Thursday, October 23, 2014

Can the Business Hug Be Far Behind?

When did hand shakes and pats on the back get replaced by tight, long, two armed, bear hugs?

A phenomenon happened in the past 20 years or so where now full on embraces have become quite customary in the most casual settings and public spaces. World leaders do it at summits. World Series winners do it preceded by a run and jump. Actors do it after each performance. So yes, it's more than okay when men hug. But to me, the platonic embrace seems like it's being overused and more from as a calculated tactic than a genuine display of emotion.

Odder still to me is the opposite sex, platonic hug. Now, when I walk into my local Japanese restaurant or sports bar I am greeted by a long warm embrace by the hostess and/or waitress. Believe me, this divorced middle-aged man is not complaining. And there are no ulterior motives implied by these women, as I may tip well, but I don't tip with Lamborghinis. But in the single evening I can go from meeting the new bartender to receiving a warm hug goodbye from her even if I just dropped by for an iced tea. It's become S.O.P. for those in the service industry.
 
When I was growing up, if you received a warm embrace from a single woman who was not your relative, there was a good chance that she would become your relative or at the very least your girlfriend. In fact, the "no hug for you" handshake is still the international first date symbol for "Not interested, buddy." So I'm not the only one who still hold hugs in high esteem.

Don't get me wrong. I come from a hugging family. My dad always hugged me growing up, I hug my kid, but aside from visits from grandma who always chooses to smother with love, I pick and choose my hugs, using them more sparingly. It's because hugs really mean something more to me. It's a step above and beyond just a handshake or a peck on the cheek. It's a way of showing that I really care and I'm overcome with emotion.
I'm not sure what the cut-off age is, but for middle aged and older people, hugs, particularly from acquaintances can be genuinely flattering and oddly uncomfortable all at the same time. So if you feel us tense up, that's probably why.

Which brings me to the business hug. Yes, that's right.  It's pretty commonplace at sales incentive meetings as you congratulate the winner of the most widgets sold. And it happens at the holiday party - though those of us who have been in business awhile know all too well a lot more can happen at office parties than a random New Year's hug. It's on the rise and I don't think it will be long before it becomes an almost daily occurrence.

I'm sure it's a sign of the times, like casual Fridays, and bring your dog to work day. And making the workplace more comfortable is just good business. All I'm saying is that maybe hugging one out after clearing the paper jam on the copy machine might not really be a good idea nonetheless appropriate. Or maybe I'm overreacting and I just need a good hug?