update: are we supposed to accept “touch” as an “appreciation language” at work?

Remember last week’s letter-writer whose company was doing a session on the “five languages of appreciation in the workplace” which for some inexplicable reason included “touch”? Here’s the update.

The meeting came and went, so I thought I’d update you. Our team is hybrid with some people fully remote, so the meeting was fortunately not in-person. There are fewer than 20 of us on the team.

The person leading the five appreciation languages was the head of another team in our division, so most of us knew her but hadn’t worked with her before. She began by talking about how much she loves the framework and it’s her favorite, and that the relationship one is also amazing, and then moved into explaining the five languages. For each one, she asked us to comment in the chat if we thought it as one of our languages. People were very active for the first four.

Then she got to “Touch” and she quickly said that she knew some people might be intimidated to say it was one of their appreciation languages, so she would pipe up first about it being an important one to her in order to break the ice. There was continued silence. Hoping to draw out fellow “Touch” people, she started telling us that at her last workplace people were very into hugging and back pats, but here it seems like more of a handshake/fist bump place, and that made her kinda sad. Still silence from all of us. She decided to interpret that as people not feeling comfortable to admit to Touch being their language, but then mercifully moved on to some exercises around the other four languages.

The training was somewhat useful–I learned some valuable insights into how various coworkers like to get words of appreciation (some in public, others not, some with lots of detail, others with just a simple “thank you”). And I also now feel confident that even if one of my coworkers really was hiding their preference for touch (which I doubt), no one in my office thinks touching is an appropriate way to show appreciation in the workplace.

{ 299 comments… read them below }

  1. Ultimate Facepalm*

    Sounds like all of this goofiness is stemming from one person and leadership just isn’t telling her no, versus actively endorsing / advocating for it. That’s better I guess…

    1. Paint N Drip*

      Agreed on both counts. Definitely not the company-wide clusterbiff as I feared from the first letter. Would be GREAT to see some leadership pushback though!

    2. Hrodvitnir*

      Pretty much. I admit the picture painted here makes me laugh, but oh boy did the person leading manage to fulfill some fears. It makes her sad people aren’t into hugs? Sorry not sorry. (I say as someone who has enjoyed consensual coworker hugs, haha.)

      Sounds like a classic yikes, but easy to work around, situation.

      1. Neil Strickland*

        I laughed, too. I learned years ago that not everyone is “touchy feely” so I will only hug someone if I have their permission (for example, if it’s someone I know well and they are obviously going through a tough time that they’re willing to talk about, then I will ask if they mind a hug.). If the individual doesn’t wish to be touched, then I will empathize or sympathize (depending on the situation) and move on. I just can’t imagine incorporating touch (in any form) into a workplace.

        1. Selina Luna*

          Good on you for asking for permission. Not everyone does, and it’s deeply disconcerting to go to a meeting and be hugged by someone you haven’t seen since you moved buildings and haven’t seen in 3 years…

  2. Lacey*

    I’m so glad your coworkers are normal enough to see the problems with that. What a relief!

    1. Ellie*

      Yes OP, I’d say that went about as well as it could go!

      Your office culture seems to be normal, apart from this one team lead who at least recognizes that this isn’t a huggy office. Nice work.

  3. TracyXP*

    I wish someone had been brave enough to say that they appreciate not being touched by coworkers.

    It’s almost like the head of the other team that is leading this initiative doesn’t get enough hugs in their personal life and is trying to use coworkers to make up for this lack.

    1. Festively Dressed Earl*

      +100. The meeting leader’s enthusiastic embrace of Touch set up an imbalance that probably made it difficult for the team to speak out against it. You’d think that the fact that no one agreed with her despite her Touch partisanship would clue her in, but apparently not.

            1. Pennyworth*

              I loathe fist bumps, to the point if someone tries to fist bump me I just keep my hands by my sides and look confused. Ditto high fives, which I understand are now considered bad for children.

              Gratuitous touching at work is totally unnecessary.

              1. Susan Calvin*

                I’m confused – considered bad for children as in, considered uncool BY children, or advised against by pediatricians for some reason??

                1. Laura*

                  I googled and found an op-ed written by a family psychologist who also says ADHD isn’t really and is pro-authoritarian parenting. So, massive eye roll from me and I will feel free to ignore that advice with my own kids and any others I encounter.

                2. AnReAr*

                  I haven’t seen any professional musings on it but what I’ve gathered from the friends I have with kids is that it’s an extension of the same idea as not forcing hugs. Basically they want their kids to feel safe saying no to a high five so they feel safe setting up boundaries around touch and just interaction in general.

              2. Lenora Rose*

                This makes no sense (“high fives are bad for children”); can you elaborate?

                As I understand it, as well as being their own thing for “yeah, victory” high fives were suggested to replace handshakes as a greeting because there’s less germ transmission, and fist bumps even more so because you don’t connect the surface area most likely to be germy, but both generally feel friendlier than just waving at a distance.

                (Any of the above gestures being against your personal taste is obviously another thing entirely, which you are absolutely entitled to.)

              3. Ellie*

                Yes, just don’t touch me at all at work, please. Maybe if someone breaks down crying over a recent loss, maybe then, they might want a hug? But don’t try to give me a high five just for getting the expenses report in early.

      1. Clisby*

        I cannot fathom why nobody flatly told her that they didn’t want co-workers touching them.

        I know people sometimes get intimidated by higher-ups, but it doesn’t sound like this person was very high-up. Not like the CEO was leading the meeting and cheerleading for getting all touchy-feely. Just tell her straight up that you want your co-workers to keep their hands off you.

        1. Lana Kane*

          I love working with my team, but as a group they are very non-confrontational. Deafening silence is how they communicate that they don’t like something.

          1. Just Another Cog*

            No kidding! Like she was sure no one spoke up because they were afraid to admit they like touching and being touched by coworkers! WTH? How about just accepting that those people on that call just don’t like being touched as part of a work relationship and call it good?

        2. Leenie*

          I have no problem speaking up in most circumstances. But I’m sure I wouldn’t have said anything in this case because I would have been too busy dying of second hand embarrassment for the touch lady.

          1. amoeba*

            Hah, this, for sure.

            Also, I have no problem with consensual coworker hugs, but would never be the one to initiate them – so wouldn’t see a reason to speak up there.

            But honestly, the silence should speak for itself – guess she was hoping to find a fellow-minded soul but it should be very clear to her that she didn’t! Maybe she does one on some other team and they can satisfy each other’s desire for hugs, hah…

            1. Ellie*

              I was thinking she was hoping to change the culture. If anyone had spoken out and agreed with her about how it was a shame they don’t do hugs, she’d have likely used them as a hug target whenever she saw them in the office. Thankfully, no-one did.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Hugs are great from my spouse and kids.

      That doesn’t map to my coworkers.

        1. Rincewind*

          THIS! I don’t “love” my coworkers. They’re nice people. (Well, in this job I’m sure they’re nice people, I don’t know them much because we don’t talk outside of work responsibilities at ALL, but in past jobs I’ve interacted more and I still can’t say I loved anyone.) We get along and we do our work.

          I don’t need appreciation in the form of a “love language” because work isn’t about love.

          1. Star Trek Nutcase*

            Ditto for me. Unfortunately, I have had more than a few coworkers who insist on thinking we’re all “family” and “loving” each other is assumed. (Have to admit their other dysfunctional behaviors do mimic more than a few real family behaviors.) Without exception, these coworkers take great offense when coworkers like me speak up and state work is a paid function, not a chosen one and we’re not nor ever will be more than professional colleagues.

            I had a colleague complain to her boss (a college dean) that I said I wasn’t required to be her friend, that I’d be professional and civil but never more. (This was nonconfrontational me actually speaking up for the first time.) The dean & my boss (another dean) apparently got a big but private laugh out of her demands. Perhaps if she had put as much effort into her work she would have survived her 6-month probation.

            1. Excel-sior*

              I’ve been fortunate enough to make 2 very good friends at work over the years; see each other out of work when schedules allow, been to each others weddings etc. none of us is under the impression that this was anything more than dumb luck of age/personality/etc coinciding, nor would we ever go to work expecting to become friends with anyone. in fact, as i near my 40s, the idea terrifies me!

      1. Audogs*

        Ditto. I used to have a hugger colleague. He responded well when I politely, firmly told him I’m not a hugger. Bad choice of words on my part though as I heard him relay that to another colleague as a “warning”. Yes I’m a hugger: my spouse, my ancient grandmother-in-law, my golden retrievers. Get the picture?

        1. Joana*

          I absolutely love hugging my mom, my sister, my cats. But I’m also autistic and if some random person tries to touch me I’m going to panic. Knowing it’s going to happen doesn’t stop it!

        2. Helen Waite*

          I dream of the day that people can just not want to be hugged without some “well-meaning” person warning other people about you or otherwise making a big deal about it.

    3. Space Needlepoint*

      I came to the comments to say this. The only way to make this person stop is to draw firm boundaries letting them know this is not okay.

      The whole thing makes me twitchy.

    4. Dawn*

      Yeah, there was more than a hint of “please tell me you want me to hug you” there; someone is very eager to erode reasonable boundaries in the workplace.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        And made it all about her and her feeling sad. Her feelings are hers to manage, and she should not put them on other people. Especially coworkers.
        If she wants more hugs, she needs to go find touchy-feely friends outside of work.

    5. Beth*

      Yeah, it’s shocking that she read everyone going silent at touch as a sign that touch-lovers are too intimidated to speak up. I would think it’s obvious that silence from a group that was really down to discuss other forms of appreciation in the workplace is a sign that they don’t like touch!

      But I would also think it’s obvious that hugs aren’t a standard part of work culture, and that a team lead bemoaning the lack of hugs from her team is going to make a lot of people feel pressured and uncomfortable. So clearly this particular team head and I live with very different ideas of ‘obvious’.

      1. MassMatt*

        I think the group’s discomfort and skepticism was on a spectrum ranging from “why are we having a meeting” to “why are we talking about love languages at work” to “why is this person angling for hugs at work?!”

        It went from generally touchy-feely to literally touchy-feely.

        It’s making me think of the letter here from someone whose coworker (in some sort of youth program!) kept touching, petting, and stroking the clients–kids! When the LW brought it up that this was inappropriate, her response was “I just can’t help myself!” and she literally would not stop. Shudder!

    6. Jinni*

      Years ago when I was taking a yoga teacher training, the instructor said that many, many Americans are touch-deprived and (in this case) came to yoga, hoping the instructor corrected them or gave them a little massage.

      Then a friend who is single and has lived alone for years said it had been months since she’d been hugged. She came to our writing meetings seeking that out…

      I could see how someone could shift that need to the workplace even though it’s massively inappropriate…

      (It’s inappropriate in the other contexts, but that’s more easily deflected).

      1. Ellie*

        Oh that is so creepy! If you want to pay for hugs there’s a profession for that! Don’t inflict it on a poor yoga teacher!

      1. Ellie*

        My work love language is being well paid and supported with flexible work. I don’t need to be told that I’m doing a good job. Respectable annual salary raises, and your trust in me to get my work done in whatever format works best, is more than sufficient.

  4. Goldenrod*

    “but here it seems like more of a handshake/fist bump place, and that made her kinda sad.”


    1. Clearance Issues*

      I like fist bumps or high fives, you can choose whether or not to interact with them.

      1. Ellie*

        Yeah, you really can’t. I’ve looked in bafflement as someone stuck their fist out at me before, only to be told, ‘Don’t leave me hanging!’. The fist bump thing was so foreign to me that I didn’t even recognize it.

        I’m not exactly against them, as I’m not exactly against handshakes. I’d just… prefer not to? But if it’s part of the culture you kind of have to.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I love the asymmetrical nature of the emotions here.

      Touchy person meets non-touchy people: is sad.
      Non-touchy person meets touchy people: is suspicious, closed off, wary.

      Society thinks one of those things should be understood and supported, and the other should be jollied into changing.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “Society thinks one of those things should be understood and supported, and the other should be jollied into changing.”

        I know, that is so strange! Why?? It’s just a preference – one is not better than the other.

        It turns out that I am – somewhat to my surprise – a hugger, apparently. I didn’t think I was, until I noticed how often I go in for a hug.

        But I would never want to hug someone who didn’t want to be hugged! And I would never judge them for it. It’s fine to not be huggy! (Especially at work, as noted here…)

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I am quite the hugger with my family and closest friends. A special small group of work friends get occasional hugs outside of the office, but only because we’ve known each other for years, and we’re okay with hugs. But I don’t want to hug someone who doesn’t want to be hugged either, not even if we’re friendly.

          I’m with you, I can’t imagine why it would be okay to try and convince a non-hugger that ‘Touch is my appreciation language! My intentions are good, so accept the hugs!’ But I guess some people think you either accept the gesture in the spirit it was intended, or you are judging them. I say there’s another option: If someone doesn’t want what you’re offering, just stop offering it. People are different, right?

          1. AnonORama*

            This is where the Golden Rule fails: if I like hugs, and you don’t, I should be treating you like YOU want to be treated, not the way I want to be treated.

            This is also where the team lead fails, because she honestly seems not to understand that people don’t share her preferences. If someone doesn’t announce that they think just like she does, they must be too scared to admit it.

          2. KaciHall*

            I am mostly introverted. I absolutely hate other people touching me. Unless you make it to a certain few people that I crave all of the cuddles from (some of the time). There’s about 6. 4 of them are related to me. (Admittedly, one is my best friend who I did meet when we worked together… but we weren’t touchy WHEN we worked together.)

            I think someone touched my shoulder at work once when looking over my shoulder. I know I stiffened up. And no one has tried it again. I can’t imagine WANTING my coworkers to touch me.

        2. Savor The Peelies*

          I’m a hugger too, but only with friends and family! And even then, I always ask if it’s someone I don’t know. And because huggers are frequently a bit overbearing, if I’m denied, I usually give a graceful out by asking if people would prefer a manly handshake instead (a joke which usually goes over well, as I’m just short of being categorizable as high femme).

        1. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

          Most organizations I’ve worked at skew towards favoring the outgoing and the extroverted.

          I’m an introvert and I can be social for a few hours with no problems, especially around a shared activity with a common goal, but please by all gods and little fishes, don’t ask me to do it all day long.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        YES! She isn’t angry that people aren’t supporting touch. Just disappointed.
        That’s healthy.
        As is her ability to hear nothing and interpret it as tacit support, that’s some problematic behaviour right there.
        My boss asked us if we wanted to have a Secret Santa one year. Nobody wanted to, but nobody was confident to say no. My boss said, “I’m going to take nobody saying yes as everybody saying no.” She was correct and things were better. We were comfortable saying what we did want for an end of year party/event that time because she was trying to hear us, not trying to put words in our mouths.
        And in subsequent years we did gift exchanges, sometimes. Because our leader could lead.

        1. M2RB*

          My boss said, “I’m going to take nobody saying yes as everybody saying no.”

          I like this.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I can think of two occasions I’ve really hugged co-workers – at the meeting where we learned that a well loved manager had died of a heart attack. And 9/11.

          There may have been a few tripod hugs at retirement parties, but that’s it.

          Handshakes and the occasional shoulder clap of congratulations are plenty, and yes im a hugger with family and friends .

      3. Beth*

        Mm, no. I’m a very touchy person. My family and friends know I’m always down to cuddle on the couch for movie night. My professional self is always down for a handshake or fistbump.

        But my touch-appreciation does not mean that it’s OK for me to either touch people without permission or pressure people into accepting touch. (“I’m so sad no one will hug me! Touch is my love language, I don’t feel appreciated in a low-touch environment!” is definitely pressure-y.) Not only is that fundamentally not OK, I also don’t understand why anyone would want it! I’d hate to feel like the people around me were only tolerating our interactions and would really rather not be having them.

      4. SuperNova*

        A little bit like introverts always being told to “speak up” or “join the party,” but rarely do the extroverts get told to shut the @%×# up.

      5. allathian*

        Yeah, reminds me of the asymmetry of the soft no.

        A heterosexual man’s greatest fear is being turned down or ridiculed by a person he sees as an attractive woman.
        A female-appearing person’s greatest fear is being assaulted or killed by the person they’re turning down.

        I’ve never been much of a hugger with anyone, not even family members. When I was an exchange student in France and later an intern in Spain, the constant kissing on the cheek (with friends/other students, not coworkers, other than a few work friends on my last day as we said goodbye) felt a bit weird at first, but that felt far less intimate than the average hug does.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      This came up on the original letter. Just because this is what you like doesn’t mean you can demand it of others. It seems like the trainer didn’t get that message.

      She wants touch to be part of the languages because that is what she wants. It is literally not crossing her mind that other people really do not want that.

      I agree with whoever said it above, this should have be shut down instead of just ignored. I wish someone had the courage to point out that touch is just asking for a lawsuit someday.

    4. Momma Bear*

      I don’t even do that unless I’m meeting a client. She seems…off. I’m glad the meeting went well overall, given the weirdness.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was imagining her with a notebook on her desk and her pen hovering over a sheet of paper with the heading “People I Can Hug At Work.”

  5. Alan*

    I love it when people double down, dismissing evidence in favor of their belief: “I know you guys like touch even if everyone is afraid to say so.” Saying you like touch is practically inviting people to touch you…

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Only recently have I accepted that the contestants on The Great British Bakeoff probably aren’t all lying about liking rhubarb.

    2. Sloanicota*

      It cracks me up that virtually everyone in every version of these posts has a pause about Touch and realizes it’s not appropriate, but someone is still determined to Make Touch Happen that they plow onwards.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Cheers. My favorite comment so far. Oh my gosh, of course it’s you!

    3. Heidi*

      The doubling down comes across as especially out of touch (see what I did there?) since the overarching message was about how people are fundamentally different in how they feel about these things.

    4. djx*

      Yeah, it’s terrible.

      I don’t like hugging. I will give a genuine fist bump with warm intentions – have worked on that. But while touch is good for some people, it’s bad for others. And in a workplace, with power dynamics and even gender issues it’s not good to push it. It’s terrible in fact.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        What I find interesting is that for me touch is GREAT when it’s from someone I want to be touched by and downright HORRIBLE when it’s from someone I don’t even want to be in “touch range” of. I’m sure I can’t be the only person who feels this way. And let’s face it, more work colleagues fall into the “plz don’t touch” category than personal friends do.

        I had a music colleague who would give me long hugs that I truly didn’t want and so I had to fend him off by playing my instrument and just nodding hello whenever he’d come close. It was really annoying. And at the time I was young enough that I wouldn’t have said anything but now that I’m in my IDGAF what anyone thinks of me stage of life I absolutely would just ask if he’d refrain. And other than his hugging I liked the guy just fine. But for someone I *really* don’t want touching me…well, I’d rather hear their fingernails on a chalkboard than have them even slightly graze past me. Ugh.

        1. SarahKay*

          Slow Gin Lizz, I am just the same about touch.
          I had a colleague that I actually like, but do not want to be touched by, who put their hand on my arm. I moved my arm away from her, and then brushed the feel of the touch off with my other hand. Because I like her I tried to do it fairly subtly: I failed. She saw, apologised, and has not touched me since.

        2. Hrodvitnir*

          I am pretty sure that is the default human state, and the problem comes in that there’s a spectrum in who elicits a positive response all the way from “almost everybody” to “almost nobody”.

          Add in lack of understanding that what makes you feel good doesn’t necessarily make others feel good, and a wild variety of cultural expectations and you get… well, you can get pretty major problems if you’re unlucky.

        3. DyneinWalking*

          Touch is intimate and makes your vulnerable (someone could decide to hold you forever or even grope you and you’d have a hard time freeing yourself).
          But also, touch is something most people crave to some degree.

          The dichotomy you describe is the perfectly normal result of both these factors: Touch is nice from people we like and feel super safe around, and horrible and boundary-crossing when it comes from people that we don’t feel close to. And I bet even the delusional team leader/team head would absolutely hate to be hugged by certain people!

        4. djx*

          I don’t like it at all even with friends other than, perhaps, a few very close ones. From some people it would be terrible, but with others (the vast majority – among friends maybe 75% and work colleagues 95%) it’s just somewhat icky.

          Also, frankly, if it’s with someone of the opposite sex that I could be attracted to I don’t want to do it because I’ll feel particularly uncomfortable.

    5. Yes And*

      This, except by “love” I mean “hate”. Interpreting silence as “You’re afraid to say you like touch” rather than “You actually think touch is inappropriate for the workplace” has real “C’mon, look how she was dressed” energy.

      1. Observer*

        has real “C’mon, look how she was dressed” energy.

        I think it’s worse. To me it reads as “You know you really want it!” and “I know she’s SAYING she didn’t want it, but *I* know that she really wanted it!”

      2. djx*

        There are macho dudes who like hugs but are afraid to say it because it seems too feminine. I agree that was not what was happening here, but in the US this is a thing.

        1. Sleeping Beauty*

          I can’t imagine hugging those dudes in the workplace would be particularly well received because of machismo.

        2. Rincewind*

          None of those guys want to be hugged by their coworkers, though.
          Maaaaaybe they’d appreciate a hug from a long-time mentor boss, but that’s about it.

    6. LaurCha*

      RIGHT? So creepy. And dismissive – like, I think everybody is JUST LIKE ME and you don’t want to brag about your superior, evolved preference for *touching people you work with*. UGH.

  6. Wilbur*

    “The training was somewhat useful–I learned some valuable insights into how various coworkers like to get words of appreciation”

    Never read the love language book, but I had a similar take on it when it took place as part of my premarital counseling. It’s helpful to stop and think about how others like to be recognized.

    1. Sloanicota*

      There’s lots to dislike about the book overall, but there’s certainly something to be learned about the different ways people demonstrate affection, and it did make me realize sometimes I’m *giving* the form I’d actually prefer to *get* and then being annoyed people aren’t picking up on this ultra-subtle hint. Like any self-help thing, I tend to think you could do the whole thing in a two-pager and didn’t need a book, but it’s not that there’s no value at all.

      1. Random Dice*

        I am deeply allergic to Christian marriage counseling, as it was the reason I stayed in an abusive marriage far too long.

        And Gary Chapman was a lousy husband who basically called his very very young evangelical ex-wife (Amy Grant) a #*%£ and destroyed her Christian singing career, even though he himself was secretly a drug addict. (Medium has a good article called “Amy Grant’s Divorce from Hell”)

        And still… the 5 Love Languages has a level of truth that resonates. It kills me, honestly.

        1. Lomster*

          The book author Gary Chapman is not the Amy Grant husband Gary Chapman. They just have the same name.

        2. Wilbur*

          The premarital counseling through the Episcopalian church was pretty great-the priest didn’t push any viewpoints and didn’t really talk much to be honest. Their whole goal was to make sure we had talked and were on the same page about the big topics-money, kids, etc.

          I think these things are a bit universal-love languages, kaizen, 5S, it’s all a matter of wrapping it all up in a pretty package so you can sell it.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            I had a shockingly good experience with premarital counseling through the Catholic church as well (I am Jewish but I married a now-lapsed-Catholic). We talked about universal stuff also like money, kids, life stuff.

            The group engaged couples retreat on the other hand was… not as positive an experience. But luckily we opted for the commuter version where we got to go home each night, not the residential kind that has you stay all weekend in sex-segregated dorms with the other participants (and not your partner).

        3. SpaceySteph*

          I have never read the book (and avoid Christian-based counseling as much as possible) but I also have found value in the concept.

          My MIL is a Gifts person and I’m really not into gifts at all, and it really helped me to think about it through the love language lens that it wasn’t materialistic and why it was important to her that people spent time/effort getting her a gift. I still don’t enjoy gifts (in either direction) but I make an effort now.

        4. just some guy*

          As a prickly non-believer (I’d call myself “atheist” but that word’s been somewhat hijacked lately) and somebody who’s generally skeptical about self-help books, I also found 5LL quite useful. I gather the earlier editions were more overtly influenced by conservative attitudes, but I don’t recall there being much of that in the edition I read.

          Religious ministry is an occupation that involves both theology and general people skills. The balance between those depends on the individual minister; I’ve known some who leaned very heavily on “just do what the book says and it’ll all work out” but there are others who value people skills highly and put a lot of work into developing them, often in areas that are generally applicable. I don’t think one needs to feel conflicted about learning from those people when they have something that’s useful outside their religious context. It’s important to read with a skeptical eye and think about how the advice might be coloured by the author’s beliefs/ideology, but then that goes for almost anything.

          I’d agree with the comment that most of the value of 5LL could be distilled to a couple of pages, but those two pages would still have been worth the price of the book for me.

    2. cleo*

      Same. I didn’t read the book but my spouse and I took the quiz as part of marriage counseling and it was quite helpful. I think most of these “types” frameworks are most useful as a way of realizing that other people might prefer something different in terms of recognition or whatever.

      1. Random Dice*

        I always think of it as the throwaway line in one of the Vorkosigan books by Lous McMaster Bujold:

        About an eccentric nobleman who every year gave fruitcakes as presents (that everyone hated) and every year he was crushed that nobody gave HIM a fruitcake.

        That pretty much sums up the love languages.

        1. Bruce*

          I don’t remember that bit, but it has been a while since I’ve read any of those books!

    3. Quinalla*

      Agreed don’t read the book. The premise is good – figure out how folks want to be loved/appreciated and do that, but the book is not good – especially the first version of it which has way, way more misogyny in it, the newer version is better, but still not great and it isn’t a great book in general.

      1. lazuli*

        It’s also just based on stuff the author made up. It’s not based on real research or grounded in any actual theory (other than “people are different from each other,” which is not exactly groundbreaking). There’s no science behind the idea that there are only five real ways that people show and receive affection, or behind the idea that these five ways are the only five ways.

        1. Grey Coder*

          You say the idea that people are different from each other is not groundbreaking, but that was Big News to my ex-colleague. We’d done the Myers-Briggs blah blah, and he was genuinely surprised that other people had different preferences. This was a man in his 30s. No idea how he’d made it that far in life without encountering the concept that other people might not be just like him.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            It’s not just “not like me”, I have had so many episodes of explaining to someone that, no, I don’t like whatever is being advertized as So Great…sorry, not trying to be difficult or precious…people are just different

          2. Random Passerby*

            I have a friend who is 50 who has definite difficulties, still, with the concept that his preferences are not universal and, more perversely, objectively correct.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            Oh god, that reminds me of the places that include Myers-Briggs as part of DEI work. Because it’s about differences between people, which is diversity!

            (I’d say something about personality types not being backed by institutional power structures, but I’m too afraid of being attacked by the introverts’ lobby.)

        2. DrSalty*

          For some people, the concept that not everyone wants and likes the same things really is groundbreaking.

    4. Savor The Peelies*

      Agreed, especially as someone who ranks high on gifts– it’s incredibly helpful to remove the moralization that happens around being perceived as greedy or whatever and be able to just say, without fear of harsh judgement, that it’s my main love language. (And to let go of feeling bad about being somewhat inept with words, but also know that sometimes it’s worth trying extra hard for people who rank high on words of affirmation.)
      Like a lot of pseudoscience categorizations, it’s useful shorthand for interpersonal private relationships, and has no place whatsoever in the workplace.

      1. M2RB*

        …as someone who ranks high on gifts– it’s incredibly helpful to remove the moralization that happens around being perceived as greedy or whatever and be able to just say, without fear of harsh judgement, that it’s my main love language…

        YES, it can just be a “hey, thought you might like a candy bar when I was picking up candy for myself” – it doesn’t have to be a car at Christmas!

        1. Savor The Peelies*

          Exactly! There’s so much shame associated with it– I’m always worried I’ll be seen as greedy– but for me it’s that I love having tangible proof that someone thought of me and knows me well enough to know what I’d like.

          Weirdly, now that I think of it, I think my main work thing is words of affirmation (specifically from end users and customers seeing what I’ve done for them), which is basically my lowest one for non-work situations.

    5. Ally McBeal*

      My take on this is that there are SO many other “workplace personality” assessments that helped me consider how other people like to interact in the workplace. I was once butting heads with a colleague until I realized during a training that I’m a “put my head down and do my work” sort of person and she’s a “must greet everyone and chit-chat before she can focus on work” kind of person. Did I enjoy making small talk with her every day? No, but it made my life easier when I did. “Love Languages for Work” is a marketing gimmick taken several steps too far, in my book (as a person of faith who is seriously averse to “Christian counseling” due to past experiences).

    6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      There’s an episode of the podcast If Books Could Kill about the love languages book. My take-away from the episode – having not read the book – is that the core idea of understanding what makes us and our partners feel loved is a good thing. And we can be better partners if we try to give love in the way our partners want most. But it veers off into some weird stuff, particularly around gender dynamics.

      1. StephChi*

        I’m glad I scrolled the comments further, because I was going to say the same thing. I haven’t read the book, so I had no idea about the misogynistic and homophobic stuff that was in it. “If Books Could Kill” is one of my favorite podcasts.

        1. Kate*

          I haven’t read the book either, but I listened to that podcast & felt so vindicated. I have tried (a couple times!) to do the 5LL “inventory” & squicked out *so fast* on the heteronormativism (as a ciswoman) that I haven’t gone back. I agree that the basic idea is fine, but that dude. Ugh.

    7. Sbtyah*

      To me… it is basic marketing (made into a book for a specific audience): in order for X to happen, what does this particular audience member need? Which is never: what do YOU need to make X happen. Your needs are 2 steps back.

      1. Jade(d)*

        THIS. Came here to recommend the podcast. General concept of people give/ receive love differently is fine, but there is definite gendered ick layered on top.

  7. WantonSeedStitch*

    It’s definitely important to ask people how they want to be appreciated or recognized. My own manager did 1:1 conversations with everyone on the teams she oversees to ask about that specifically. I’m pretty dang sure no one mentioned hugs or pats on the back, but people did talk about whether they like being recognized in public or in private, which is a big thing. They also talked about whether they liked to be recognized in a more formal way (presentation of a certificate at a quarterly meeting, note of thanks in the mail) or a more off-the-cuff way (email, Kudoboard, etc.). I, for example, said it meant a lot to me when senior leadership recognized my contributions, as it was also an indication that they were paying attention to the value my team adds to our organization overall, but that I was just as happy to get a quick email as anything more formal.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, it’s not that there’s zero grain of truth there, but trying to hang it on the love languages thing is an unnecessary cash grab.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I don’t really understand how any of the “work appreciation languages” function in a workplace other than words of appreciation.

      1) Words of Appreciation: This makes sense

      2) Touch: We’ve gone over weird this one is

      3) Gifts: If we’re respecting “gifts flow down”, this only works in a few relationships. I’d accept a gift/bonus from my boss, but it would be weird if a peer offered me anything more than, like, a donut. From a report? Hell no.

      4) Acts of Service: What does this mean in a business context? Finishing someone’s TPS reports for them, or getting them coffee, or prioritizing their requests? It seems like it could get problematic really quickly.

      5) Quality Time: I don’t even understand this. More meetings as a thank-you? Eating lunch together? Going golfing together outside of work–which would be super problematic if a manager is doing it with only one of their reports?

      1. Jaydee*

        For gifts, I agree that they’re unlikely to be high monetary value items at work. Food and office supplies would probably be the main ones. Donuts in the break room to celebrate the team accomplishing a thing. A coworker popping their head into my office to say “hey, I was in the supply room grabbing some post-it’s and saw were almost of the good pens so I snag

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Heh, I’ve never worked in an office where there was sufficient competition over office supplies for this to be an issue, but I trust they exist.

          As a remote worker, I guess people can send me a picture of a donut?

      2. LBD*

        If quality time is considered to be more of an observing social niceties, it makes a bit more sense. Saying hello briefly versus asking about how their weekend went, on Monday mornings, as an example. Some people are “Put my head down and get straight into work” versus connecting a bit more with colleagues. Recognising that both perspectives are valid; neither is right or wrong, and we can accomodate both in the workplace.
        I once resolved a situation with a coworker at a small workplace who seemed to have taken a dislike to me by making a point of seeking her out to say hello when I arrived and to say good bye when I left. I intended to make it a start in winning her over but it was enough in itself to create a much more collegiate atmosphere without us ever having to become besties.

      3. Ann O'Nemity*

        I like Quality Time. At work, this just means that I like getting some face time with coworkers, managers, and reports. I like to pay attention and be present when we’re meeting, and hope others aren’t being distracted by emails or notifications. And I like to chit chat a little with coworkers – ask about their weekends, learn about their interests. We don’t have to be BFFs or go on outings outside of work; I just want some good conversation. One thing I really appreciate is getting to have recurring one-on-ones with my manager.

      4. Also-ADHD*

        Acts of service makes sense: jumping in to help out, take something off someone’s plate, offer to support, etc.

        Gifts can be sufficiently small or even more metaphorical (a custom meme on someone’s birthday in Slack even) that took time, energy,or thought, possibly budget for small exchanges or swag from companies.

        Quality time is basically team building / team lunches / small talk / community channels but can also be stuff like participation in ERGs etc, I feel like, in some orgs and building culture together. Intentional coffee chats or team celebrations and connections might count.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          I personally like Acts of Service from colleagues/managers. If someone puts in effort to make my life easier/deals with stuff I find tedious, they’re the best! I try and do this for others when I want to show them they’re appreciated but some folks prefer words of appreciation (unless it comes with a bonus or something I can put on my resume, I don’t need a thank you or a good job, personally but I know people like it). I don’t need any of the other stuff from colleagues as long as I feel they’re trying to make my life easier rather than harder.

          (I also like fair compensation, competitive talent practices, work life balance etc but that’s org level.)

          1. allathian*

            I appreciate words of appreciation when I do something exceptional or go way above and beyond, and a simple “thanks” from my internal customers is fine to confirm they’ve received my files, but I don’t need daily thanks from my boss or coworkers for simply doing my job as expected.

            Quality time in the sense of regular 1:1s with my manager is great, but I don’t see those as a show of appreciation, just normal work. That said, I do value spending time with coworkers on my breaks when I go to the office (once a week or less), and our casual Teams chat that I can ignore when I’m particularly busy.

            I nope out on touching most of my coworkers (handshakes when I meet someone for the first time are fine) although can I make an exception for some coworkers who are also my work friends. My close coworker is a hugger and we generally hug before one of us goes on a long vacation, so a few times a year. That said, I’m in Finland where people generally respect each other’s personal space and where our personal space tends to be large enough that the 6 ft imposed by the pandemic was no hardship. Our normal personal space is certainly big enough that when we shake hands, both parties tend to take a step forward and then step back again when we’re done.

            I’m very meh on gifts, mainly because I hate shopping and generally don’t care enough about most people at an acquaintance level that I’d bother to learn their gift preferences unless it’s something really easy like chocolate. A coworker who wants me to spend a lot of time on figuring out just the right gift for them is asking much more than I’m willing to give. I don’t do gifts with the adults in my family anymore and only easy gifts with friends, so nope. I’m also meh on the vast majority of gifts I receive, after 5 years I very probably won’t remember who gave it to me and why, with very few exceptions, like the wedding gifts we got from our families of origin (tiny wedding so they were the only guests).

  8. nutella fitzgerald*

    “Hoping to draw out fellow ‘Touch’ people”

    Why did this generate a mental image of nematodes crawling out of a piece of fish? Stay in, Touch people! We’re good out here!!

    1. LunaLena*

      As someone whose love language actually is touch, that’s a highly accurate mental image that made me cackle. And because my love language IS touch, it means that I only want people I know really really well and like a whole lot to touch me! Please stay away from me! 0_0

      1. BrandNewBandName*

        Thank you for the confimation that not looking it up was the right move. I cleaned some fish for dinner once and I refused to eat any fish for about 6 months afterward.

          1. SarahKay*

            OH, god, now I really want to know what a nematode is, but also really, really don’t want to know!

            1. UKDancer*

              They’re a type of worm. Some are parasitic like hookworms and cause health issues and some are useful. My father uses a particular type as a biological pest control mechanism in his garden because they deal with slugs and snails.

              So useful sometimes but not very pretty.

  9. Trout 'Waver*

    Assuming people are hiding a preference for touch in the workplace (rather than recognizing that its not appropriate) is a serious ick.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      It’s additionally obnoxious because she is clearly looking for “her people” here.
      Even if she came in with “where are my iPhone users?” it still gives off a clique/favoritism vibe.

    2. just some guy*

      I’m a very huggy person, with friends, if I know they’re okay with hugs.

      In the workplace? I think I’ve hugged two co-workers in the last twenty years. One when I’d just learned a friend was terminally ill, the other when she was in tears over something similarly distressing (and only after asking).

      I’m also not sure that “preference for touch” is a useful level of description; I’m not a fan of handshakes.

      My old work did a “5 languages” based training course, but the section on touch was mostly “this material is adapted from marriage counselling concepts and obviously touch will very often be inappropriate for a workplace so let’s focus on the other four”.

  10. Anna Badger*

    it is funny to read this at an annual all-staff gathering of my really very geographically dispersed organisation, which has made very clear to me the number of colleagues I am pleased to hug (~10) and would not be pleased to hug and indeed have not hugged (~140)

    1. Hermione Danger*

      Yes. My immediate team is VERY huggy with each other. We all like and trust each other a great deal, it’s kind of like a group of kindred spirits found each other in the corporate world. I do NOT, however, want to hug anyone in the greater organization. No. Hard limit.

    2. Ophelia*

      LOL yes. I spent last week at a conference with hundreds of people, and hugged… 5. I was pleased about it 4 times.

  11. DramaQ*

    A workplace where people hug me on a regular basis is my idea of hell. I’m a 5’0” tall being hugged by people who are not in my immediate circle makes me very uncomfortable because they’re in my space and often taller than me so my face/head is resting in a pretty awkward spot.

    I had a great aunt who would try her hardest to smash you into her boobs for a hug. I had to start throwing my arms out to avoid motor boating her.

    Just nope nope. I do find it hysterically delusional that instead of realizing people are not okay with “touch” that it was really people were just too intimidated to speak up. Apparently in the 5 languages handbook they forgot to include the interpretation for “dead silence”.

    Why her management didn’t shut this down is beyond me. It appears it is just one overly enthusiastic employee. It’s great that she just loves this stuff but it’s clear that it can make others uncomfortable. You shouldn’t have to drink the kool aid along with her. Let her form her own fan club off hours.

      1. Mighty K*

        Oh my goodness! Thank you for sharing this. What a nightmare, I can’t see how anyone would think this is a good idea and each step of “worse” made my eyes boggle!

  12. Sloanicota*

    LMAO at those poor “touch” people in a fully-remote office. Maybe there’s some grain of helpful advise that’s like, try a weighted blanket, or a squeezy stress ball, or (I don’t know) a really fluffy cat or something. Do not try to take your love language – ahem, sorry, professional work communication style – out on your coworkers.

    1. Albatross*

      I like touch and work partially remote! I have a plushie the size of my torso that lives in my bedroom/home office (I rent one room, it does everything) and it gets a lot of hugs when I’m excited about things. I have never touched a co-worker except to shake hands or when they were handing me something.

  13. Falling Diphthong*

    I cackled at the revelation that part of the team is remote. “Just try to touch us, touchy person.”

  14. TKC*

    I’m all set even on a handshake these days. I’ll do it when I must, but certainly not regularly. I think I might die inside if someone tried to fist bump me with a straight face. I’m both too old and too young for that somehow.

    Thank god it appears I’m in line with the rest of the working world on this.

    1. Venus*

      I don’t like handshakes so if anyone reaches out then I extend a fist for a bump. I’m not sure what else to do because it feels awkward as heck, but I really don’t want to shake hands (mainly due to cleanliness and weirdos who squeeze hard).

      1. TKC*

        This has never happened to me, but I can accept that a fist bump is appropriate and not weird in lieu of a handshake.

        I guess I’m thinking about it more like a high five, just going around fist-bumping people regularly which feels exponentially more embarrassing than doing it as a greeting to someone new or you haven’t seen in awhile.

    2. djx*

      I thought fist bumps were corny, but doing one with a warm look in the eye (as in a good handshake) and a smile is very cool to me too.

  15. Clearance Issues*

    I have a special gift for returning awkwardness to sender, so I probably would’ve said something like “Nothing makes me feel more appreciated than having my boundaries respected.”

    (I flinch REALLY obviously when people get too close so thank goodness, no one’s tried back pats)

  16. Observer*

    So this sounds like a *mostly* good update. You learned something useful, and you know that your coworkers are apparently reasonable people when it comes to this stuff.

    I hope that there is another good outcome, even though you may never hear about it. And that is that someone in upper management give a look at this meeting and sees the flashing red lights and emergency klaxon that this manager presents. Because pushing hugs on people is a recipe for trouble and person is highly likely to do this to her reports.

    Why do I think that? Because not only did she say that touch and hugging is important to her *n the workplace*, but also made it clear that she is convinced that people really DO want to be hugged at work and are just “too intimidate to say so.” That kind of thing never ends well.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, her manager needs to have a chat with her. Even telling her reports that she likes hugs is inappropriate, given the power dynamics.

      There are a couple of work friends I can imagine accepting a hug from. A manager? Nonononononono.

    2. Random Bystander*

      Yeah, that “people really DO want hugs” and are just “too intimidated to say so” reads awfully close to the “Yes means yes; no means maybe” used by abusers.

  17. SalG*

    Sounds to me like the office creep now has an excuse when HR want a word, “hey, touch is my appreciation language, it’s not my fault”.

  18. Alex*

    I don’t think I’ve ever hugged my coworkers–at least not since I worked as a camp counselor when I was 18!

    I HAVE made good friends at work, and I’ve hugged them OUTSIDE OF WORK. I love hugs in my personal life. But not at work! Because…why? That would feel super weird to me.

    At work, there’s an expectation that you treat everyone the same, for the most part, regardless of your personal feelings for them. This is completely counter to the assumption that people you touch/hug/etc. are people you feel genuine affection for.

    1. Mostly Managing*

      Right there with you!
      I am a huggy person. I had a very huggy group of friends in high school, and even now a lot of my close friends hug to greet each other. My family hugs a LOT.

      There is no way I want to touch anyone at work except possibly a handshake where that’s appropriate. (Shook someone’s hand last week, in fact, and said “Welcome to the department,” but there’s no way I’d have hugged him!!)

  19. higheredadmin*

    This makes me think of an in-person training/self-help day at a former organization. The facilitator had the room divided into two sides, and you were supposed to go to the side of the room that best represents your view on a given question. One was: would you like to be thanked for doing tasks that are core parts of your role. All of the people on the “no” side were managers and above/leadership, and all of the people on the “yes” side were staff who were only reporting upwards. I still think about it today. (This was followed by a group drumming session, at which point I politely made my exit.)

    1. lazuli*

      I’m realizing that as a manager, I get super weirded-out when staff who report to me (or who have less positional power than I do) thank me for routine stuff, but I do appreciate it when my manager thanks me for routine stuff. I wonder if that was part of the split, too.

  20. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    I really wish the audience had indicated in the chat their discomfort with Touch in the workplace. Silence is so often interpreted as agreement or worse, “consent.” It doesn’t need to be a big dramatic Statement with personal traumatic stories, just “I do not want my boss hugging me.” If enough people say it, maybe she’ll no longer believe that Touch people are just hiding.

    1. Jojo*

      I’m the wet blanket that does this kind of thing, and management doesn’t always seem to appreciate it, but I’ve never had a coworker complain. It can be really hard to do in a group setting, so I can understand no one wanting to say anything. I’m pretty comfortable being the somewhat prickly coworker if it gets me out of stupid team building stuff. (No, I’m not going to spend my Saturday off to spend time playing games in the park with my coworkers. I already spend more time with them than I do with my own family. Shut that whole thing down in 2 seconds flat.)

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        It’s me too mostly. I’m the one who objects when something is not right either ethically or legally, or a real burden to employees especially if the boss loses perspective on what they are requiring. I also actually do spend personal time with a few of my coworkers. I STILL don’t hug or pat any of them, and even handshakes or fistbumps would be weird unless we were being sarcastic.

      2. Ashley*

        Depending on the group you end up spending a lot of capital when you start being seen as the wet blanket. Sometimes you need to be the wet blanket and it is worth the capital to do crazy things like keeping your company from getting sued when a co-worker wants to hug everyone.

    2. Bigger the hair…Closer to Gawd*

      Why open the can of worms for the office creep to use his preferred “love language” as the excuse for being said creep?! The facilitator was sad that no one wanted to jump into the touch pool. Please, there are work place boundaries in place for a reason.

  21. Bertha Rochester Likes Fire*

    I am not a touchy person. I own a company in the construction arena. If I were ever to use this training (?) (!), I would probably tell everyone that the nuts who transitioned the love languages to the workplace thought that continuing to include touch was a positive, but it is not something we are going to use. Words of affirmation and gift-giving and acts of service – all great. Quality time – not sure how that would work in a workplace setting (maybe being supportive and available while someone learns something new?) Physical touch – it better be because you are helping someone out of a hole!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Ha! I’m going to incorporate this going forward. “Yes, you can touch me at work — IF you are helping me out of a hole!”

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I think all the “love languages” translate weirdly into business relationships other than words of appreciation. Where is “I want regular raises and promotions”?

      I accept an annual gift card from my boss, but wouldn’t want the same thing from a co-worker, and I *definitely* wouldn’t want a gift from a report.

      Acts of service? Would that be… doing the parts of their job that impact mine? Shouldn’t they already be doing that?

      1. Mostly Managing*

        Acts of service, in my context, is “I am keeping everyone else’s plants alive while they are on vacation and I am providing coverage.”

        Is watering plants in my job description? No, not in anyone else’s either. BUT someone has to do it, and I’m the only one in the office for the next two weeks for a whole host of reasons.

        I have a chart of who wants Fridays and who wants Tuesdays AND Fridays.

        And they all love me for it. :)

        1. RLC*

          Especially the plants!
          Fellow plant-waterer here. When a colleague moved to another office she gifted me with some of her rare/unique plants in appreciation (and she knew they would be well cared for). When I was recovering from a broken ankle, same colleague would retrieve documents from the distant shared printer to save me a long hobbling trip. Much appreciated act of service.

  22. No touchy!*

    Hugging. Your coworkers. To show appreciation.

    I mean I guess if your coworker just saved your life or something, sure, I can see it. But don’t hug me for writing a FAQ – I know I’m good, but that’s overkill.

    1. RLC*

      The only hugs I’ve given to colleagues were for comfort when they were distraught (death of family member, death of a coworker, that type of context) or at a retirement party. And those all with consent of recipient. I’m not at all “huggy”, even with my own family, but I make an exception if a colleague clearly wants to be comforted with a hug.

  23. Managing While Female*

    How does the idea of introducing “touch” as a means of appreciation at work not make HR/Legal’s head explode? This feels like liability galore.

  24. Jake*

    I like how you acknowledged that the training was actually useful, even if the framework isn’t perfect.

    Sometimes I think people get wrapped up in the framework being stupid (because it is) and forget that even if the framework is stupid (like DISC) it can still be helpful for you when you hear coworkers talk about how they think or how they prefer to interact.

  25. Caro*

    I worked at a library. I hugged 3 or 4 patrons AFTER THEIR SPOUSE PASSED AWAY. I also hugged my niece and her mom. And I hugged my co-worker when she was diagnosed with cancer. Otherwise, no.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      And I bet you asked first. Because you are sane. As were my coworkers.
      When I was widowed it took nearly a year in the hybrid office to see people face to face and share the news. They were very supportive. And some wanted to hug. And they asked if they could.
      Not even a hand pat without checking with me.
      And I did want a hug. But touch because we wrapped up the TSR? No thanks.

  26. Sybil Writes*

    I probably would have remained silent in your workshop until the leader kept misinterpreting the silence as hesitancy to identify as a ‘touchy'(?)
    Because within personal relationships, whether family, friends, romances, even clubs or stores I patronize, I have choice around when, how often and how close to associate with other humans, it makes it very different than THE WORKPLACE.
    Within the workplace, my choice about whom to associate with is very limited. I don’t choose my manager, my officemate, who attends a meeting in a crowded conference room, which clients I have to deal with, etc.
    For that reason alone, I retain the right to reject TOUCH as a language of appreciation in the workplace. Just nope. Be decent. Say “thank you” and “nice job”. Pay me well, if it’s in your authority. I’ll get the message of appreciation loud and clear.
    Personally, I believe a boundary of “don’t touch me” beats a boundary of “but I show appreciation through touch!” EVERY time, EVERY context, but definitely in the workplace.
    Hey, I’m not always popular, but I appear on Zoom regularly. ;-D

  27. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    See, I’m absolutely the loud mouth who would say something like “Personally speaking, receiving any sort of touch other than a handshake or high-five at work makes me very uncomfortable. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and I know that putting employees in a position to receive physical touch they don’t want puts the company in a murky position at best.” And then just sit back and wait.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yup. I also wish we lived in the kind of world where we could make Alison’s point that workers want appreciation in the form of money. Whenever I see companies casting around for ridiculous, but free, ways to reaffirm their workforce, I have to admit I get a bit of a cheapskate vibe. If your workers are free to work to their best ability in good conditions, get told when they are doing things right, and are compensated in line with their efforts, I’m sure they’ll pass on the hug.

  28. RagingADHD*

    I’m amazed that even after this update and ample opportunity for people to hear more about (or look up) the book, there are still so many folks under the impression that the author or the presenter were recommending non-consensual touching, or acting as if the company leadership was going to require employees to submit to forcible groping.

    *None of that happened or was even considered.*

    That was never part of the concept. It’s about discussing, remembering, and applying what your coworkers say is helpful and meaningful to them — which includes remembering which coworkers do not appreciate a handshake or a shoulder-pat!

    Yes, the presenter saying it made her sad that the current workplace isn’t huggy was an overshare. But the number of people getting defensive that the topic of common, appropriate work interactions was even brought up is rather astonishing.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      I don’t see anyone accusing the presenter of recommending unwanted touching outright — but a lot of people are observing that there wasn’t much emphasis on consent at all. The presenter’s out-loud misinterpretation of the group’s awkward silence is pretty strong evidence of that. The absence of a no is not a yes.

    2. Nonsense*

      The book isn’t even pop psychology – it’s based on absolutely nothing with scientific backing. It is not worth seeking out to read, and it has absolutely no place in the work environment.

      And considering the meeting leader insisted that people’s silence meant they actually agreed with her, yeah, it’s pretty safe to assume she’ll spring unwanted Touch on people.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      The presenter was also the head of a team. She told a group *that includes people she supervises* that she wants to receive hugs at work. That is not okay, and significantly worse than someone in a non-supervisory position saying the same thing.

    4. Observer*

      But the number of people getting defensive that the topic of common, appropriate work interactions was even brought up is rather astonishing.

      Well, it would be astonishing if that’s actually what had happened.

      What happened is that the presenter told everyone that SHE *wants* touch to be a common interaciotn – and not just *touch* but HUGS. And she kept on insisting that people *really *do* want that, but they are “too intimidated” to say so.

      Here is the sequence:
      1. she quickly said that she knew some people might be intimidated to say it was one of their appreciation languages This is arrant nonsense, but it gives her an excuse to tell everyone that SHE wants this.

      2. despite “continued silence” she continued with “at her last workplace people were very into hugging and back pats, but here it seems like more of a handshake/fist bump place, and that made her kinda sad” That’s really pushing in the face of a pretty clear level of discomfort, given that till this came up people were active and responsive.

      3. Despite even *more* silence she “She decided to interpret that as people not feeling comfortable to admit to Touch being their language

      There is just no way to call that just “bringing up” common and appropriate work interactions. She went waaay further than that. And hugs are NOT “common and appropriate” workplace interactions” for the most part.

      which includes remembering which coworkers do not appreciate a handshake or a shoulder-pat!

      Considering that the presenter did not say anything of the sort, but DID say that people are just too “intimidated” or “uncomfortable” to “admit” that they prefer this, it’s pretty clear that this is *not* part of the concept for her.

    5. Sparklesparkle*

      Someone else mentioned in a comment above that not only does the “physical touch” love language have a dubious-at-best connection to the workplace–so does the “gifts” love language. How many letters have we had on this very site about getting weird and offputting gifts from a co-worker or bosses who expect gifts from their reports? So two out of five “languages” right off the bat are problematic in a work context. This book/training seems to be the singular obsession of one person in the company, and there are plenty of ways to talk about how to communicate and show appreciation in the workplace that don’t include a pseudoscience framework. It doesn’t have to advocate forcible groping for it to be problematic.

    6. dz*

      If your boss has declared she wants/values something, you might feel like you need to provide it to stay on her good side. It’s not good.

    7. Dandylions*

      I hear what you are saying.

      While touch and gifts need to be approached with caution in the workplace, they aren’t always nefarious or even problematic. The comments here come across as catastrophizing very normal interactions to me.

      Using gifts as an example, every single place I’ve worked, from smallish non profits to bigger multinational orgs has a “kudos” type system where you can send a small note and a gift of points that the person can then spend. No need to spiral into worrying about bribery when there is already a work appropriate solution in many orgs.

  29. H.Regalis*

    Meeting Runner Team Lead – Work is not a petting zoo! You are not bribing your coworkers with corn niblets so you can pet their soft fur. Your coworkers are also not common land you have customary rights to.

    Being someone who likes physical contact is not a fault or a defect, but you’re not entitled to access to other people’s bodies because of it either.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Gonna need a very big toss pillow, because every word of this is cross-stitch-worthy. Thank you.

      1. Sybil Writes*

        Come on, Former Young Lady. You don’t want one big pillow – you want a bunch of smaller ones so you can create a collectible series based on these lines. I’d buy them all!
        I definitely need something that says Work is Not a Petting Zoo for my office ASAP.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          Fair point! But can we also have gigantic pillows we can use as barriers/shields when the office hugger approaches?

    2. H.Regalis*

      I will add that I am a physical, huggy, touchy person. I’ve worked in jobs that require getting up close and personal with other people’s bodies, and I’m physically affectionate with my friends and partners. I’m still not entitled to put my hands all over other people if they don’t want that.

    3. Petty Betty*

      Even IF work is a petting zoo and you can bribe your fuzzy coworkers with corn niblets, you cannot do that with your bipedal skin coworkers. There are rules against that.

      1. H.Regalis*

        Even petting zoo animals will tell you quite firmly if they don’t want to be touched XD

    4. H.Regalis*

      The way the other team lead is acting is really bothering me.

      I’ve run into people before who will glom onto therapy speak/social justice language/whatever to manipulate other people into doing what they want. This really feels like that. “Touch is my appreciation language, so therefore you have to let me [hug you, rub your shoulders, pat your back] otherwise I’ll feel sad and unappreciated.”

      It’s one thing to go in for a high-five or a hug and have the other person be like, “No thanks,” but the way this person kept pushing and pushing and pushing this when it’s really clear that no one else was interested in touching her leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

      1. SarahKay*

        OP says a lot of people are remote – I think if I were on Hug-pusher’s team I’d be putting in my request to go remote asap. And I actually like working on site!

  30. metadata minion*

    I’ll pipe up as someone who actually is a very touchy-feely, huggy person. And what that means in a work context is that I occasionally hug coworkers in celebration or for comfort *who I am already close to*. I am hugging a friend who happens to be my coworker, not a coworker who happens to be my friend.

  31. BellyButton*

    I would be interested to know what the facilitator’s position is in the company. Is she part of HR? How did she get HR and leadership approval if this is just a passion of hers? Just because one person in the company is passionate about something like this doesn’t mean it is going to be helpful or useful and it doesn’t mean they are qualified to lead a session on the topic.

    At least the facilitator didn’t push the “Touch” topic too much.

  32. Petty Betty*


    Am I a hugger? In certain contexts. Friends I know and love? Absolutely. A few family members? Yes. Coworkers/co-irkers – oh hayull no. No touchie. Step back behind the invisible fence immediately for your own safety. Cute cuddly critters? Gibs dem to meeeeee!

  33. Dawn*

    Good heavens, someone needs to just tell this lady straight up, “Nobody here is interested in being touched in the workplace, or as a part of their job, please move on.”

  34. Former Young Lady*

    Lordy, the “guilt trip your colleagues into giving you physical affection” brigade. Like so many harmful old notions, I thought a certain global health event at the start of this decade would finally make even the most clueless people see reason about this. And like so many things, apparently not.

    Glad to hear OP’s colleagues are largely in the more-reasonable camp on this issue. Sorry to hear (but not at all surprised) that the trainer took awkward silence as some kind of proof that everyone else is secretly yearning to group-spoon their colleagues 40 hours a week.

    1. BellyButton*

      Having people stand 6 ft apart at all times was the greatest thing! I am so sorry to see that people no longer observe even that.

  35. Jessica*

    My love language is not being gaslit about whether I secretly want my boundaries violated.

  36. BellyButton*

    I am a hugger and very touchy feely with my family and close friends. No one else. I loath the fake-y hug that people do with acquaintances that you see once a year at the mutual friend’s summer BBQ.

    I had a very huggy coworker once and she would come at me from across the room with wide open arms and about half the time she would notice I stiffen up and declare “Oh right you aren’t a touchy person, but I am just so happy about the success of XYZ I wanted to hug you!” UGG

    One of my very close friends is not a toucher- he doesn’t want to hug anyone but his wife. I notice in his “friends” group that they all tortured him about it and doing big bear hugs and group hugs to be “funny”. After I got to know that group better I started running interference for him. They knew he hated it but went over the top to make him feel uncomfortable- those aren’t nice people. He and I would fist bump. I respect people’s boundaries.

    1. UKDancer*

      Same. I really like hugging and touching my family, friends and a few of the people from work who I don’t see very often. So I went to a conference last week, met 2 of the people I know and like but haven’t seen for 3 months and we hugged by mutual agreement because we were pleased to see each other and I’m comfortable with that.

      I don’t want to hug my co-workers that I see every day or regularly. I mean I don’t go a bundle on physical contact with my colleagues generally and certainly don’t want any more of it. I mean I’m British after all and we’re not so much into that.

    2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      Those people suck and your friend needs better friends. How awful.

  37. Tink's Mom*

    I would have pointed out that fist bumps and hand shakes are forms of touch and that not everyone is comfortable with touch outside of a work environment let alone inside one.

    She needs her world view expanded.

  38. starsaphire*

    I am a massively huggy, touch-friendly person. With my friends, my partner, my extended social circle, etc.

    But not at work. Not even a little.

  39. aelswitha*

    This whole thing gave me the absolute squicks. I get that some people are more touchy than others. I’m fairly touchy with a few close friends. But at work? NOT HAPPENING. To me that goes along with the whole “we’re a family” stuff that some employers like to pull. No, we are not. I just work here, for money, and if you touch me without my express consent you’re likely going to get punched.

  40. Yes, Really*

    Okay, so could have been much better but I’m glad you had solidarity.

    Old Job, an international Indian-owned company, had a Diversity training where we were told that different cultures have different expectations of touch so if we thought we were being sexually harassed, we should consider that it might just be a cultural difference we are obliged to respect.

    (Other highlights of the training included a General Custer cartoon, because “Indian,” and the trainer’s complete bafflement that we expected LGBTQ+ issues to be included in a Diversity training.)

    1. M2RB*

      OK, after reading that, I’m done with the internet for the day! How on EARTH did they think that was okay?! I hope you were not at that company for very long. YUCK!

    2. Indolent Libertine*

      And funnily enough, there’s never an expectation for the harassers to respect “cultural differences“ the other way around…

      So Infuriating.

    3. Observer*

      Other highlights of the training included a General Custer cartoon, because “Indian,”

      Who on earth ok’d this?! The whole thing is bizarre and ridiculous. But the idea that the DEI trainer for an INDIAN owned company doesn’t even know the difference between Indians from India and Native Americans (formerly referred to as American Indians) is just another whole level of HUH!?!?

  41. Blarg*

    Imagine saying to your coworkers, I mean this job is okay, but y’all don’t hug me enough.

  42. sofar*

    Just once in my life, I’d love my company to do one of these dumb workshops right when I’m about to put in my two-weeks’ notice, so I can say something.

  43. BrandNewBandName*

    That is one person I am really glad I don’t have to work with every day. I would be maintaining all the arms’ lengths away. I had one coworker I had to face front toward all the time. She was a nightmare some days.

  44. aiojrg*

    So I work at an international company and the acceptable touch standards are totally different in many of our different regions. I think an appropriate way to incorporate the “touch language” could be to outline what types of touch are considered appropriate in different cultures relevant to the company. For example, the culture in one region at my company is that it’s appropriate for men to come into the office and shake other men’s hands, but not women’s, unless the woman in question stands up and put their hand out for shaking–it’s just super different and nuanced but also totally appropriate to understand this at my office. In the US this would be considered sexist, but in that country it’s considered polite and professional.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Something can be locally polite and professional and still be sexist.

      There are plenty of countries where it’s customary for a man to shake the male coworkers’ hands and kiss female coworkers on the cheek, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t sexist or that it’s something the women should have to do if they don’t want to.

      1. allathian*

        Or the men for that matter.

        But it’s also a fact that if you want to do business in a culture that’s different from yours, viewing their ways with disdain is unlikely to get you very far.

  45. OlympiasEpiriot*


    Ms Touch-y feels sad.

    Honestly, I would have been livid and would NOT have been able to prevent myself from going on record with saying that affectionate touching in a business setting is going to come across as inappropriate, condescending, creepy or all 3 simultaneously.

    I often am able to be aggressive with humor that gets people laughing and I probably would have unmuted myself to say it rather than putting it into a chat.

    Obviously all your coworkers except for her were of a similar mind to you.

    I’d still watch out for this person. That is a very inappropriate position to take no matter the industry and I’d be worried that they were manipulative. (IME, the office huggers tend to be a bit of that, too.)

  46. Chirpy*

    It’s like lemons – perfectly good flavor, but too sour by itself for most things. Sweetened, it’s delicious.

  47. Knittercubed*

    I’m just going to throw this out there in case no one has ever been hugger adjacent…

    I had a clinical nursing job (night shift) where we had a day shift call in problem. I’d get forced to work a double 2-3 times a week. Night shift into day shift doubles suck. When it happened for the 9th time in 3 weeks I was really annoyed in report. I said: “ there is NO ONE else who can fill these shifts?”. The floor manager came out and said “someone needs a hug!” and came for me. I ran away from her saying I was advising her I was going home sick. Sh3 chased me to my car with her arms open.

    I quit a few weeks later.

    1. Nanc*

      Gotta wonder if your floor manager was the source of staffing issues . . .
      Hope you’re in a appropriately professionally supportive position now!

      1. Observer*

        Well, I think it’s a pretty good bet that it was PART of it. Just…

        I mean even if someone LIKES hugs, and they are appropriate to the relationship, there is still a time, time place and way. And this doesn’t meet any of them.

        Like if my kid comes home frazzled because their teacher is creating a nightmare schedule and they also don’t have time to eat lunch or snack, I might actually give them a hug of sympathy. But I am ALSO either reaching out to the school, working with my kid on figure out how to deal with this, talking to other parents, or (in the worst case) commiserating with them. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT going to blow them off with “Aw someone needs a hug!”

  48. JustStopTouchingMePlease*

    Office workplace touching should be limited to handshakes when you first meet someone and CPR/first aid if needed. That’s it. Can this be the new norm? Please

  49. Hyaline*

    Ok to be fair given every single reaction here including my own I guess it would be hypothetically intimidating to admit you were a “touch” person in most offices o_O

  50. The Other Sage*

    I have had hugs on my current company… with someone I was friends with before beginning to work there.

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*

      On very rare occasions (i.e. they were visibly in tears in the office) I have offered a hug to a co-worker with whom I was already extremely friendly.

      One said yes. One said no. In both cases I respected their wishes, and we remain good friends. I wouldn’t have asked at at all if they weren’t SO very upset. IT’S NOT THAT HARD.

  51. Anonomatopoeia*

    I think ONE person does, and apparently STILL does, and is interpreting everyone else’s NOPEfaces as like, secret handshake some people like it but we’ll have to tell each other separately? Like, what?

  52. ReallyBadPerson*

    This is exceedingly weird. I’m sure we all have ways of receiving and expressing appreciation (do tasks for me and I will feel respected) but also: surely adults can recognize it when another human is showing respect/gratitude/appreciation, regardless of how it is done? I mean, congrats/fist bump/here’s a cup of tea all demonstrate a positive feeling, right?

  53. Lyngend (Canada)*

    I’m absolutely on team fistbump. But I’m also unable to sit completely still and feel the urge to have a fist bump. Luckily rarely happens at work. But went drinking after work with a coworker and absolutely asked for one.
    Usually it’s around family I would be comfortable hugging. (physical touch is one of my languages. But it is not one open to everyone/most people)

  54. Susannah*

    Oh, I’m glad she was met with silence – but incredible she cannot read that “language.”
    I *hate* the love-languages/appreciation languages thing, just as I hate any gimmick meant to put people into neat little categories (remember when people had their “colors” done, and we retold which season they were?).
    I say this as someone who is very touchy-feely: no way would I touch someone at work unless I knew for SURE they liked that sort of thing. This isn’t about non-verbal “languages.” It’s about knowing how to behave, in both personal and work situations (one of the things I hate about “love languages” is the implication that if your spouse, say, fails to acknowledge your birthday, you’re supposed to just understand that is to their “love language” instead of considering the possibility they’re an insensitive jerk).

  55. Bi One Get One*

    I restrict hugs to partners only, for various reasons related to MH and sensory issues. One person who worked with my spouse tried to hug me when we were introduced doing that sing-song “I’m a hugger!” I matched her perfectly in tone with “I’m a biter!” as I stepped back. I don’t know where people get this idea that they don’t need clear explicit consent before hugging someone.

    1. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Absolutely lost it at “I’m a biter”! I’ll have to keep that one in mind, but hopefully I’ll never need it [shudder]

  56. SuprisinglyADHD*

    I’m extremely touch-averse, and fortunately I’ve been able to practice speaking up when that’s an issue. My reactions range from “Oh, I prefer handshakes or high fives” to my best impression of Kuzco from Emperor’s New Groove: “No Touchy!!!”

  57. Old Admin*

    I give you six words:
    “Touch does not pay the rent.”

    (neither do the other four languages, but hey.)

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      And this has me hearing The Flying Lizards in my head…

      The best things in life are free
      But you can give them to the birds and bees

      I need money
      That’s what I want
      That’s what I want
      That’s what I want

      Your love give me such a thrill
      But your love don’t pay my bills

      I need money
      That’s what I want
      That’s what I want
      That’s what I want

      Money don’t get everything it’s true
      What it don’t get I can’t use

      I need money
      That’s what I want
      That’s what I want
      That’s what I want

  58. Nancy*

    So it sounds like it was useful meeting after all. Most people understand not to touch people without permission. The presenter just wanted to discuss her favorite, she probably would have acted about the same if no one wanted to discuss one if the other ones.

    Nothing about the meeting seems odd

  59. Ink*

    I feel bad for the people on her team, they’re living the power dynamic stuff that makes this such a bad idea…

    That said, there is something really funny about her getting absolute silence in response as she just. Keeps. Trying. To get someone on her side

  60. Dog momma*

    Unless a family member dies, or I am close friends with a co worker outside of work, I don’t want co workers hugging or touching me on a regular basis. I have trouble with people that say ” I’m A hugger”, but then don’t ask permission, just swoop right in. I’ve tried..” I’m not” with little success.
    Even at church, it took me a very long time to hug folks, probably bc of the above.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one

  61. sld;fewe*

    This reminds me of a weird conversation I had with a coworker once–she said she doesn’t like to be thanked for work publicly, and that if she’s doing a good job then it should just be recognized through pay and promotions. Is that a reasonable way to look at recognition? Feels kind of extreme, black-and-white thinking. Am not a manager – should I be prepared to actually recognize some people this way, if I ever do become one?

  62. DVM*

    I would be ok with the palm of my hand being touched by a fistful of cash being handed to me.

  63. Someone Else's Boss*

    I’m surprised no one said anything negative. I work with a lot of outspoken people, and within seconds one of us would have said we don’t like being touched and would not welcome touch in the workplace. I have a coworker I met 8 years ago and I still vividly remember the first time I met her – she hugged me from behind when I didn’t even know she was there. It will never leave my mind.

  64. Christine*

    I was raised in a touch-oriented family and trained as a dancer. Touch is something I value.
    That said, I don’t go around randomly touching people in my workplace (I’m a college teacher) since that would be inappropriate. If I know a colleague is similarly welcoming or a student initiates (a hug at graduation is common), I am happy to exchange simple friendly touches, but that’s it. Hands off is the default.

  65. Brian Meehan*

    WARNING: Casual touching of others, especially people who don’t know you, is NEVER appropriate. First off, there’s no reason to do it. Second, given the whole #metoo movement, now is a great time to keep your hands to yourself, because you never know if someone could accuse you of impropriety. Third, I don’t know how diverse your workplace/neighborhood, but a lot of Muslims (and Jews, and Evangelical Christians) do NOT touch non-relatives of the opposite gender. Don’t question it.
    Remember how Mike Pence wouldn’t have lunch privately with a woman unless his wife was present? Remember how he was ridiculed? Well I guess everyone forgot about a certain (fat and ugly) movie producer who insisted women audition for him in his hotel room. I guess they all forgot the stories about how the Hollywood mogul would sit there with his bathrobe open. I guess they all forgot how women were very nervous about being alone with him. But as for Mike Pence, how dare he not be alone with women! If he ever wants to return to politics, he’d better start inviting women upstairs, and he’d better be more open with them….by letting them watch him shower!

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Mike Pence’s policy has nothing to do with Harvey Weinstein, but you’re very good at building strawmen.

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