I don't usually write about work, but today I'm going to write about a workplace situation.
I'm not a very touchy-feely kind of a person. I take an interest in my co-workers, but try to keep a safe and appropriate distance. Obviously, there are some co-workers that I know better than others and might be more willing to share personal information with. I'm not a loner, nor do I shy away from interactions from people.
But, I'm not a very physically demonstrative person. I don't greet my friends with hugs. The two-sided air kiss isn't something that you see here in the Midwest, although I've seen friends of mine do this in NYC. When I was first beginning my career, I learned how to have a 'serious' handshake -- one that wasn't too girly, nor too harsh. I struck me then that it was a silly thing to have to study, but I think that many people need to, especially women. Maybe that is changing with younger women, but when I first started working, it was still considered optional for women to shake hands.
Perhaps I'm a bit of a germaphobe, but I really don't like shaking hands. I frequently want to grab the bottle of hand sanitizer. But, it's a necessity in the business world.
So here is a situation I experienced last week. I flew to one of my employers offices on the East Coast for a meeting with members of four different functional areas. Everybody in the room knew each other because they work together on a daily basis. I was the only person in the room who didn't deal with everybody else regularly. In fact, I didn't know half of the individuals in the room.
So, imagine my surprise when I walked in with the two colleagues who traveled with me and was greeted by the meeting leader -- with a hug!
She had been seated and on the phone when we walked in. We had each taken our seats at the conference table. There was a mess of cables & power cords near where she sat. I honestly thought that she was about to fall as she leaned towards me. Naturally, I started to roll my chair away, in an obvious enough way that she said: I'm trying to hug you.
That I never expected. We all got hugs and acted cheery and glad to be there. At the end of the day, there were hugs all around too, and wishes for safe travel. I understand that she was trying to be friendly and that she is a demonstrative person. I appreciate the 'have a good flight' sentiment at departure. But a hug hello & goodbye? I think everybody gets this type of greeting. I think this is very weird.
How would you have reacted? What is the appropriate way to graciously deny a hug? Am I just wound too tight? Too much of a touch-me-not? I don't think that a man could get away with this. Her boss does handshakes or fist bumps, but I don't see him slapping his high-performers on the backside or exchanging hugs. What do you think?