NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Before you lean over and give your co-worker a big hear hug at the next meeting, figuring out the proper workplace etiquette can help you avoid a major gaffe.
While every workplace has a different set of unwritten rules for appropriate etiquette when it comes to touching someone, some general formalities should be followed so you won’t be guilty of a blunder at your office or at professional events such as dinners and conferences.
Unless you are in an industry where physical contact is required such as a massage therapist, doctor, hair stylist or dentist, it is important to keep your hands to yourself, said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio.
“Bottom line, one person’s gesture of goodwill may be another person’s opportunity to contact HR or start a firestorm of controversy,” she said.
The only conventional business touch is a handshake, and bosses and supervisors in a position of power should not otherwise touch employees, Gottsman recommended.
Hugs can be the exception to the rule, especially if it is a client who has also become a close friend. If someone greets you with a non-invasive shoulder to shoulder hug, it is best to accept it, but use your best judgment.
“It would be rude to decline a hug by sticking a hand in the person’s stomach or face for a handshake,” Gottsman said.
While co-workers in a business setting would not normally tend to hug each other, a special circumstance such as landing a huge project may incite a friendly group hug of congratulations, Gottsman said.