Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

The awkward workplace hug: Have you ever fallen victim?

Who doesn't like a hug? They are warmer than a handshake, but less intimate than a kiss, and there is something reassuring about being held in someone's arms, even if it's just for a split second.

But there is also something intrinsically awkward about a hug if done at the wrong time or place. Say, at the office.

The potential for such hugs-gone-awry has led to the creation of "rules" around when one should or should not dole out a hug while working.

Story continues below advertisement

"Most of us don't want that intimacy with our co-workers. We have to be with them 40 hours a week. We don't want to hug them, too," workplace etiquette expert Jim Webber told MSNBC.

The reality is, however, most people spend more time at work with colleagues than at home with their families, leading to personal relationships being formed at the office. And sometimes these relationships can give birth to hugs, wanted or unwanted.

But if you've had to experience the awkwardness of a workplace hug, or worse, if you've perpetrated an unwanted workplace hug, there are five tips to help you avoid the embarrassment of employee embrace.

1. If you end up hugging someone that didn't want to be hugged in the first place, joke it away. Use self-deprecation to make light of the fact that you may have crossed a line.

2. If you don't want to be hugged, be clear about it. "Don't hug me."

3. If you are going to hug, Mr. Webber says, "Hug and release." No long conversation.

4. An outstretched arm clearly indicates an expected a handshake. Not a bear hug.

Story continues below advertisement

5. And stop moving your fingers during a hug. Because tickling someone at work is unequivocally inappropriate and outright creepy.

The alternative to this hug ethics code? A total ban of hugs from professional settings, like some schools in the United States have done. One school in New England forbids any touching between students, save a cold, clinical handshake.

To many this rule would seem draconian and might spark some sort of protest. Hug-in, anyone?

Have you ever had the misfortune of an awkward workplace hug?

Report an error
About the Author

Madeleine White is the Assistant National Editor for The Globe and Mail. She has been with the Globe since 2011 and previously worked in the Globe's Video and Features departments, covering topics ranging from fitness and health to real estate to indigenous education. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨