Handshakes, Hugs and Smooches: How Do You Greet?


 1.As a female professional, you have a male client who likes to greet you with a kiss. It doesn’t bother you, but your boss thinks it odd. How should you handle it?

a.     Preemptive gesture: extend your hand for the handshake

b.     Just go with it. Cheek kiss only

c.     Stop him in his tracks, stating you don’t “do kisses.”

d.     Pucker up and go for full-out lip to lip contact


Whoomp! There it is.  This was a question I included in a recent business etiquette talk. Needless to say, it generated A LOT of fantastic discussion. It always does.

The tricky and delicate contemporary issue of workplace greetings. Sometimes they occur in a strictly business setting. Other times it’s more of a social business setting – like a luncheon or networking event.

Typically this is a scenario faced by females on the receiving end of the transaction and males on the giving end.  Guys typically don’t go to business-social-smooch-mode when greeting other guys.  They’re all about the handshakes. Mostly.

Ladies – it’s probably happened to you. Socially or on the business-social side. You greet a person and suddenly you’re getting a hug or cheek kiss. One-side, two-sides, or in some cultures, both sides receive the cheek-peck or air kiss twice.  It can be, well,  AWK-WARD.

Regardless of your gender,  how did you answer the question above? A ? Maybe B?  Hopefully no “D’s”

I’ll share with you my two cents on the handshake, hug and kiss in the BUSINESS world  – but I also ask you to please share YOUR thoughts and experiences on this subject in the comments section or below the post. I find people’s views vary, depending on gender, culture and generation.  I LOVE hearing your insights!

A handshake is always your safest bet when greeting a business colleague of the opposite sex. When in doubt, extend the hand. When nervous you’re going to get a big ‘ol wet-one, extend the hand as a preemptive gesture. Handshakes are considered professional in nearly every culture.

However, if this is a person you’re friendly with, have seen often and conversations have been more than just shop-talk, then you can always hug or cheek kiss in a business-social situation like a networking event – but still avoid it in an office setting – even if you know them well. It doesn’t always feel professional or natural when you hug with a person of the opposite sex. Girls – we hug one another with greater ease in business situations because typically we women connect on a social-to-social basis right out of the gates, so hugging feels genuine once a relationship is established.

Another word of caution: If the individual lingers on the hug, whispers sweet nothings in your ear or comments how very good you smell, it’s time to run!

It’s not quiet alright when it comes to hugging  & air/cheek kissing when it’s your boss. Avoid it.

The etiquette world is primarily a grey world, full of nuances. The key is to know how to adapt yourself and your greeting depending on the situation. Make your greetings genuine and natural.

Mind Your Manners,




  1. This IS a touchy topic, Kelly. (Pun slightly intended!) But seriously, I appreciate the guidelines you’ve presented, along with the advice that each situation requires its own evaluation.

    • Kelly

      Haha! Good one Jean! Thanks for reading and appreciating the fact that each situation requires a “greeting assessment!”

  2. is it normal for female employee to greet your male boss with cheek to cheek every morning saying “good morning” or when everytime he arrived in the office? because my wife doing to her male Boss and she said its normal…need some advise pls..

    • Kelly

      Scott, No. The greeting you described between a female employee and her male boss is not normal..and could get BOTH of them in lots of trouble – both within and outside of the workplace!

  3. I know this is an old chain, however I am in need of some women insight. I own multiple businesses and in my world the busones so owners are typically male. If I have an established relationship and depending on the person I do a half am hug. However, my husband was at an event and I discussed it right in front of him. Needless to say he thinks it is extremely inapropiate and thinks it is a grey area and I am sending the wrong message.

  4. Sorry voice to text! I hugged infront of him*

    • Kelly

      Thanks for your questions Michelle. You and your husband are both right to recognize that business greetings can be tricky! For the most part, I advise to extend the hand for the handshake BUT….. Personally I live in a small community and become friends with those I know via my business, so sometimes a friendly hug is perfectly OK. As with ALL aspects of greetings and communication, we always need to be aware of the many dynamics involved and do what is most professional. Most often it will be a handshake, but sometimes a hug is appropriate. It just depends. Your husband, on the other hand, should always extend his hand for a handshake with a woman – unless she comes in for the hug. The standards are a bit different for men and women in this area. Women are huggers 🙂 Keep your eyes on this bit of etiquette though. I think it will be one that continues to evolve and change.

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