Is Hugging Ever Okay in Business?

Posted November 26, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Networking Buzz

They’re three words that either make you feel totally at ease or scare the living hell out of you: “I’m a hugger.” Certainly, you’ve run into these people in your business life. They hug hello, hug goodbye, and just plain like to hug. Career Girl’s own Rebecca Niziol is, as Marcy Farrey recently called her, a hugger. And we love that about Rebecca. She’s warm and loving and caring to the people she encounters, and a hug from her is welcome. But of course, her hugs come in Career Girl’s very casual office setting or after a great yoga class. Is the same hugging practice okay when you’re in a more corporate setting?

After years of working with mostly women in nonprofit organizations, I can safely say that I, too, am a hugger. I’m much more likely to greet a fellow Step Up Women’s Network Board member with a hug than I am with a handshake. Somehow, handshakes have just become strange for me, and too formal. But it recently occurred to me that hugging may not work for everyone. And while I don’t go around throwing my arms open to hug people I don’t know very well, I might need to think harder about who I’m hugging.

Consider these rules when you’re deciding to hug or not to hug:

  • Is your relationship with this person strictly professional? Or does it cross over into a personal friendship as well? Hugging friends is much more acceptable than hugging colleagues.
  • How long have you known the person you’re hoping to hug? Hugging after a month, probably not a good idea. Hugging after a year might mean you’re acquainted enough to go for a hug.
  • Are you the same height? This may sound silly, but nothing is more awkward than hugging someone much taller or much shorter than you are. If there’s a huge height difference, consider avoiding the hug.
  • Gender matters. Hugging a same-sex colleague can be seen as jovial and friendly. Hugging an opposite-sex colleague could convey the wrong message all together.

If you’re a hugger, own it and be a hugger. It’s okay. But be sure to evaluate your hugging practices in every situation so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable around you.


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."