Outwitting the Office Hugger

Dear DW,

What can I do about a boss who hugs? My boss (a woman) insists on hugging as a form of greeting. In all other respects, she’s great. Am I uptight or is she out of line?

Signed,

Prefers a Handshake

Dear Handshake,

If hugs are the norm in your workplace culture, your boss may not recognize your discomfort. Address the issue directly. In private, let her know you appreciate her warmth but you’d prefer a handshake or a simple smile and “Hello,” as a greeting.

Superiors and co-workers alike need to be cautious when it comes to workplace hugging. A hug alone isn’t cause for a sexual-harassment lawsuit. However, if the hugs continue after it’s been made clear they’re unwelcome, a sexual-harassment claim can be filed.

And boss-hugging may have other ramifications as well. Let’s say that one day the boss is doing her thing, hugging people, but she forgets to hug one person. That person could be offended and think that the boss is playing favorites. Another lawsuit? Potentially, but more likely it can lead to hurt feelings and erode workplace trust and cohesion.

If addressing the issue with your boss doesn’t end the hugs (or if you feel you’re now being “punished” for having asked the hugs to end), consult with your Human Resources department.

Hugs (just kidding),

DW

P.S. Here’s a Tip for How To Avoid The Hug

When you suspect a hug is coming, preempt it. Cross your left hand across your chest and clasp just below your right shoulder. Extend your right hand to shake hands.

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