Dear Evil Skippy:
I have been working at home for over 40 days. I’m enjoying it. To be honest, I like most of my co-workers more from a distance and would work remotely for the rest of however long the job lasts if I could.
Several of my co-workers have been texting and Zooming about how work will be a “hugfest” when we officially get to reopen. My supervisor is leading this pack and has said in several posts that she plans to give everyone a reunion hug no matter what the harassment trainers have said in the past.
I need an advance plan. How do I stop her from hugging me?
Isn’t Going To Start Being A Hugger Now
P.S. Normally, I would probably slap your hopefully well-meaning boss for shading harassment trainers. Not for real this time. My reach is well under six feet.
My how times have changed. The answer always used to be Tasers.
To address your actual question, try not to make a big deal or thing over this. Your supervisor is apparently a hugger and you can be proactive. Easy.
Send her a nice private message, such as this: “Isn’t everything crazy? I’m glad everyone seems to be doing well with this. It’s sure great how the team keeps coming together. Can I ask you for some workplace advice? I’m really not a hugger and I’m not going to be one when this is over. How would you stop a hug without making the person offering the hug feel weird?”
Of course, write in your own personal style. Use however much amount of small talk as you normally would. However you phrase it, do what I did and employ the classic Western Movie Cliche, “Head ’em Off at the Pass”. My messages assumes there is nothing at all wrong with being a non-hugger — because there isn’t — and forces my supervisor to adopt the same assumption. I make my point without making a complaint or criticizing my supervisor.
I agree with ES that we should assume (without more) that your supervisor means no harm. Perhaps they are enthusiastic about seeing the world again and — try not to faint — in their world hugs might be the default display of joy. Be proactive but be as empathetic toward the huggers as you hope the huggers will be toward you.
Huggers: Yes, it must be hard on you. There will most likely be many hugfests when this over. Please remember that even though everything has changed [insert comments about the pandemic and history and why-Tiger-King-Became-A-Thing here], the rules of hugging have not. Don’t hug anyone, not even when this is over, who does not want to hug you back. There are so many reasons why a person may not want to hug you and none of them are any of your business. You aren’t going to win an achievement award by hugging more people so just move on.
This might be a good time to remind you all of my “Hug And Release” rule about hugs at work. It’s the same as the eco-friendly fishing system but applies to people. You can hug the willing, but you have to do the deed and stop. This is not a time to grope or a time to find out if the other person is wearing a wire.
And non-huggers — you have to remember to be empathetic. There are a lot of degrees to wanting to hug other people. Not all of the can help themselves. Unless the person does not back off, there is no need right now to make this a teaching moment. If they don’t back off, all bets are off.
Start coughing, for starters.
Yes! Jim (with or without Evil Skippy) can speak at your conferences and seminars. Contact Jim and/or ES here or on Twitter, Instagram or through the “Evil Skippy at Work” group on Facebook. (Twitter: @EvilSkippySays and @JimWebberLOL; Instagram: EvilSkippyAtWork and JimWebberLOL)