In an article from the Wall Street journal, they asked the question what do you do when a line has formed to bid farewell to a longtime colleague who has taken a new job. When it is your turn to say goodbye. You have the choice to either:
a) Shake hands
d) Fist bump
e) Chest bump
f) High five
g) Single-cheek kiss
h) Double-cheek kiss
i) Air kiss, with a loud “Mwah!” noise
And the correct answer is? Well there is not really a clear one?
The correct response apparently depends on your particular workplace culture which is shifting all the time. It is becoming shaped by increasing international diversity, age differences and workers’ casual communications styles. As a result of the uncertainty over what’s appropriate, you into can get yourself into heaps of trouble by either offending the other party by not doing anything, or going too far and finding yourself with an accusation of sexual harassment.
One lady called Ashley M. Harris gave an example of when she worked for a San Antonio, Texas, public-relations agency that was very “huggy,” and how you could walk into a meeting and give your client a kiss on the cheek and a hug, saying, ‘How good to see you,’ while holding onto their arm,” taking alot to get used to the hugging.
But at a university where she later worked, she threw her arms around a former professor of hers, and “he literally did a step back” and tensed. She backed up and said, ‘Omigosh, I’m so sorry.’ ” She stuck thereafter to greeting him with a friendly, two-handed handshake, denoting warmth, she says.
There’s never been a more confusing time in the workplace to figure out the rules of contact, according to an executive recruiter Jeff Kaye.
The traditional handshake is still the rule in finance, banking and law — unless you’re celebrating somebody’s promotion or new job, when a hug or back pat is OK. Kisses and hugs are welcomed by entertainers and restaurateurs, and many twentysomething guys favor bro-hugs.
The four generations currently in the workforce will often differ on what is suitable physical contact. Extend the traditional American handshake to a woman from parts of Eastern Europe or Asia, though, and you might offend.
Complicating the rules of engagement are office celebrations and parties. Where concerns about sexual-harassment keeps physical contact very minimal.
But in many American companies, when an employee leaves for a new job, co-workers hug each other freely. The boundaries and rules suddenly seem to disappear. Parties can also bring co-workers’ personal feelings and friendships to the fore, turning protocol upside down.
So be very careful. Get to know the office culture well before showing too much affection.
Otherwise it could mean allegations that you have to deal with as an Employment Practices Liability claim. Understanding cultural boundaries is complicated and difficult. None of us want to hurt any one’s feelings but stepping over the line by being is not worth the risk either.
Your fellow workers have the right to feel safe and comfortable with you without feeling threatened.