Is it Proper to Hug a Colleague at Work?

Innocent displays of affection and friendship can have career consequences. Modern Manners Guy on the politics of workplace hugging. 

Richie Frieman
2-minute read

Is it Proper to Hug a Colleague at Work?

I have a lot of good friends at work. Some I knew before I started working at the company, and others I've made on the job. With everyone's busy lives, I often don't get to see these work friends outside the office. So, when I happen to run into a coworker that I haven't seen in months, sometimes we say hello with a friendly hug.

To me, it seems perfectly normal to hug a friend who happens to be a colleague -- or vice versa. But it does beg the question: During work hours, is hugging a coworker, a colleague who is also your friend, a proper way to greet them?

Yes...and no.

Let me explain. For starters, hugging a friend is a great way to greet them. I'm not saying you have to lift them off their feet in a giant bear hug, then spin them around like the end of a romantic comedy. But the casual, "so great to see you!" kind of hug is perfectly appropriate.

I've given my colleague friends that kind of hug from time to time and didn't see the problem with it...until I realized that other folks in the office found this casual display of affection to be somewhat odd, especially since we were about to sit down for a business meeting.

Which brings me to the main point -- it all depends on the culture of the office. So before doing any hugging, you must first establish how informal or formal your work environment is.

If you run into someone in the hall, hug away! It's always good to catch up. But if you are in the hall with clients, or a higher-up, they may not know the relationship and can misconstrue the hug. In that case, just stick to the BIG smile and tell them you'll call soon to catch up.

If you walk into a meeting and see someone you MUST hug, do it after. I say this because some may think you two are in cahoots or have already spoken before about the meeting. Yes, it may sound like I'm being too stern, but you don't want to offend anyone else around you or create the opportunity for misunderstandings.

What's your work hugging situation? Did you ever make a hugging blunder at work?  Let me know in Comments or on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.