigger word “challenge” doesn’t really get you to where you want to go. Maybe “what made you nervous”, or “what do you think you would need the most training in.”

    3. Logan*

      My large workplace has a policy of allocating the first 30-60 minutes of the interview (length depends on the type of interview) to having the interviewee alone in a quiet room with the list of questions, a pad of paper, and big clock. The papers can be brought with you to the interview. I just wrote a few bullet points for each (situation summary, my contribution, and the results / proof of my success), as I didn’t have enough time to write a script.

      I have been interviewed for a few positions, and I found that this worked really well. It avoided the awkward silences and scrambling for examples, but it was also sufficiently little time that it provided the interviewers with a fairly raw response. Perhaps most importantly for me, for the ‘Describe a situation where…’ questions, it allowed me to sort out my examples ahead of time so that I had different and optimal ones for each.

      My workplace also finds that this method provides them with a good assessment of time-allocation skills. If you are given 10 questions and at the end of your 30 minutes you have very detailed answers for only 2 of them… this might not be the right place for you.

      1. Irene Adler*

        I like this!

        Beats hell out of being deluged with 15-20 behavioral questions – over the phone- w/o any heads up that this would be the entire interview. No skills questions whatsoever.

    4. SpaceOddity*

      When I was interviewing with churches to serve as a pastor, I really appreciated that one gave me the first question ahead of time! I would concur with don’t do it for senior roles, but I was interviewing for associate positions and am a young, soon-to-be ordained future clergyperson, so I thought it was appropriate and gracious! Also, this industry’s interview process runs on very broad questions! (e.g. In 3-5 minutes, please give us a brief overview of your journey, and how you feel God is summoning out of you in this phase of your life?) Which, sounds like the highway to rambling and vagueness (also, what the helllllll is the scope?), so I appreciated the tip off on this one.

  4. LouiseM*

    OP # 2, if you coddle your employee then she will end up in a situation like the OP from yesterday, who felt too nervous to ask for her own mug back from her own coworker. I say this as someone who is a people pleaser and (when it doesn’t affect my work) tends to let chatty coworkers talk at me rather than end the conversation. When push comes to shove, the employee needs to learn the skills to talk to her coworker about this issue on their own and you should not enable them to put off this conversation.

    1. Specialk9*

      “Coddle” is a super negative word, for both manager and employee. Framing something that is already difficult for many/most people in a negative way makes it harder, not easier. A positive reframe is empowering and teaching a soft skill that is vital to success.

      1. MLB*

        The word may be super negative, but if the manager tries to fix this situation it’s exactly what she would be doing. Quiet worker needs to learn how to handle things like this on her own. I realize it’s harder for some than others, but manager coaching her to handle it herself will help in the long run. Only after quiet worker tries to handle it herself a few times, should she escalate it to manager.

        1. Fiennes*

          Also, this sounds like a situation where the OP’s report should be able to handle it. OP mentions no other difficulty with the talkative employee, or strife between the two workers, and I’m inclined to think she would’ve mentioned that if it were a factor. So here the issue is simple and discrete. If the quiet employee doesn’t learn how to handle such a situation here, how will she ever speak up for herself in thornier workplace situations?

      2. SophieK*

        Adults don’t need extremely simple things like this positively reframed. I say this as an introvert who haaaaaaates the “Bobs” of the workplace and who was a painfully shy child.

        Reframing is something adults help children with, as in when my former stepson would be very upset because his online friends wouldn’t quit what they were doing immediately to come play with him. Every single time.

        I worked with him to get him to see the bigger picture and help him understand that it would be rude for his friends to just abandon their other friends. I had him from age 7 to almost 10.

        This same child would also, say, ask me for help with something on the computer and then repeatedly take the mouse out of my hand. This is effectively what the employee has done to the LW.

        I loved my stepson like he was my own, but at work I frequently found myself saying that I already had an eight year old at home so I was going to need the person in question to do better than that. Which I suppose is reframing. But it worked.

      3. pleaset*

        Yes, coddle is negative. That’s the point. Don’t treat people like that. It’s bad.

  5. LouiseM*

    For #1, I think many people will get the hint if you just physically redirect to a handshake instead of going into the hug. I do this a lot when people shake the hand of the man I’m with and then try to hug me at parties. You probably don’t need to call attention to the situation by saying you’re not a hugger–unless, as Alison mentions, you think your coworkers would also appreciate the do-not-hug message.

    1. Rookie Manager*

      I am a hugger in my personal life but hate it at work. Have had reasonable success with getting in with a handshake first when I suspect the hug is coming. However I normally get taken back the first time because I just don’t expect it.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I was planning to write AAM about this very issue!! I’m a hugger myself; but I never hug someone I’m just meeting for the first time. I’m always taken aback when someone waves my hand away, and says “I’m a hugger” while enveloping me. It’s not just men that do this, either. I have met many women who do this same thing. I usually just go with the flow.

        1. Tardigrade*

          I’m always taken aback when someone waves my hand away, and says “I’m a hugger” while enveloping me.

          No way, their preference to hug doesn’t get to overrule your preference not to be. I’m not criticizing you or what you should do; rather, I despise the “I’m a hugger – deal with it” mindset some people have. (Can you tell I’m in the do-not-friggin-touch-me camp?)

          1. Specialk9*

            This. Rejecting one’s right to determine one’s own body is very troubling. It’s a technique used by pedophiles and sexual predators. (Though of course lots of other people – but it’s a grooming technique in addition to thoughtless and disrespectful.) Kids nowadays are taught ‘you’re the boss of your body’ for that reason (with caveats about diapers/potty, and doctors with parents present). And that’s a good thing.

            I AM a hugger, and I don’t do it at work because I think that’s an important boundary.

            1. no hugs please OP*

              I don’t even like hugging relatives/friends, almost all of whom are fine with it. The fact that it’s happening at work is so, so weird to me.

              I almost think if they said “I’m a hugger” and went for it I would feel _more_ empowered to block them and say no, just because it’s so egregious.

          2. Postitive Reframer*

            They have a preference to hug, you have a preference not to hug. Either way someone is going to have to sacrifice their preferences for the benefit of the other person.

            Personally I like to do the stripped down hug (side hugs) or the enhanced handshake (two hands, hold the elbow or whatever makes sense). But that is more for ongoing relationships not so much first meetings.

            1. Le Sigh*

              I think in these situations, the sacrifice is going to have to be on the hugger, *especially* in a client/business context. Being hugged against your will can be really uncomfortable for others because it’s so invasive of your personal space, so it’s better to just skip it and do some other greeting.

            2. essEss*

              This is not a simple preference choice like “I prefer chocolate cake, but you prefer yellow cake”. This is forcing your choice of hugging onto someone who has told you that it causes them discomfort, such as “Since I prefer chocolate cake I am going to put it in your mouth and you WILL eat it.”
              Hugging is not professional and it is a major boundary issue when you force someone to accept you pressing your body up against them in the office. Shaking hands is professional.

              1. Unprofessional*

                “Hugging is not professional”

                Says you. Others may have different opinions. (I of course agree that no one should be forced to hug against his/her will, just as no one should be forced to shake hands.)

              1. Emi.*


                It’s like, if I prefer to marry you, and you prefer not to marry me, one of us will have to give up their preference, but it should be fairly obvious who.

              2. LBK*

                Yep, there is no compromise here. The person who does not want to be touched does not get touched, end of story.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Seriously. If I could get away with greeting people with a no-touch bow, I would prefer that. Less contact always should win—it’s part of boundaries and preserving personal autonomy.

        2. Le Sigh*

          “I’m always taken aback when someone waves my hand away, and says “I’m a hugger” while enveloping me.”

          Someone once said something similar to me and — without meaning to, as I try to finesse my words a little better — I just blurted out, “Well, I’m not” and just moved to shake their hand.

          I don’t mind hugging some people, but I don’t love it and it’s not my default state. People who are like this drive me nuts, especially because more than one person has acted soooo wounded when I just stated a preference.

        3. General Ginger*

          So because they’re a hugger, they think other people have to just accept being hugged? That would not fly with me at all. I completely understand your being taken aback and just kind of going with it, because it can be hard to deal with in the moment, but I wish people would stop aggressively going in for a hug.

        4. Mary*

          I totoally misread a situation at work and hugged someone who was evidently shocked to be hugged and I haven’t stopped cringing since. Never, ever hugging anyone ever again!

    2. Mookie*

      In general, I think non-verbalizing the action when you’re in the midst of doing it is de-escalating, attracts less attention from onlookers, and gives the would-be hugger an easy way of saving face (which speaks to the fear of the hug-free, that they will “hurt” somebody’s feelings or in rejecting the hug make them appear to be unhuggable), but it is always a good idea to clarify, at least once, what you’re doing and why. And, as you say, it signals to employees and colleagues that it’s totally acceptable to offer a warm handshake in the face of a well-meaning hug and that they’re free to apply that rule whenever and to whomever they want.

      I am rarely at eye-level of any adult in the room and I hate cricking my neck, so I get double the function out of the extra-large personal bubble I surround myself with in public to also guard against hugs. I take a step back, start to beam, lock eyes, and as they approach I raise my arm high above my shoulder so that it can collide or nearly collide with the outstretched arm’s palm as it’s making its way downward. Sometimes I go so high I’m literally just pointing my fingers at air, but it gets their attention. Once the hands share the same general air I just do the shake or one of those two-palmed versions, where I can “give” the hand back to the person when I’m done playing with it. It’s all done very friendly and without any trace of irony so everybody can feel good at the end of the day and I still didn’t have to hug anyone.

      Purely anecdotally, men tend to remember I’ve done this little dance more than women, so it’s usually only a once-per-man deal that needs no repeat performance. Sometimes with female repeat offenders I’ll just give them a handshake after to demonstrate my preference.

      I don’t really know what to make of people who repeatedly try to hug or air-kiss or lock bodies with me but who don’t want me touching their hand (excluding the more obvious reasons). I’ve no idea what to do there, but I do respect their desire to keep our hands apart.

    3. no hugs please OP*

      I know at least one of my male colleagues would prefer no hugs – we’ve discussed it. The last time I met with this company I was getting over a cold and used that as an excuse to make _zero_ contact, but the time after that (before this was published) they went right back to hugs.

      I’ve got another meeting with them coming up, so I’ll try again. They’re so friendly about it I feel badly. Maybe it’s harder because we’re in Canada. Who knows!

      1. Colette*

        I’m in Canada and I’ve never been greeted with a hipug in a business meeting. Remember, they have more to lose than you do – their job is to deliver what you want from them (within reason, of course). You can say no to the hugging, and they will likely smile and move on.

      2. Une Quebecoise*

        Not sure what part of Canada you’re in, but I’m in Montreal.
        Greetings here can be unpredictable. Handshakes, two-cheek kiss, three-cheek kiss (that one is trickier if you’re not expecting the third kiss!), hugs and awkward combinations of all three are all possibilities. I don’t particularly mind either way, so I tend to take my cue from whoever I’m meeting. I’ve definitely seen people do exactly what Alison is recommending – extending a hand for a handshake to block the hug/kiss. Usually doesn’t even require saying anything else.

        1. no hugs please OP*

          Having the Montreal insight really helps! The kisses (and that third one especially!!) throw me off a lot but luckily haven’t happened at work yet. Thanks!

            1. no hugs please OP*

              You try to move away and somehow they’re on the other side of your face. HOW. WHY.

        2. Chameleon*

          Ugh, as an American who interacts with Europeans on a fairly regular basis, that cheek kiss is always SO AWKWARD. Like, I just met you, guy!! We aren’t on a date!

          1. smoke tree*

            What I don’t like is when the men get a handshake and the women get a kiss. If the kiss is equal opportunity, I actually prefer it to hugging, provided that it is the no-contact air kiss. I find it less invasive.

            1. smoke tree*

              Although my ultimate preference is for a world where the default greeting for anyone you don’t know well involves no physical contact. The bow or head nod is the dream.

      3. Scubacat*

        I live in western Canada, and we do not hug at work. The good news is, the vendor has already shown that they can alter their behaviour based on new information. When you had a cold, they didn’t engage in hugging. Try leading with a handshake next time.

        Or you can walk into the next meeting throwing Timbits left, right, and centre. The vendor will be so busy chasing the delicious spherical desserts that they’ll forget about hugging. Am I right eh?

        1. smoke tree*

          I have a mental image of the vendors jumping to catch the timbits in their mouths.

      4. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I love the “Oh, sorry, I’m getting over a cold, so we shouldn’t hug and probably shouldn’t shake, either, actually” excuse.

        I mean, it means I’ve been sick, which I don’t love. But it’s a pretty fail-proof way of getting out of huggy situations.

        1. Seriously?*

          I have actually tried that and was met with “I have a good immune system” and was still hugged.

          1. no hugs please OP*

            You can lead a horse to water…
            (I’m so sorry that happened to you. That’s baffling.)

      5. FormerHoosier*

        I would feel uncomfortable if hugged by a vendor or someone else in a business meeting. The only exception is for very close friends with whom my company sometimes works with. People I have known for years and not just because of work. I live in a smaller community and you do hug your friends. But I also think a handshake would be fine too.

    4. Alli525*

      Agreed. Not quite the same circumstances, but I do NOT shake hands at church (there’s a moment where the priest invites everyone to shake hands/greet each other), so I very clearly clasp my hands behind my back, and do a sort of smile/nod/slight bow. It’s a little awkward when everyone else automatically sticks their hands out, but no one has ever gotten mad or looked put-out. Body language says a lot.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I’ve seen Orthodox Jews do that with someone of the opposite gender. With a warm smile and a friendly face it doesn’t feel as rude. (Though I still have a problem with the underlying reasoning… But not my monkeys.)

      2. soon 2 be former fed*

        My church is a hugging one, shaking hands seems kind of offputting in this context. Not shaking hands even without a disclaimer (I’m sick or something) would definitely make you look weird. That said, I would have no problem with eliminating the fake meet and greet during the service. A simple “say hello to your neighbor” would be fine with me. We hold hands when praying at the altar, doesn’t bother me. Those of you who have private sources of touch are fortunate. Many lonely people, especially older ones, have no human contact and touch has been shown to have health benefits. To each their own though, but not everyone has cooties. So much fear and aversion to other humans, it’s kind of sad.

      3. Dubious Penguin*

        My aunt doesn’t care for shaking people’s hands either, so at church when they get to the handshaking part, she just flashes a peace sign at people instead (holds up her fingers in a V). I always thought that was a nice way to get around it too.

    5. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

      I would avoid the hug by not getting close enough. Use the furniture. Sit down. Wave. Smile warmly, greet, and then turn and walk towards the conference room- whatever works. End by extending a hand before they can get up.
      Also- the two-handed handclasp is a good way to block the hug- your body isn’t open for it anymore.

      1. no hugs please OP*

        I am definitely going to try the two-handed handshake approach! That’s a really good one, I think especially in combination with the high energy level another commenter suggested.

      2. Sutemi*

        Another trick is if they are holding both their hands out as they approach, catch one of their hands in each of yours. With warm verbal greetings, you still get something more personal than a handshake but can hold them at arm’s length.

      3. RB*

        I’m not a hugger but one of my new doctors is and I don’t want to correct my doctor or cause awkwardness between us. I’ll probably just deal with it.

        1. jo*

          Whoa, your doctor should know better! It’s kind of alarming that they don’t! Doctors are supposed to warn you that they’re going to make contact (“I’m going to lift your shirt now so I can listen to your breathing.”) Definitely try the two-handed hand clasp or grab both their hands in yours. If you do it every time, they’ll probably get the hint soon.

          Also, just like in the OP’s situation, YOU are the client/patient. You get to set the tone. Doctors should be extra cognizant of this, because many patients are prone to treat them with deference, and it’s the doctor’s job to avoid taking advantage of that dynamic. If your doctor becomes awkward with you because you don’t want to be hugged, that is not a responsible doctor.

    6. sleepwakehopeandthen*

      Yes! I do this a lot too (husband’s family, why do you try to shake his hand and hug me? You’ve known him longer!). My policy is that if you know my husband as well or better than you know me, you better not shake his hand then try to hug me. (If you know me better, that’s fine, so like… my dad can hug me and shake my husband’s hand if he wants to). Now my husband’s grandfather gives him hugs too, and my husband’s youngest brother and I always shake hands (which I’m sure he prefers–I feel like high school boys are not big into hugging their sisters-in-law).

    7. darchildre*

      I don’t know, I’ve had people actually *use* the handshake to pull me into a hug. Sometimes, verbalizing something is the only way to prevent it.

    8. Flash Bristow*

      I flinch and pull back from being touched, other than a professional handshake, and if it ever goes further (weighty reassuring pat on shoulder, hug, etc) I cry out “ow!”

      Nobody can call out whether something truly hurt, or at what level, or whether it’s mental or physical pain. They instinctively pull back, and it gets unwanted attention on them if they continue.

      Now, you might need to tweak this for the workplace. Although if someone comes in for the hug and I don’t want to be too awkward I just say at a normal volume “please don’t” and divert to the “Ow!” if they don’t stop and they touch me anyway.

      Assuming they do pull back, I’ll offer a hand to shake and a warm smile. “It’s been lovely to see you” and the moment is dealt with.

      Sorry, but if you wanna hug me, the phrase is “may I give you a hug?” and if the answer isn’t a warm yes, you don’t hug me. It isn’t hard.

  6. Rookie Manager*

    Re: OP#5, I’m interviewing today and 2 of the candidates are a manager and her report. I expect he doesn’t know she is looking too as she is his top reference. I won’t mentioned either of them to the other though and our reception will keep the list of names confidential too.

    1. Gotham Bus Company*

      As long as their appointments aren’t back-to-back, that should work out well.

    2. Irene Adler*

      You make confidentiality sound like it’s an option in this situation. I’m sure you know it isn’t an option. Candidates trust that their application for a position will be held in strict confidence no matter what.

      Shouldn’t be sharing candidate info among the other candidates no matter what the relationship might be between them.

      1. Rookie Manager*

        Not my intention, sprinkle some ‘obviously’s around the confidential bit!

    3. LPUK*

      I remember conducting a group assessment once and two of the eight people were a boss and employee from the same company, and HR obviously hadn’t clicked and scheduled them both together. It was a really weird moment when they walked in and saw each other. In the end we rescheduled one of them for the next group so they didn’t have to perform in front of each other, but I can only guess what the conversations were like between them afterwards!

  7. Mary*

    I had an interview yesterday where the interview questions were on a sheet in front of me, and the panel told me i could refer to it or not. The danger was that you’d look at it and start thinking about how you were going to answer question five instead of concentrating on question two, but overall I liked it. Great for accessibility.

    (I got the job!)

    1. LTRFTC*

      I had an interview a few years ago where they gave me the questions on paper when I arrived, then left me alone for ten minutes or so to review them. As a relatively inexperienced candidate it was great – it let me think about which of my examples were most suited to each question, and make some notes to ensure I covered all the ground I wanted to. Seemed to strike a good balance between not blindsiding a candidate and preventing a canned answer.

  8. GMN*

    Re. OP1 and the hugging…based on this answer and some other similar ones earlier on this website and others it seems that I am really far off base here. I would find it very strange if a coworker/customer/vendor declined a hug like that. Hugs are uncommon in my traditional and male dominated industry, but making “a scene” like that would be waay more uncommon. (I realize that it’s not supposed to be a scene, I guess it’s based on the fact that it’s not rude to decide who gets to touch you, which I fully agree with, in theory….but I can’t imagine this happening without causing bad vibes in the room.) I would also start wondering if something traumatic happened to the person saying no to the hug because they apparently have such strong feelings about hugging.

    Actually, if I was the only one getting hugged in a meeting I would feel a little proud because I apparently built a better relationship with this vendor/customer/etc! I realize not everyone would feel this way and some will find it uncomfortable, but I can’t help but feel it’s not a big deal and one should suck it up to preserve the relationship. I understand that I’m the one who’s probably wrong here, so is anyone willing to give me their perspective on why the hugging is important so that I can understand the other partys experience?

    1. Czhorat*

      It’s not a business norm the way a handshake is and it involves an intrusion into ones personal space. Employees all hate the right to not have their bodies touched in a way which makes them feel uncomfortable and is too intimate for a business setting.

      The idea that “making a scene” is worse than the inappropriate touching is the kind of thinking which enables sexual harassment and hostile work places. I’m not saying that an unwanted hug is harassment; I am saying that talking away ones ability to decide how they are touched takes away the tools to prevent harassment.

      1. GMN*

        I actually agree with everything you say here, I just would have thought that it would be very rare to feel significantly uncomfortable because of a hug. Making a scene is definitely not worse than inappropriate touching, I just wouldn’t have considered a hug inappropriate, just uncommon.

        1. no hugs please OP*

          I don’t even like hugging my family and friends, let alone vendors. Hugging is much less common here in general, I think, and in my case I have a strong aversion to touch. But even if I didn’t, I don’t think any hugging is appropriate at work except in rare circumstances and when mutually agreed on. I do get this might be different in europe, but the gendered aspect of this is pretty universal and distasteful to me.

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            You absolutely have the right not to want anybody to touch you and to stop them from doing so, including family and friends. However, you may be perceived as cold and off-putting, and you can’t control that. I’m affectionate and touch feely, can’t imagine being like you but we are all different and that’s OK. I don’t think its gendered, I hug men and women and vice-versa, but I do admit it is far less common in the workplace. I don’t hug or tell my coworkers that I love them either, LOL. Because people are so touchy now, I ask first if I want to hug but don’t know the person’s preference. Not offended at all if they say decline. Thank goodness my husband is affectionate like me.

      2. Le Sigh*

        There are a lot of non-trauma reasons people don’t care for hugging that commenters have laid out here. But also, you say you might assume there’s a trauma behind it if they feel so strongly — so what if there is? It’s not any of our business if there is. I also think this is why it’s good to be careful assuming that people are okay with something — they may have a medical or trauma issue they don’t want to discuss.

        Or not, but they’re tired of everyone assuming they’re “weird” for not wanting strangers in their personal space.

        1. soon 2 be former fed*

          But they can’t control other people’s reactions or assumptions.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Of course they can’t, anymore than huggers can control the reactions of non-huggers. My point wasn’t that you could — but the commentor was talking about how she’d wonder if people had trauma, etc. if they had a strong aversion to hugging. There could be many reasons people don’t want to hug, and we’d all be better off not making assumptions — that someone is cold, or they have trauma, are weird, or whatever. Sometimes it’s just a preference (of varying degree) and I think we’d all be better off not making assumptions about others and their comfort levels.

            I’m not offended if someone wants to hug or asks, and if the other person takes no offense, I’m not worried about it. And occasionally I’ve sucked it up because the situation called for it. But my comment was aimed more at the idea of assuming something was ‘up’ with non-huggers, rather than just assuming someone has a preference that should be respected.

    2. Myrin*

      I think the key to difusing “bad vibes”, if there’s a danger of being any (which I don’t think is necessarily the case but can happen), is to be very upbeat and friendly while declining the hug. I also favour Louise’s suggestion above of not saying anything but simply holding out your hand to shake, which seems very low-key, especially when paired with a friendly demeanour.

      1. GMN*

        I definitely think Louise’s suggestion would work a lot better. However if someone is truly uncomfortable and that doesn’t work, of course they have the right to say whatever it takes to not be touched.

    3. Tisme*

      I have a health issue that means that hugging causes me pain, the amount can vary on any given day, but still it hurts me.
      I only hug / accept hugs from people I care deeply about because of this. Even then the hugs still hurt, just hopefully less so since I / they do the side hug / minimize thing. Loved ones also make a point to ask first in case even one of our ‘less hurty’ type hugs might still be an issue at that time.
      I’m still trying to find a fully working pain med / dosage / timing regime thanks to allergic reactions to certain pain meds, annoyingly the ones that best deal with my pain. So its a case of ‘hug me’ if you want the extra pain to make work go even slower since I’m trying to work around that extra distraction.

      Not wanting to be hugged even with no health / trauma issues is a perfectly valid reaction. No hugs should be a norm for working with adults as it for when one works with children.

      1. Tisme*

        Apologies I forgot to add in case anyone was wondering how I deal with the preferred handshake.

        I greet with a cheery smile, hands behind back and a ‘welcome, apologies hand issues, lovely to see you…’ a pleasant enthused greeting with mild explain has been fine with not shaking peoples hands.
        (I’d be able to ‘suck it up’ if it was the norm to just lightly clasp hands, but some people still use it as a strength test or do a hearty shake, so I have to avoid them to.)

      2. FormerHoosier*

        I also have a health condition that can make hugging painful. It can also make handshakes painful. I had a large business meeting to attend one time and I was wearing a hand and wrist brace on my right hand and I would tell people that I couldn’t shake because I had injured my wrist. I was stunned at how many people were put off by that. I get that it is a social nicety and customary at meetings, but I could barely hold a pen much less shake a hand.

    4. Anononon*

      I find hugs in the place of handshakes to be demeaning. They don’t see you as a business partner but as something else. Also, hugs are often seen as very personal. Generally, it’s literally full upper body contact. It’s incredibly forward to spring that on someone.

      1. Someone*

        Yes, that!

        Hugs are personal – if they are ever done in a business meeting, I’d take that as a sign that I’m not seen as a professional, but as a sort of cutsey addition to the “real” business people. If a male stranger does it to a woman, it also gets a sexual vibe – especially since a hug is easily turned from a more distanced hand-on-back-touching-shoulder into a full-blow arm-round-waist-hips-touching.

        1. PhyllisB*

          That’s true in business meetings, but I also get this a lot in personal situations. I was at a funeral visitation giving condolences to a friend, who in turn introduced me to one of her relatives. I put my hand out to shake, and the lady said, “I’m a hugger.” and grabbed me. I just let her hug me because I thought maybe she needed the comfort. Like I said, I get this a lot from both men and women. I just figure it’s because I look friendly and approachable, and remind them of their mother, or grand-mother.

    5. Actual Australian*

      Personally, I’m just not comfortable with being literally chest to chest with people that I only know in a business sense. I don’t want that level of physical contact. Plus the hug vs hand shake debate does have gendered implications and as a young woman, if the handshake was fine for my male colleague, it’s fine for me too.
      More than anything it is about respecting boundaries and I believe that we need to allow women to be more confident in setting them. If you don’t want to be up close and personal with a client, you shouldn’t feel that you have to.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yes. So rarely do people hug men as a default, but us Lil Ladies aren’t really real business people anyway, and we don’t have the right to our own bodies because every male does, so we get the hugs. F@#$ that noise.

        A warm smile and friendly chatting will make it ok, and entitled men need to learn somehow. So we’re doing them a kindness in training them out of culturally ingrained misogyny.

        1. no hugs please OP*

          Honestly our patriarchal/misogynistic society is why I was so surprised they started hugging my male coworkers too.

        2. PhyllisB*

          It’s funny you say that. My step-father was a Navy Chief and the two most important business skills he taught me where how to read military time and how to give a good hand-shake. When I started working, (I’m 67 now.) most men were taken aback when I offered my hand. Not many refused to shake, but I could tell they were confused. I didn’t get hugged, but I don’t know what they thought a professional greeting was supposed to look like between men and women. The hugging thing just seems to have gotten more prevalent in the last few years.

    6. Mookie*

      Well, most insular communities, like a male dominated industry, have tacit rules and expectations governing greeting and bonding behavior, and apparently to be offered a hug in your neck of the woods confers prestige, and that’s fine, but surely you know there will always be people for whom the prevailing niceties and customs and rituals and little acts of decorum that reflect a dominant culture’s ideals feel a little alien or a little inexplicable, and yet there’s a strong pressure to conform to those models that emanates from a very unquestioning, incurious position of power. So, no, you’re not wrong*. Nobody is.

      This is a greeting custom, like a lot of performative gestures, that is not universal and can, in some cultures be viewed as taboo or a blunder or an insult. Even within a monoculture, greeting behavior changes according to setting and the social status of its participants and onlookers. And it’s often gendered, racialized, and/or subject to class differences and used selectively to communicate different things. As several commenters point out, there’s a lot of data flowing when, in a professional setting, a man decides an adjacent woman needs hugging. That can be viewed as an attack on the individual woman’s stature, a signal that she lacks seriousness, or a reflection on how the man views female colleagues as marked categories needing special handling.

      *except for that bit about trauma, unless we’re expanding that definition quite broadly

      1. no hugs please OP*

        Yep, all of this. There are two people I meet with the most regularly at this vendor, a man and a woman. The man usually instigates the full rounds of hugging, and my entire organization is very female-dominated.

        1. Specialk9*

          The all-female admins of a prior org were forced to hug the Chairman of the Board (“c’mere, gimme a hug” is an order when there is such a power disparity), and after they took away the cube walls so he could beckon then with his finger – and he would beckon any admin, not just his own, because they were interchangeable – if they talked to each other in their naked desks he’d come out and tell them “GIRLS, hush!” (To women of all ages, up to 60s). It made me SO ANGRY. And he’ll never have to deal with the blowback because he’s rich and powerful.

        2. BlameHRStopFreeHugVendor*

          Please speak up and stop the hugging. This additional detail is striking. This is a guy enjoying the opportunity to hug lots of women. Even if your comfortable hugging him, lots of your subordinates may not be and may just be following your lead. If you need to, blame HR. “Oh Mr Vendor, so good to see you, Oh no hug today just a warm handshake, you know HR these days!”

          It actually probably would become an HR issue eventually…

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah; the male instigator makes me think it should make more sense to reinforce the boundaries. No unwanted hugs in professional contexts!

        3. Beckysuz*

          Well that might explain it? The man is instigating and the women are following his lead because they think this is normal because no one objects? It’s not normal, and I’m honestly baffled that anyone would ever consider hugs an acceptable form of greeting in a professional setting. I mean, I’m a hugger in my personal life, but I can’t fathom a vendor hugging me. I would be deeply uncomfortable with that behavior. The fact that it’s a man initiating hugs with your mostly female staff feels very wrong. Either he’s a creep who’s pushing his creep ways on you under the guise of a greeting, or he has some misogynistic ideas about “ladies in business” and thinks well I hug my mother so I should hug all women? Even if his motives are pure, you should absolutely address it going forward. As an employee I would find it very disconcerting if my manager encouraged an unspoken expectation that this was normal and we should all be subjected to unwanted hugs by vendors at every meeting. So someone needs to stop this going forward so the rest of the staff feels empowered to decline unwanted touching. Honestly I just think this is so strange! And I’m a very friendly and affectionate person but seriously so WEIRD in a professional setting.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I got a completely spontaneous hug from the president of the corporate North American division at OldExjob when he came for a visit, not long before I got laid off. It was the first time he’d ever done that. I liked him and he seemed to like me (not romantically), but I wondered later if he knew I was going to get laid off eventually and it was a goodbye hug! I don’t think it meant anything creepy, but it was super weird, though.

          2. pleaset*

            “I’m honestly baffled that anyone would ever consider hugs an acceptable form of greeting in a professional setting.”

            I’m not commenting on the OP’s situation, but it is certainly not rare in some places and industries. I work in a the international nonprofit sector in the northeastern US, and got hugs this week from colleagues from Africa and Latin America on their arrival at our office and their departures. And a few days ago got a bunch of them at a fundraising gala (not really a “professional” setting, except it was my job to put on the gala so it was work for me – and gala philanthropy is business).

            For sure if guys only do it to women, they are gross. But it’s all genders in my work.

            1. Beckysuz*

              I suppose I should have qualified that more. I do sometimes hug other women at work as a greeting if we are friends. And I do recall a former coworker who hailed from Wales was absolutely a hugger at work. Cheek kisses too. She was an absolute delight and it never felt weird to me at all. I do think Americans are generally more reserved in my experience. However I’d still be weirded out by a vendor hugging me

              1. Flash Bristow*

                Worse, after I went on a TV show and won a four figure sum of money – so nothing too major – when I went to the bank to pay in the cheque, the manager squealed and hugged me! Eeeeeek!

    7. Mookie*

      Also, this is not a gotcha, but you’re asking why hugging is important after having highlighted where, in your life, it is apparently very important: (1) someone in your industry publicly receiving a hug from a vendor would function as their reward for good service, and (2) you strongly believe hugs shouldn’t be this polarizing (which suggests that you find them normalized even if they’re mostly absent from your workspace).

      1. GMN*

        First of all thanks for the answer! I haven’t read all the comments yet so I may be answering incompletely.

        1; I think I worded the part about being proud if I got a hug weirdly, I don’t think it’s an industry standard, just that a hug typically signifies a closer relationship here and I value relationships. First of all I am a woman and as I said earlier, most of the others are men. In this business culture, it would be more common to hug women than other men, and that is not really offensive to me – I don’t see anything sexual or demeaning in it even though it is gendered. Secondly I am in an European country and there are a lot of nuances about US business culture that feel different to me – I think the borders between work and life are lower here? I guess one could say it is less professional, but it hasn’t shown itself to be problematic for me so far. It does mean that some of the advice on here would come off strangely in my country/industry, although I agree with the principles the implementations differ.

        2; The reason I find them normalized even though they are rare at work is that they are normalized out of work. It would be normal here to hug someone you meet a couple of times a year and have a friendly relationship with if you met them at a social function, so although I normally wouldn’t do it at work I don’t think that people here would find it uncomfortable if somebody did. If you meet them often or you never met them before though – then it would be weird to hug. Just different cultures I guess!

        Anyway, if someone does find it significantly uncomfortable I think it’s important that it’s acceptable for them to let that be known, I just don’t think people I work with would feel that way unless there is some deeper story.

    8. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

      In our industry, the standard greeting is a hug. The loose convention is – the first time you meet you handshake, after that you hug, unless you do not like the person and then you handshake. After 30 years in the industry, I am at hug level with idk 1000 people? Maybe! Walking a trade show floor for me is squeals and hugs at every booth.

      It’s nbd to get out of it though, just throw your hands up and say “no hugs, dislocated my shoulder/have the flu bug running in my house/some other excuse”. Saying you don’t hug? Well if you are the client why not, but it would cast you as stand offish so excuses would be better.

      (At this point we are tipped to higher female numbers although it was male dominated when I entered and it was always a hug as a greeting tradition)

      1. no hugs please OP*

        I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve been sick a lot this year (a really bad flu year!) which I might use as my excuse. Oh, I’ve been sick so much this year, so I don’t want to get too close to anyone! Maybe I can get away with a fistbump. Who knows.

        1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

          In this bad flu season (our whole family was down for the count for weeks!), I went to “no hugs” until like maybe two weeks ago. Needed some sunshine and heat to burn the germs off before I wanted to touch another human being.

          As much as a hug is a standard greeting, a hug block for a reason is also standard. (And if I hadn’t hugged so many people at a January trade show, we might not have gotten the flu. I’m never hugging in flu season again. )

          1. Elemeno P.*

            When contagious, I often avoid handshakes as well. This goes over particularly well when I say that I’m contagious and then shake my arm cartoonishly in the air like I’m sealing a business contract with a ghost. The other person usually mirrors me and then we both laugh.

        2. Anon Today*

          I don’t think you need to use that an excuse. Just say you aren’t a hugger. I travel with a co-worker who is a big hugger, and when we meet vendors, she always says she’s a hugger, and I always clarify I am not (with a smile). I’ve never had an issue.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        I transferred from one coast to the other within my company, and the hug culture is super different. My new coast is very business-like and official, and the former one was much more casual. We didn’t hug every day or anything, but when I see people from that coast now we always hug. I am a more junior female and often the people I hug are more senior males, which can 100% have a bad connotation in other situations, but they’re just a very huggy bunch; they highly respect my opinion and work, and after we hug they often bring up the “and what will it take to get you back on our coast?” conversation. It’s nice!

        1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

          I guess we are expert huggers or something, because we hug body “away” without thinking about it and there’s no weirdness about male/female hugging.

          One time in 30 years there was a creepy hugger. Blech. You do not pull the other person’s body in! That is not a work hug! Only took once and he went on handshake status with me. I told my women who work for me, I’m not hugging that guy ever again, you guys do what you want, but if he is creeping you, don’t hug him. (And of course I told them, don’t ever hug anybody who makes you feel uncomfortable or don’t hug if you just don’t feel like it that day or ever also.)

          1. CM*

            Yes. I think if you can’t get out of hugging, you can lean forward so that there is no body contact and you’re basically patting each other on the back.

          2. Elemeno P.*

            Oh, I didn’t even mean the physical weirdness; I also hug “away.” I meant the appearance mentioned upthread when a man shakes another man’s hand and then hugs a woman.

      3. Wonderland*

        I am US-based woman at our corporate headquarters. Our industry is male-dominated and can be rigid and formal, so usually I’m safely in the handshake zone (as is everyone else), which is something I am deeply thankful for.

        In the last few years we have added facilities in the UK, and when I see those co-workers they always greet me with a hug and some of them even do the kiss on both cheeks. I’ve chalked it up to cultural differences and rolled with it, and I do genuinely like these coworkers, and work with many of them closely. I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience?

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          I think this may just be your co-workers and/or industry. I’m British, and the only co-worker I would hug would be one I work closely with but who doesn’t come to our head office very often as she works remotely. For other colleagues the only time they might get a hug is if they had particularly good/bad news, but definitely not as a standard greeting. The kiss on the cheek is a bit different because here that’s considered an OK greeting for female acquaintances (whether the kisser is male or female), but I see it as more of a casual thing rather than something in a work context. Most of the time I don’t think there really is any physical contact in those type of situations, but that might just come down to typical British reserve.

      4. peachie*

        I bet there is some level of industry-specificity here (though, of course, it should always be okay to not hug coworkers!). I’ve spent most of my working life split between typical office jobs and working in the theater, and I would feel as weird hugging someone at my desk job as I would shaking the hand of a theater colleague.

        (I think someone mentioned this, but for the latter, it’s specific to people I’ve met before–it’s still normal/expected to shake hands when meeting someone for the first time.)

      5. MLB*

        Sorry but if I seem stand-offish because I tell people not to hug me, so be it. Hugging is for close personal relationships, not business ones. And if you come at me to hug me and I only know you via business, it’s not going to end well. I’ve hugged co-workers in the past, but only once we’ve become friends. It’s inappropriate, especially if you’re hugging someone you barely know and just met at work.

        1. Specialk9*

          Exactly. I’ll take that hit to help break that particular gendered assumption of lack of bodily autonomy. I’m ridiculously friendly and willing to help people, but I don’t need to hug them.

        2. General Ginger*

          Admittedly, I’m generally not a personal relationship hugger, either (largely due to dysphoria), and my more huggy friends always ask if it’s OK to hug me on a given day, which I appreciate. I don’t want to hug strangers, or business acquaintances.

        3. Been There, Done That*

          Good for you.

          My (female) boss talked about attending an event where she ran into a former higher-level (female) manager ours. They were amicable coworkers but not friends at work. Boss moved in for a hug and was taken aback when Former Manager stiffened and backed out of hug range. Boss was hurt and almost offended. And totally clueless.

    9. no hugs please OP*

      I do worry about this coming off awkwardly or badly in the meetings. My next meeting is alone with them (and maybe my new direct report, who is also female), but I think it might be easier if my male colleague and I could talk about it and have a plan before the next group meeting.

      The idea of this ‘causing a scene’ though feels creepy to me, though. Generally I don’t think there should be ANY touching at work unless invited. Speaking up about oh hey I don’t like this shouldn’t be discouraged since that seems like it would go downhill to some me-too territory where people don’t feel able to set their boundaries.

      My impression is the vendor likes to have a very close relationship with us. We do spend a lot of money with them! And they’re very helpful and offer additional assistance or services for free because of that. But I wish they knew going in that I would be more comfortable in our professional relationship without the hugs.

      1. Czhorat*

        You shouldn’t sacrifice your sense of body autonomy out of fear of “causing a scene”. You have every right to dictate how your are and aren’t touched. If others don’t respect that it’s their problem, not yours.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, especially if you’re the client. Seriously, you get to instruct the client (kindly and matter of factly) about how to act in your space. “Hey just a heads up that some of our people aren’t huggers, I’d appreciate if you’d start with a handshake and then follow their lead.”

      2. Lily Rowan*

        In that case, I still think you can transition to a handshake by being Very Enthusiastic about seeing them and Super Excited to shake their hand. “It’s SO GREAT to see you!!!!!!!” with your right hand firmly outstretched.

        Honestly, I don’t know if the room set-up would work for this, but you can even position yourself on the other side of a chair or something.

        1. no hugs please OP*

          I’m going to try and pump myself up for big energy handshakes next time. Thanks!

          1. Anonym*

            And if it feels a little awkward, I’ve found a brief acknowledgement of the awk smooths things out 99% of the time. It rarely survives being pointed out.

            “I know we usually hug, but I actually prefer handshakes.” *big grin* Or even, “Let’s go for a handshake. A bit awkward, since we usually hug, but that’s okay, right?” *warm smile* *confident expectation that you will be fine with it because I am going to be fine with it*

            That and warmth will ease any embarrassment on their part.

      3. GMN*

        First of all I feel like I need to acknowledge that everyone has the right to decide if they want to be touched. That is a clear “of course” for me. Secondly, I think there are better and less confrontational ways of exercising that right in the comments than in the post answer, but tbh if someone is deeply uncomfortable they have the right to say whatever it takes in order to not be touched.

        Based on the comments here I think your instinct on this is closer to the common perception than mine, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the awkwardness as long as you keep it non-dramatic. For example I think Anonyms reply to you looks like a great script. Good luck, remember you are the customer and you have the power.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I think the post answer is a good one in that it acknowledges the awkwardness, keeps it light and friendly, but still enforces boundaries. And while the OP is the client and it’s easier to dictate those terms in this situation, if she’s hoping to keep the relationship smoothed over, that breezy attitude about it can help. As long as the client is a reasonable person, it should be fine.

          But, this specific case aside, in general I’ve found that there are some people that will be offended no matter how non-dramatically you ask not to be hugged. And some of those people will just ignore the request, so sometimes being more forceful is necessary. At that point, if I’ve been diplomatic, non-dramatic, and clear and they choose to blow past it, the scene-causing is on them.

    10. Scubacat*

      I do not hug at work, nor is hugging a part of my industry.

      I don’t enjoy hugging at work because hugging feels less professional. Co-workers shake hands as a sign of respect. Hugging is done by family as a sign of affection. It would be totally confusing to get a hug at work, since that blurs the professional/personal boundary.

      As a human, I place a strong importance on my personal space. (Personal space can be very big or very small depending on the culture someone is from). It isn’t pleasant when a coworker violates the invisible line and crosses into personal space. Since I have the right to decide who touches me, the handshake ritual is enforced.

    11. Nita*

      Maybe it’s some kind of cultural thing, but I can’t even imagine hugging in the context of work, let alone an entire office of huggers. I just can’t. To me it kind of feels like, I don’t know, the entire vendor team showing up in their pajamas and slippers, sipping hot chocolate. Just something you’d expect at home but never in the office.

      So around here, if there was an out of control hugging habit that snowballed and took on a life of its own, and then someone said “no hugs please” – the others would all breathe a sigh of relief and be glad someone spoke up and ended that awkward situation.

    12. The Other Dawn*

      I’m most definitely not a hugger even in my personal life. Maybe because when I was growing up I always had to hug relatives that I saw maybe once a year and really had no connection with other than I know they’re distant cousins or whatever; I am the baby of the family and there is a pretty big age gap between me and others in the family, so I don’t have the same connections with others as my siblings do. I feel hugging is intimate and reserved for loved ones that I feel a connection with, and anything else just feels so fake and insincere to me, kind of like an empty gesture.

      I feel that hugging in a business context is especially weird. Not only because of near-full body contact with a stranger, but, again, because I feel as though it should be reserved for those I have a true connection with. There’s no way I’d feel that kind of connection with a business colleague, especially someone I meet a few times a year. Would I make a scene to avoid it? No. But I’d try to steer the person towards a handshake in a way that isn’t rude. If the hug still happens, it happens. I won’t like it, but I’ll just shrug it off.

    13. No thanks*

      Hugging in such a situation would mean a perfect stranger feeling my boobs. And me feeling theirs! No way!!!!

      1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

        ick yeah, no, not that kind of hug. That’s not the kind of hug in our industry. Shoulder hug, bodies away.

    14. Rosemary7391*

      I hug relatives to “preserve the relationship”. I am not doing it for work – it’s way too personal for that.

    15. Lora*

      Eeek. Vendors who have established a good rapport with me are aware that I prefer handshakes to hugs and a friendly wave to being touched at all.

      Am female in a male dominated non-huggy industry. When dudes hug me, it has very very very frequently been so they can cop a feel. Like a solid 50% of the times I have been hugged by a man at work, they did that awkward too-close too-long “whoopsie my hand just slipped haha” grossness. Now that I am an Old they don’t do it too much, thankfully.

      You want to be my very favorite vendor, learn what my wine/pastry preferences are.

      1. GMN*

        Had to comment on this because it is a fascinating insight into the cultural differences. I had the original comment that hugs actually wouldn’t be a big deal in my country/business culture, but the fun thing is that gifts of wine and pastries might be a bigger deal! Gift-giving in business is a mine field here and although I would accept a general vendor gift of generic company branded chocolates or whatever, I would feel obliged to turn down something that was thoughtful and tailored to my taste. The world is a strange place!

    16. Bea*

      Uh…no. I love hugs but being singled out for them in this context isn’t special. What an odd take on having your personal space violated. You shouldn’t tell others they should be okay with being touched when they’re not comfortable or to worry about making a scene. This is why multitudes of women and men are coming forward with stories of their own assaults over the years at work and professional settings.

    17. General Ginger*

      If I were the only one getting hugged in a meeting, I would wonder what the hugger’s motivation is, and what the heck vibe do I apparently put off that means it’s OK for people to hug me and only me. It would be even weirder to me than everyone being hugged — that I could actually accept much easier, because it means we’re in a warm enough relationship to all hug.

      1. no hugs please OP*

        That’s literally the conversation I had with my colleagues after that first meeting. I had stuck my hand out for a handshake, having seen everyone else get one, and was suddenly pulled into multiple hugs instead.

        1. Someone*

          They ignored your outstretched hand and pulled you into a hug!? MASSIVE boundary trampling!

          I can’t even tell you how mad that makes me! That little info makes it even more creepy and suggests to me that they have no respect for you – they might well just see you as a means to get touchy-feely with a woman.

          1. no hugs please OP*

            I will say the team members at the vendor are pretty equally split as male and female presenting, so it’s not _just_ the men, but it is… still not cool.

    18. Not a Mere Device*

      Yes, maybe something traumatic happened to the person who doesn’t want a hug. If you interact with more than a few people, you’re going to meet some who have been touched against their will. You’re also likely to meet people who are uncomfortable being hugged for purely physical reasons, and possibly for religious ones.

      If you’d speculate on “why doesn’t this person want a hug” if someone declined, it’s probably best not to offer: that sort of speculation is going to distract you from what you’re there to talk about, whether it’s a business deal or social conversation. Similarly, if you agree that nobody should have to hug a business acquaintance, and know that declining is likely to “cause bad vibes in the room,” that’s a reason not to offer hugs, and to support anyone who declines a hug or seems hesitant.

      I’m generally happy to hug my friends, but that doesn’t necessarily extend to strangers. It definitely doesn’t extend to strangers who would expect me to hug them but would offer my brother or husband a handshake. Also the casual acquaintance who says something like “don’t I get a hug” may startle or embarrass me into hugging him this time, but he’s also making it less likely that I will ever want to hug him, and I’ll feel less comfortable around him in general. It’s usually not a good idea to make your (actual or potential) clients , vendors, or coworkers uncomfortable dealing with you. We don’t always get to choose who we’re working with, but when I do, if a salesman makes me uncomfortable, I’ll go elsewhere.

    19. Delphine*

      This is one of the outcomes of our society’s failure to cultivate a fundamental respect for bodily autonomy. The default should be no touching without consent, so that when someone declines a hug they are not judged for it, speculated about, or potentially discriminated against. Saying no to a hug should never cause bad vibes.

    20. logicbutton*

      Well, if past trauma does happen to be why someone doesn’t want to be hugged, so what? Having trauma isn’t unprofessional.

    21. smoke tree*

      Although I do think the culture around this needs to change so that no one feels entitled to a hug from a stranger or colleague, I appreciate that there are some cases where the power dynamics make it more difficult to take a firm stance. But in this case, the OP is being hugged by vendors, so I think she’s definitely in a position to reset their expectations on this. They might be employing this technique to try to give the sense of warmer relationships with clients, and it could be a good reminder that many people won’t appreciate it.

    22. Jennifer Thneed*

      To be very extremely straightforward about it: when I hug someone, I can feel my breasts mash against their breasts or chest. They can feel that, too. That’s a thing I don’t want to have happen with someone I’m not related to.

      Now, having said that, there are many different styles of hugging. When I’m hugging, I tend to involve my whole body, which I think is less common? A common way for straight women to hug is “the triangle”, where you both lean forward and kind of only touch shoulders and and not torsos, and it only works with people of about the same height. I’m average height for a woman, so most times, if I hug a man, he’s taller than I am, and then we get back to the breast-mashing. Which, as noted above, makes me uncomfortable with someone who is not related to me by blood or marriage.

      I can’t speak to how straight men hug because I’m not one and don’t have any handy to ask, but honestly I suspect that they *don’t* hug in an average workplace.

    23. chomps84*

      Where do you live, GMN? I don’t think hugging is common in all parts of Europe.

      1. GMN*

        Scandinavia, so we are actually known for being quite reserved. I think the case might be that we have very flat power structures and informal work relationships – if I had successfully worked with a vendor for years and met them regularly I’d probably consider them a semi-friend, we’d likely be Facebook friends and have attended some social functions together, and then the hugging comes more naturally.

        Being professional is different here, it doesn’t require stringent work/life separation.

    24. Delaware Dixie*

      I agree completely. Is a hug really that abhorrent you can’t suck it up for a fraction of a second? I’m American but work at our London headquarters. Many of our vendors here hug but more often do the European double kiss thing (right cheek, left cheek), which was a bit culture shockish in the beginning, but now I find it rather charming. It just wouldn’t be worth it to me to embarrass someone (which I think happens) by begging off.

      1. Not a Mere Device*

        If it was always only a fraction of a second, unwanted hugs might be less disturbing. The people who push hugs on you, who wrap their arms around the colleague who has one arm extended for a handshake, who say “I am” and insist on hugging the person who has said “I’m not a hugger” are unlikely to let go in half a second.

        Try inverting that: Is a hug really so essential that you can’t suck up not being touched for half a second by an unenthusiastic acquaintance?

        Asking “can’t you suck it up?” about anything implies that the thing in question is unpleasant. It’s reasonable to make the calculation you have, that you aren’t bothered enough by a hug or a European double kiss to risk embarrassing someone by telling them not to. But that’s your calculation. If the OP felt the same way, she wouldn’t have written in.

  9. Czhorat*

    Op4 should probably tell their report that they are also searching. If I showed my boss a job posting and later found that they had applied If feel that I was inadvertently helping them to compete with me. By keeping your search private you take away their ability to choose not to help their competition and will possibly create hard feelings down the line.

    Most employees don’t tell their boss they are searching (I never have); if yours is trusting you then the honorable thing to do is tell them that the last posting looked interesting and you might throw your hat into that ring as well.

    1. OP#4*

      I actually have told her I’m searching. She knows I was interested in the position as well. We had a conversation about it and she expressed that she’d actually be pretty angry with me if I applied for this position, so I’ve decided to let it go. I have conflicting feelings about it, but ultimately I decided maybe it’s best if I don’t apply.

      1. Czhorat*

        That sounds very reasonable.

        So long as you both know I’d say everything is fair game. It’s good to be respectful and honest, which you are doing. You also do have every right to protect your own career over your report’s.

        Good luck to both of you!

      2. DJ Roomba*

        Not to be overly Machiavellian here, but unless this is a person you plan on staying in contact with (or if you’re in a small town/very small industry leading to constant future interactions) I say you’ve gotta take care of yourself first.

        Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider her feelings at all, but if she is applying for jobs just beyond her qualifications which you’d actually want, I don’t think you should have to bow out just because she’s told you about it first – your career shouldn’t be a “dibs” situation.

        Maybe the best thing you can do for your sanity and your relationship is to request that she doesn’t share any application details with you until she’s gotten past a few stages in the interview process (like the round before the final round) at which point you’ll have the heads up that your reference may be needed.

        Good luck!

      3. Sunflower*

        I think the best thing to do here is to agree to not discuss specific job postings with each other. It’s really the best way to avoid this kind of stuff happening.

        1. Seriously?*

          I think that is a great policy. That way there is never the perception of “stealing” a job that the other was applying for because there is no doubt you found the jobs independently.

      4. Anon Anon*

        That’s awful and unprofessional, referring to ‘and she expressed that she’d actually be pretty angry with me if I applied for this position.’ Do you work in retail?

        1. Specialk9*

          I actually think that was a reasonable honest example of actually using your words. They both know it’s kinda a dick maneuver. (Unlike, say, oh hey I independently saw and applied there too, that’s kinda awkward.) They talked about it like adults and the manager was respectful enough to listen and be swayed. I think that’s great.

          1. Anon Anon*

            I disagree. Does she own the job posting? Ha That employee seems off. Totally off. Can’t prevent others from applying to a job. My guess is they are in some sort of sales position currently with the odd and unprofessional behavior going on.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              It’s not that she owns the job posting. It’s that she trusted her manager enough to tell her that she is applying to X job (which would be a step up for her), and the manager did not find out about it independently – she would have applied BECAUSE the employee told her about it. This position would have been more of a lateral move for the manager. The employee then would have competition for a job she wants from a person that didn’t know about the job until SHE told them about it.

              You can’t prevent people from applying for a job, but when it’s a situation like this, it comes across as job-sniping.

              1. Seriously?*

                I agree. If my boss applied for a job that I told them I was applying for (and they had not seen the posting for) I would feel like it was a breach of trust. Are they wrong to do it? No. Moving forward would I want to share any information with them that was not strictly job related? No.

                1. Seriously?*

                  I probably also would not trust them to act as a reference since they have suddenly become the competition.

            2. Chameleon*

              The assumption that sales and retail are synonymous with unprofessional behavior is a little icky, honestly.

    2. Logan*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I have found some really neat job options and _if I applied_ then I have *not* told my colleagues about them, even when I knew they were searching. They had equal opportunity to find the posting, so I wasn’t being secretive, and I would have been happy for them if they found it on their own, applied, and succeeded. In other cases, when I didn’t care as much about the job, I was happy to mention it to others, even if I had applied.

      It sounds like this situation might be better if the employee doesn’t share any of their job postings with their boss. That way this conflict never arises.

  10. NYC Weez*

    OP#4: At OldJob, my manager and I were very open with each other about the fact we were both applying to other jobs. Because we have specialized skills, we often were looking at a handful of positions we both were qualified for.

    The way we handled it was that we looked at the listings together every morning, and then talked about which ones we each wanted to apply to. If we both wanted to apply to the same job, we did, and then genuinely took an attitude of “If I’m not right for the job, I hope it’s you!” We let each other know what the interview questions were, and any other info we had to share. It was great that we did this, as we’d applied to different positions at CurrentJob, and when I interviewed for the role I was interested in, management said “We don’t think you are right for this role but we want you for (job my manager had applied to)”. My manager knew I was being upfront and honest with him, and we looked at it as an opportunity to get one of us in the door to help the other. I felt very relieved we had been so open, as they didn’t call him as a reference…they did a phone screen for the job instead and just confirmed key details of my resume. If we’d been hiding our plans from each other, that could have caused real friction between us when I got hired a few weeks later.

    In this instance, I know the job sounds perfect for you. As Alison says, given that you have a good relationship that you want to preserve, being upfront now is WAAAY less awkward than not saying anything. My boss and I were very open with each other, and we would have said straight up “Hey, I was looking at that job and I was interested too. Would you mind if I applied as well?”, but Alison’s wording is fine if you don’t think your employee would be okay with it. The key thing is demonstrating that you are still cheering for your employee at the same time you want good news for yourself.

    1. Czhorat*

      I think the OP is probably making the right choice to not apply. Part of my bias files from working in a very small industry in which everyone quickly come to get to know everyone else; you only have one professional reputation, and this sort of thing can lead to the sorry if hard feelings that would damage it. Unless the position is a 100% perfect match for you then it’s most likely not worth the risk.

    2. Interviewer*

      OP#4 – I went through this myself several years ago. I worked with the other guy on the board of our professional org, and spent time with him at conferences and social events. He was a colleague and a good friend, and I did not want there to be any hard feelings between us. I had briefly considered not telling him unless I got an offer, but I decided to be transparent with him. And as I had hoped, he took the news gracefully, telling me he didn’t want this to come between us, and we wished each other best of luck.

      I actually ended up getting the job. He found another role and we have remained good friends the entire time.

      Reading AAM’s language was a blast from the past – I said the first & last sentences, and it worked for me. Only you know how well your direct report might take the news. Good luck to you.

  11. Quickbeam*

    #1 I hate hugging people I don’t know. I really don’t like it in a business context. I do a body block and put my hand out with a big smile. I don’t explain or apologize. People get it.

    1. No thanks*

      Yes. I think the further you stick out your hand the harder for them to go in for the hug.

    2. Specialk9*

      So how do you deal with people from cultures with smaller personal space bubbles? I’m American, and when talking to people from some Mediterranean cultures I was literally backing up to get more space and they kept following trying to get to what felt comfortable to them. I haven’t had that problem in awhile but I remember how awkward I felt!

      1. Joni*

        One thing I do is turn sideways, as if I’m looking out the window, down the hallway, etc, so we’re standing shoulder to shoulder. Somehow it bothers me less to be standing close beside them then to have them right in my face.

    3. Delphine*

      I have such a built-in aversion to hugging (without warning at least) that the last time it happened I ended up putting my hand on the guy’s chest to stop him because he was going for the hug so quickly and so out of the blue. I stepped back, stuck out my hand, and we shook. It was awkward, but better than the alternative!

      1. Quickbeam*

        I’ve grabbed the other person’s right biceps with my left hand if I feel someone is getting too aggressive. It allows me to control the distance. If you do it right it seems friendly enough like a 2 handed shake. If I was less averse to hugging I’d probably just put up with it but it seriously upsets me to have that kind of body contact with a stranger.

  12. HRM*

    I’m not big on hugging at work, but I don’t hate it enough to tell people not to. I pretty much never initiate but if someone else does, I’ll go along with it. I work in a functional area (HR) so I’ve worked in various industries – manufacturing, non profit, communications, etc. – all in the same area (NY) and I’ve noticed there are certain occasions where hugs are generally initiated and accepted by everyone (someone is leaving the organization, someone has had a hard situation in their personal life like a death in the family, someone is celebrating some kind of personal milestone like graduating from college or announcing an engagement, etc.) I would find it incredibly strange and off-putting if someone hugged me outside of these contexts unless they were a close work friend, especially a vendor – big WTF from me. My last workplace was more touchy feely than I’m used to and frankly, work boundaries were frequently blurred there to the point of close personal friendships and romantic relationships being very common and ultimately interfering with work – maaaaaybe not related but sure seems like it.

  13. peachie*

    #3: Do you (or could you) allow headphones in the office? It’s not a substitute for having a conversation and setting boundaries, but it can be an effective “don’t talk to me!” signal.

    At my last workplace, we moved from a more typical ‘closed’ office to a very, very open office. The COO didn’t like people wearing headphone in the old office (not heavily enforced, but still) but explicitly allowed it in the new office. Not only was it not distracting, it made it so much easier to be productive, not least because you could typically tell when someone was in “don’t bother me” mode.

  14. Ignatius Reilly*

    one time I clutched a holiday bag of popcorn to my chest (a gift from the higher-ups at the Christmas party) just to avoid hugs

    it reminded me of that Jack Handy deep thought — “To me, its always a good idea to carry two sacks of something when you walk … says, ‘Hey can you give me a hand?,’ you can say, ‘Sorry, got these sacks.'”

  15. stitchinthyme*

    Ugh, what IS it with people being touchy at work? I thought it was a workplace norm that you just do not touch your coworkers (or vendors, or clients) except in certain very specific situations, like handshakes, administering emergency aid, that kind of thing. Very occasionally I’ve hugged a coworker when they (or I) were leaving the company and it was someone I was especially close to, but that’s it.

    I mean, I have read arguments recently that we’re a touch-starved society (I’m speaking specifically of the US here), and that in some other countries there is way more casual touching, and that it would be better for us if people who weren’t intimately involved touched each other more, but I don’t think the place to start that is at work.

    1. Specialk9*

      The answer to touch-starved isn’t non-consensual touching. Nobody likes being touched against their will! Especially because usually that involves a negative underlying assumption of Less-Than (gender, race, age, disability, etc) by someone who is considered More-Than.

      1. Chameleon*

        Yes, this. People don’t usually go in for an uninvited hug with the CEO, but they feel it’s okay for the admin.

        1. no hugs please OP*

          I’ve noticed lately the exception to hugging is someone at the ED level. Quelle surprise.

      2. Been There, Done That*

        Agree. Another word for it is “groping,” three-piece suits notwithstanding.

    2. Delphine*

      There is certainly more touching in other countries–I lived in a country where it was very common for friends to hold hands, hang on to each other, kiss each others’ cheeks, etc. But a lot of it is built on a preexisting relationship and it’s rarely out of the blue. I don’t think business hugging would have been acceptable/considered normal in any of the countries I’ve lived in where physical affection was more common.

    3. Bea*

      I’m so unprofessional on multiple levels and thrive in small business for it. I’m a big hugger and snuggler, I have friends I lock arms with frequently and such. I’m still skeeved out by the idea of a vendor or client hugging me unless we’re exceptionally close. I’ll hug co-workers on the last day but make sure to ask and know them well enough. I wish people read body language better to avoid all the pushy boundary crossing and more than that just asked and took no for an answer.

      Some people don’t like being touched for medical reasons. PTSD is real, arrrrgh!!

  16. Glomarization, Esq.*

    OP#4: A few years ago, I applied for a job and, in a spirit of collegiality, suggested to an indirect report that they apply for it, too. Guess who actually got the job?

    I was a little salty for a while, but them’s the breaks. Apply for any and all jobs you think you’d be a good fit for.

  17. Sara without an H*

    OP#1: You say this started during your first meeting with the vendor’s staff, and you got hugs while your female coworkers were given (proper) handshakes. Maybe this was an attempt to be “welcoming” to you? Not that it excuses it, but it might explain it.

    Allison’s scripts sound workable to me, especially since you are the client in this situation, and smart vendor reps will adapt to your preferences. Don’t sell yourself short with any nonsense about “making a scene.” You’re not making a scene, you’re giving the vendor polite, professional feedback on how to relate to you.

    1. no hugs please OP*

      I couldn’t tell if it was because I was new or because I was the most junior person in the room. (Not that either excuses it, really.) I just thought it would go away when I moved up, not escalate and expand!

      I’ve got some good suggestions in the comments to try out that I think might work. So glad for the commentors and Allison’s scripts, as always.

  18. ShoshiPillow*

    I know its counter-intuitive, but instead of hiding behind the furniture or hoping that a perfectly timed fire drill allows your team to slip away un-embraced, I think you should AIM to hug-block your vendor at the beginning of your next meeting. Enter the room/office normally, expect your usual greeting, and take that early opportunity to decline any hugs but offer enthusiastic handshakes in their place (theres a ton of great advice for particulars upthread). Speaking as an expert in awkward social situations, I see two possible benefits:

    1. You get the awkwardness out of the way early. Hopefully, the subsequent warm and productive meeting will smooth over any feelings of unpleasantness. If you wait until the end, they’re left stewing on being hug-blocked and the possible implications going-forward. But if you start with that awkward moment, your friendly behavior throughout the rest of the meeting demonstrates that the professional relationship is still intact.

    2. You don’t spend the whole meeting distracted by strategizing how to hug-block your vendor. Once you’ve done it you (and your team, who I’m sure have picked up on any anxiety about this issue) can quit imagining thousands of different possible outcomes and just focus on the meeting.

    Good Luck!
    Due to trauma, I’m not personally comfortable being touched by strangers/acquaintances in such a familiar way. I know it can be difficult to turn-down certain displays of affection from someone you genuinely like, but you can do it!

  19. Blue Eagle*

    OP1 Two ideas to hopefully stop huggers.

    There was a self-proclaimed hugger at work who pushed away any handshakes till I stopped him in his tracks with “you remind me of my Grandma Bertha – – she was a big hugger”. And every time my co-workers and I observed him hugging anyone we would point to him, look at each other and say “Grandma Bertha”. After about a week of this, he stopped hugging people. YMMV

    Then there was the woman at a conference who refused to ignore the handshake signals. When she hugged my co-worker my co-worker yelled quite loudly “why are you squeezing me so tightly!”. She never refused the co-worker’s handshake after that. Again YMMV.

  20. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

    #2: I love sending people a couple of the questions I’ll be asking before a phone screen, and I don’t think I’d only limit it to junior positions (though those are the only ones I do any interviewing for lately). Sure, they shouldn’t *need* it as much, but being more senior doesn’t mean that you don’t also have anxiety around interviewing, or that you can think on your feet well. There’s no downside in my mind to offering a couple beforehand to anyone.

    So far, I actually have 2 questions I send in advance that I like to ask basically universally, regardless of the position: What is your biggest professional achievement, and Tell me about a time in the past when you’ve gone above and beyond to get results. I specify that folks should be prepared to dig deep into these 2 questions, and to not use the same example for both if possible. I’ve had (very good) 30 minute phone screeners where we basically talked about those 2 questions, the perfunctory intro “what made you interested in this job/what about this role made you think you’d be a good fit” and that’s it.

    1. OP #2*

      I think I will start giving some questions even for senior roles, because the questions help the candidate understand the expectations of the role. If you make the questions a bit more specific, it tells the candidate more details about what he will be doing. Eg.

      * “Tell me about your experience using and administrating Teapot Technology software”: tells the candidate that they will be using that software a lot in their jobs.
      * “Tell us about the most valuable customer you successfully signed, and how you approached selling the product to them,” tells the candidate the focus is on high-value customers.

      This is so important because many candidates don’t understand what the employer is looking for, so they sound like they lack needed skills (even if they actually have them). I have had interviews where the employer told me in advance, “We need someone with AWS experience”, so I prepared stories of the work I’ve done with AWS, and realized that I had more experience than I was even aware of.

  21. Puertorriqueña*

    OP 4, I think it would be really icky if you applied for the same job as your employee for several reasons:
    1. She showed you the ad first. I know you said you would have seen it anyway, but in this case she directed it to your attention first and it would just be so crappy for her to realize that she pretty much helped you take the job away from her. Not that it’s HER job, but still. You’re more qualified since you’re her manager I’m guessing and probably have an advantage over her for that reason.
    2. She clearly trusts you and sees you as a source for support, so applying for the same job that she showed you just seems gross to me.
    3. You’re her manager. This is different if you two were on the same level because hey, people on the same level in the same field are going to apply to the same jobs, especially when the field is small. But since you’re her manager, who she apparently looks to for support since she’s told you about the jobs she is applying to, you’re not really supporting her anymore if you take this opportunity away from her. And plus, you two are at different career levels. This would be a step up in her career and help her grow her career, while for you it would be a lateral move. It is more significant for your employee than for you, so it just seems mean to take away that chance for growth for more money. I know money is very important and I’m not discounting that, but there are other jobs you could apply for that are a step up for you and more money which she wouldn’t be qualified for.

    I know you’ve been job searching for a while and that sucks, but I really don’t think you should apply for the same job as your employee given these circumstances. If I were your employee and I found out you applied for the same job as me, whether you told me or not, I’d feel betrayed and I’d have a hard time using you as a reference or for support. Sorry if this sounds harsh, I definitely don’t mean for it to.

  22. Buu*

    OP4 to avoid this in the future, perhaps it’s best to tell your employee not to show you any further ads? I’m not sure if you want to admit you’re looking too, but it’d avoid this situation coming up again. If you end up applying for the same job it’d be up to the interviewer who is more neutral to handle it.

  23. pleaset*

    I don’t like hugging at all. But in my field it’s not rare, so I do it much more than I like. I wouldn’t if it was seriuosly creepy/sexual, but it’s usually not – it’s the body-away hugs. It’s work, and my dislike is not super-strong, so I do it.

    Ack, while writing this a colleague just gave me a hug.

  24. Noah*

    OP4 should only follow this advice if she isn’t too attached to her current job. Employee could easily go to OP’s boss about her being on the job hunt.

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