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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.

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"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.

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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?

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