Do Hugs Belong in Business?

A group of us at PerkettPR have been debating this topic for some time now. It seems to us that women in particular face a conundrum when it comes to business greeting situations. For some reason, it’s often awkward because many people tend to hug women instead of shake their hands. With men, the handshake is the protocol. But for women, it seems the protocol is up in the air.

Do you hug, do you shake hands, do you air kiss? Maybe in the fashion world the air kiss works but otherwise, it just feels awkward and insincere. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned handshake? I personally like the unspoken challenge when someone grabs your hand and squeezes hard during the handshake. You know it’s a bit of a power test. But the hug? Almost condescending when it comes from a man (let’s be gentle with the ladies?), and often awkward when it comes from a female counterpart (especially an unknown, such as a prospective client). And the air kiss? Depends on the business, but mostly, it feels insincere.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are colleagues and clients that I’ve worked with for years that warrant a hug – and who I’m perfectly comfortable with on that level. But here’s the dilemma to that – you enter a business meeting, hug the colleagues you’ve known for years and then you turn to someone you’ve just met. What do you do? Do you hug them? That feels strange. If you don’t hug them, will they be offended? When they just saw you hug everyone else, they may wonder if you’re going to hug them – then you go to shake their hand while they lean in for a hug. Aw-kward.

Sometimes, when you don’t see a colleague or a client for a while, they’ll hug you instead of shake your hand. But in day-to-day situations you wouldn’t do this, so why do it at all? Of course, there are times when hugs and high fives are warranted all around, perhaps, such as when a great piece of new business is closed, or a team challenge is won.

Do hugs belong in business? Do you hug colleagues or clients? Do you always greet them this way, or just when you haven’t seen them in a while? What’s the protocol – if there is one? We’d love your opinions.




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