Hugging is a normal way to greet friends and loved ones, to congratulate those you care about or to comfort someone who is suffering. When you’re in the workplace though, hugging can become trickier, especially since you don’t always know co-workers as well as you may think. “Work friendly” doesn’t always translate into a genuine friendship where hugs are more common and acceptable. The bottom line on a workplace hug is if you have to question whether or not you should – don’t!!

Beyond that, we’ve gathered up 6 things that sexual harassment lawyers want you to know about hugging to help keep yourself and your employees out of unwanted workplace trouble.

Not everyone likes to be touched – at all. Don’t push or assume that hugs are universally welcomed.

Not everyone who likes to be touched likes to be touched by their direct manager/supervisor, their co-workers or their boss. Although most people try to be friendly at work, that is not necessarily an invitation to more intimate and personal contact like a hug.

All hugs are created equal: False! All hugs are not created equal. There are quick hugs and hugs that linger. Quick pats on the back or soft back rubs can accompany hugs. You can hug without making much physical contact, or you can make complete chest to chest contact with your hug recipient. The point is to know your behavior and your hug styles and to know your audience.

Respect boundaries and hints that people give off: if you go in for a hug and someone steps back, don’t pursue them. If you go in for a hug and you are blocked by a stack of file folders someone is holding, don’t push. If your co-worker or employee tells you directly they are uncomfortable with your actions, respect that. Do not belittle them, question them or laugh off their position.

Your best course of action when it comes to hugging is only to hug those who have given you a clear indication that they are okay with office hugs. Have they hugged you, or hugged you back when you initiated a hug? Have they verbally told you they are okay with hugs? If not, think about whether your actions are appropriate or desired.

Remember our bottom line listed above – when in doubt, do not hug!

Unwanted physical contact can cross the line from annoying to harassing quickly, and often without warning. While some people push physical contact in an office setting, it is not a behavior that you must endure silently if it makes you uncomfortable, or if you believe it is being done in order to harass or intimidate you, or otherwise make you uncomfortable. If you have any questions about behavior taking place at your workplace which you believe may constitute sexual harassment, or if you feel that a boss, manager, co-worker or other workplace associate has engaged in repeated behavior or activity that makes you feel threatened or harassed, please call the Law Office of Robert David Baker, Inc. today to learn more about your rights under the law.