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As a 54-year-old male in business I’ve been struggling with a growing problem over the past few years: how do I greet a female work colleague?
I don’t mean someone I see every day. I mean the many women who I’ve worked with over the years and see only periodically. Some of them have become good friends because I’ve known them for a long time. Others I haven’t known as long but I’ve certainly worked closely with them on projects. So what do I do when we re-connect at a meeting or a conference or see each other at a coffee shop?
I’ve been growing less and less assured of myself when it’s time to greet them. Is it OK to give a hug, like I’ve done in the past? A kiss on the cheek? This kind of behavior never seemed a big problem before, but it definitely seems to be today. The rules of conduct have changed.
Of course, this isn’t an issue with guys I know. We mostly shake hands. If it’s a very close friend and someone I haven’t seen for a while sometimes we’ll give each other a man-hug.
But with women, and particularly in these days of #Metoo, I’m way more halting in my greetings — to the point where it all seems very awkward. I used to sometimes hug or even give a kiss on the cheek to a female sales rep or marketing manager the few times I would see her over the years, but now…? The thought of it makes me cringe. It’s creepy. But then again, if I greeted her that way in the past, but don’t do the same now, am I insulting her? It’s confusing.
So thank goodness for Nancy Pelosi. After all my struggles to figure out what to do and how to behave in this new world, she gave me the best advice I could ever ask for. Actually, the advice wasn’t given to me directly. It was given to Joe Biden.
"Joe," she told him. "Just pretend that you have a cold."
Biden, as most of us know, is an old-school guy. A huggy, kissy, touchy-feely guy. Too much so, particularly in this day and age. So getting admonished in the media after a recent spate of accusations against him for allegedly touching and/or kissing certain women inappropriately, Biden finally got the guidance he and other men his age (and mine) needed from his former congressional colleague, Pelosi.
Just pretend that you have a cold.
It’s actually genius. I’ve been fighting a bad cold this week and just yesterday, out of coincidence, I had the chance to meet a woman whom I’ve known for years at a conference and hadn’t seen in a while. Back in the day, we would hug after such a long absence. But because of my cold I didn’t even shake her hand. And you know what? No muss, no fuss. She was fine. I was fine. We caught up on news and had a great time seeing one another.
Some may say that it’s a shame that things have come to this, where men and women in a professional environment just can’t touch at all. I disagree. Whether you’re running for President (supposedly) or just running a business, the best approach with any female colleague, regardless of your relationship, is a hands off approach. If she goes for the hug or a kiss, then that’s up to her.
But as for me…well…I’ve got a cold.
April 4, 2019 at 07:19AM