Social Etiquette in the professional world. When and when not to lean in for that hug

In the professional world, maintaining appropriate boundaries while keeping positive relationships is important. While hugs and cheek kisses can convey warmth and camaraderie, their appropriateness in professional settings varies. Here’s a clear etiquette guide on when these gestures are appropriate and when they’re best avoided:

Appropriate Situations for Hugs:

  • Firstly, make sure to follow the lead of the more senior or VIP person (aka boss or client)- if they seem distant or put out their hand for a handshake, do not follow up with a hug. Reading body language here is key. 
  • Celebratory Occasions: During office celebrations or milestones, such as promotions or farewells, hugs may be acceptable among colleagues who share a close working relationship. 
  • Established Relationships: In professional settings where colleagues have developed strong, mutually respectful relationships over time, brief hugs or cheek kisses may be exchanged as a gesture of goodwill.
  • Cultural Norms: In some cultures, hugs and cheek kisses are customary greetings in both social and professional contexts. Respect and adhere to cultural norms when interacting with individuals from these backgrounds.

Instances to Avoid Hugs and Cheek Kisses:

  • Initial Meetings: When meeting someone for the first time in a professional capacity, it’s generally best to stick to a handshake or verbal greeting. Allow the relationship to develop before introducing physical gestures.
  • Formal Settings: In formal business meetings, presentations, or networking events, refrain from initiating hugs or cheek kisses. Maintain a professional demeanor and opt for a handshake or respectful nod instead.
  • Uncertain Comfort Levels: If unsure whether the other person is receptive to physical greetings, err on the side of caution and refrain from initiating hugs or cheek kisses. Respect personal boundaries to avoid any potential discomfort.
  • Professional Hierarchies: Exercise discretion when considering hugs or cheek kisses with superiors or subordinates. While friendly gestures are appreciated, be mindful of maintaining appropriate professional boundaries, which go beyond being physical and texting etiquette

While hugs and cheek kisses can convey connections in the professional world, their appropriateness depends on the context, relationship dynamics, and cultural considerations. By respecting boundaries, and maintaining professionalism, individuals can navigate social interactions with respect in any professional setting. When in doubt, stick with the professional handshake!

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