I greeted a job candidate and he grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed me on the lips. Aack! We are always looking for auditors who are quick thinkers and show initiative, but this was a bit much. The kissing bandit didn’t get the job.
The above email from a blog fan illustrates one of the many downsides to kissing in the workplace: When you give an inappropriate greeting, you may lose a job or a work opportunity. You could also appear a little strange!
Greeting someone with a kiss on the cheek when others are around also may cause difficulty. An attractive salesperson greeted one of her customers at a business dinner with such a kiss – unfortunately, right in front of his disapproving wife. Plus, others observing the kiss might assume that it is acceptable for them to greet the person in a similar manner, which would most likely not be the case. However, the main reason to avoid this kind of behavior is that the man or woman you greet with a kiss may be very uncomfortable with the greeting.
The handshake is the business greeting in the U.S. workplace, and I strongly encourage both men and women to shake hands. Nevertheless, when discussing greetings in my etiquette seminars, I am often asked, “Is it ever okay to greet someone with a kiss?” The answer is a cautious “Yes, but…”.
Business people need to consider the following before puckering up:
1. Their relationship with the person. When people know each other well, they may kiss or hug even in business settings. But people still need to remember the drawbacks, and use common sense – like the young woman who would greet her mentor with a kiss in his office, but would shake his hand when greeting him at meetings. It is unwise to greet a stranger or casual acquaintance with a kiss.
2. The type of company for which they work. Kissing as a greeting occurs less in large and/or conservative companies than in smaller, creative or informal offices.
3. The nationality of the other person. People from other countries doing business in the U.S. might greet you with their traditional greeting – possibly a kiss on one or both cheeks. They may know that in the U.S., business people shake hands, but they inadvertently use their country’s greeting. In such a case, I would participate in the greeting to put the visitor at ease.
4. When in doubt, shake hands.
Additional information on greetings can be found in my book, When The Little Things Count…And They Always Count. If you would like additional information about business-etiquette seminars, contact Joyce Hoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856.751.6141.