Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Greeting Others With a Kiss – Is It Okay?

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 or 856.751.6141.


  1. Anonymous3/20/2012

    Thanks for this post. I thought it was just me being uncomfortable with the degree of "stranger familiarity" in our culture. Real men do not hug; they shake hands, and while I'm at it -- real men don't grow vegetation on their face and they wear a shirt and tie!

    Whew! Now I feel better.

    1. Thanks for your comment, and I'm glad you feel better! I love your term "stranger familiarity." But I do like my son's beard, which is trimmed and well cared for. All the best.

  2. Anonymous3/22/2012

    It is at the discretion of the woman as to whether or not she wishes to shake hands, hug, or kiss. A gentleman knows to wait for his cue and never approaches a woman in that manner. I wrote a column on this subject last summer after a friend of mine, who is a CEO, asked me what to do about the president of the board who embarrasses' her by always greeting her with a kiss. She said, "I worked hard to get where I am and I don't want board members, colleagues, or employees thinking I got where I am because of my childhood friendship with the president of the board. How do I get him to stop greeting me with a smack on the cheek?" I sent the man in question my column. Next time I saw him, he smacked me on the cheek with a big sloppy kiss! It just goes to show that you can't teach old dogs new tricks.

    Women, take charge. Stick out your hand for a firm hand shake. If you see he's headed toward your lips, gently but firmly place your left hand on his right upper arm to keep him at the correct distance for a proper hand shake.

  3. Anonymous3/22/2012

    Wow, Barbara! I can't imagine a job candidate displaying such inappropriate behavior! I have some very old friends with whom I do business, but I would never think of trying to kiss them on the lips for any reason! Shaking hands is the polite way to greet someone in business. We had a similar discussion in either this group or another where we've agreed that hugging and kissing are inappropriate. I think the moment you see someone leaning toward you, stick out your hand immediately for a handshake.

    1. I agree. I found the candidate's behavior inappropriate also. Yet, I believe that what people email me or tell me in seminars is true. Who could or would make up these examples!

  4. Anonymous3/22/2012

    Great article, well-written, and interesting! I've never heard or read of any business culture where kissing on lips as an introduction was considered appropriate; that must have been very uncomfortable! Cheek kissing, shaking hands, or other (bowing, hand on heart, etc.) depends completely on the situation, environment, positions/roles and cultures of the people present. Women usually have the choice to initiate the appropriate greeting gesture, and many men know to wait for this cue; however, this isn't always the case, so handling the awkward situation can require grace and diplomacy. This is particularly true as the business environment becomes more internationally diverse. Done with warm courtesy can help minimize awkwardness or embarrassment and allow everyone to move on. Thanks for sharing that great article!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. I would add one more element to choosing the appropriate greeting--the standard rule of international etiquette, which is that "the visitor must adapt." When business people travel internationally, both men and women should understand and (most often) participate in the local greeting.

  5. Anonymous5/30/2012

    It depends on the culture as well. Though you may need to have check up with a dentist summerville for your dental health.

  6. I love your idea of greeting people with kiss. It gives a person a warm feeling.


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