Generally speaking, the appropriate (and safest) professional greeting is a firm handshake, coupled with a genuine smile. However, our clients become our long time acquaintances and friends and we often see them out socially.
What do you do when you must decide how to greet your client, boss or fellow colleagues at the holiday office party?
Holiday Office Party Etiquette – Handshakes, Hugs and Kisses
1. Follow the leader. If your longtime client is swiftly approaching with outstretched arms, leaning in your direction for a quick hug, feel free to do the same. While air kisses are one step more personal than a hug and two steps away from a professional handshake, allow the other person to initiate the kiss and then follow his or her lead. Unless, of course, the gesture is coupled with a bit too much liquor and his or her spouse is scowling at you from the buffet table. In this case, you should think quickly on your feet – smile your most genuine smile, show your pearly white teeth and extend your hand for a friendly, yet professional shake. A little risky if he or she is already swooping in for a Santa size hug but it’s up to you to make a quick decision based on your own good judgment.
2. Do not be the one to initiate a hug or air kiss. Especially if you have never laid eyes on the other person. While a holiday office event is considered a festive social event, it’s important to remember that you are still representing yourself and your company. It would be in extremely bad form to set up camp under the mistletoe. You may be meeting a friend of a friend or someone you have always wanted to get to know but lunging into an overly enthusiastic hug or kiss is not the way to make a good first impression. You will appear star struck and awkward.
3. If you wonder if you should, the answer is you should not. You are always safe with a genuine handshake.
4. An air kiss does not require contact. Regardless of how festive the occasion, lip-to-lip contact is reserved for a chosen few – which does not include your boss, client, fellow colleagues or the catering manager – unless you happened to be dating or married to one of them. Which brings up an entirely different blog topic!
5. Be consistent. If you do decide to greet someone with a hug, don’t forget to close the conversation the same way. Offering your hand for a handshake after a physical hello embrace sends the message that something went wrong during the conversation. You will walk away making the other person wonder what just happened.
6. A quick sweep of minty fresh lip balm over dry and scaly lips is a gesture of holiday goodwill. While the bottom line is, hugs and kisses are usually reserved for good friends and family, it would be a mistake to insult a colleague or client who was offering a holiday hug or air kiss as genuine gesture. You certainly don’t want to taint the moment by smelling like the shrimp bowl at the holiday buffet.