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Let’s kiss goodbye to all this awkward office affection

PUBLISHED: 18:24 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:24 06 March 2019

Rachel Moore argues that our offices are becoming too touchy-feely

Rachel Moore argues that our offices are becoming too touchy-feely

Archant

Have you ever felt uncomfortable in the office when a handshake is replaced by a hug or kiss? Rachel Moore has and wants it to stop

Why would anyone want to work at a company with a hugging culture?

The very thought makes my skin crawl and a hyperventilation attack come on, and I think I’m a tough cookie that can cope with most nonsense.

Worse still, imagine the leadership of a business that decides hugging will be key to company values. Uggh.

Eight hours a day punctuated by random over-enthusiastic smotherings by Nigel in sales, stroking by Sandra in the canteen and clamped by the arms of Simon in accounts is surely most people’s idea of hell?

That’s without the consideration of other people’s personal hygiene.

Or am I so out of sync with workplace conduct? Hugging is endemic everywhere else, is it the logical next step to make the workplace touchy-feely, even in a time of openness about unwanted physical attention.

Are all of us really confident and sophisticated enough to distinguish between warm greetings and innocent affection and unwanted attention and contact?

Are we chuff?

Let’s face it, we’re super lucky if we can endure a night out at Christmas with workmates. Welcoming regular invasions into our personal space when we’re wrestling the photocopier is and being expected to reciprocate is simply not on.

Intimacy has no place in the workplace, or any professional relationships.

It makes people feel uncomfortable, under pressure and attacks all the boundaries of professionalism and respectful conduct.

But, as trivial as it sounds, it is a big issue today in how business is done and is causing unnecessary stress and angst among women and men who need boundaries for behaviour.

What happened to the simple clear greeting of a firm handshake and “how do you do?” This offers clarity and a clear code. Everyone knows what to do, what to expect and there are no physical surprises.

Now, increasingly at meetings and events, there’s that awkward moment when you meet someone you’ve met before, albeit briefly, you outstretch your hand for a shake, but they lean in for a full-force hug, or the smacker on the cheek. Awkward.

More than awkward; uncomfortable, unnecessary and an unwelcome assumption that you want to be close to this practical stranger who assumes he, or she, can violate your space.

And before anyone groans, here we go again, another woman bleating on about sexual harassment, it’s got nothing to do with it.

I want to hug people I love, people I’m close to, spend time with, who I have deep and long-standing relationships with, not work contacts, male or female, who I hardly know, can’t remember their name, but who assume it’s appropriate to grab me.

It’s not about being stiff, starchy or stand-offish. When dealing with work issues, I just don’t want to be touchy or intimate.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that hugging, kissing, patting or stroking is unwelcome behaviour, if it’s considered unwelcome by the recipient

But offenders don’t bother to find out how welcome their approach is.

It’s quite simple – leave it out. Leave no room for misinterpretation and offence.

On top of making people feel uncomfortable, which no one should ever try to do, it’s open to misinterpretation. When does a hug become a grope? Why would anyone want to put themselves into that position?

Fashion chain Ted Baker CEO Ray Kelvin stepped down this week after a long tale of staff objections to its culture of “forced hugging”, when embraces could last for 30 seconds, accompanied by neck stroking and ear massaging.

Staff alleged Mr Kelvin wanted hugs from every member of staff and had a rug near his desk marking the “Hug Zone.”

What’s happened in the last decade to make intimacy a 
part of the professional environment?

This is a hot topic with women in business. Actually, men too, or those with the emotional intelligence to realise it’s an issue.

You reach out to shake the hand of a business acquaintance you’ve chatted to before, and they go in for a killer kiss.

That moment of “what the hell?’ when what’s expected is a polite ‘how do you do?’, but you feel an arm snaking around your waist and he’s puckering up for a kiss.

Worse still, the ones who clamp you in their arms in, to them, a fond embrace, but to you, a gross violation of your private space. Awks.

Women do it to men too, so it’s not merely a male on female issue.

It’s presumptuous and insensitive.

It crosses a professional line and brings extra stress to the hell of ‘networking’, events that cause sleepless nights for those of us who dread having to step into the ‘cliquey’ environment to make contacts.

No one knows what to do and people fear that recoiling will give them a cold and unfriendly label that will stick.

I’m all for informality and a more relaxed working environment but grabbing people without permission crosses any line of acceptability.

We shouldn’t need a code of conduct for acceptable working behaviour at work, we should have the sense to know what to do.

Work and any professional environment should be hug and kiss-free zones.

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