Most of us would agree that we’re not supposed to hug people at work. At worst, hugging could be construed as sexual harassment. At best, well, it’s going to make people feel awkward.
“It was a long moment for me because halfway in, I realized what was about to happen,” said James Lee in an interview with MSNBC. Lee accidentally hugged the president of the university where he works. “At that point, however, my body had already hit his outstretched arm that was expecting a handshake, and I knew that I couldn’t call it off. I completed the awkward, inappropriate embrace.”
It’s not really our fault. After all, we now work in environments where it’s totally OK to wear jeans and bring your dog into the office. It’s easy to forget that we’re not actually at home.
Which is why some experts say it’s actually not the worst thing in the world to hug — given the right set of circumstances. Jim Webber, who runs workplace training to help companies avoid harassment and writes the blog Evil Skippy at Work, says there are times when a hug is fine. And those times are: when someone has been laid off or when they’re received very, very bad news.
Even then, it should be quick and to the point, like fishing.
“Hug and release … you should not be able to have a conversation at work while I hug you,” he said.
If you do get caught in an accidental hug, the best thing to do is to get out of it as quickly as possible, and either make a short, self-depreciating comment or just ignore the situation entirely and move on.
“A self-deprecating confession can make a world of difference,” said Webber.
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