I don’t want to fist-bump my coworker multiple times a day

A reader writes:

This seems so petty and insignificant in the grand scheme of things but it’s bugging me and I’m not sure how to handle it.

Fergus is my peer and we have the same title and work in the same department. Broadly speaking, we’re supervisors in customer service. Part of our job involves walking around to ensure that no one needs help answering difficult questions for our clients. So we’re frequently mobile and moving around between desks.

My issue is that Fergus will, at least a couple of times a day, come over and offer his hand for either a fist-bump or high-five during his interactions with me. He does this with everyone as far as I can tell — men, women, young, old, direct reports, peers, etc. There’s no rhyme or reason. Sometimes it’s part of a “Hey, great job!” recognition but other times it’s just part of him saying “I’m leaving for lunch now” or there’s no reason at all, he just comes by and sticks his hand out.

I don’t want to be a stick in the mud because I’m positive his intentions are pure and it’s just part of his way of communicating, but I truly do not want to make physical contact with any of my coworkers beyond the occasional necessary handshake. Social conventions make me feel obligated to return the gesture but I’m internally rolling my eyes as hard as possible while doing so. However, I’m at a loss on how to decline to participate in this without sounding like a complete jerk. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

A couple of times a day??

If it were, like, a couple of times a month or even once a week, I’d tell you to think of it the same way you would a handshake, where it would generally come across as rude to refuse (aside from the obvious exceptions, like sickness).

But a couple of times a day is weirdly frequent, and you can opt out.

Next time he sticks out his hand for a fist bump or high five or whatever, try saying, “You know, I’m not really a fist bumper” or “I’m not a big high fiver.” And then follow it up with something else so that statement isn’t just hanging between you in silence. The whole thing might sound like, “You know, I’m not really a fist bumper — but have a great lunch!” or “You know, I’m not really a high fiver, but yeah, I’m excited that we’re publishing the paper!”

(This approach is suitable for unwanted hugs, too — “I’m not a hugger but it’s great to see you,” etc.)

Say it matter-of-factly and cheerfully. You want your tone to convey “this is just a useful thing to know about me … and also, I still like you,” not “you have offended me by trying to touch my skin.”

You might have to do this a couple of times before the message sinks in, but I bet he’ll get the message after the second time.

He might think you’re a little weird, but hey, you already think he’s a little weird so maybe that’s okay.

And if you’re concerned about him thinking you’re being chilly, make a point of counteracting that by being purposefully warm to him in other ways — say something genuinely enthusiastic about the thing he wants to high-five you for, ask him how his day is going when you see him in other contexts, compliment some work he did that you genuinely like, and so forth.

{ 242 comments… read them below }

  1. No Mercy Percy*

    Wow. I’d be really annoyed by that too. Solid advice from Alison, I’m keeping it in mind if I ever run into something like this.

  2. Seifer*

    I laughed out loud at “you have offended me by trying to touch my skin.” That’s me! But this is probably more polite, so definitely going to do this instead, and saving that one liner for only the most dire of situations.

    1. Not Me*

      Me too! That was the only script I plan to memorize and use from this letter and response :)

  3. pleaset*

    The fact that he does this with everyone sort of makes me smile. It’s VERY VERY annoying but in clueless and insouciant way.

    I hope he can dial it back to a reasonable level (once every couple of weeks in situation of celebration) without losing the nutty essence of the gestures.

  4. Joshua*

    I don’t disagree with Alison’s advice. I don’t know the OP’s location or the context, but I do want to add that it might be worth thinking about this through a cultural lens. I work in an industry that is predominantly POC in the US, and a fist bump is often used as a hello instead of a handshake. Several times a day is a little odd – but, I have coworkers that do it 1x a day when they walk by my desk in the morning to say hi. Not saying this changes Alison’s advice. But, I think it’s helpful to think about the different layers that might be involved to ensure we are being sensitive. I’m not much a fist bumper either – but, I find it helpful to adapt to my coworkers communication style in the benefit of overall team building.

    1. Dahlia*

      This is very true. And perhaps it would be wise for commenters to, for instance, not call frequent fist-bumpers “crazy” or other ableist insults for having different cultural norms.

      1. nona*

        Who is calling it crazy? I’m only seeing weird.

        And…if fist-bumps are equivalent to handshakes, this would be an abnormal frequency of handshake occurrences for coworkers whom you see everyday.

        1. Dahlia*

          Someone upthread literally says “nutty” and other people compare Fergus to dogs which is a whole ‘nother thing if he is a POC

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There is no evidence that he is a POC and this is becoming speculative. It’s been flagged as a thing to think about if in fact racial differences are in play, and now I ask that we move on.

          2. fposte*

            I’m the one who made the dog comparison, and I definitely regret it now the point has been made about the possibility of racial differences, which I hadn’t seen when I posted.

            1. Avasarala*

              For what it’s worth I don’t think your comparison was problematic. He is friendly and overeager, traits which have nothing to do with the problematic comparison Dahlia is talking about. Fist bumping several times a day is excessive for any cultural group.

    2. carla*

      That’s still . . . once or maybe twice a day, maybe as hello and good bye. I don’t think this is really a big deal, but several times a day still seems like a bit much.

      1. Joshua*

        Not disagreeing the frequency is a bit odd. I just wanted to call out possible this additional context. I have coworkers that use it as a greeting the first time they see me in the day as a greeting. And occasionally after a meeting – it’s a sign of good work or support. While not always, it certainly can be a cultural communication device.

    3. hbc*

      In the workplace (and in life in general), physical contact requires both people to want it to take place for it to be acceptable. So if we’re projecting that OP hates fistbumps and high fives but would welcome twice-daily proper Anglo handshakes, then she can still say that’s the only way she wants to do them. Fergus then can decide whether to do handshakes or nothing, but neither of them get to force the other into the particular physical contact they’d prefer, no matter their respective cultures.

      1. Joshua*

        I didn’t imply that anyone should force any kind of physical contact or be forced to take part. I also clearly said that I support Alison’s advice. I’m just stating that there might be more nuanced cultural meaning at play, and it is useful to recognize and think about that when analyzing communication differences.

    4. Louisa*

      I was going to say something similar. These little gestures often have culture attached to them, including aspects such as race or class. I would be wary of making somebody feel like a perfectly normal and natural part of their interaction is somehow peculiar or unprofessional. To many, a fist bump is the equivalent of a friendly nod in passing. Not even necessarily a greeting, in the way a handshake is, and possibly almost subconscious because Fergus may just be acknowledging his colleagues existence in the manner that comes most naturally to him.

      That said, we as humans also have a right to decline physical contact as and when we wish. For example, some Muslim women prefer not to shake hands with men. I’d treat this similarly – like this is a “your preference” thing, not a “Fergus, that’s weird” thing. Nice and respectful, on all fronts.

      1. Observer*

        Definitely worth treating as a “me” thing rather than a “you’re weird” thing. But, I think the cultural issue is being overplayed a bit here. If it were just fist bump / high fives instead of a good morning handshake, I would react to the OP with “It’s probably a culture thing. You really should just deal with it.” But the problem is the FREQUENCY. Several times a day is a LOT, and is also a lot less likely to be a culture difference.

        The OP does clarify that in this case probably none of it is cultural, but I’m talking about the overall concept.

    5. The OP*

      OP here! I can say definitively that it’s not cultural in this case but I appreciate the perspective. It’s much more this person trying maybe a little too hard to be engaging and connect with everyone. The intent is pure which is why I’ve found it difficult to push back.

      1. Close Bracket*

        “this person trying maybe a little too hard to be engaging and connect with everyone”

        Can you tell us more about how this fits in with not wanting to make that much physical contact? If he were making a contactless greeting like a wave or a finger gun, would that be just as annoying? A lot of readers tend to latch on to the contact portion of a problem like this bc many of us don’t like being touched. I want to be sure I understand whether the problem is the “touching” part or the “trying to hard” part (or both?).

        1. Mag Cro*

          Not OP, but when it comes to the fist bumper in my office, I’m more bothered by the obligation to physically respond. I need to take my hands off the keyboard and bump a fist. A simple head nod or smile is easier and less distracting.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            ^This. It’s more disruptive to do a handshake, fist bump, high five than a quick greeting or a smile. I can type and smile, I can’t type and high five. I personally enjoy waving.

            However, I also just really don’t want to be touched that much. I am strongly not a Touch-y person. But – what will annoy me first is the “stop what you’re doing right now and physically respond to me, and only me, right at this second” fist bump, which could have also been communicated in a quick verbal “Hey! We’re/You’re/They’re awesome! ”

            (A finger gun would be hilarious to me, not going to lie.)

      2. DJ Roomba*

        Next time he offers you his fist to bump, please furrow your brow in confusion and then shake his fist as if you were shaking his hand.

        Or you can offer a thumbs up?

    6. Working Mom Having It All*

      I had the same thought. LW knows what their own cultural milieu is, but also… in this particular case, they actually might not.

      The way white people got alarmed when the Obamas fist-bumped during the 2008 presidential campaign comes to mind here.

      Then again, as a white person who tries to be Aware Of All Culturally Sensitive Workplace Issues, honestly I’d be irked by that much high-fiving. So I still think Allison’s advice is pretty close to spot on.

    7. carrots and celery*

      Look, these types of comments are more about performative wokeness than actually solving issues and it’s exhausting that we can’t even have comments about any issue anymore without people trying to out woke each other.

      I don’t think it’s helpful to speculate about something the LW didn’t mention just so we can bring up a very small chance that your experience is also the LW’s experience because, as we’ve seen in past letters, that is rarely the case.

      1. Dahlia*

        Do you really find the concept of “other people have different experiences from you and it’s not a bad idea to take that into consideration” exhausting?

    8. NotTheSameAaron*

      I don’t see a lot of fist-bumps, but when I do it’s usually between close acquaintances, and usually as either a quiet high-five or a way of confirming that you’re leaving to do something.

    9. big X*

      Even if Fergus is a POC, it’s not the fist-bump action that is the problem, it’s the frequency.

  5. Thomas*

    FWIW, fist bumps are way less likely to transfer bacteria than handshakes: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fist-bump-better-handshake-cleanliness-201407297305

    So, if you’re opposed on hygiene grounds, that may be helpful info. I mean, this guy’s definitely doing it too much, but if you want to avoid even the low level of awkwardness her response entails, maybe that will help you reduce strain on your eyeroll muscles, and/or avoid having your eyeballs get stuck in the rolled position.

    1. pleaset*

      I’m a guy so can only comment from that perspective, but in terms of unwanted contact fist bumps seem way less invasive to me than hugs and handshakes.

      Really, if you accept handshakes, I don’t see the objection to fist bumps as a form of contact. The problem with this guy is the frequency not the gesture.

      1. Mongrel*

        “Really, if you accept handshakes, I don’t see the objection to fist bumps as a form of contact. The problem with this guy is the frequency not the gesture.”

        I think it’s because I’ve always (rightly or wrongly) associated fist bumps with the toxic ‘Bro culture’.

        1. pleaset*

          Good point. But then it’s worth being clear it’s about the culture, and not the invasiveness of the contact. And in that case, be aware that fist bumps have some connections to black culture in the US.

          1. Mongrel*

            I’m not in the UK, so it’s mostly filtered through US mainstream culture, and I dislike both the invasiveness of it and (my) perception of it’s origins. I also think it lacks dignity for anyone over the age of 25ish (and I’m way past that)
            At best you’ll get a “yeah… I don’t do that” without pulling out my list of justifications.

    2. pcake*

      Yeah, but how many co-workers shake your hand two to four times per day, every day? That’s not workplace norm, either.

  6. Irish*

    I have a coworker that’s just like this. He’s a young millennial that *acts* like a millennial—fist bumps all the time, tries to ALWAYS converse in forced slang and dorky humor, and it feels so unprofessional and desperate. Sending emails to anyone in or out of the company that use the words “DANK” or “THENKS FAM” or “DOPE BRUH” is not only unprofessional, it’s just plain annoying. Then he carries that bad habit over into every single conversation and it just sends me over the edge. His intentions are always good and he’s good at his job, and it would hurt his feelings so much to correct him, but it drives me insaaaaaaane.

    1. Le Sigh*

      “fist bumps all the time, tries to ALWAYS converse in forced slang and dorky humor” — feels less like a millennial and more like some of my older colleagues who think they’re being hip when they do this.

      1. Eukomos*

        Yeah, I realize us older millennials are getting up there but I don’t think most of us have hit this level of awkward dad slang attempts yet. Honestly I feel like millennials tend to be a little more formal than older people, if anything, we tend to be very invested in boundaries and where and how they should be properly constructed.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          As someone a couple generations previous, I think this might be a reaction to the general disrespect of the 1950’s and 1960’s. I didn’t like it either.

      2. College Career Counselor*

        I do this with my teenage children. Nothing like a parent using current youth slang to make them go out and invent some new term.

          1. AKchic*

            It’s wonderful. I’m an Elder Millennial. My kids are at the tail end of Millennial and firmly into Gen Y / iGen. I keep up with the new terminology because it irritates them. We also do the ren fair and a few other re-enactment bits so I can drop a blending of slang from medieval to current and everything in between and really confuse the average listener.
            At work, though? No. We do not use slang terminology at work.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Agreed re slang at work. I did make one exception to this, to teach everyone on my team “because reasons” simply because it’s so useful as a catchall “yes, I did do this for a reason, but I don’t want to get into the whole spiel right now, just trust me on this and let’s move on.”

              I didn’t explain its origins, though. Not a can of worms I wanted to open in the office.

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                This makes me laugh because we use, “because…reasons” when we are talking about some weird thing our company is doing thanks to some stupid, undisclosed and usually ill though out decision from upper management. They are big fans of making decisions that look great from their perspective, but give no thought what-so-ever to how it will affect the rank and file, so… reasons.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  Every so often a student will ask me a question where the answer boils down to “it just is/we just do”, so in those cases I typically shrug and say “Because English.” Luckily they usually find this amusing.

            2. Environmental Compliance*

              I’m 11 years older than my sisters. It is my favorite thing in the world to mis-use their ‘new slang’ or just use very dorky slang around them….it irritates the heck out of the older one and the younger one finds it hilarious.

              At work there’s a handful of us that use the more innocuous slang sarcastically. There’s another coworker that’s a Millennial (as am I, technically), and we like to blame things breaking on Those Darn Millennials Destroying Industries.

        1. Acornia*

          Yep. If there’s a slang term my kids use that reeeeeaaaaaalllly grates, I start using it. Works like a charm.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My boss had an expression she used and it just was Not Good. (No it did not involve a protected class. I could have just said something if it did.) The expression was jarring. So I started using the expression also. ha! It was jarring when I said it also, imagine that. Well, problem solved. Sometimes seeing something mirrored back at us, is a better explanation than words can give.

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        Yeah my first thought is that this guy is secretly 50 but knows he looks young for his age, so he feels like if he peppers his speech with millenial-speak, people will think he’s still in his 30s.

    2. ESP*

      Do you work in a casual office? Otherwise, I’d assume that someone would have mentioned it to him or his boss. I personally would be annoyed, but others might not really care – depending on his personality, the industry, and your general office environment.

      About 15 years ago, I used to write Thanx instead of Thanks at the end of my emails. I thought it made me sound more friendly, since my communications tended to sound very formal for the most part. But, I also worked at a small local branch of a kid focused non-profit organization. When I left to work at an insurance brokerage, I stopped using Thanx. No one mentioned it; it just felt wrong in the new context.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I had a boss who wrote “TY”. Maybe it was the lateness in the day, maybe it was the incredible work load but I could not figure out what TY meant. Finally, one day I realized it meant thank you. All I could think was, “For the incredible amount of work we do for this place, you cannot even right out the words “thank you”?
        Yet another of the many times where I have confused “symptom” with “problem”. It wasn’t the inability to write out the words “thank you” that actually bothered me.

    3. GlassShark*

      You know the oldest millenials are pushing 40 years old, right? To paraphrase a previous AAM post: keep that millenial-hate up a few more years and you may face discrimination laws (age discrimination starts at 40)!

      1. Irish*

        Yes yes I know, I’m also a millennial. I more so meant that he acts like the stereotype of millennials that gets thrown around a lot. Should have clarified.

        1. AMT*

          I am also a millennial and I got what you were saying. There is definitely a brand of thirtysomething dork-bro who thinks this kind of thing makes work more fun and casual. It doesn’t, at least for me. It makes me feel like I have to be this person’s audience.

  7. hbc*

    In these kinds of circumstances, I tend to not worry too much about whether the person I’m dealing with will think I’m a jerk (I can’t control that), but whether the average person he complains to will think I’m a jerk.

    “OP is the worst, she wouldn’t fistbump me!!” “Huh, why not?” “She said [it’s not her thing/she was limiting herself to one a week/random Tuesday lunch isn’t enough of a reason/whatever].” “…And this is a problem because…?”

    Though personally, I would go for the more outrageous, obviously false reasons not to do it. “My cousin died in a fist-bumping accident” or “Sorry, I can’t, court order.”

    1. Moray*

      I’m a fan of using the phrase “I’ve met my quota” cheerfully.

      It’s not saying that what they’ve been doing was wrong, just gently telling them that it’s time for it to stop.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is what I was thinking also. “Whoops, I can only do one fist bump a day. So I am at my limit for the day. We can come back to this tomorrow.”

        I do like Alison’s idea of “I am just not into fist bumps.” This type of statement ends it for once and for all.

        The guy does seem to need that connection. It could be his personal need OR it could be some kind of mission. Perhaps he sees the office as not particularly friendly or cohesive and this is his idea of how to build a different dynamic. You don’t have to play along if you don’t want to, OP.

        If you don’t mind stirring things you could ask him, “I see you fist bumping everyone. I was wondering why.” You could add, “I don’t see anyone else doing this.”

  8. Suzy Q*

    I hate Fergus, so much. I had a brief job where a supervisor did this. It felt infantilizing and demeaning, even though it was meant to be supportive.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      No details, but I was the only American in a very not-American setting (in NYC) once a week for a while, and the director of the program would always, Always, ALWAYS high-five me–and only me–as both hello and goodbye. I wanted to kill her. But it was just her deep deep dork and thinking all Americans high five all the time, even plump middle-aged white ladies.

  9. Pretzelgirl*

    When I worked in sales a lot of the male supervisors and high sales earners would do this. It was the same situation it was done to everyone, and never singled anyone out. Potentially non-threatening, albeit annoying. I think Allison’s advice is good hear.

    I will be honest I would worry about coming across as a stick in the mud, or the only one in the office that wouldn’t do it. But maybe if you communicate you don’t like it, it will make him stop and think about it. Or others will follow suit and ask him to reign it in a bit.

    1. pleaset*

      Just tell him “Brah, save the dap for when I REALLY nail it. Today was just doing my job. Peace.”

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      Fist bumping was definitely a thing when I worked in SaaS sales. Never any malice, just a thing the sales people did. That being said, multiple times a day seems excessive for sure especially if there is no rhyme or reason. We usually limited fist bumps to big sales demos, client pitches and closed deals and then when the client check cleared (the most important fist bump haha.)

      It’s definitely a ‘know your audience’ thing the sales coordinator I worked with was not even remotely interested in fist bumps. She would just matter of factly say, “Oh, I’m not a fist bumper but congrats on xyz.” If that didn’t do the trick she would escalate to saying that she was just a bit of a germaphobe and that always nipped it in the bud.

      What she did that was great though would be to throw an occasional air high five when the team did something good. It was a perfect compromise for our sales team and she always made a big production of it which was great. It helped that we were all fans of The Office which always resulted in us all chuckling quite a bit.

  10. Consultant Liz*

    I would kind of make it a joke (as I did with my co-workers and hugs). Like dude fist bumps are a big thing – let’s save them for Fridays or big celebrations or whatever. Or my knuckles bruise easily, just make it a joke. Now my coworkers laugh about me not being a hugger but they are often honored when I do hug – like after returning from a 6 month leave.

  11. Yvette*

    Could you always have your hands full when you are walking around? Mug in one hand, files in another?

  12. Bill*

    Long-time reader, first time disagree-er! I think OP should just relax about it. I mean, 99% of the people I know would LOVE for this to be the most irksome thing about their job.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I’ve had people who care about me show that by hugging me. I don’t really like hugs, especially when it’s people I don’t know super well in my personal space.

        Hugs are different from fist bumps, but my bigger point is that just because someone feels they’re showing they care doesn’t mean someone doesn’t get to be put-off by it. Whether they put up with it is up to them, but they don’t have to just because someone cares.

      2. BethRA*

        Know what else is a sign that you care about someone? Respecting their boundaries – and OP is simply looking for a respectful way to communicate theirs.

        Nowhere does OP say this is the most irksome thing about their job, or even that Fergus is an irksome person.

    1. JJ*

      Great, then 99% of the people you know can enjoy it. But, for the 100% of people you don’t know, the multiple times a day fist bump may be very bothersome and they shouldn’t have to relax and accept it if it bothers them. And really, it is not unreasonable to want to opt out of that. 100% of the people I know would agree with me.

    2. pentamom*

      But the rule for whether we want to address something is not, “Is the worst thing I might ever have to put up with, and if it’s not, I shouldn’t care.” LW seems quite aware of the fact that it’s not the worst possible thing, and even that it’s well meant, but it’s just annoying. And why should LW put up with the annoyance if there is a tactful and appropriate way to get him to dial it back, simply because it’s not the worst thing she might have to face, or as bad as what other people have to put up with?

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If you don’t like touching, then you don’t need to get over it or chill out. Others need to adjust.

      So I’m not here for that part of your comment.

      I do agree it’s no big deal in the scheme of things and the letter even starts with the fact it’s pretty low stakes but it’s bothersome. So they just need to follow the advice of rejecting the contact in a professional manner and everyone can be happy. If someone says they don’t fist bump, I say “Cool, no worries, I’ll try to file that info away for next time. It’s a habit so I may need to be reminded/rejected a few times to remember :)”

      1. JediSquirrel*

        If you don’t like touching, then you don’t need to get over it or chill out. Others need to adjust.

        This. Entirely this.

        This is part of what being a grown adult is, and what we spend endless years teaching children to do. If Ruth doesn’t like creamer in her coffee, don’t put creamer in her coffee. If Jack is gluten intolerant, don’t insist he have a piece of the birthday cake just because it will make you feel better. Manners and etiquette are about making people comfortable, even if you have to miss out on performing some weird behavior that you enjoy.

        Excellent script, as well, TM,BL. I’m tucking that one into my bag of management techniques.

    4. Gravy trainer*

      Never, in the entire history of humanity, has “just relax about it” been useful or kind advice.

      1. Adalind*

        This. I wish we could just strike it from use forever. Never once has someone relaxed after being told to relax.

    5. Kathleen_A*

      I enjoy both giving and receiving an enthusiastic “Hi!” But more than once a day? For no particular reason? No. The OP conceded that it’s a fairly minor thing, but since when can’t something be both minor and annoying? Besides, if it’s that minor, it should be a fairly minor thing to correct, too. The coworker wants to be pleasant and supportive, I’m sure, so it would be in his best interests to find a less odd way to do so.

      Also, I of course don’t know the OP nor the OP’s coworkers, but I can nonetheless promise you that the OP isn’t the only one who finds this at least slightly annoying.

  13. Koala dreams*

    It also works to offer an alternative: I don’t do fist-bumps but I’ll gladly wave/shake hands/hug (choose whatever you are comfortable with).

    1. pleaset*

      I think it’s worth referencing Joshua’s comments above about cultural aspects if trying to substitute hugs or sharking hands or other physical contact for this one. Fist bumps are actually less intimate/touchy than hand shakes and certainly hugs.

      I’m personally not a fan of the fist bump, but trying to switch it to another form of contact seems odd. Really, to me the frequency is the problem.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I actually like fist bumps and would love to do them instead of shaking hands, but I don’t want to do any of that with people I work with more than, like, a couple of times a year.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I also use the fist bump as an alternate option for little kids who aren’t feeling the hug but have pushy parents who insist. (You’re welcome, nephew, I never really wanted to hug my weird auntie either.)

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I am fine with the fist bump instead of shaking hands. But that’s not really the issue here, is it? Because whether it’s fist bumps or high fives or handshakes, this guy is just doing it too frequently.

      2. Jennifer*

        I agree. I’d actually rather fist bump than shake hands. It feels less intimate and more casual.

      3. a1*

        But it’s a couple of times a day. More than normal, sure, but hardly constant nor as numerous as many are making it out to be. But 2-3 times in 8+ hours? eh, I’d write it off as a quirk. That said, of course I agree that if OP doesn’t like it, they don’t like it, and that’s fine and definitely bring it up. But I just don’t get why so many commenters are acting like the frequency is really that high.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know that there’s an objective measurement for “high” in that situation–it may be that Fergus has already dialed it back and in his social time he fist bumps more than that–but for me it’s high. And maybe I’d get to like it and seek fist bumps in return. But if I don’t like it, it’s high, same as it would be with shoulder pats, let alone handshakes.

        2. Yorick*

          I don’t think I have high fived a coworker in 3 years. Maybe once or twice. I probably shook hands with my boss once, but I’m not even sure about that. If someone wanted to high five me (or fist bumb or shake hands or whatever) multiple times a day, it would feel really bizarre.

        3. Friday afternoon fever*

          2-3x a day actually sounds really disruptive. Situationally dependent, sure but i would write it off as a quirk I’d want to stop participating in by day 2.

          1. a1*

            It’s not like he’s running up to her desk, fistbumping and leaving. These seem to be during or at the end of conversations or meeting. Still odd, though, like I said.

        4. Jadelyn*

          Imagine if it was shaking hands, though. If you had a coworker who wanted to shake hands at the beginning or end of multiple conversations a day, I feel like most of us would pretty quick start being like “Dude, come on, I literally just saw you half an hour ago, do we need to do this again?”

      4. Koala dreams*

        It’s still nice to offer an alternative, even if the other person don’t take you up on it, in the sense of “I’m not rejecting your greetings, just prefering a different one”. I feel shaking hands or fist-bumps are the same level of contact, while waves are less and hugs more intense. Apparently the order differs among us commenters!

        1. pleaset*

          “I feel shaking hands or fist-bumps are the same level of contact,”

          They’re not. Fist bumps are less in two ways – they’re less actual contact and for a shorter period of time.

    2. Observer*

      For someone who finds the fist bump too much offering a handshake or a hug(!) instead makes no sense whatsoever. It’s like saying “Please don’t squirt me with a water gun, because I don’t like getting wet. Instead sprat me with a garden hose.”

      1. Close Bracket*

        “makes no sense whatsoever.”

        Makes no sense whatsoever *to you*. Koala dreams is allowed to have her touch preferences even if they don’t make sense to you.

        1. Observer*

          I’m not referring to Koala Dreams preferences. I am referring to the idea that someone who has a hard with too much (for them, at least ) from a FIST BUMP, which is as minimalist as you get with any physical contact, is going to do better with a hug – the most touch heavy of all greetings.

  14. Nate D*

    I have never commented but wanted to chime in here. Fist bumping and high fives are a way of building community. Sure if you don’t like them do as Alison says, but honestly people work harder for people they are connected with. In a giant mega Corp a bump is a reminder I know who you are and care about you. Obviously I am different than a lot of folks responding to this post, but Is a fist bump that taxing?

      1. Kathleen_A*

        No, it’s not taxing…but it’s not a magical way “build connections,” either. “Hi, how are yous,” fist bumps, “happy birthdays,” hand-shakes, hugs….all fine in the right place and at the right time with the right people. But all the time with every coworker? No. Just no.

          1. Close Bracket*

            You don’t have to see the big deal. You do have to respect the preferences of a person who prefers less touch than you do whether you see the big deal or not.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                And this is the question behind many of the world’s problems. If someone does not know, then they cannot correct their course.

                I have usually figured if I have a recurring problem then I must speak up OR find a work-around for that problem. What is helpful for me here, is figuring out what is a priority for me and what is not a priority. I could see myself making a joke with Fist Bumper, “Oh, every time I see you we have to bump fists? What’s up with that?” I could say that each time he approached for a fist bump. I would find it annoying from the angle of interrupting my work. And if I had to routinely set things down to fist bump I’d probably tell him this is not doable for me to keep setting things down.

    1. AnotherPerson Here*

      It’s unwanted physical contact multiple times a day, so yes, for some people, it really is that taxing.
      You may not realize that, for many women, we are constantly monitoring our bodies and other people’s because folks tend not to respect our boundaries, physical and otherwise. So for someone to assume/demand regular physical contact – even *just a fistbump* – is a pretty big deal.

      1. Avasarala*

        Oh goodness, let’s not drag women and respecting our boundaries into this. That elevates this to the equivalent of assault when it’s really more of a greeting preference. This is a level 1 issue requiring a level 1 response, not a level 10.

    2. JJ*

      A fist bump is supposed to say you know who I am and care about me? If you really knew who I was and cared about me, you wouldn’t subject me to multiple times a day fist bumps! how about saying hi! or good job! or how about that Jones account! and you know, just talking when it feels natural and like you are interested.

          1. Lady Jay*

            Oooo, I know this one, I know this one. :) “Dap” is actually African American slang, not millennial; it just means fist bump.

            To speak to the broader point, yes, fist bumps are 1) culturally rooted, 2) less invasive, and 3) more sanitary than hugs. I’ve started doing fist bumps with my students in class (infrequently) as a way of supporting and celebrating their good answers.

    3. Close Bracket*

      OP doesn’t feel connected; OP feels annoyed. Most people work less hard for people they are annoyed by.

      Is a wave instead of a fist bump that taxing?

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s the super lowkey alternative to a “hug” in my experience. Shared contact but extra limited.

      I’ve gotten fist bumps from people who don’t or can’t shake hands. It’s frequently seen in kitchens.

    5. Essess*

      I find it an incredibly annoying affectation when people insist on fist-bumping constantly. I have a neighbor that we hang out with occasionally, and he wants to fistbump as an acknowledgement of every ‘clever’ thing he says, or for every time we agree on something. He gets up and stretches over the table to insist on a fistbump every 3 or 4 minutes the WHOLE darned evening. Someone who goes around fistbumping gives off the vibe that it’s their version of needing a sticker or a gold star for an achievement in order to validate themselves.

    6. Bostonian*

      OP recognizes that this is a very small deal, but still wants a way to opt out. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. People can connect and feel human in other kind ways.

    7. ESP*

      If you don’t relate to the fist bumping culture, it’s weird. Especially if someone does it multiple times a day.

    8. pentamom*

      Multiple times a day, every day, merely upon making contact, though? Doing it to everyone multiple times a day doesn’t communicate any useful message about caring or connection, it just communicates, “I’m a guy who does this strange thing.”

      Fist bumping or high-fiving or whatever in response to something that actually happens, like, “Great job!” Or, “Great to see you back from a trip” or whatever, are ways of building community. Not letting someone you see all day long escape your sight at any point during the course of the day without a fist bump or high five is just an idiosyncrasy, and one that it’s fair to opt out of if it can be done without damaging anything.

    9. Cranky Neighbot*

      I don’t quite agree with you – I just don’t really like touching – but this is quite a lot of drama over fist bumps.

      He’ll probably drop it if you just don’t fist bump. Let him feel awkward with his hand in the air for a second.

    10. Hope Springs*

      You know what else builds communities? Respecting others boundaries and the fact that lots of people don’t want to be repeatedly and randomly touched.

    11. Aquawoman*

      Building community needs to include everyone, including those who are autistic or germophobes or self-conscious or whatever. It doesn’t build “community” to demand extroverted norms; it creates a culture where extroverts are “in” and introverts are “out.” I wouldn’t find a fist bump taxing but there would be a nonzero effect on me from having to derail my train of thought to attend this interaction (in a way that a normal greeting wouldn’t require because it’s already programmed in).

      1. Aquawoman*

        I meant to say it would have a small effect on me to derail my train of thought this way multiple times per day.

      2. Close Bracket*

        “in a way that a normal greeting wouldn’t require because it’s already programmed in”

        Who decides what is normal? For some people, the fist bump is programmed in. Even for those of us who regard them as a standard (“normal,” even), handshakes were not always programmed in. They are a learned behavior.

        It would derail me to shake hands with the same person multiple times a day, but the problem is the “multiple times a day,” not the handshake.

      3. Avasarala*

        I don’t see what extroversion/introversion has to do with this. It’s one weird dude’s preferences, not a whole swath of society’s default setting.

    12. JSPA*

      fist bumps are the sort of thing people come up with when they’re trying to figure out how to brighten other people’s day without spending money / wasting resources / leaving gifts that would be weird. They’re meant to incorporate a bit of fellowship / “glad to be working with you, fellow human being.”

      That doesn’t mean you have to like it or put up with it, but I’d make a point of honoring the likely intent, with a real smile, a thumb’s up, or whatever’s YOUR signature way of sending that equivalent message.

      I am super clumsy hitting a high 5 right or even a fist bump (not sure if it’s astigmatism or coordination or timing) and I don’t much enjoy trying. (I am also the only person I know who can’t carry off a friendly arm clasp and chest-bump with personal friends I’d otherwise gladly clasp and bump with. Camp counselor once told me, “kid, you give the weirdest hugs.” So be it.)

      But I’ll give you a Fonzie “aaaay” gesture, or I’ll put my own hands together and up, and give a hands-clasped winner wave, or point at you then give a thumbs up, or both hands low, forward, palms out and spread in a “hey, look at you” / congrats, or whatever non-contact gesture seems to carry the right level of, “great as always to work with you, my fine friend” vibe in that particular milieu.

    13. Spencer Hastings*

      In a “mega corp” that large, I wouldn’t expect to have an emotional connection with everyone. The alternative would feel kind of like a panopticon to me.

    14. Jadelyn*

      One fistbump, no.

      Several a day? Yeah, that starts scooting over into “again? really?” territory. The frequency is what makes this weird, not the act itself.

    15. Ellen N.*

      I agree with you. Fist bumping/high fives are nice ways of showing people that you appreciate them.

      Also, the original post says that the job is customer service. Customer service is known to be tedious and often demoralizing. I bet the fist bumper is trying to keep morale and energy levels up.

      As the original poster doesn’t like being touched all he/she needs to do is say so. It isn’t necessary to characterize those who like touching/being touched as weird/insensitive/whatever.

    16. fhqwhgads*

      “A fist bump” is not that taxing. 2-3 fist bumps a day is, if not for the touching (although personally, I do object to the touching), for the interruptiness.

  15. Double A*

    Alternately, you can “yes, and” him. Do the high-five/fist bump fake out (you know, where you go for the high five but at the last second leave them hanging and like smooth back your hair) enough times that he’ll probably leave you alone. He might think you’re kind of a jerk, but hey, problem solved.

    1. Double A*

      Or, you could say, “I’m not a fist bumper, I’m a bigger!” and bring him on for just a slightly too-long bear hug.

      (My real opinion is that the fist bumps, even frequently, are fine. I’d oppose super frequent high fives due to germ spreading, but fist bumps are hygienic and friendly).

        1. Nanc*

          I interpreted bigger as a mashup of big bear hug (because if you went with bugger that’s a whole other road!) and thought I’d learned a new word!

      1. JSPA*

        Can’t count on everyone having the same germ free surfaces. If I had to catch a nose drip, I’d do it right where you’d later fist bump me.

        I’m not the only one, or fancy ski gloves would not have the soft nose wipe panel (oh, pardon me, the goggles wiping panel, positioned in a way that doesn’t actually let you wipe your goggles with it) at that location.

    2. Avasarala*

      That’s what I would do. Go for the turkey, the octopus, crazy explosion. Be weird about it!

  16. Stella70*

    My boss just departed for bluer waters, but he would say “Hey, Stella, how is it going?’ every single time he passed by my desk. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I work at the front desk. He would pass by my desk dozens of times a day. It was clear that I needed to respond, but there were times wherein he had just asked me not 10 minutes before. It was so minor, yet disruptive – breaking my concentration, making my teeth itch (on the days where he was really on the go, back and forth). It never mattered how I replied, just that I replied. If I was feeling feisty, I would say something like “Merely adequate” or “Barely surviving” or “Wondering if a jury would every convict me” and not once did he ever pause to reflect on my answer.
    I was tempted to just belch at times.

    1. I hate the offseason.*

      Wondering if a jury would every convict me… love it. May steal it. Or I may just recite the number of days until I’m eligible to retire. 961, or approximately 137 more Mondays.

    2. tanklizard*

      I get a little weird when answering this question:
      Hey how’s it going?
      “It’s going that way” and then I point in the direction I’m walking or If I’m done for the day “It’s going home”.

    3. EH*

      I’m big on tipping my head back a bit in acknowledgement and saying “hey” or “‘sup.” It’s a rhetorical question 90% of the time. It’s a long version of “hi.”

      If I’m feeling a bit more feisty, I’m big on “vertical,” “well, I’m here,” and “eh, it goes” with appropriate “I am joking” eyebrow movement.

  17. Jennifer*

    Just fist bump him. A couple of times a day isn’t that much. It’s nice to have people in the office that are happy and agreeable. Just chalk it up to one of those funny quirks some people in the office have. Unless you have some sort of emotional issue that makes physical contact with others completely unpleasant, I don’t think you should make a big deal of it.

    1. fposte*

      I think there’s a lot of space in between there, though–you can not fist-bump and it doesn’t have to be a big deal, and there are all kinds of ways people can be happy and agreeable without requiring physical participation from their co-workers. And your last two sentences could also explain why Fergus can get over not fist-bumping the OP.

      I like people like Fergus and enjoy working with them, and I’m not averse to human touch or anything, but I don’t like the idea that multiple times a day I have no choice but to do with my body what this dude wants me to do. Fortunately, the Ferguses I know are pretty cheerful about accepting alternatives.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Yeah, Fergus isn’t doing anything bad, but I can easily see why it might be annoying. A fish-bump to celebrate some sort of victory is fine. A fist-bump more than once/day for no particular reason is just a little too…too cheerleadery, too overly enthusiastic for me.

        I’ve had coworkers who, whenever I did the least little thing for them, even something that took no time at all and was clearly a part of what I’m paid to do, would thank me from the bottom of their hearts with fulsome praise more suited to my loaning them rent money or something. Their reactions were disproportionate. Multiple fist-bumps are disproportionate too.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          P.S. “Fish-bump” is of course a typo, but my feeling is, “If you’ve got to make a typo, at least make it a funny one.” :-)

          1. fposte*

            I am typing “fist-bump” wrong in a different way just about every time. It is a weirdly strong typo magnet.

        2. Jennifer*

          Trying to figure out why people do the things they do is a pointless exercise, lol. Just smile and be thankful you have a funny story to tell people.

          Maybe the events of the past weekend are just giving me a different perspective.

          1. Airy*

            You’re really coming off as if you think you are much wiser than everyone else because you don’t care about this thing the OP cares about, and it adds nothing helpful to the conversation. Bringing tragic mass murders up as a reason for not caring about a social inconvenience that OP has in no way suggested is anything like as distressing is as point-missing and needlessly shaming as telling a child who doesn’t want to eat broccoli that there are children starving in Africa.

          2. Good Grief*

            OK, look, here’s your gold star for being a better person than the rest of us normal people with our preferences and our desires and our quirks. You win. You are the best human being with your selflessness and your complete lack of personality. Have a cookie!

            Happy now?

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      I think this comment isn’t particularly kind. There are plenty of perfectly reasonable explanations for why someone wouldn’t want to do this multiple times a day that don’t reach the level of having some sort of “emotional issue that makes physical contact with others completely unpleasant.” People should always get to draw their own boundaries about who they touch, and you don’t get to decide for them whether a couple of times a day is too much or something they should just put up with. Yes, it’s nice to have coworkers that are happy and agreeable, but there is more than way to be agreeable. (And if he can’t handle people not wanting to interact in his preferred way, he’s not all that agreeable, so there’s no reason the OP can’t draw that line).

      1. Jennifer*

        I just disagree with the OP. I just think it’s a weird hill to die on. But do you, boo boo. *fist bump*

        1. fposte*

          Okay, if Fergus called me boo boo, I would be utterly unable to resist his fist bump. *fist bump*

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          There’s no indication that the OP is dying on this hill. They’re just kind of annoyed about it and are asking if there’s a diplomatic way to not have to fistbump all the time while still maintaining good relations with Fergus. Sometimes it’s the minor annoyances that are the trickiest things to handle because it can feel like there’s no way to address it without turning it into a Giant Thing.

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Since you don’t like it, I echo the advice that Alison has given you!

    However it’s really not that odd to high five or fist bump frequently throughout the day, when it’s your method of communicating.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I think that’s a reasonable point, and that it’s about two different communications styles meshing.

  19. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    Ah, I worked with this guy. Friendly yet socially oblivious extroverts are something else, aren’t they? Mine would also ask how my job was going several times a day. Same as last time you asked an hour ago, Fergus.

    I recommend you just do the fist bumps. It’s annoying but not a burden.

  20. Tye*

    Former chronic fist-bumper/high-fiver, here. I can’t speak to what Fergus’ deal is, but for myself: It’s taken a very long time for me to become socially adept at concluding interactions that don’t necessarily involve, like, one person driving away. I developed the habit of fist-bumping/high-fiving early in my career, mostly in casual workplaces, as a means of signaling the end of a conversation/task. It felt like my options were to put on a top hat and announce, “And thus we have concluded our business and shall proceed forthwith!” or … walk away in weird silence? The fist-bump/high five seemed like the better option. These days I’m happy to go with “Well that wraps it up, let me know if you need anything!” but it was a long time learning.

    1. Bostonian*

      LOL I can really relate to this. I sometimes still do the walk away in weird silence. If I’m more on my game, one of my favorite go-to’s is to walk away saying “Well, those llamas aren’t going to groom themselves!” (substitute llama grooming with my actual job).

      1. Tye*

        I find “This has been lovely, but I need to refresh my drink!” to be another great option, the earlier in the day the better, especially if there are no beverages in sight.

      2. Grand Mouse*

        I feel like an outlier, because I often just do walk away in silence. There’s nothing more to be said, so I just smile and leave. According to people on the internet, this is unheard of. But I’ve never had any problems with it, I’m still very friendly with people so maybe it is ok?

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I silently flee all meetings as quickly as humanly possible without actually breaking into a run and, if my co-workers dislike me, it’s not for that particular reason.

    2. Quinalla*

      Hah, I can relate to this, sometimes it can be awkward to wrap up a conversation at work, especially in fields that tend to have a lot of socially awkward folks. Usually I go with the “Gotta get back to work (or mention a specific project), great talking to you!” but I can see how fist bumping could have been a stand in for that. In the past, I’ve tried doing the “Don’t want to keep you!” and that sort of thing, I DON’T recommend that as the other person will often wave it away and then you are stuck talking for 10 more minutes :)

      I’m a pretty touchy-feely person and a lot of folks very much aren’t, so I tend to let the other person go for the hug, fist bump, etc. first to make sure I’m not overstepping.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If someone put on a top hat and did a little soft shoe on their way out of my office, their requests would automatically go to the top of my list in the hopes that they would come back and do it more often.

    4. Hrovitnir*

      Haha, this made me laugh a lot. I have a tendency to say “thank you!” at the end of many work interactions and sometimes that… doesn’t make sense.

      I really want to try working “and thus we have concluded our business and shall proceed forthwith!” into a work conversation now (my work group is very close, I can definitely do this.)

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      This is where the British exclamation “Right!”, usually followed by slapping your own thighs is so useful.

  21. Brenda*

    There was a guy in my office who would go around high-fiving/trying to hug everyone (but especially the women) which we all found to be incredibly juvenile and irritating. One time when he held his hand up I just said “Nope! Gotta get back to work.” and walked off. He would occasionally make some comments under his breath about me being mean, but that didn’t bother me in the least. I was thrilled to be rid of unwanted and unprofessional contact.

  22. Michaela Westen*

    To me it sounds like Fergus needs a lot of attention, and that would get annoying.

    1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      I have worked with a major fist bumper and it was for attention seeking purposes but not in a bad way. He was obviously socially awkward and this was his way of being nice. I felt compelled to reply in kind until a supervisor said, “You know, it’s okay to say no.” So now when he tries I say “No thanks!” in a friendly, bright fashion and he is okay with that.

  23. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Ooof. I am a (mostly occasional) fist bumper, and now I’m reeeeaaaaally worried that I’ve annoyed people. Although I don’t force fist bumps on people multiple times a day, and when I offer up a fist bump it is usually congratulatory (or, in some instances, a way to ward off any attempts at hugs or other kinds of physical contact that I’m not super into), so I guess I’m not the worst. I usually think of fist bumps as less formal than a handshake and less invasive/more minimized physical contact than yucky shoulder pats or the like.

    1. Quinalla*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about that level, it’s the frequency here that I think is getting people. An occasional celebratory fist bump, even if it isn’t your thing, is not generally a big deal for most people.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Don’t stress. If we think about it too much every thing we do may annoy someone or a few someones at any given time.

      Just be mindful of your surroundings, people’s expressions and if someone says “You know what, I’m not a fan of that fist bump thing.” you smile and say “No big deal, I’ll file that info away for next time!” and then you know, be mindful that that person isn’t down with the fist bump.

      If we changed ourselves so that we were never annoying to anyone at all, well we couldn’t do it. We’re too diverse to ever do that. Just don’t be “that frigging guy” who pushes back on people who say “I don’t like it” with a “Well it’s what I do, so deal with it.” No. Just no. I know that’s not you though =)

  24. Rachel Greep*

    Wear a big ring. After he scrapes his knuckles on it a few times, he’ll quit.

    Seriously, the only person who fist-bumps me with any regularity is my three-year-old, and I am always worried about hurting his sweet toddler hands on my rings.

  25. srboyd*

    I had a few co-workers that loved a good fist bump. After a bit it got old, so when they held out their fist I’d enclose the fist with both hands and shake it while holding eye contact. Add in a raised eyebrow or a quick joke, and you’re golden. Not sure if this would fix the problem, mind you, but it did make me feel better :)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That reminds me of the Ali G interview with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, which I loved.

  26. Noah*

    I work with somebody like this. It doesn’t bother me, but I’ve often wondered if it bothers others.

    Even though it doesn’t bother me, I’ve accidentally come up with a workaround: once, when he went to fist bump me, I saluted him. He enjoyed it and saluted me back. I still fist bump with him, but I could probably salute every time, instead.

  27. MistOrMister*

    Could you substitute another action? Maybe give him a thumbs up/double thumbs up? I won’t lie….I’m a double thumbs up fan. With select people. I probably look stupid doing it (heh) but it’s sort of high-five/fist bump-esque without having any physical contact. Certainly you could just tell him you’d rather not go the touchy route and leave it there but it might feel a little less mean (for lack of a better word, I certainly dont think it’s mean to say, hey guy I don’t want to fist bump you all day long….just that saying that kind of thing does sometimes make you feel like you’re kicking a puppy) if you are willing to throw in a visible response that still keeps your hands safely untouched.

    I am also not inclined to touch people I don’t know well. Another option might be you can tell him you have a big personal space bubble. I tend to do that with people who keep coming back for contact.

    1. Name Required*

      Yes, this! I’d trade in a variety of motions, each avoiding physical contact, until he stops trying to fist bump you. Do thumbs up, fist pump in the air, bow very formally with hands in prayer, go in for the actual fist-bump and then smooth back your hair instead, throw up a peace sign … or just wave and shake your head instead with a warm smile. Personally, I’d do the last one.

      If someone told me “You know, I’m not really a fist bumper” or “I’m not a big high fiver” suddenly, after they had been fist-bumping me for months on end, I’d be confused. Non-verbal, to me, seems the way to go.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      I would second giving thumbs-up, as long as OP doesn’t feel goofy doing it. Changing the gestures to something without skin contact but still acknowledging the coworker seems like a compromise that could work for both of them.

      If the coworker reasonable overall, he probably wouldn’t react badly to a “Y’know, I’m not actually a fist-bumpy person, but I’ll give you a thumbs up!” Most people would rather know someone’s preferences as long as they’re expressed in a neutral way.

    3. L.S. Cooper*

      I might even go for finger guns over a thumbs up, because you can still sort of give a fist bump to a thumbs up.

  28. Youngin*

    I used to have this problem with a manager and I was way too afraid of coming off as aggressive to say anything. I started doing the opposite of whatever he set out to do pretending I just didn’t see if he was doing a fist bump or high five.

    So for example if he came up to me with his fist closed for a fist bump, I’d ‘accidentally’ high five his fist, or i’d fist bump his palm when he reached for a high five. He would always do the opposite of what he had done last time so it gave me a good excuse too if he ever called me out. “Oh sorry! You fist bumped me last time so that’s what I went for”. It took him about 6/7 awkward interactions for him to start waving kindly from a distance. Petty yet useful

  29. RussianInTexas*

    I have a friend who is a chronic fist-bumper and high-fiver. So damn annoying. And the drunker he gets, the more fist-bumper he gets. No Jeff, i don’t need to high-five you for the lunch you ate today.
    Probably specific to the jobs I worked in, but we never done fist-bumping nor high-fiving. Like, no touching coworkers, and also, weird. We also don’t talk to each much, and I am even in the South.
    Possibly because most of us are women, and immigrants.

  30. dramallama*

    I don’t mean this as advice, just anecdote: I’ve been largely excused from fist-bumping/high-fiving my whole life just by being really, really, comically bad at it. You can only miss so many times before people just politely stop asking.

  31. SusanIvanova*

    If you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you know the look Gamora gives Peter during the dance-off? The “I want no part of this strange alien action you are doing”?

    Fergus needs to be on the receiving end of that look.

  32. Rusty Shackelford*

    I’d give him a dramatic finger gun every time he points his fist. Same vibe, no touching.

  33. Eleanor Konik*

    I work with 12 year olds, not in an office, but I have a coworker who is extremely anti-touching and a huge germaphobe, to the point where she gets visibly discomforted when handling a “talking piece” or other item being passed around the room to indicate turn-taking.

    Everybody knows that she doesn’t get hugged or fistbumped and the rest of us proceed on with high-five-friday and letting particularly happy/excited kids hug us.

    tldr; it’s no big deal for you to let him know you’d rather not fistbump, neither one of you is weird and it in any sane kind of office culture, it’ll be no more of a thing than the one coworker who wears lacy tops a lot or always eats burritos.

  34. Buttons*

    I have suggested this a few times here, but when people want to be greeted, or hugged, or high-five, or fist bump, multiple times a day and you don’t want to engage– give them gun fingers, and keep moving. It acknowledges them, it is an equally ridiculous response, it sort of trains them to know you aren’t going to engage, and lets you have better control over the situation.

  35. LawBee*

    OP – this is easy! ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING IN BOTH HANDS. A paper in one and a pen in the other, or a coffee mug and a clipboard. Can’t bump what isn’t free to be bumped.

    1. LawBee*

      Ah, and I see that Yvette upstream and I were idea-twins, even down to what to carry. CLEARLY WE ARE BRILLIANT.

  36. Language Lover*

    I am not a toucher so whenever someone tries to hug or high five* me at work, I’ll try to turn it into a ‘virtual’ high five or hug. It means we make the motion but without all the touching. Same sentiment but with distance between us.

    *We are not normally a fist bump group.

    I might allow for physical contact periodically but, for the most part, people have adjusted.

  37. Observer*

    That’s rude and gross. The guy is annoying, sure. But don’t treat him like he’s some contaminant.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Over text, with no tone, it’s often very difficult to tell a ‘joke’ like this from actual statement. In which yes, doing that to the poor guy is indeed rude and gross.

        FWIW – even as a proposed joke, I don’t think it’s funny either.

  38. Atlantian*

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that LW works in a call center based on some context clues and say that this kind of non-verbal, virtually silent, form of co-worker interaction is much, much more common in that setting than in other types of offices, even ones that are nearly as client facing. The work of a customer service rep is monotonous, and at times demeaning. You don’t get to have very many face-to-face interactions with your peers or supervisor on a day-to-day basis. These types of quick, silent, generally inoffensive kinds of “attaboy” acknowledgements are vital to keeping morale up and making the people who are literally chained to their desk all day, every day, feel like someone is noticing them and they aren’t just in their own little customer service isolation booths.

    At the call center I work in, we actually train the supervisors, support staff, and other “floorwalkers” to develop this sort of interaction with the CSRs and each other as a bit of a morale boost, it’s good for the front line reps to see the support staff encouraging each other as well to keep the feeling of being included in the larger company up as much as possible. From the outside, it can seem demeaning, but when you’re in the trenches, it can literally be the difference between a person rage quitting that day and getting through and coming back tomorrow.

    1. Butcherette*

      I know call centers and totally understand that. But one supervisor doing it to another is a little different.

  39. Brent Lee Leatherman*

    If this is the sort of thing that’s going to make you upset at work, then dang, you’ve worked in *way* easier environments that I have. I can see why it might be irritating, for sure, but this is going to label the letter writer as a the ‘complainer in the office’. Suck it up, it’s just acknowledgement that you exist.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, people get to have their own communication preferences and it’s not “complaining” to say “eh, I’m not a high fiver but congratulations!” An office that would label someone a complainer for that is a very weird outlier.

  40. Rachael*

    I had a younger guy at work who was a fist bumper. You would turn around and his arm would be out for a fist bump. I thought it was funny, though. I messed with him a bit and would look curiously at his fist and ask “what is this? Is this what all the cool people do?”. Once I said “I have a (1) fist bump maximum a day rule” (in the boss from Office Space’s voice).

    If you have good relationship with the person you could just insert some humor and reject the bump in a funny way. Depends on the person, I guess.

  41. Cathie Fonz*

    Here’s a suggestion — if there is an annoying fistbumper in the office, print out this column and leave it in the coffee room.

    1. fposte*

      The Person Who Anonymously Leaves Pointed Articles is likely to be a much bigger annoyance in an office than the Friendly Fist-Bumper, though.

        1. Yvette*

          I think that may have been a joke, considering that is an example of something that is presented as NOT the thing to do quite frequently on this site.

  42. Jaded by life*

    I have a friend who is touchy feely to the max. We are both female. She is always hugging, arm grabbing, shoulder rubbing, hand holding, elbowing, high fiving, etc. etc. Not just me, it’s everyone. She’d do stuff like drum on her legs with her hands and then lean over and drum on mine. A firm Don’t! in these situations apparently didn’t generalize. All of this started to live in my head too much. I finally told her, no touching, period. At this point, it feels like acid. She got it. Finally.

    You have to say something – I’m all bumped out, you’ve used up your lifetime quota, ha, ha! I believe these people think they are being wonderful and spreading joy. And, so they escalate. Not everyone wants joy forced upon them, however.

  43. Sports Office Girl*

    I had this same problem at my office—a couple of co-workers wanting to high five or fist bump. I made myself a proxy high-fiver – think giant hand glued to a paint stir stick and when they came around, I’d say “let me get my high-fiver.” It stopped being a daily thing. I still high-five or bump for BIG celebrations, I’m not 100% out of it. I think I got away with this because I am in creative services!

  44. CheeseAndGrapes*

    I personally don’t get what the big deal is and to be honest I probably would think OP was the weird one if the coworker mentioned to me that they refused to fist bump. That said, I firmly believe that everyone has the right to control their own body and personal space in a way that makes them feel comfortable so if it really is an issue for you I think it’s totally valid to want to say/do something about it. What about pre-empting the fist bump with a thumbs up? As in flashing him a thumbs up at a time when you would usually expect him to fist bump. My instinct if I were him would be to thumbs up back instead of fist bumping. This way there would be some sort of hand involvement in the interaction but no touching. Alternatively you could explicitly ask to replace the fist bump with a thumbs up, but I think a thumbs up would be a more natural transition than a wave or a hand shake.

  45. CleverGirl*

    Clap your own hands together while enthusiastically announcing “Long distance high five!” toward him (Or fist bump yourself and say “Long distance fist bump!”) every time he offers his hand/ first. Eventually he’ll catch on and it might actually become your thing with him, like an inside joke. You don’t even have to tell him why, just start doing it. The key is to be positive and enthusiastic so you’re not rejecting, just responding in your own way and owning it.

  46. PersephoneUnderground*

    I agree with Alison’s answer, since co-workers doing any annoying thing over and over can get old (like the receptionist who asks how you are every single time you pass the front desk, including to and from the bathroom etc.).
    Wanted to mention that I’ve noticed male managers use the fist bump with me (I’m a woman), to celebrate good work. It felt a bit like they were substituting it for a pat on the back (or high five I suppose), as a less touchy alternative. I think it’s very useful in business for that purpose, actually, and appreciate it. I think I was a little surprised at first when I got a fist bump from my very white 40ish male manager, but I adapted and actually think it’s a great solution in that context.

    Now this guy from the letter silently holding his fist out randomly at me would drive me nuts. Like, my husband likes me to rub his arms (not a sexual thing, fully clothed, more like a mini massage). After I started doing it he got in a bad habit where we’d be sitting next to each other and he’d just stick his arm in front of me to be rubbed, without saying anything. That got on my nerves real quick, and I told him so. He doesn’t do it anymore, he asks like he should. But that’s totally what came to mind reading the letter. Dude, use your words!

  47. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    This would drive me slightly batty. It’s not the action but the frequency, like having someone tell the same joke over and over. (Like my uncle, who would say something like “well that throws a little light on the situation ” every. single. time. a light came on). I like the idea of randomly responding with the wrong action. Make a scissor sign, thumbs up, what have you in response.

  48. Environmental Compliance*

    I’d do what my late great uncle would do. When he thought he had made a particularly hilarious joke, he would say “self high five!”, high five himself (yes, it’s a single clap), and then giggle madly.

    Man, I miss him.

  49. Former Govt Contractor*

    I have a coworker who asks me at least 2 or 3 times a day “Are we having fun yet?” I would love some creative responses to this, as I have run out!

    1. Name Required*

      How annoying. Depends on your personality & office. I’d probably go with a soft smile and say, “You know, John, I’m having as much fun as the first 50 times you asked me.” But that’s in line with my personality and with the culture of my office; it’d be seen as too aggressive in other offices. If you think he’s overly sensitive, I would just ignore the question and move on, “Anyway, about those TPS reports …” Or, if you think he might not realize how often he’s asking, you could try a genuinely confused look and ask, “Any reason you keep asking me that?”

  50. d*

    Oh. My. God. I had a coworker like this one time. Every time he came in, he passed by my desk and held out his fist for a fist bump. I would be on the phone or typing an email or clearly already involved in something, and he would just stand there with his hand out and wait for me. He’d come bustling in with his bag and some papers and just had this attitude like him having to pause because I wasn’t jumping up and enthusiastically fist bumping him was throwing him off. Combined with some other undesirable personal traits (like stinky boat shoes that caused the whole office to reek), I came to resent him very strongly and felt my blood pressure rise every time he was in the office.

  51. Jahnudvipa das*

    I once worked with a similar person. Good natured, funny, genuinely nice guy. Fist bumps were something I had never done, and just seemed awkward. But I didn’t want hurt his feelings. So finally, he did it, I feigned a slightly pained look, told him I had a small issue with arthritis. Problem solved.

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