The art of hugging coworker or boss, with or without an air kiss

Make your hugs as welcome as these are before you reach for a co-worker. (MorgeFile Photo)

Make your hugs as welcome as these are before you reach for a co-worker. (MorgeFile Photo)

I’m a believer in hugging at work. I hug selectively and smartly and sweetly or so I hope.  I’ve hugged co-workers, bosses and people who work for me for years before I started a company called Mity Nice.

I like giving hugs – and receiving them too, in the office, to children who stop in for a visit, on lunch hour and before and after work.
So I was dismayed to see the survey showing 70 percent of advertising and marketing managers disapprove of hugging a co-worker. Even more frown on hugs for a client, according to the Creative Group survey.

Most of the 500 creatives in the Creative Group poll say encircling someone with your arms is rarely or never appropriate in business settings, though advertising types were more agreeable to hugging a coworker than marketing managers. You’ll find me with the minority: More than one-fourth said hugging is somewhat or very common if they know the person well or it’s been a while since seeing her.

Those seem like narrow confines for hugging. So how do you know when hugging is right in the workplace?

Start with your own style and approach. If you’re known for your warmth and kindness, hugging will come naturally. If you’re already talking with colleagues about their wildest dreams or experiences, children or spiritual believes, you’ve started building a workplace friendship, and a hug on a very difficult day seems well, “Mity Nice.”

Then consider the person you want to hug. Some people are just not cut out to be touched at work Steer clear of the straight-laced or coldly calculating types. That’s why I would never have embraced my stilted bosses at a certain former Midwestern paper.  (I  did give hugs – occasionally – to my editors at Newsday, and I definitely want to hug my Fortune editor whenever she approves another article.)
Don’t hug an interviewer, says workplace columnist Anita Bruzzese in her blog 45 Things which asks but doesn’t answer whether and who to hug at work.

Then consider the time and place and possibilities of being misconstrued or embarrassed. If you’re alone in the conference room after a meeting, you may be safer than a hug right by the elevator or entryway.

Sometimes I announce: “I’d like to give you a hug” and then take a half step toward the person and watch for her reaction. If she looks terrified or unwilling, I’ll stop and say something like “Instead, I’ll just send positive thoughts your way.” Then a pat on the hand, a warm smile or sometimes, or a lightly blown kiss – my lips never graze the person’s forehead, I swear.
Perfect your hugging style by setting a number of pats on the back you give, writes Heidi Bedore on the Happy Worker blog. Her post has other good advice on hugging at work and for the very professionally inclined so does the Creative Group.
Are there hazards to hugging at work? Of course. A handful of EEOC lawsuits allege bosses’ hugging – combined with inappropriate touching and more. Hugging a would-be client who is introverted or avoids human contact could cost you a new account. And hugging your boss may imply to some that you’re using your female charms to gain favorable assignments.
The optimist in me thinks all that can be  sidestepped with emotional intelligence, hard work and cultivating cordiality and professionalism.
So join the kind people in the minority who are huggers 9 to 5, and on the afternoon or night shifts too. If you hug someone who’s passed over for a promotion or when they’re mourning the loss of a family member, you’re showing your kindness and humanity.

And you’re using hugging as a tool to build a team, encourage employee engagement and offer moral support.