update: I accidentally hugged the CEO

One of my favorite letters ever was from someone who accidentally hugged her CEO in the elevator one morning. And now there’s an update!

I’m the reader who accidentally hugged her CEO. I heard your podcast episode on awkwardness and figured I’d send you an update. In short, everything turned out fine. My burning mortification has morphed into a hilarious party anecdote.

Your advice to address the issue head-on was tempting, but that would have meant seeking him out in his office on another floor. In the end I decided that would make it into a way bigger thing than it was. I opted for plan B instead and just proceeded as if the whole thing had never happened.

When I wrote in, I’d been at the company for just six months. Now it’s been over three years. I’ve worked directly with my hug victim on a few projects and am happy to report that it hasn’t been awkward at all. In the moment I’m usually too focused on the work and impressing the CEO to dwell on the fact that I once accidentally hugged him.

This week is actually my last at that company. I’m taking my talents and hug reflex elsewhere after landing an exciting job more closely related to my degree. When the CEO found out I’d resigned he came over to my desk, said he was sad to hear I’m leaving, and gave me a nice, professional pat on the back.

Thanks for printing my letter! Your delight in it gave me some much-needed perspective at the time.

{ 58 comments… read them below }

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Hahaha, me too. And it’s nice that OP did so well at the company that the CEO said she’d be missed (even nicer that he let her know).

    2. Sarah*

      Yes, me too, but I really delighted in the sentence, “In the moment I’m usually too focused on the work and impressing the CEO to dwell on the fact that I once accidentally hugged him.”

      1. OP*

        I almost didn’t write it, because my “update” is basically that nothing happened. Which I think past me would agree was the optimal outcome.

        1. That One Person*

          There’s something reassuring that small blips like this really aren’t as big as our minds can make them out to be though, and overall a nice update!

        2. Anony123*

          That was the ideal outcome. I would love it if you gave him a “clip on pencil hugger” as a joke in your way out. They have some really cute koala ones.

  1. fposte*

    Ha, I was just rereading this letter in the archives. I think many of us can totally imagine doing something like this on autopilot.

    1. Nita*

      This was the first AAM letter I ever read! I still remember cracking up at the stories in the comments.

  2. CatCat*

    “My burning mortification has morphed into a hilarious party anecdote.”

    This is as it should be :-D

    Glad things are going well for you, OP :-)

  3. BRR*

    I was looking something up in Alison’s new book today and reread this letter. What a coincidental (to me) and delightful update.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This is a delightful update!

    Good luck with your new job, OP. Try not to hug the new CEO :)

  5. MommyMD*

    I’ve rarely said to my ER patients on discharge “love you!” when I’m rushed and then just held my breath. It was just automatic as I say it to my kids every day. Fortunately they liked it and said “love you too!” But still. Yikes. Our actions sometimes are ahead of our brains.

    1. Mr. Tyzik*

      I was dropping off my checked bag and the counter agent told me to have a good flight. I automatically said, you too!

      Talk about wanting to crawl into a hole.

    2. Enough*

      I just recently told my dentist I love him. He’s about the age of my oldest and a person who is usually very upbeat and makes you smile. Made me realise that with the last of my children off on their own and none if them living close by that I may actually have a touch of empty nest going on.

    3. Katrinka*

      I caught myself recently from ending a work call with, “Love, you! Bye!” but thankfully did not. The coworker I was speaking to is a friend, so it wouldn’t have been too mortifying, but it was a close one.

  6. Shades of Blue*

    I, too, have hugged one of the big bosses on accident! It’s one of my favorite stories, haha.

    She does hug some of my other (also female) colleagues though…Oh well.

  7. PhyllisB*

    This reminds me of when I was in middle school (Jr. High in my day.) I was in Math class and the teacher called us up to the front to get back graded test papers. I was not happy with my grade, and just being silly, I bowed my head like I was crying and said something like, “Boo hoo!!” Well, wouldn’t you know I ran straight into a boy who was headed for the front, and he, and the rest of the class thought I was crying on his shoulder!! Nothing I could say would convince them otherwise, and being at the age we were this never became a friendly joke, but a reason to mock and make fun of me the rest of my time at this school. Now over 50 years later it’s funny, but it was not funny for the 2 1/2 years I had to hear comments about it. Glad yours turned out different!!

  8. Solidus Pilcrow*

    I was really tickled by the “You may also like” links that appeared. It’s like a story progression.
    I accidentally hugged the CEO – The first sign of trouble.
    employee won’t stop hugging people – Oh dear, it’s escalated. Maybe that first time wasn’t so accidental? *
    our group member has a fragrance sensitivity – and we’re supposed to be hugged to check for any scents – She’s turned serial!

    * OP, I know the original was an accident, I’m just making up a serial hugger story. :)

    1. Just Employed Here*

      Maybe hugging is contagious, like yawning!

      (I’m tired and have a cold and first wrote “like sneezing”. Sneezing can also be contagious, but not quite the same way as hugging and yawning…)

    2. Anoncorporate*

      This is awesome. Alison should add “hugging” to the list of categories. It’s frequent occurrence.

  9. Lisa B*

    I am running with the version where the CEO, en route to congratulate you and send you farewell, is mentally chanting “don’t reach out for a handshake, don’t reach out for a handshake, last time she thought you wanted a hug, you’re such an idiot, OMG just pat her on the back and get out of there.”

    1. Just Employed Here*

      It would be freaking amazing if the CEO would also be an AAM reader, and would write to Alison to confirm or deny this theory.

  10. Singin in the Rain*

    I loved this letter! I have a colleague who has a great story about a similar encounter with our great grand-boss. He comes from a culture that kisses on both sides of the cheek and we’re American so we definitely don’t do that. In the awkward shuffle of him trying to greet her and her not really knowing how to react, they accidentally kissed on the lips! It wasn’t full on, just a brush, but still – bless those awkward moments!

    I’m glad it worked out for you OP. In the scheme of things, an accidental hug isn’t that bad!

  11. Emily S.*

    OP, thanks so much for the update! It sounds like things turned out well for you, and that’s good to know.

    Best of luck in your new position!

  12. Johanna*

    I once was waiting at the photocopier and absentmindedly was swinging my arms backwards, and managed to ‘cup’ the (short) CEO’s Genitalia very briefly with my hand who just happened to be walking up behind me.
    Complete mortification- other staff saw and they all had a very good laugh. The CEO was very awkward with me for ages

    Ahh good times

    1. misspiggy*

      Oh my goodness. I think that’s the best yet. Congratulations for raising the bar of awkward workplace intimacy stories!

  13. The Original Karen from Finance*

    Oooh I remember the original letter! I’m so glad there was a happy ending and congrats to you OP on the new position.

    I started a new job last year and my boss hugged me on the first day. I didn’t think twice about it–actually only until today since this update. We’re both women though and come from cultures big on hugging (despite being totally different-ha!).

    In my mind though, your last meeting with the CEO ends a bit differently. He comes to you to say goodbye. He bids you farewell and you two stand in a moment of awkward silence. Then, CEO extends his arms and says “come on, bring it in for old times sake”, not in a creepy way, and you both find this funny and laugh.

    (AAM Commentators this last bit is a joke. I do not suggest the CEO actually wanted to hug OP in reality)

  14. Memyselfandi*

    There is something about the way this letter is written that I really respond to. OP, you have a nice writing style. And, you sound like a really nice person as well.

  15. Tonya*

    In high school or college, I was running through the Minneapolis airport to catch a connecting flight. I passed a familiar face and greeted them with a “Hi John!” and kept running. Even though my hometown is in a neighboring state, most flights usually went through MSP so it wasn’t that odd to see someone that you knew near the gate. I think I thought it was a friend’s parent or a neighbor but once I got to my connecting flight, I realized it was our state senator. He was familiar from TV ads! This letter reminded me of that cringe-worthy memory.

    1. Marthooh*

      Not cringeworthy! It’s different with politicians — Senator John was no doubt delighted to get positive feedback from a voter.

    2. Anoncorporate*

      I actually don’t think this is that bad!

      This actually reminds me – I did a summer internship in D.C. in college, and had a meeting in one of the Senate buildings on Capitol Hill. I was waiting for the conference room to clear out, and saw a man walking a small dog on a leash. The cute little dog ran towards me. Delighted, I crouched down to pet the dog, squealing “OMG your dog is sooo cute!” The man gave me a friendly smile, let me pet his dog, and walked into his office. It turns out he was the senator of Minnesota at the time, and I didn’t greet him professionally whatsoever.

  16. MissDisplaced*

    Your CEO sounds like a pretty nice guy. You probably kind of made his day that day (not in a creepy way) just in a “well she’s friendly” way.

  17. Bowserkitty*

    When the CEO found out I’d resigned he came over to my desk, said he was sad to hear I’m leaving, and gave me a nice, professional pat on the back.

    I don’t know why this made me laugh so hard internally!!

  18. Anoncorporate*

    This is hands down one of my favorite update letters ever. Now she can look back at that incident and realize how much she has grown, and how it was a cute embarassing mistake.

  19. chersy*

    Fun update to a very hilarious, but relatable letter (it’s one of the few AAM letters I have bookmarked when I need a laugh. Sorry, OP, but I can imagine myself doing the same or at least being very awkward at the big bosses. LOL at “hug victim” and “hug reflex” ). Good luck!

  20. Novellaidea*

    Over a decade ago I interviewed for a job. It went well, and when we all stood up I extended my hand for a handshake. The CEO opened his arms and without thinking I stepped in and hugged him.

    I got the job!

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